Semi-Sweet Potato Mash with Spiced Caramelized Onions

November 11, 2009
Author Notes

My mother's semi-sweet potato mash has been a Thanksgiving staple for as long as I can remember. When I was younger I used to take issue with overly sugary foods not on the dessert menu. To balance the sweetness and give more balance to a traditional Thanksgiving side, she would cut the yams with regular potatoes. The result is a mash with a lot more body than you get from just sweet potatoes, and with the smoky onions on top, it is the perfect mix of sweet, savory, and spicy. —PhoebeLapine

  • Serves 10
  • 4-5 large sweet Vidalia onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 3 pounds Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
In This Recipe
  1. Sauté the onions over a medium flame, stirring very infrequently. Once they soften and begin to brown, return the flame to low and allow to slowly caramelize. During this time, it is important to make sure the onions are spread as evenly as possible across the pan. Every few minutes, scrape the bottom and redistribute the onions so each gains the maximum amount of surface area. The intention is to slowly crisp the onions by enticing the remaining liquids to sweat out, and for the onions to sweeten by condensing in their own juices. If you stir too often, the onions will turn to mush. This process takes about 40 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, place the sweet potatoes in a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until tender and drain.
  3. When the onions are dark brown, but not burnt, add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne, and season with salt to taste. Set aside.
  4. When it comes to the mashing, use whatever technique your kitchen affords you. I find that the best texture is achieved by using a food mill. A ricer would work as well, or a masher for a coarser result. Once you’ve mashed your potato mixture, season with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of salt, adding a dash of cayenne to give it some heat.
  5. Pour into a large baking or casserole dish and spread the onions evenly over the top. of the pan. TIP: the dish can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days before serving. To reheat, set the oven to 250 degrees and place the casserole dish inside 30 minutes or so before the meal.

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Phoebe is a writer, gluten-free chef, culinary instructor, award-winning blogger, and author of The Wellness Project. You can find her healthy comfort food and gluten-free finds on