Food & Drink

Bumper Crop: Sweet Potatoes

This time of year, our gardens are overloaded with sweet potatoes. Here are seven of our favorite ways to utilize the South’s sweetest spud

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The love of sweet potatoes is a tale as old as time. In fact, some scientists believe that even herbivore dinosaurs enjoyed these tubers back in their day. Henry VIII, they say, could consume twenty in one sitting, and Native Americans feasted on them long before colonists settled in America. Today, they’re beloved throughout the South and are the official state vegetable of North Carolina thanks to a 1990s letter-writing campaign by fourth-grade students in the town of Wilson. 

While the flavor often conjures up holiday memories, there’s no need to wait until Thanksgiving to bust out your favorite sweet potato dishes. Whether you grow your own or grab them by the reusable-bag-full at the farmers market, the much-loved spud is abundant and at its fresh peak right now. Load up your pantry (or other cool, dark spot, where they’ll keep for up to six months) and give these chef-approved recipes a try.

1. Sweet Potato Cheesecake

At Taqueria del Sol in Nashville, Atlanta, and Athens, Georgia, Eddie Hernandez specializes in meshing the food of his childhood in Monterrey, Mexico, with the traditions of the South—and his sweet potato cheesecake is no exception. “[In Mexico, it’s] very popular to cook sweet potatoes in homemade cinnamon syrup, called almíbar,” he says. “Once you roast the sweet potatoes and add that sauce, you can’t go wrong.”

See recipe here. 

2. Sweet Potato Salsa

As a Texas transplant in North Carolina, chef Ashleigh Fleming created a spicy sweet potato salsa to bridge the gap between her two homes. “This was a perfect recipe to take a familiar ingredient in our area and use it in a uniquely Texas manner,” she says. 

See recipe here. 

3. Sweet potato cornbread

At Sweet Potatoes restaurant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, it’s no surprise that the eponymous root vegetable features prominently on the menu. Try their sweet potato biscuits, sweet potato aioli, or this melt-in-your-mouth sweet potato cornbread created by chef Stephanie Tyson. 

See recipe here.

4. Sweet potato pancakes

Sure, they’re best known as a side dish, but don’t discount sweet potatoes’ potential on the breakfast table. The Atlanta-based writer and chef Erika Council discovered this crowd-pleasing pancake recipe when she tried (and failed) to make sweet potato biscuits—a happy and delicious accident.

See recipe here.

5. Sweet potato casserole with sorghum 

Even the most acclaimed chefs, such as the Nashville James Beard Award winner Tandy Wilson, still revere recipes from their grandmas. One of Wilson’s favorites: a sweet potato casserole topped with sorghum syrup and peanuts, rather than the traditional marshmallows. 

See recipe here.

6. Sweet potato candy

Whether born of the frugality of the Great Depression or brought in with Irish settlers, sweet potato candy is a simple and delicious treat that, oddly, tastes more like peanut butter fudge than any kind of yam creation. This is an especially good recipe to try if you like powdered sugar—you didn’t misread it; this recipe calls for two pounds. 

See recipe here

7. Sweet potato jelly

The first time AuCo Lai, the chef de cuisine at Barn8 Restaurant and Bar at Hermitage Farm in Goshen, Kentucky, made this sweet potato jelly, she slapped it on toast. “But you can do anything with it,” she says. She recommends using it in thumbprint cookies or cake filling or serving it alongside cheese and prosciutto on a charcuterie board.

See recipe here.