Learn how to boil, bake, mash, steam and microwave sweet potatoes any way you want with this quick how-to guide. 

Cooking with sweet potatoes is no easy feat.

I’ve previously served half baked sweet potatoes and burned oven fries to a table full of less than happy guests. I got so frustrated mishandling this orange root vegetable that I pushed it aside for months before finding out there are easy tricks to cooking a perfect sweet potato.

Since then, I’ve shared with friends and family, the tricks I’ve learn to making tender, caramelized sweet potatoes that work like a charm. And since I have a food blog I figured it would only make sense to share them with you too!

Follow these easy tips and you too will be the envy of home chefs in your neighborhood this holiday season.

Sweet Potato versus Yam


Did you know that sweet potatoes and yam are not related? Plus, they have very little in common.

Yams come from Asia and Africa and are related to lilies. They are drier and starchier than sweet potatoes and harder to find, at least, here in the US. You would have to visit a specialty store to find them. Their exterior is a brown, bark like color while the flesh is white, purple or a mix of both.

Sweet potatoes on the other hand come from morning glory. They are the ones you see in grocery stores and can come in a variety of colors – orange, white, yellow, purple, red or brown.

How to tell them apart

One way to tell them apart is by looking at the ends. The ends of sweet potatoes are tapered, almost pinched, while the shape of a yam is more tube like.

5 Easy Tips To Cooking Beautiful Sweet Potatoes

Photo: Weber

  1. Slash deep cuts across sweet potatoes. This helps the sweet potatoes cook faster and more evenly.
  2. Brush the skin with a little oil. This prevents the skin from drying when the potatoes have to bake in the oven for a considerable amount of time.
  3. Let the sweet potatoes rest in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Once you are done roasting your sweet potatoes, turn the oven off and leave them in for an additional 10-15 minutes. This ensures that the potatoes are cooked through, sweet and tender.
  4. The longer sweet potatoes cook at a lower temperature, the better they will taste. Between 135ºF and 170ºF is ideal according to food scientists. The longer the sweet potato stays around that temperature, the more starch will get converted to sugar. But since this method takes too long in the day to day life, between 300ºF and 350ºF is the recommended temperature. Another option is to cook your sweet potatoes in a crock pot or slow cooker. This way you can let them reach their perfect texture without having to worry about oven space and temperature control. Scroll down to see the recommended time and preparation.
  5. Pick thinner sweet potatoes for better texture. When cooking with sweet potatoes, choosing thinner ones pay off on all levels. What happens is the center cooks at the same rate as the rest of the body. The result is a tender, evenly cooked and caramelized sweet potato.

How To Cook Sweet Potatoes

How to bake sweet potatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Brush the exterior with a little olive oil, place sweet potato covered with foil or parchment paper and bake for 40-50 minutes. Test their doneness by sticking a fork or knife in the center.
  3. Turn the oven off and leave them in for an additional 10-15 minutes for best result.

Baked sweet potato recipes:

bowl of tomato soup with chives

How to boil sweet potatoes

This is for 1 pound sweet potatoes (about 3 cups, chopped).

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into bit size cubes.
  2. Fill a pot half full of water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and add sweet potatoes.
  3. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Drain well and let cool for a few minutes before using.

For mashed sweet potatoes, boil for an additional 5-1o minutes, until very tender. Drain well, transfer back to the pot and mash using a potato masher or a fork.

Boiled and mashed sweet potatoes recipes:

How to Steam Sweet Potatoes

  1. Fill the bottom of a steamer with about 2-3 inches of water.
  2. Peel a sweet potato and slice into 1-inch thick pieces.
  3. When the steamer is ready, add pieces, cover and steam for 7-10 minutes, or until the potato slices are tender.

Steamed sweet potato recipes:

How to cook sweet potatoes on the stove (pan fry)

  1. Chop the sweet potatoes into bite size pieces.
  2. In a pan over medium high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (or other oil) and when the oil is hot, add potatoes.
  3. Sautee for 8-10 minutes, until the outside is a caramel/dark orange color and the inside is tender.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Sautéed sweet potatoes recipes:

How to cook sweet potatoes in the microwave

  1. Prick holes throughout the sweet potatoes using a fork and microwave on high for 4 minutes.
  2. Flip it over and microwave again for 4 minutes.
  3. Check the doneness by piercing the potato with a knife. If it goes through easily it’s ready, otherwise microwave for an additional 2-3 minutes.

How to cook sweet potatoes in a crock pot

This is for 4-5 sweet potatoes.

  1. Scrub the potato skin well so that no dirt is left. Place potatoes in a crock pot and cook on low for 6-7 hours (covered), or until you can pierce through the potatoes easily.

Crock pot sweet potato recipes:

As you can see, there are many ways to enjoy this delicious and wholesome sweet tuber!

But before I leave you, there is one more way to enjoy sweet potatoes that I absolutely love – by turning them into French fries! The recipe is below. Enjoy!


Sweet Potato Fries

An easy recipe for sweet potatoes fries using only a touch of oil.

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60 minutes
  • Total Time: 75 minutes
  • Yield: 4 people 1x
  • Category: Side
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, cumin powder, chili powder, ground black pepper (optional)


  1. Cut the potatoes into matchsticks – about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick.
  2. Toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle sea salt on top. You can use all kinds of seasoning to play with the flavors here. I like to add a little cumin and chili powder and plenty of ground black pepper!
  3. Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil and spread the sweet potatoes, laying flat. You may need two baking trays for this. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.


You can keep the leftovers in an airtight storage container, refrigerated. To reheat, microwave for 1-2 minutes, or bake in the oven on low (175 ºF) for about 10 minutes.

Keywords: French fries, appetizer, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Super Bowl

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