Sweet Potatoes Are the New Potato (With Some Major Exceptions)

July 21, 2016

How many pounds of potatoes would you guess the average American eats per year?

(Before you shout a number, remember: It's potato salad season. And before that, it was mashed potato season. And patatas bravas is always in season.)

The answer: 113.7 pounds. 113.7! But it's not so much when you consider that the average American eats 1996 pounds of food per year, including 185 pounds of meat and poultry, 273 pounds of fruit, and 42 pounds of corn syrup. And when you consider that we ate even more potatoes back in 2006: 125.4 pounds per average.

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Since then, demand has slowed—but not on the sweeter side of things. As Bloomberg reports, Americans are eating twice as many sweet potatoes as we did in 2002: The number is at 7.5 pounds of sweet potatoes in 2015, up from 3.7 pounds in 2002.

And it's not only us. The U.S. is the biggest exporter of sweet potatoes in the world (though China is the biggest producer), and as demand in Europe surges to an all-time high, farmers are preparing to plant their biggest crop in 50 years to keep up.

If all this buzz has you jumping to substitute sweet potatoes for the regular guys at every chance, don't carried away just yet.

As The Farmer's Almanac advises,

As a general rule, don’t substitute sweet potatoes for regular potatoes in recipes; the two aren’t related. Sweet potatoes don’t hold together the way potatoes do, and their strong flavor can overwhelm a dish meant for a milder potato taste. But they make a fine substitute for pumpkin, especially in desserts.

Obviously, you'll want to think about your desired texture and flavor before swapping sweet potatoes in for potatoes willy-nilly. Sweet potatoes have less starch and more sugar: They're softer and squishier with (excuse the obvious) a more pronounced flavor.

Despite the difference, there are still some dishes—latkes, fritters, mashes, salads—that can accommodate both. But before making a 1:1 swap, you'll still want to consider the recipe and anticipate the final product. A sweet potato salad might not be bad, but it could be mushier, and maybe it takes more to a vinaigrette than a mayo-based dressing.

In honor of the up-and-coming sweet potato, our mini-guide to potato swap do's and don'ts:

Pick your potato! Go hip or go square:




Hash browns

Fritters and patties



Baked and loaded

Stick to the recommended potato:

Where's your favorite place to swap in sweet potatoes for potatoes? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.

1 Comment

PHIL July 21, 2016
Sweet potato fries on the grill, drizzle with a sauce of lemon/paprika and hummus. roasted then sliced with a dollop of fresh ricotta, sprinkle with cumin and cinnamon. , mashed with a little maple syrup & butter