I used to hate sweet potatoes. Totally gross. As a kid, I would do everything in my power not to see a sweet potato, much less eat one.
But over the past year or so, I can honestly say that I have eaten more sweet potatoes than in the previous forty some odd years of my life!
It’s a texture thing for me, much like how squash was prepared during my childhood, a big No Thank You. Soft and mushy was a non-starter for me, even if other people in my family would eat it (they wouldn’t), so I needed to find a way to crisp up the sweet potatoes. Roasting seemed a natural choice.
Sweet potatoes became more common in my house as we began to eschew refined and packaged products, and instead looked to fill the dinner table each night with fresh real food. My kids are still much more enthusiastic about baking potatoes, and even golden potatoes, but the grown ups in the house prefer to mix up our starches a bit, to ensure that we are covering our bases, in a dietary sense.
Here’s a great article explaining the nutritional differences between baking potatoes and sweet potatoes. After reading this article, I don’t feel quite as bad about eating Idaho potato wedges, or oven baked french fries. But I know that many people are trying to stay away from white potatoes, either because of they’ve heard carbs are bad, or because they are on a special diet that restricts the consumption of white fleshed potatoes, such as some practitioners of a Paleo diet, or Primal diet.
However, my biggest concern with food is not whether or not hunter gatherer societies ate a certain food group, or whether sweet potatoes fall into the approved or not approved categories of any specific diet. My biggest concern is the decline of health for our society over the past few generations, as obesity rates soar, along with chronic heart conditions and cancer cases.
I believe that, prior to the industrialization of our food system, people ate primarily whole foods, because that was all that was available. However, once food became a designer product to tweak and package, and sit on the shelf for weeks or more, it seems overall societal health started declining. So I make my food choices based upon my desire to avoid those packaged, much more recently invented food items, as opposed to whether or not a certain food is “pure” enough to belong in the day’s most popular diet.
I find it improbable that a whole food, a natural tuber, like a sweet potato is any way the cause of our modern medical issues. So I will continue to include sweet potatoes into my regular diet, but I sure would like to make sure they aren’t all gross and mushy!
For me, that means that I like to cut my sweet potatoes into small wedges or fries, because that seems to really maximize the surface area, and gives me a better chance at crispy sweet potato wedges. If I try to work with large wedges, or even a whole potato, they have a tendency to steam themselves, and produce the exact texture I am desperately trying to avoid. Small cubes on the stove top would also work, cooked up in a bit of butter and maybe even a little brown sugar. But for a hands off approach, try cutting them up and oven roasting your sweet potato fries.
Now that I’ve justified, to myself at least, that it’s ok to eat sweet potatoes, the only issues left to worry about are which kind of potato to get, and what kind of oil or fat am I going to use to cook them up? Luckily, these are both pretty easy issues for me to resolve.
Where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping, I have only two options when buying sweet potatoes, either a Jewel or a Garnet sweet potato, even though many more varieties actually exist. These are the two most popular orange fleshed sweet potatoes that everyone is familiar with, and I really can’t tell too much difference between the two, except one seems to be shorter and squattier while the other is longer and much skinnier.
So my solution, while still trying to decide which I like the best, is to choose the squatty sweet potato if I feel like making fries, since the wedges would be too big to get the texture I’m shooting for. And if I want wedges, then I’ll go with the longer skinnier sweet potatoes, because the shape of the tuber will naturally produce long skinny wedges, which is just what I’m looking for!
A bonus, for sweet potatoes, is that they fall onto the “Clean 15 List” put out by Environmental Working Group, meaning that I don’t need to be as particular when deciding between organic or conventional, as even conventionally grown sweet potatoes are not nearly as pesticide laden as many other popular crops.
Lastly, what kind of fat or oil to add? Olive oil is certainly the easiest, it’s already liquid and you can just drizzle a bit on before sliding your wedges into the oven. But with a little planning, you could certainly have warmed up some coconut oil to the point of being liquid, and coat the sweet potatoes before salting and peppering. Either way, you can’t really lose, as long as you don’t resort to Canola oil or some other vegetable oil, which I’m sure you would never do!
2-3 medium sweet potatoes
olive oil, coconut oil or avocado oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375-400 degrees
- Peel sweet potatoes
- Cut sweet potatoes into large wedges, or into smaller french fries, whichever is preferred
- Toss with oil, and season with salt and pepper
- Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper
- If you are thinking ahead, many people report better results for their sweet potato fries if they heat their pan first in the oven, and then add the seasoned fries to the already hot pan
- Bake in oven about for between 20-60 minutes, depending upon how browned and crisp you like your roasted sweet potatoes and whether you are making fries or wedges, make sure to turn sweet potatoes at least once during the cooking time
- Serve immediately, better warm than cold