14 Ways To Add More Flavor To Sweet Potatoes

Did you know that sweet potatoes aren't really potatoes at all? They were just given that name by the Spanish who brought them over from the New World. And while some people may argue that these orange tubers are actually yams, they would also be incorrect. So what exactly is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? Yams have much thicker skin, grow larger, and have a dryer, starchier consistency much like yucca or taro. Sweet potatoes are actually the roots of a plant in the Morning Glory Family. But heck, does it really matter? Whether you call them yams or sweet potatoes one thing's for sure, they're delicious.

Though sweet potatoes shine annually at Thanksgiving, they are enjoyed throughout the year, particularly in fry form or diced in grain bowls. But for sweet potato enthusiasts like ourselves, they can be a part of everyday eating whether baked, fried, mashed, or roasted. While they are quite flavorful on their own, it's always fun to dress them. After all, variety is the spice of life. That's why we've served up a number of ways to give your sweet potatoes a welcome flavor boost.

Slather with cinnamon butter

A simple pad of butter is a perfectly fine addition to sweet potatoes, but adding a sprinkle of cinnamon is even better. There are a few steps to ensure the outcome of your dreams, but the process is actually quite simple. First, avoid the biggest mistake that people make with sweet potatoes, and choose a fresh and firm one from the grocery store without any roots growing out of it. The fresher, the tastier.

Once you find a top-notch tater, scrub it clean, pierce it with a fork a few times, wrap it in aluminum foil, and bake it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 to 60 minutes, or until soft. Then, whip your favorite brand of butter or vegan butter with brown sugar and cinnamon. Once the sweet potato is done, split it open, dollop on the cinnamon butter, and let it melt. Slow-baked, moist, and tender, these sweet potatoes are sublime.

Drizzle with tahini

Tahini goes with sweet potatoes as peanut butter does with jelly. For those of you new to the paste, it's simply made from ground sesame seeds and has the consistency of nut butter. It has a mild smooth, toasty, and slightly bitter flavor, and becomes a creamy dreamy sauce when whisked with a little liquid — water or lemon juice and maple syrup — to make the easiest potato dressing of all time. You should be able to find it at your local supermarket and there are plenty of great store-bought tahini brands to choose from.

Bake your sweet potato until soft, roast it in the oven, or air fry it to perfection before using it as a vehicle for tahini. If you're in a major hurry, use your "potato" setting on the microwave to steam in just minutes. (We recommend piercing the skin with a fork and wrapping it in a damp paper towel before doing this.) Although the texture isn't quite oven-baked, it sure takes less time. Split open the cooked potato, and drizzle with your water-whipped tahini. Bada-boom, a side dish in just minutes.

Roast with savory chili sauce

For fans of sweet potato tacos (or burrito bowls), this seasoning suggestion may come as no surprise. But for those who have never had the pleasure of experiencing a Mexican spin on sweet potatoes, get ready for your new favorite plant-based entrée. Sweet potato tacos are elite because they add density, sweetness, and crunch (if roasted correctly). They pair particularly well with beans, corn, avocado, and chili.

Take caution when slicing into a raw sweet potato to dice it. They are firmer than a white potato, so use a sharp, sturdy blade and keep your fingers out of the strike zone. Dice the sweet potato, and leave the skins on. Then toss the chunks in a splash of tamari, oil, and maple syrup, and then dust heavily with chili powder, smoked paprika, and garlic powder. Roast at 400 Fahrenheit for about 30-50 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to crisp up. Enjoy over a burrito bowl, in tacos, in grain bowls, or even as a breakfast side dish.

Sprinkle on some good ol' salt and pepper

Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes have quite a strong flavor and appearance on their own. When cooked, they are sweet, starchy, and smooth. They are incredibly versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, which makes them easy to incorporate into almost any cuisine. And since sweet potatoes carry their own great flavor, they can be enjoyed without seasoning at all, or better yet, with just a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Let's face it, there's nothing better than reliability, and everyone knows how to season with the old S and P. In fact, some people can't seem to eat a meal without a heavy dusting of the two. Although the duo may seem like the bare minimum when it comes to seasoning, food that's prepared right, especially vegetables that carry their own flavor and vibrancy, don't need much to make them shine. Simply bake or roast your sweet potato, and use those pepper and salt shakers to the best of your ability.

Pan fry with ginger and orange

Sweet potatoes just taste better when they've been glazed, and we've found the perfect flavor pairing for the tuber. Ginger and orange work together to create a spicy sweet flavor that can take sweet potatoes to the next level. Ginger has an intense refreshing spiciness to it, while sweet and tangy orange is the ingredient that will change your sweet potatoes forever. This sophisticated duo works together to bring out the best in the orange starchy vegetable.

Simply pre-baked a thickly sliced sweet potato coated in a little oil until it softens, at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 to 40 minutes. Then place the slices in a stovetop pan with orange juice, ginger slices, brown sugar, and butter or olive oil. Cover them and let them simmer for a few minutes. Remove the lid and let the moisture thicken. Once the bottoms of the potatoes start to brown, and the sauce is sticky and thick, take it off the heat and enjoy.

Rub with garlic and rosemary

Whether go sweet or standard, it's undeniable that garlic and rosemary in combination are just about as close to heaven as you can get for seasoning your potatoes. Luckily, you don't have to limit yourself to one cooking method for sweet potatoes when adorning them with this dynamic duo. Garlic rosemary sweet potato fries? Yes, please. Mashed sweet potato with garlic rosemary butter? Heck yeah! Baked sweet potato with a crispy garlic rosemary skin? Sign us up.

If you've pre-cooked the potato and wish to flavor it after, consider using garlic and rosemary that have been sautéed in a little butter or olive oil. Even better, try baked garlic and toasted rosemary whipped into a spread. If you're working with raw tubers, marinade them in a garlic-rosemary oil mixture before baking or sautéing. Raw garlic and raw rosemary are very intense and taste best when heated slightly. Be sure not to overcook your garlic or burn your rosemary. This can be prevented by adding the two part-way through the cooking process if you're baking at high temperatures in the oven or air fryer.

Dip in honey mustard

We can't be the only ones that light up when we see the option to swap out regular fries for sweet potato fries on a menu. Sweet potato fry lovers know that  among the best ways to dip these crispy slivers is into honey mustard. The spicy sweet combination complements the tubers flawlessly. If you're making sweet potato fries at home using the oven, take the time to research the tips you need to get the crispest potatoes. As it turns out, tossing them in some oil and roasting them doesn't allow them to reach the best of their ability.

There are several ways to make honey mustard, but our favorite is to mix Dijon with honey and a little bit of mayonnaise or vegan mayo. If you'd prefer to use olive oil, you can, but it's advised to add an element of fat to the mix. For a more intense flavor, omit the mayonnaise and just use honey and mustard.

Sweeten with brown sugar and pecans

Sweet potatoes with brown sugar and pecans may trigger memories of fall time Thanksgiving festivities, the smell of roasted turkey, and the obligatory small talk with distant relatives that are just not on your wavelength. But the truth is, this heavenly combination can be (and should be) eaten all year round. Brown sugar and pecan sweet potatoes can be paired with more than just turkey and stuffing, so don't let the concept of tradition limit you.

Bake a sweet potato to your liking, whip together some butter and brown sugar, and sprinkle on crushed toasted pecans, or better yet, candied pecans. The buttery crunch of the nuts in combination with the fluffy sweet meat of the sweet potato will blow your taste buds out of the water, and it is quite simple to accomplish. These candied sweet potatoes can also be made into mashed potato form or diced and baked. Just remember to go heavy on the butter, and be sure that those nuts are good and toasted.

Caramelize with maple syrup

If you're from the Northeast then maple syrup isn't just a pancake topping, it's a religion. It is used to sweeten pretty much anything in New England, from coffee to barbecue sauce. In fact, maple syrup is often used in place of sugar in everyday recipes, giving just about any dish that unforgettable smokey sweet flavor that we all love. This liquid gold just happens to taste phenomenal with sweet potatoes, and should definitely be considered when whipping up any form of the tuber.

A great way to incorporate maple syrup is by simply drizzling it right on top of a baked sweet potato. For a more sophisticated recipe, try combing it with butter for a glaze that can be slathered on roasted sweet potatoes. The maple syrup will continue to reduce, and may even candy your orange vegetables. If you have an intense sweet tooth when it comes to sweet potatoes, this may be a recipe to consider next time you grab a bundle of them at the grocery store or farmers market.

Stuff with pesto

For those who enjoy the salty-sweet combination of a savory seasoned sweet potato, then look no further than our favorite herbed nutty sauce. Pesto can be eaten on pretty much any savory food from fish to sliced cheese and is universally loved. It's light yet intense and makes a great addition to baked sweet potatoes.

Make your own peso by simply blending raw garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, sea salt, pepper, and basil leaves. But the truth of the matter is that basil isn't the only green you should use to make pesto. Try a less intensely flavored green like arugula or kale, or bring in a refreshing lemon peppery flair with parsley. Get creative by using cashews or peanuts in place of expensive pine nuts. Add a dusting of Parmesan or nutritional yeast and lemon juice for added intensity and extra olive oil to thin it out into a dressing for easy drizzling onto your sweet potato. Let your culinary creativity shine.

Provide a creamy touch with goddess dressing

Green goddess is one of the most vibrant dressings out there. It's typically made with tahini, fresh herbs, lemon juice, garlic, and perhaps a splash of light vinegar. Herbs such as basil, parsley, and cilantro are what gives the dressing its beautiful green coloring. The magic of green goddess dressing is that it can be adapted and improvised to the creators liking. Think cilantro tastes like soap? Don't add it. Looking for a milder green than herbs? Try spinach, arugula, or kale. It's a great way to sneak leafy greens into your diet, which let's admit, we could all use. Not a big fan of making your own sauces? There are plenty of brands that sell green goddess dressing, notably Trader Joe's and Annies.

Drizzle green goddess on tender sweet potatoes, or use it as a sauce to plunge your sweet potato fries into. The dressing is tangy, flavorful, aromatic, and creamy, making it the ultimate way to add more flavor to your sweet potatoes.

Top with honey and bacon

The golden combination of honey and bacon can pretty much improve anything. Think about it: What food, sweet or savory can't use a sprinkle of bacon and a drizzle of honey? Well, sweet potatoes are no exception to the rule.

Top any honey-roasted sweet potato recipe with crispy bacon, or simply use the two as toppers for a fully baked tater. For the ultimate brunch side dish, roasted diced sweet potatoes, drizzle with honey and a little bacon fat, and crumble your brunch bacon right over the top of the pile. Be sure the bacon is extra crispy, as it will complement the soft interior of the sweet potato beautifully. The combination of salty and sweet has enamored diners since the dawn of the culinary arts, so consider it next time you bake up your favorite orange tuber. Honestly, you can't go wrong with bacon, and honey only makes it more lovable. The combination of the two could make a sock taste good, so imagine what it can do to sweet potatoes.

Smear with manouri and honey

Those of you familiar with the world of Greek cheese know all about the soft, delicately mild cheese called manouri. This spreadable delight is made from sheep and goats milk and has slightly a greaser and grainier mouthfeel than feta. Its light citrus undertones make it quite refreshing, and it can even be used in place of Greek yogurt in some instances. It also just happens to be a perfect match when it comes to adorning baked sweet potatoes.

Bake your sweet potato until the center is light, fluffy, and moist. Split it open, and smear it will a generous amount of manouri cheese before drizzling it lightly with honey. Add extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper for a richer experience, but even just the cheese and honey combo can take your sweet potato to new heights. If you're unable to get your hands on a tub of manouri cheese, swap for Greek yogurt. It's tangier and less oily but can get the job done. Although this might seem like an odd combination, just think about it as the equivalent of putting sour cream on a white potato. 

Add spinach and melted feta

Spinach and feta are a popular combination, even for those who don't love leafy greens. There's something about that tangy, salty, crumbly cheese working together with mild silky steamed spinach that makes the taste buds pop. Because sweet potatoes are rather mild and sweet, they often need a little punch to kick them into gear. Enter this dynamic duo which is an ideal sweet potato stuffing.

Simply heat more spinach than you think you'll need (you know how spinach has a tendency to disappear in the pan) until it just barely begins to melt. Turn the heat off, and add fresh feta cheese. Don't worry if the feta remains unmelted and keeps its form, it will begin to melt when it comes in contact with the fresh-from-the-oven sweet potato. In fact, it's best to let it do most of its melting in the hot tuber once you split it open. Once the cheese and spinach mix becomes a mass of gooey deliciousness, dig in.