A Better Way to Roast Sweet Potatoes

January 23, 2014

Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: If you're not roasting your sweet potatoes in coconut oil, you should start. Tonight.

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I don’t think I need to sell anyone on sweet potatoes. They’re nature’s idea of comfort food: warm, sweet, starchy, filling. They hold up well to toppings, but they’re also satisfying enough to enjoy just as they are. The only thing that brings them closer to perfection, at least in my opinion, is roasting them in coconut oil.

I’m always surprised by how few folks actually prepare root vegetables this way at home. If you’ve thought about it, but worry that the coconut flavor may be overwhelming, allow me to put your mind to rest: It’s not at all. The coconut will be mildly detectable, but only in a way that enhances the potatoes and complements their natural sweetness. Coconut oil holds up beautifully to high temperatures, and it works well with a wide variety of roasted vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and beets). But I think it works best with roots. 

Sweet Potatoes in Coconut Oil on Food52

A few tips: You’ll want to toss your vegetables in the oil before you bake them. This may mean melting a few tablespoons of oil, since it can be solid at room temperature. Also know that you can easily add depth and variety to the recipe by tossing your potatoes in spices before roasting.

My favorite way is the simplest (sea salt, pepper, coconut oil), but if you’re in the mood for something spicy or sweet, go crazy. Here are a couple of options:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon grated orange zest, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons dried, shredded coconut (added 12 to 15 minutes before the potatoes are done)

Sweet Potatoes Roasted in Coconut Oil

Makes 6 to 8 cups

2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
2 pounds sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Optional spices (chili, cumin, cinnamon, shredded coconut, etc.)

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo by James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


a L. February 18, 2014
My favorite spice to add to roast potatoes in is garam masala (Indian spice blend which can vary but includes cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, etc...) and a touch a brown sugar to add some sweetness and go well with the spice.
ChristinaisLame January 27, 2014
The research behind highly saturated fats and heart disease is pretty convoluted and misleading. More and more of it is being disproved and the cause of heart disease is pointing more to inflammatory foods, such as sugar, grains, carbs etc. Oil and fat itself cannot make you "fat", it is when those fat molecules are damaged by carbs or sugar in your body that causes it to cling to your arteries, mid section, etc.
Lia January 24, 2014
Coconut oil rocks my socks and makes all roasted things better in my humble opinion. Sweet potatoes get forgotten, though I love them dearly. Thanks for the reminder to add them to my shopping list and spice them right.
strozyk January 23, 2014
I love coconut oil for many things, but I think it makes mushy roasted veggies. Maybe that is because I haven't cooked with canola in years, and pretty much stick to animal fats or olive oil, but coconut stuff just doesn't crisp the same.
Marie January 23, 2014
What do you think about acryilamide formation, which occurs in starches cooked above 150°F ?
Marian B. January 23, 2014
This is my favorite way to cook sweet potatoes! Thanks for spreading the word, Gena.
Carol P. January 23, 2014
Hello Gena, I just published my own roasted vegetables recipe:
Simple Supper: Roasted Vegetables Over Couscous
I love your idea of using coconut oil, and have added a link back to your post (as a comment in mine). Cheers!
Gena H. January 23, 2014
Thank you, Carol!
Michelle January 23, 2014
I've done this many times using cardamom and cinnamon and I have to say that I do not get all the hype. I did not notice any difference in flavor from using the coconut oil. If anything, I had a harder time getting the sweet potatoes to crisp up.
healthierkitchen January 23, 2014
I'm just curious Gena, what is the benefit of coconut oil over olive oil? thanks!
Gena H. January 23, 2014
Hi, Healthierkitchen! The health benefits of coconut are unclear. Some medical professionals believe that coconut oil is too high in saturated fat to be considered a healthy ingredient. But most population studies fail to find a link between coconut oil and heart disease or other health risk factors, and some studies suggest that it may have an anti-inflammatory effect.

I use coconut oil often, but not so much for health benefits as for flavor. I think it replaces butter well (it has a buttery taste and can be whipped up in its solid form like butter sticks) and love what it does for roasting. Not everyone agrees (see comment above), so no pressure to use if you prefer olive oil.