Your Go-To Guide on How to Cook Sweet Potatoes Perfectly

Whether you like whole, in wedges or mashed, find out how to cook sweet potatoes in the oven, microwave and more. Plus get information on how to buy and store sweet potatoes as well as their health benefits.

Although they are called "potatoes," sweet potatoes are not in the potato family at all but are a type of morning glory-a tropical vine whose tuberous roots can be white, yellow, orange, red, purple or brown.

Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables in the world. They can be fried, roasted, boiled, steamed, mashed, baked whole or in a gratin. The natural sweetness of sweet potatoes can be heightened with ingredients like molasses, maple syrup, honey, coconut milk and orange juice and zest-or with sweet spices, such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Or it can be tempered with earthy, aromatic and pungent spices, such as cumin, coriander, fennel and ground chile.

Find out exactly how to cook them for delicious results every time:

Melting Sweet Potatoes with Herbs & Garlic

Pictured recipe: Melting Sweet Potatoes with Herbs & Garlic

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes

Before cooking, scrub sweet potatoes under cool running water with a vegetable brush. If desired, peel with a vegetable peeler.

How to Bake Sweet Potatoes

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

Pictured recipe: Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.

2. Place in a baking dish and bake in a 425°F oven until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour. Cool 5 minutes.

3. With a sharp knife, make a cross cut in the middle of potato. Push in and up at each end to open. Season lightly with salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon butter each.

How to Make Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Easy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Pictured recipe: Easy Mashed Sweet Potatoes

1. Cut peeled sweet potatoes into cubes.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes. Cover and cook until very soft, 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Add butter, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher.

How to Microwave Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes with Warm Black Bean Salad

Pictured recipe: Black Bean-Smothered Sweet Potatoes

1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places.

2. Microwave on High until tender all the way to the center, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes.

3. With a sharp knife, make a cross cut in the middle of potato. Push in and up at each end to open. Season lightly with salt and pepper and, if desired, top with plain yogurt.

How to Roast Sweet Potato Wedges

Oven Sweet Potato Fries

Pictured recipe: Oven Sweet Potato Fries

1. Cut a large sweet potato into wedges. Toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 450°F until browned and tender, turning once, about 20 minutes total.

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes on the Stove

Potato, Mushroom & Asparagus Hash

Pictured recipe: Sweet Potato, Corn & Black Bean Hash

1. Cube or shred a large sweet potato.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.Add sweet potato and cook, stirring, until it starts to brown in spots, 5 to 7 minutes.

3. Season with salt and pepper.

How to Spiralize Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potato Pad Thai

Pictured recipe: Sweet Potato Pad Thai

1. Using a spiral vegetable slicer or julienne vegetable peeler, cut sweet potatoes lengthwise into long, thin strands.

2. Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling water, gently stirring once or twice, until just starting to soften but not completely tender, 1½ to 3 minutes. Or, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft, about 5 minutes.

How to Shop for Sweet Potatoes

Berry-Kefir Smoothie

Pictured recipe: Stuffed Sweet Potato with Hummus Dressing

There is much confusion about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, but the truth is actually pretty clear-cut. They are not even related. A true yam is a starchy tropical vegetable that are rarely found here, and when they are, they are likely to have been imported from the Caribbean. The two types of sweet potato most commonly found in the market are a yellow-flesh potato with thin, light brown skin and an orange-flesh variety with deep pink-orange skin. Orange-flesh potatoes tend to be denser, sweeter and more moist than the yellow-flesh variety, which are drier, milder in flavor and a bit more fibrous.

Sweet potatoes are available year-round but are best quality in fall and early winter. Choose sweet potatoes that have smooth skin and are firm and free of soft spots, cracks or bruises.

How to Tell If a Sweet Potato Is Bad

Once you've bought your sweet potatoes, be sure it's still in good condition before eating. If a sweet potato is soft or has developed wrinkles, it's beginning to spoil. A sweet potato may also be bad if the skin's color has changed or it's emitting a rotten odor. In any of these situations, it's best to toss the sweet potato.

How to Store Sweet Potatoes

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

Pictured recipe: Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows

Store whole unpeeled sweet potatoes-loose, not in plastic bags-in a cool (50°F to 60°F), dry place with good air circulation up to 1 month. Do not refrigerate; they will dry out and develop an unpleasant flavor from the intense cold.

Sweet Potato Nutrition

1 medium baked sweet potato (with skin has about 100 calories, no fat, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 41 milligrams of sodium and 542 milligrams of Potassium.

Plus, these spuds help fight fatigue. Jammed with slowly digested complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, each medium sweet potato also offers up four times your daily vitamin A to help build hemoglobin, needed to deliver energizing oxygen to cells throughout your body.

WATCH: How to Cook Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

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