Sweet Potato/Yam

How to Bake a Crackly-Edged, Fluffy-Centered Sweet Potato

Here's our all-in-one guide.

August 20, 2021
Photo by Ty Mecham

Making a perfect baked sweet potato is no easy task. Wait, that’s a joke right? It’s just a sweet potato! Sure, it may seem simple enough to wrap a sweet potato in aluminum foil, bake until the flesh is tender and the skin is crispy, top with butter and salt, and 50 minutes later—voila. But it takes a careful, practiced hand and a little bit of creativity to roast sweet potatoes like a pro.

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.

How to bake sweet potatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Scrub sweet potatoes with a produce brush under running water (or rub them with your fingers if you don't have a brush). Use a fork to poke holes in the potatoes; this will help the steam to escape the potato while ensuring that the flesh cooks thoroughly and evenly.
  3. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat for easy cleanup of any caramelized juices.
  4. Rub the potatoes with a thin coating of vegetable oil, coconut oil, or olive oil and sprinkle with some salt and pepper. (This is optional, but necessary if you want to eat the skin.) For a little more pizzazz, use brown sugar too.
  5. Bake in an oven until tender. You’ll know the potatoes are ready when a fork or knife pierces the flesh without any resistance. The cooking time will vary based on the size of the sweet potatoes, but this should take about 1 hour.
  6. Serve as desired, preferably with butter.

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.

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.

Baked Sweet Potato Recipes

Southwestern Spiced Sweet Potato Fries with Chili-Cilantro Sour Cream

These are no ordinary sweet potato fries. My favorite root vegetable is cut into matchsticks and tossed with ground cumin, chile powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper. It’s the perfect side dish for serving with barbecue, burgers, or, my personal favorite, a sloppy pulled pork sandwich.

Baked Sweet Potatoes With Maple Crème Fraîche From Nik Sharma

Once you’ve mastered the art of the perfect baked sweet potato, it’s time to dress it up. Food scientist and recipe developer Nik Sharma made these stuffed sweet potatoes with a zesty dressing made from crème fraîche, maple syrup, lime juice, and fish sauce.

Sweet Potato Bake

Think of this recipe as roast sweet potatoes in reverse. Instead of baking the potatoes whole in aluminum foil and then dressing them up, recipe developer Ali Slagle starts by boiling the peeled spuds whole in water. She then slices them, layers them in a baking dish, and tops them with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a little bit of orange zest and then roasts the entire dish until bubbly.

What are your favorite toppings to put on a baked sweet potato? Share your crazy combinations in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Karl W Saur
    Karl W Saur
  • Carla
  • Barbara Harding
    Barbara Harding
  • W J Freeman
    W J Freeman
  • Foodie1
I'm an NYC-based food writer/editor and recipe developer.


Karl W. August 27, 2021
I am a total convert to the parcooking in the microwave before baking approach that maximized starch conversion by keeping the potato in the best temperature zone for that.

Potatoes will go directly on a rack in the middle position of the oven; to avoid sugary leaks you can either put them on a rack over a parchment/foil-lined pan, or put such a pan under them in the lower part of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425F (400F for convection oven). Line baking sheet with foil, and set a sprayed rack over it.

Place potatoes on a large plate and microwave on high until center registers 200F, flipping every 3 minutes, for 6-10 minutes depending on their size.

Transfer to prepared rack and bake in oven for 1 hour.
Carla August 18, 2020
Sweet potatoes also cook beautifully in a slow cooker. After washing them wrap each in foil and place in cooker, cover and cook all day on low. Nothing else is needed, no poking, no water. The skins won't be crisp but this is an easy and delicious alternative to baking.
Barbara H. August 16, 2020
Poke um with a fork, "I yam what I yam"!
W J. August 16, 2020
Been baking sweet 'taters for more than 50 years (they should be about done, don't ya think?)

Sweet potatoes, sometimes mistakenly called yams by the non-Southern, are usually stored for a number of months after harvest in order to "cure" the vegetable and develop its sweetness by converting starches to sugars. Thus they often have been subjected to some rough handling during the harvest and storing.

Just washing the sweet potatoes, which one buys commercially is usually not enough if one is going to eat the skin. You should go over it with a peeler and swipe off any dark or suspicious spots. Often you will find a bruised, blackened or other wise inedible bit hidden beneath the skin. Even still, the potato is likely to quickly darken in those trimmed spots owing to oxidation. No harm however. Just get them into the oven as soon as practical. After cooking those dark spots will likely be darker than the surrounding potato but if you got most of the problem out with the peel/trim, then there is no harm in eating those spots as they don't taste any different.

A simple baking sheet with a piece of aluminum foil on the bottom is sufficient. No need to wrap the potato in foil. In fact, if you want a crispy skin, it's best to leave them unwrapped. The foil lining on the baking sheet will help in the clean up as many potatoes will exude a sugary rich liquid as they bake, which will form a crust. The foil makes clean up a snap.

A long slow bake is best, but things can be considerably speeded up by microwaving the potato(es) for a few minutes to thoroughly heat it before removing it to the oven to finish baking and getting that crisp outside peel and soft, sweet interior.

Really, one could use a variety of condiments, but a simple pat of butter is enough for me. Delicious and healthy to boot.

If you are lucky enough to have a campfire, you can just throw a few sweet potatoes on the coals and let them roast as the embers die. What a treat!

Bake an extra one and share it with your dog. Dogs usually love sweet potatoes.
bjm August 16, 2020
Thank you for the microwave suggestion. I love baked sweet potatoes but they do take quite a while to cook.
Foodie1 August 11, 2020
I have baked sweet potatoes for years AND never was clever enough to try roasting without foil, although I have roasted Russett potatoes without foil longer than I can remember. Learning from others via Food 52 is one of my top reasons to be connected with the internet. Thanks, Aaron.