12 Ways To Make Sweet Potatoes Savory

Sweet potatoes are one ingredient in the U.S. that's typically present on the Thanksgiving table in one form or another. However, sweet potatoes aren't just for Thanksgiving. They're a fantastic staple, eaten year-round in many countries and cultures. This popular tuber was first grown and used within the Indigenous communities of Central America and Mexico before making its way via the Spanish to Europe. Typically grown best in warmer climates, sweet potatoes are harvested in the early autumn in the U.S. so they can develop their rich, sweet flavors just in time to make their way into sweet potato pie or topped with marshmallows for Thanksgiving.

Though their name indicates the sweet, caramelized flavors that pair perfectly with brown sugar or molasses, sweet potatoes can also make for an incredibly satisfying savory dish. If you're looking for ways to use these delicious tubers to create tasty savory dishes, here are 12 recommendations for making your family's next favorite sweet potato dish that doesn't taste like dessert.

1. Mash with white potatoes

There is just something about a bowlful of creamy, buttery mashed potatoes that can help to soften even the worst of days. It is, in our book, the ultimate comfort food. Mashed potatoes don't have to be just a white-potato-only food. Why let just one root vegetable have all the fun? Adding other ingredients like earthy celery root, sweet carrots, or silky sweet potatoes adds a new dimension to what can sometimes be a one-note dish.

Want to keep your sweet potatoes from tasting too sweet? Try adding a combination these seasonal tuber stars with equal parts white potato into your next bowl of mash. Combining the two types of potatoes will add a rich texture alongside sweetness but keep the overall flavor profile firmly in the savory category. You can also add other rich savory ingredients and seasonings into the mix like roasted garlic, caramelized red onions or shallots, tangy sour cream, or finely chopped aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme, and chives. When it comes to mashed potatoes think like a maximalist: more is more.

2. Add pesto

When creating a savory-tasting dish that works to counterbalance the sweetness and caramelized taste of sweet potatoes, it helps to think about umami-rich foods. Pesto, made from the unctuous combination of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, basil, pine nuts, and Parmesan, should leave a salty, earthy, and herbaceous taste that pleasantly lingers. This rich, thick, yet remarkably bright sauce is the perfect balance to bring any sweet potato dish into the savory category firmly. Whether you make your own or pick up a jar of pesto from the variety at the grocery store, this is also an easy way to perk up your side dish and add a bit of intrigue and variety to a standard way of cooking sweet potatoes.

What's more, there are several ways to change up your next batch of pesto, including changing up the herbs, the oil, or the pine nuts. Depending on the season, change the standard herb from basil to cilantro, add cashews, walnuts, or pistachios instead of pine nuts, or a kick with jalapeños.

3. Try a miso glaze

Miso is one of the most complex, versatile, and umami-boosting ingredients. It is as old as it is powerful, its use dating back to the 4th century BC in ancient China.  The earthy, fermented ingredient eventually migrated from China, soon becoming a much-loved and revered staple ingredient in Japan. The condiment, made from an equally ancient mold called koji and fermented soybeans, has the culinary equivalent of the Midas touch — everything the umami-rich paste touches turns to gold, which is why it is perfect for your next batch of sweet potatoes.

Making your miso glaze can be as simple as mixing in a teaspoon of white, brown, or red miso paste into softened or melted butter, then brushing or spooning onto the flesh of your sweet potatoes before roasting. To increase the complexity of flavors, you could also consider adding a splash of soy sauce, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and brown sugar, like in this recipe for miso-glazed salmon. The umami-rich flavors in miso paired with the earthy sweetness of sweet potatoes in a match made in taste bud heaven.

4. Be generous with herbs

What can't herbs do? Answer: nothing. No matter what ingredient you're attempting to elevate, herbs can significantly increase flavor, complexity, and overall enjoyment in most dishes. Given the variety of herbs grown and used around the globe, they can help inform diners by distinguishing what region or cuisine you're cooking from or have been inspired by. According to leading doctors and researchers like Tim Spector, herbs are also a fantastic way to increase the number of plants eaten each week, thus improving biodiversity and overall gut health. Equally, herbs provide savory, herbaceous, and vegetal flavors, helping to take ingredients that may otherwise be considered sweet and transforming them into savory-tasting dishes.

Try adding sage-infused butter to your roasting tray of sweet potatoes. Stir roasted garlic and chopped rosemary into a bowl of mashed sweet potatoes, or sprinkle whole roasted sweet potatoes with sour cream and a generous helping of fresh chives. Add cubes of roasted sweet potato into a salad with fennel fronds. Top potatoes with a mixture of cilantro, white vinegar, sugar, and capers. The ways you can use herbs in combination with sweet potatoes are seemingly endless.

5. Pair with Parmesan

Another ingredient on the list that is bursting with rich, mouth-pleasing, saliva-inducing, umami flavors is Parmesan. Like tomatoes, Parmesan contains naturally occurring MSG, known for making food taste extra flavorful and delicious. The sweet potato's caramelized, earthy, silky flavors paired with the crumbly, salt-crystal-flecked texture and sour, savory taste of Parmesan is a hard-to-beat match. It's practically guaranteed to create a crowd-pleasing savory dish.

Try topping your next batch of roasted sweet potato cubes, wedges, or sweet potato fries (homemade or store-bought) with a heavy-handed dusting of grated Parmesan. For an extra punch of mouth-pleasing goodness, let the Parmesan go slightly crispy or crusty in the oven; the crunchy texture is absolutely worth the effort. Or, try making these Parmesan and sweet potato stacks. Though a bit more work, the thin layers of sweet potato, paired with the Parmesan, are a show-stopping side dish that will wow your next dinner party guests.

6. Roast with garlic and butter

Looking for a simple way to add savory flavors to sweet-leaning sweet potatoes? It doesn't get much simpler or more delicious than roasted garlic and butter. After all, these are the two ingredients responsible for creating garlic bread, and we all know how irresistible that is.

There are several ways to add garlic and butter to your tubers. First, you can roast the entire garlic bulb whole with a bit of oil and salt. Then, once done, squeeze the softened cloves out of their casings and mash them into butter. Now you have a rich garlic butter to add to the sweet potatoes however you like.

Dollop a pat of garlic butter into the cooked flesh or brush it over raw cubes for further roasting. You could also create the ultimate mashed sweet potatoes by adding roasted or raw garlic cloves into a bowlful of boiled and mashed sweet potatoes and a few pats of butter for good measure.

7. Add sweet potatoes into a frittata

Not sure what to do with a bunch of leftovers? Frittata to the rescue. This egg-based dish has the ability to bring together any little bits and bobs you have lying around. It helps to do a fridge dive first, collecting small hunks of leftover cheeses, cooked meats, vegetables, herbs, and even potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Aesthetically place potatoes and vegetables around your oven-safe frying pan, alongside a bit of oil to prevent sticking. Spread the ingredients to ensure each projected bite has a bit of whatever you add. Once these have softened or warmed to your liking, pour in the glue of the dish, a base of whisked eggs, and cream, creme fraiche, or sour cream. Follow by sprinkling over the cooked meats or any cheese you're using and pop under the oven grill for a few quick minutes until cooked through and melted. 

Adding sweet potatoes to a frittata introduces variety and sweetness, exciting the palate while allowing the dish to remain firmly savory. It also adds extra fiber, which can go a long way towards helping the dish stick with you, fighting off hunger until your next meal.

8. Tuck them into a quesadilla or casserole

Sometimes, the easiest way to make sweet potatoes savory is to include them in a dish with other savory ingredients. Thankfully, sweet potatoes play well with various other ingredients, both in texture and taste. Like a frittata, quesadillas and casseroles are a great way to incorporate sweet potatoes into a savory dish and an easy way to use up all kinds of leftovers and ingredients lurking around the fridge.

Add sweet potatoes into your next breakfast casserole alongside eggs, cheese, sausage, bacon, and whatever your preferred go-to breakfast ingredients might be. More often than not, sweet potatoes can be included in addition or as a substitute for white potatoes, though you may need to check your recipe and adjust some of the wet ingredients as required. Sweet potatoes also add a remarkable depth to many quesadillas, whether eating vegan versions with black beans, red onions, and guacamole or crispy chicken and cheese.

9. Add tangy ingredients 

Nothing balances out sweet flavors or tips things into the savory category, like adding tangy flavors to otherwise sweet-tasting foods. Think about what happens when you spread cream cheese onto a slice of zucchini or banana bread, mix ricotta into pancakes, or add a few dollops of yogurt to a fruit salad. Inevitably, the sweeter flavors are balanced, making the overall eating experience much more satisfying. That tangy influence from the sour cream and cream cheese in cheesecake is also what makes the baked treat so appealing.

The same idea can readily apply to sweet potatoes. Add a spoonful of thick crème fraîche to a freshly baked sweet potato. Stir sour cream into mashed sweet potato. Pair roasted sweet potato cubes with goat cheese or a ball burrata in a warm or cold salad. Additionally consider making a satisfying bowlful of sweet potato gnocchi infused with the delightful tangy flavor of ricotta.

10. When in doubt, make French fries

Over the last few years, sweet potato fries have become a standard item on menus nationwide. Though first popularized as a supposed healthier alternative to the white potato variety, sweet potato fries have become a dish in their own right. They have become a popular item when dining out and for making at home, and it's easy to understand why. Not only are sweet potatoes packed with fiber and vitamin A, but they're also delicious when dipped into aioli, ketchup, or barbecue sauce.

Making sweet potato fries practically guarantees they'll land on the savory side of the flavor table, especially when seasoned with a generous helping of flakey salt, garlic, or paprika. Slice into even strips, ideally with the skin on, and then throw them into the air frier, or place them onto the top rack in your oven for crispy, satisfying fries in no time.

11. Try a salad

With so many wonderful variations and flavorful ingredients, there's absolutely no reason for salads to ever be boring or seen as a punishment. Quite the opposite; they're an opportunity for variety. Coupled with a punch of acidity from a great dressing, salads are an easily customizable dish that can excite the palate. Salads are all about variety, offering diners a chance to enjoy a slightly different arrangement of ingredients with each bite. 

Adding a small handful of sweet ingredients into a salad often helps to enhance other flavors, too. Think about how exciting it can be for your tastebuds when tossing a handful of dried cranberries, cubes of apple, candied nuts, or other sweet ingredients into an otherwise savory salad. The same is true when adding sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are also helpful when making heartier grain bowls or winter salads, often featuring roasted vegetables topped with crumbly cheese like feta, goat cheese, or blue. You could even try using sweet potatoes in your next batch of potato salad. The options are endless.

12. Don't forget the power of crispy bacon or halloumi

Something about the combination of salt-meets-crunchy sends our tastebuds into a happy dance frenzy, leaving our mouths wanting more. Whether it's a freshly fried French fry, a potato chip, a crispy piece of sizzling bacon, or a halloumi, it's hard to resist the urge to have more. All the more reason to add these little bombs of savory, crispy joy to your next batch of sweet potatoes.

Making a sweet potato and bacon casserole is an easy and satisfying way to combine the sweetness of the coral-colored tubers with the magical powers of bacon. To increase those feelings of satisfaction, leave the bacon's edges out so it can crisp up, adding an extra textural dimension.

Cubed sweet potatoes and sliced halloumi (or bacon) also cook well together on a baking sheet. Make sure to bake or roast on both sides for extra crispy deliciousness, keeping a close eye to catch them from burning. The texture, as well as the flavor variation, is guaranteed to make mouths happy.