How to Cook Sweet Potatoes
Bake, boil, steam and microwave sweet potatoes like a pro.
By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network
Sweet potatoes are a fixture on Southern menus and Thanksgiving tables nationwide, but they’re also an everyday staple that pack a nutritional punch. With their natural earthy-sweet flavor profile, sweet potatoes are also versatile, lending themselves to different cooking methods to create a variety of dishes, from casseroles to pies to French fries. Whether you want to bake, boil, steam or microwave them, the following how-to primer will answer all your pressing questions.
How Long Do Sweet Potatoes Last?
Stored on the counter at room temperature, sweet potatoes will last 1 to 2 weeks. If you have access to a dark, cool storage space, like a root cellar, they can last longer, up to 1 month.
How to Store Sweet Potatoes
Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry spot. Avoid storing them anywhere too cool (55 degrees or lower), as this can cause the flesh in the center of the potato to harden. This is why you shouldn’t store sweet potatoes in the refrigerator.
How to Bake Sweet Potatoes
You can bake sweet potatoes whole or roast them cut in cubes or wedges; baking them whole in their skin offers high reward for minimal effort. Here’s how to cook sweet potatoes in the oven. For even more details, head over to our story How to Bake Sweet Potatoes.
- Prep the potatoes: Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes thoroughly with a brush, then pat them dry. Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork 3 to 4 times to ensure that steam can escape during baking.
- Bake the potatoes: Place the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then flip them over. Bake for another 30 minutes, or until the skin feels crisp and the inside is soft and cooked through.
- Serve: Serve the potatoes hot, with your favorite toppings (such as butter, salt and pepper). Or cut the potato down the center to let the steam escape, allow the flesh to cool and then scoop it out to use in other dishes.
How Long to Bake Sweet Potatoes
So, now that you know how to roast sweet potatoes, how do you know when sweet potatoes are done? It depends on the size of the sweet potato, what temperature you bake them at, and whether you’re baking them whole or roasting them in pieces.
A good rule of thumb for whole baked sweet potatoes: 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400 degrees F; 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes at 350 degrees F; 1 and 1/2 hours at 325 degrees F.
You’ll know the sweet potatoes are done by piercing the center of the sweet potato with the tip of a sharp knife; the flesh should yield easily. Wearing an oven mitt, you can also squeeze the sides to check for doneness; there should be a little bit of give. In either case, if you encounter resistance, it’s a sign that the sweet potatoes aren’t cooked all the way through and need additional cooking time.
If you’d like a more precise indicator, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the sweet potato. The internal temperature of a cooked sweet potato should read between 205- and 212-degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Boil Sweet Potatoes
Boiling sweet potatoes is one of the best methods for making mashed or pureed sweet potatoes. Cutting your sweet potatoes into cubes first will help them cook faster; be sure to cut the sweet potatoes into the same size pieces to ensure consistent, even cooking. You can also boil whole, peeled sweet potatoes, but to minimize cooking time, opt for medium-sized potatoes.
How Long to Boil Sweet Potatoes
The length of time it takes to boil sweet potatoes depends on whether they are cooked whole or cut into pieces, as well as the size of the pieces. Generally, diced sweet potatoes take 7 to 12 minutes; cubed sweet potatoes take 12 to 15 minutes; and whole potatoes take anywhere between 20 to 50 minutes, depending on size. You’ll know the potatoes are done when they reach a fork-tender consistency, or when the flesh easily yields to the tip of a sharp knife.
How to Steam Sweet Potatoes
Steaming sweet potatoes preserves more of their nutrients and is a faster alternative than baking. Steamed sweet potatoes are also a great staple to keep on hand to add to grain bowls, salads and soups. Follow our Steamed Sweet Potatoes recipe for perfect results every time. Be sure to use whole potatoes of similar size to ensure the same cooking time.
- Prep the potatoes: Scrub 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1/2 pound each).
- Steam the potatoes: Place a steamer basket or colander in a large pot. Add water until it reaches 1 inch below the bottom of the basket. Put the sweet potatoes in the steamer basket and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium and allow the potatoes to steam until you can insert a paring knife without resistance, about 30 minutes.
- Serve the potatoes: Using tongs, remove the potatoes from the steamer basket and let rest for 5 minutes. Split potatoes in half lengthwise; serve hot with preferred toppings (such as butter, salt, pepper, hot honey or creme fraiche and chives). Or allow to cool and store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days.
Steamed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse, chock full of vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium to name just a few. Steaming helps preserve more of these nutrients and doesn't require any added fat or other ingredients. Plus, it's much faster than baking. Besides serving them with toppings, steamed sweet potatoes are a great staple to have on hand for adding to salads and soups or enjoying as a quick and simple side dish.
How to Microwave Sweet Potatoes
Microwaving sweet potatoes is a cooking short-cut, though it should be noted that microwaves tend to heat foods unevenly, which can cause some parts of the sweet potato to cook faster than others. How long it takes for sweet potatoes to cook in the microwave depends on the size of the potato and the make, model and typical cooking times for your microwave. A medium sweet potato will take about 5 minutes to cook in the microwave.
Here’s a basic primer on how to cook sweet potatoes in the microwave.
- Prep the sweet potato: Thoroughly wash and scrub the sweet potato, then pat dry. Pierce the flesh with a fork 3 to 4 times.
- Cook the sweet potato: Place the sweet potato on a microwave-safe plate and cook on high for 5 minutes, flipping over half-way through cooking.
- Check for doneness: If the tip of a sharp knife doesn’t slide easily into the center of the sweet potato, continue cooking, checking for doneness in 30-second increments.