These crispy roasted sweet potatoes are concentrated in flavor and gooey on the inside. They require a little bit of work, but if you plan to eat them immediately the final result is totally worth it. The recipe is pure and simple, requiring just oil, salt, and pepper. Freshly cooked, they are tastier than cake. No joke.
Sweet potatoes become my staple
As I was growing up, I didn’t really appreciate sweet potatoes. They were something we ate at Thanksgiving, and that was about it. On other occasions, my carb-conscious mom would opt for sweet potatoes when the rest of the family was eating baked white potatoes. (It seems counter-intuitive, but “sweet” potatoes actually contain less starch by weight than white potatoes.) I would sneak a bite every now and then and enjoyed it, but I never thought to myself “I need more of this”.
As I started to eat plant-based, though, sweet potatoes seemed to be everywhere. They appeared in a dish I ordered from a local restaurant, along with ancient grains, mushrooms, pesto, greens, and seeds. It’s embarrassing to admit this – I’m usually decent at identifying flavors. But I tasted the sweet potato and told my wife that it was one of the best things I’d ever tasted, but couldn’t put my finger on the ingredient. She knew right away and told me, and I felt a little dumb. But from that point, I knew that a tiny piece of sweet potato could create immense flavor and satisfaction if cooked right.
I started to cook them and work them into daily meals. Even roasted whole, they are really flavorful and filling. And they’ve worked great as runners’ fuel, too.
After a while, though, I wanted to find a way to cook them perfectly, to get the purest flavor and best texture. So I started to research and experiment with different cooking methods and settled on one from The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen.
So how about this method?
This method is a little more complicated than most. It involves slicing the sweet potatoes into round discs, oiling and seasoning, the discs, then putting them into the oven covered tightly with foil. After some cooking, you remove the foil and let the bottom side brown a bit. Then you flip the discs and brown the other side.
This method is awesome if you plan to serve and eat the sweet potatoes immediately and want them to be perfect.
Isn’t that a lot of work for a staple?
Yes, it is. For everyday eating, it makes much more sense to bake them in a way that saves time and effort. It’s really more of a special occasion kind of thing. Once these potatoes have been refrigerated, they lose a lot of what makes them amazing.
I plan to develop and share other sweet potato recipes in the future, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’d like to save time and effort, check out this recipe from Minimalist Baker (it involves cutting the potatoes and the baking time in half) and this one from Cook’s Illustrated (involves microwaving and then baking).
For sake of demonstration, I included sweet potatoes of different colors in the photos. While all these are delicious, they do have slightly different compositions and will cook slightly differently. If you want consistent results, use a single kind of potato.
For the record, the sweet potatoes with the light skin and light flesh came out the tastiest. But cooked individually I’ve had great results with all types.
You can peel the sweet potatoes if you prefer. I left the skins on and just scrubbed them and they came out great.
Crispy Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes either scrubbed or peeled
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- oil spray
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Cut sweet potatoes into 3/4-inch thick round slices
- Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. Spray a thin layer of oil onto the foil.
- Toss sweet potato slices in a bowl with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Place sweet potato slices flat onto the baking sheet. Tear another piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover the baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with the foil and press the edges of the foil around the rim of the baking sheet so that it forms a tight seal.
- When the oven is heated, place the baking sheet onto a rack in the middle level of the oven.
- After 20 minutes, remove the top piece of foil. Bake for 15-25 minutes, until the bottom side of the sweet potato is nicely browned. (This step took 25 minutes in my experience)
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Carefully flip the sweet potato slices using a stiff spatula if needed. The slices may stick to the foil.
- Return the baking sheet to the oven. Bake for an additional 15-25 minutes, until the second side of the sweet potatoes is browned. Check on the sweet potatoes every 5 minutes during this time, because the browning will happen more quickly on the second side.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Allow sweet potatoes to rest 5 minutes before removing from the foil. Continue to take care when removing them. They will be very tender.
- Serve immediately.