How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

Bake, boil, steam and microwave sweet potatoes like a pro.

February 10, 2023

Related To:

Twice Baked, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Melting Butter and Cracked Pepper


Twice Baked, Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Melting Butter and Cracked Pepper

Photo by: LauriPatterson/Getty Images

LauriPatterson/Getty Images

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.

Baked sweet potatoes or yams split open after baking ready to be filled and eaten. Overhead view looking down, photographed on a baking tray with baking parchment on it, colour, vertical with some copy space. With a side bowl of soured cream or creme fraiche.


Baked sweet potatoes or yams split open after baking ready to be filled and eaten. Overhead view looking down, photographed on a baking tray with baking parchment on it, colour, vertical with some copy space. With a side bowl of soured cream or creme fraiche.

Photo by: ClarkandCompany/Getty Images

ClarkandCompany/Getty Images

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Chopped sweet potatoes coming to the boil in pan


Chopped sweet potatoes coming to the boil in pan

Photo by: Rachel Husband/Getty Images

Rachel Husband/Getty Images

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.

japanese sweet potato in steaming pot


japanese sweet potato in steaming pot

Photo by: karimitsu/Getty Images

karimitsu/Getty Images

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.

  1. Prep the potatoes: Scrub 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1/2 pound each).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. Prep the sweet potato: Thoroughly wash and scrub the sweet potato, then pat dry. Pierce the flesh with a fork 3 to 4 times.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Related Links:

Next Up

Why You Should Own a Bamboo Steamer

Goodbye, soggy steamed food.

How to Steam Without a Steamer Basket

Even if you don't have a collapsible metal basket or bamboo steamer, you can still steam veggies and proteins easily.

What Is Steaming? And How to Steam

Steaming is a versatile technique that can be applied to almost any cuisine.

A Precise Guide to How Long You Should Boil Corn On the Cob

It’s easy to accidentally cook corn too long.

How to Cook Lobster Tails

We think broiling is the best way to do it, but we'll walk you through four other techniques too.

How to Make Soft-Boiled Eggs

It’s as easy as hard-boiling (but faster).

What Is a Steam Oven?

Plus, how they work and the benefits of cooking in them.

Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder: What's the Difference?

Surprise, the model volcano in grade school explains a lot.

What Is Baking Powder?

Right this way for light, fluffy biscuits and desserts.

More from:

Cooking School

What's New