Considered a superfood, sweet potatoes are a powerhouse vegetable packed with flavor and nutrition. Skip the marshmallows, brown sugar or maple syrup. They don’t need it. Simply simmer until tender, then drain, mash and add a little butter or olive oil. Fresh chopped rosemary is a nice addition. Mashed sweet potatoes make a healthy side dish any time of the year and are a good basic to have in your file.
Yams or Sweet Potatoes?
One of the oldest vegetables known to mankind, sweet potatoes (really a tuber, not a potato) are filled with magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, iron, copper and the antioxidant beta-carotene, not to mention fiber. Sweet potatoes are a healthy carb to add to your diet.
Sweet potatoes or yams? While many people use the term interchangeably, sweet potatoes and yams are two different vegetables. What we buy here in the US are really sweet potatoes, not yams, so I am told. True yams do not grow in the US. More starchy and less sweet, you might find them at an ethnic grocer.
Large, long and rounded with pointy ends, sweet potatoes can be a challenge to safely cut up for cooking. After peeling them, cut them in half across the middle for a more manageable size.
From there, cut a slice off the long side to give you a flat edge. Lay the sweet potato flat on your cutting board for stability.
Now, cut those pieces into long planks about a 1/2” – 1” wide. From there, cut the planks into a medium dice. The smaller you cut them the faster they will cook.
Simmer, Then Whip
Once all of your potatoes are cut into small cubes, place in a large saucepan, pot or Dutch oven and cover them with cold water and add a little salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are very soft when pierced with a sharp knife tip. With the small size of the cubes, it won’t take long. Last time I made them it was ten minutes.
Drain, allow to steam dry for a few minutes in the hot pan, then mash with an electric hand mixer until creamy and smooth. Add a little butter or olive oil and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and serve. If you’d like more of a garnish, chopped, toasted pecans work perfectly.
So skip the overly-sweet traditional casserole with marshmallows, brown sugar, spices and maple syrup and make a healthy dish instead. Save the sweets for a splurge at dessert.
A Note on Tools
A note on tools: You can use a stick or immersion blender with a whip attachment to whip the sweet potatoes. If you do, be sure to cook and whip your potatoes in a tall pot. I use an All-Clad 7 quart tall stock pot. If you don’t, you could end up wearing the potatoes.
You can also place the pot in the bottom of a sink to contain splatter. Start at a low speed and increase speed gradually for control.
For using a handheld mixed as I am doing in the photo above, I cooked my potatoes in a 5 1/2 quart Le Creuset.
Additional links on tools, recipes and information
- Sweet potatoes versus yams, from Zoe Bakes
- The difference between sweet potatoes and yams, from No. Carolina State University
- Sweet potato soup, from Simply Recipes
- A set of Swiss (or Y) peelers. I work faster with these than any other peelers. Inexpensive and sharp.
- Cuisinart Hand-held mixer with a storage case for the beaters. Nice. You’ll never lose them.
- More about superfoods, at The Daniel Plan, a healthy lifestyle
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or thyme works well too
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans garnish, optional
- Peel sweet potatoes. If they are large, cut them in half crosswise to make them more manageable. Trim a piece from the long side of the sweet potato to create a flat surface. Place the flat surface on the cutting board for stability and cut the potato into planks about 1″ in width. Then cut the planks into the same size diced potatoes.
- Place the potatoes into a medium saucepan or pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn down if needed once the potatoes are cooking. You don’t want to boil them (they will fall apart). Cook until the potatoes are very soft when pierced with a sharp knife tip.
- Drain the potatoes and place them back in the pan on the warm (but turned off) burner for a few minutes.This will steam off excess moisture. Mash the potatoes with an electric handheld mixer or an immersion blender with the whip attachment. Add butter or olive oil and rosemary. Serve warm.
- Note – To save time, these sweet potatoes can be made a day ahead and warmed before serving. To heat, place the sweet potatoes in a medium glass or stainless steel bowl over a pan with simmering water. Cover with foil and heat until hot, stirring occasionally.