The Samovar

Mashed sweet potatoes – any ideas?
April 17, 2007, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Food, Recipes

I’ve always had difficulty making really good mashed sweet potatoes. Can anyone help?

Usually when I try this I treat it like mashed potato – I peel and cut the sweet potato into fairly small cubes and boil them until they’re soft, then mash them with salt, pepper and butter. The problem is that although it’s quite tasty, they tend to be watery. I assume that this is due to some difference between ordinary and sweet potatoes so that the latter absorb water if they’re cooked in it.

Tonight I tried an alternative, peeling and baking them in the oven in a dish covered in aluminium foil. It was better – they weren’t quite so watery – but it was still not quite right. The texture was still not firm enough for my liking.

I haven’t yet tried steaming them, or baking them with their skins on and then scooping out the flesh, and maybe these will work, but tonight’s experiment suggests I’m missing something fundamental if I want to make them more solid and less watery.



How about steaming them?

Most recipes I’ve seen for mashed sweet potatoes require them to be baked for 45 minutes in a casserole dish – after cooking and mashing (with butter, s&p) – which presumably dries them out a bit.


Comment by azahar

Whoops, missed your line about not having tried steaming them yet …

Comment by azahar

Ah that’s interesting, but doesn’t it go crusty if you do that? That can be nice too of course.

Another thought occurred to me about sweet potatoes – they have a certain fibrousness that potatoes don’t. Perhaps you need to put them through a sieve or something to get that out?

Comment by thesamovar

I bake them in the oven with the skins on, just like I would a baked potato. They do take longer, and need to be in a dish because of the sugars this produces. Then they slide right out of the skins (peeling them raw is not much fun, anyway!) In my experience, the fiberousness tends to be more concentrated toward the skin, so if I come across it when I am skinning them, I try to leave it out. There is a good recipe in the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. They are smashed up in a mixer with brown sugar, cream, spices, and topped with sauteed apples and baked again. Of course, if you don’t like your sweet potatoes that sweet, you can use the techinique and put in your own spices.

Comment by Sputnik

Oops! Stick them several times with a fork before you bake them!

Comment by Sputnik

Thanks for that Sputnik!

I have also been emailed another suggestion which I will put on here in the next few days.

Comment by thesamovar

Here is the suggestion I was emailed:

To get the mashed sweet potatoes, half them longwise, or as close as you can get, do not peel, that’s the first tip, place them cut side down on an oiled, METAL roasting tin and put in a hot oven, tips 2 and 3.

When you can push a knife through the thickest bit, i.e. they are cooked, and when you turn them over and the cut surface has gone hard, you’re in. Scrape out the potatoes from the skin, you will loose some of the “scab” maybe even all of it depending on how long you left it in there (the scab is the hardened cut surface which was face down on the metal and it will not mash). It must be a metal roasting tin and no more than a smear of oil, it seems to draw out the water, not sure why, I think it must be something to do with the heat conductivity of the metal. Mash away! It won’t be hard cos’ the pots will be soft anyway. Ps I found this out by experiment after thinking about how to draw out the water, guessing it would rather get steamed out at the cut, than pass out through the skin and I think that the temperature gradient must
be lowest at the metal/potato contact point providing a ‘door’ for the more fluid, lower temperature steam, if you use ceramic there is no heat gradient/pump as it is a constant temperature so the steam has nowhere of lower heat/pressure to be pushed to. It may work if you just roast em whole, but I have not tried that.

Comment by thesamovar

Only just seen this. Yeah – bake em on the skins. Use plenty of butter, a touch of pepper, maybe some fresh-ground garam masala. Also – try combining with potatoes.

And stop all this faffing around with temperature gradients. Cookery’s not meant to be a precise science. Leave room for variation, imperfection and serendipity.

Comment by Edward the Bonobo

I’d say it’s a craft, and precision has its place too.

I’ll keep all these ideas in mind for next time I make them – the garam masala idea is interesting.

Comment by thesamovar


When I have done them, and it has been many times now, I use a glass baking dish and just poke holes in them, and roast them until they are good and soft. They do take a long time, but it works out fine. The main thing is to just make sure they are really soft when you stick them with a knife, or they will not smash up smoothly. Then scrap ’em out, avoiding the fiberousness we talked about before, and I smash them in a standing mixer. I use a recipe that calls for brown sugar, butter, cream, and I think cloves, but you guys now have me curious to try some more savory spices, too ie maybe curry and serve them with some chutney? I like that garam masal idea too. I was thinking that you could make mini-potato pancakes with them, top them with some chutney, and serve them as finger food at a cocktail party.

Comment by Sputnik

In fact, if you go to and type in “smashed sweet potatoes” in the search box, it will pull up several recipes. The one I use is from Ina Garten aka The Barefoot Contessa, and there is a picture of them as well as the recipe. This particular one does not call for the sauteed apples on top with I think is very yummy. But you can see the picture and see the texture on the site, as well as look at the recipe.

Have fun!

Comment by Sputnik

More interesting ideas – thanks Sputnik!

Comment by thesamovar

I bake my sweet potatoes in the microwave (prick them first) about the same amount of time as you would the same size potatoes. Let them cool slightly and then scoop out the insides. Combine this with whatever you like: butter, cinnamon, sugar, etc. You can add a little milk if somewhat dry. You can serve this hot or put into a buttered casserole dish and top with marshmallows, nuts, etc. and heat later. We like our sweet potatoes baked with just some butter. Hope this helps and check out my site for more recipes and ideas.


Comment by akentuckycreation

Thanks Lee!

Looks like quite a consensus on the baking suggestion then. I think I might try this quite soon.

Comment by thesamovar

We make mashed sweet potatoes at my hotel all the time. What we do, is bake the sweet potatoes, skin on. I prefer white sweets as opposed to the orange. After they are done roasting, just peel the skin off. Be careful not to add too much cream or butter as the sweet potatoes will be much looser that regular potatoes. I usually season mine with a touch of maple syrup, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and just as splash of butter and cream, salt and white pepper. They turn out great every time. Hope this helps.

Comment by Melissa

Thanks Melissa – another very useful suggestion. I think I’ll try something along the lines you suggest next time I do them. Hmm, now that it’s cold – maybe some time this week! 😀

Comment by Dan | thesamovar

peel the sweet potatoes. Cut in rings and place in an oven dish. Now comes the LEKKER part. Pour syrup over it and then pour `n container cream over. Bake at 180°C until soft. If it is not sweet enough, just pour more syrup over it. Njammy!!!

Comment by Anette

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