Though in fry form anything is tasty and the candied variety are near and dear to my heart, the easiest way to prepare a sweet potato is to bake it in the oven. When done right, this yields tender, creamy flesh with crispy skin—perfect for using in any number of delicious dishes. While baking sweet potatoes isn't exactly rocket science, there are a few tips and tricks you should keep in mind to get the most out of these beloved spuds. Here’s what you need to know.
What to look for when buying sweet potatoes
It's best to select small- to medium-sized sweet potatoes (figure about four to eight ounces each) as larger sweet potatoes tend to be starchier, which means a drier texture. You want to select those that are blemish-free and with tight, smooth skin.
How to store sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes can be stored at room temperature for about one week, but can last up to one month at cooler temps in a dry, dark location with good airflow. They should not be stored in the refrigerator, which can adversely affect taste and texture.
Good-to-know tips for baked sweet potatoes
Though sweet potatoes are usually already pretty clean, it's always a good idea to rinse them in the sink and give them a scrub with a produce brush to make sure any residual dirt is removed. (This is key if you plan to eat the skin, which you definitely should.) Then it's just a matter of baking them in the oven until tender.
If you have the time, slow-roasting sweet potatoes at a lower temperature (anywhere from 275°F to 300°F) is great for bringing out even more of their natural sweetness and a creamier texture, but that can take two or more hours.
If you're on more of a time crunch, you can still get a delectable baked sweet potato in about one hour by baking them at a higher temperature, like 400°F or higher.
How to bake sweet potatoes
- Scrub sweet potatoes with a produce brush under running water (or rub them with your fingers if you don't have a brush).
- Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat for easy cleanup of any caramelized juices.
- Rub the potatoes with a thin coating of olive or vegetable oil and sprinkle with some salt. (This is optional, but necessary if you want to eat the skin.)
- Bake in a 400˚F oven until a fork or knife pierces the flesh without any resistance, about 1 hour.
- Serve as desired.
Toppings for baked sweet potatoes
The possibilities are endless when it comes to serving baked sweet potatoes, but you can't go wrong with the standard baked potato toppings like sour cream, cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, and sliced scallions. Another great option is spiced roasted chickpeas and tahini, or similarly, this recipe for a spiced lentil salad with lemon tahini dressing. One of my personal favorites is a combination of spicy chorizo, sautéed peppers and onions, chopped fresh cilantro, and cotija cheese. And for those that want to keep it simple, a little butter, some maple syrup, and a sprinkle of salt is divine.