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How to cook sweet potatoes

Rebecca Elliott / 30 September 2015 ( 01 February 2021 )

Sweet potatoes are easy to cook and can make an excellent healthier alternative to white potatoes. Find out how to cook them, whether you want them chipped, mashed, roasted or spiralized.

Cooked sweet potatoes
These sweet potato wedges make a great vegetable side dish

Sweet potatoes are often eaten as a healthier alternative to the more common white potatoes – they’re high in fibre and vitamin A and low in fat. They come in a variety of colours, but the soft, sweet orange variety is most commonly sold and eaten in the UK. Unlike white potatoes, they also count towards your five a day with an 80g portion counting as one vegetable serving. 

In fact, sweet potatoes are so nutritious they won The World Food Award 2016 for their part in helping to combat poor diets in East Africa, where vitamin A deficiency was causing blindness and premature death.

Sweet potatoes are very versatile. You can eat them mashed, baked, roasted or chipped – you can use them instead of ordinary potatoes in a huge variety of recipes, or as a vegetable side dish to practically anything. They're fantastic in soups, curries and vegetable stews. They're softer and less starchy than ordinary potatoes, and, as the name suggests, also quite sweet. If you find them too sweet you could try mixing them with white potatoes, for example making a half and half mash.

Sweet potato wedges

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Scrub your sweet potatoes and cut into wedges, leaving the skin on. Allow about 200g per serving.

Place the wedges on a baking tray and brush with vegetable oil and a sprinkle of paprika or other seasoning of choice.

Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the wedges feel tender when skewered with a fork.

Try them dipped in sour cream, guacamole or ketchup.

Recipe: braised turbot with sweet potato wedges

Baked sweet potato

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Scrub your sweet potato and, with a knife, cut a cross in the top.

Rub a little olive oil or vegetable oil and some salt on the outside of the sweet potato. This gives the skin more flavour and helps it get a bit crispy.

Put the potato on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for around 45-50 minutes, or until tender.

Once cooked, cut down the middle to fill. For a simple topping try soured cream mixed with chopped chives.

Try Diana Henry's recipe for baked sweet potato with chorizo, mushrooms and fried egg

Sweet potato mash

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into 2.5cm chunks.

Put the potato cubes into a pan of cold water and add a sprinkle of salt.

Cover and bring to the boil, then leave to simmer for 10 minutes, until the sweet potato becomes tender.

Drain the water, or use it to make a flavourful gravy - research in Japan found that the waste water from sweet potatoes (which contains proteins from the cooked sweet potato) acted as an appetite suppressant in mice.

Mash the potatoes with 1tsp of butter per 200g serving.

You can also make sweet potato mash by scooping out the inside of a baked sweet potato and mashing with butter – ideal if you are already using your oven to cook something else.

Try using the mashed sweet potato instead of white potato in potato cakes or as a cottage pie topping, such as this recipe for vegetarian lentil cottage pie topped with sweet potato mash

For more pie topping alternatives, see our recipes for savoury toppings

Roasted sweet potatoes

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

To roast the sweet potatoes first wash and cut into chunks of about 3-4cm.

Put the sweet potato chunks in a bowl and mix with vegetable oil (about 1tsp per 200g of sweet potato), a pinch of chilli flakes and ½ tsp of ground coriander.

Roast for 20-25 minutes until tender.

Try roasted sweet potatoes with this recipe for steaks with blue cheese and roasted vegetables

Sweet potato fries

Pour 1 litre of vegetable oil into a large pan and heat. You'll know the oil is hot enough when a cube of bread sizzles and turns brown after about 10 seconds.

Scrub and slice the sweet potato into finger-width chips. You can leave the skin on.

Once the oil is hot enough, lower the sweet potato chips into the oil.You might need to do this in a couple of batches, depending on how many you are making.

Allow the sweet potato chips to cook for about 45 seconds, then carefully lift out and rain.

Wait for the oil to come back up to temperature again (this will take about 15 seconds) and lower the chips back into the hot oil again, this time for just 15 seconds.

Remove the chips from the oil and place on a plate lined with kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.

Sweet potato oven chips

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into fingers about 6cm long, then lay them out on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle with about 1tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil and seasoning of your choice (you could try 1/2tsp black pepper and 1tsp ground cumin or paprika, or mixed herbs).

Stir the chipped sweet potatoes around to coat in the seasoned oil, then make sure they are lying flat. Try to avoid them being stacked up on each other as they could end up going soggy.

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, turning halfway. The corners should start to go dark brown.

Sweet potato noodles

Spiralizing vegetables such as sweet potato, butternut squash and courgette is a great alternative to spaghetti for anyone trying to avoid wheat, and they can be eaten raw or cooked.

To spiralize sweet potatoes attach the potato to a spiralizer, using the medium blade, and use the instructions that come with the spiralizer.

Sweet potato noodles can be eaten raw or cooked. To eat raw just put the sweet potato spirals into a bowl and spoon over 2tbsp red wine vinegar and 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil, stir well and leave to stand for at least 4 hours to marinate. Add to salads or serve with chopped vegetables, nuts and seeds.

To eat cooked, simply heat 1-2tbsp vegetable oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the spirals. You can also add them to a stir fry as you would rice or wheat noodles.

Recipe: sweet potato noodle bowl

If you're looking for wheat-free pasta recipes, try this recipe for gluten-free sweet potato ravioli

Shallow fried

One of the easiest and quickest ways of cooking sweet potatoes is simply to peel and dice them, then fry them in olive or vegetable oil until they are soft (about 15 to 20 minutes).

These make an excellent salad topping with lettuce, cherry tomatoes and a balsamic dressing.

Recipe: sweet potato hash with fried egg

Curried or cooked in sauce

Sweet potato is much quicker to cook than white potato so they're good to add to stews and curries when you're short on time. Just make sure there is enough liquid for them to soften and they should cook within 20 minutes.

Recipe: sweet potato and chickpea curry
Recipe: sweet potato and white bean stew

For more sweet potato recipes and cooking tips, visit or visit our sweet potato recipe section


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.