Photo by Zachariah Bryan

You Are What You Eat: Savory and sweet potatoes

By Katy Wilkens, MS, RD

It’s so cold and wet here that sweet potatoes won’t grow in my Pacific Northwest garden. So I have to buy them. But they are so great in fall menus, I don’t mind.

Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins A and C, potassium, complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein, and are kind to your heart and kidneys. The darker colored sweet potatoes, sometimes called yams, are even higher in vitamin A.

In the United States we tend to pair them with sweet flavors like brown sugar, cinnamon and maple syrup, but around the world they are served in savory dishes, with flavors like lime juice, chilies, garlic and rosemary.

Try these recipes and you may look differently at sweet potatoes.

Rich’s sweet potatoes and black rice

My husband created this wonderful recipe, one of our fall favorites.

3 cups black rice

3 cups water

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped onion

2-3 cups cubed sweet potatoes

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Freshly ground black pepper

Cook black rice on stove or in rice cooker, following package directions. Meanwhile, melt butter, sauté onions. Add sweet potatoes and spices. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn. When rice is done, let cool 5 minutes. Fold sweet potatoes into rice. Serves 8.

Nutritional information:
Calories: 350, Carbohydrates: 69 grams, Protein: 7 grams, Sodium: 46 milligrams

Roasted sweet potato fries

If you have trouble getting your family to eat more vegetables, try this recipe – so good, they won’t notice how healthy it is.

2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/8” thick
1 tablespoon salad oil or olive oil
½ teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chives or thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Nonstick cooking spray

½ teaspoon chili powder
1 fresh lime

Set oven to 450 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with oil, garlic powder and herbs. If you want to use it, add chili powder. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or wipe with salad oil. Place fries on sheet, bake until tender and slightly brown on the edges. If using lime, squeeze juice over fries just before serving. Serves 4.

Nutritional information:
Calories: 115, Carbohydrates: 20 grams, Protein: 2 grams, Sodium: 54 milligrams

Katy’s savory sweet potato pie
If you like your sweet potatoes sweet, try them in this pie.

1/2 package Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon powdered vanilla, or vanilla extract

3 eggs, beaten

1 can low-fat evaporated milk

Sweetened whip cream and grated cheddar cheese as toppings

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Microwave sweet potatoes on plate, covered with plastic wrap, for 15 minutes or until tender. Mash. In large bowl, combine sugar, spices, vanilla and eggs. Add sweet potatoes and evaporated milk, stir until smooth. Pour into pie crust. Bake 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, then bake for 45 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean and filling is set but the center jiggles slightly. Let cool. Serve with sweetened whip cream and/or grated cheddar cheese.

Nutritional information (without cream or cheese):
Calories: 290, Carbohydrates: 48 grams, Protein: 6 grams, Sodium: 211 milligrams

Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. She has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at

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