Sweet Potato/Yam

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

August 10, 2020
Photo by Ty Mecham

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.

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“Poke um with a fork, "I yam what I yam"!”
— Barbara H.

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

  1. Scrub sweet potatoes with a produce brush under running water (or rub them with your fingers if you don't have a brush).
  2. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat for easy cleanup of any caramelized juices.
  3. 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.)
  4. Bake in a 400˚F oven until a fork or knife pierces the flesh without any resistance, about 1 hour.
  5. 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.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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


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.