Gluten-Free Ingredient Crush: Sweet Potatoes

Gluten-free roasted sweet potatoes and miso-honey cauliflower

As I meal plan and cook, I find myself falling in love with certain ingredients (see: everything I’ve ever written about lentils), and using them in lots of creative ways. Gluten-Free Ingredient Crush posts will focus on those ingredients, and how they can amp up your gluten-free meals.

Recently, I wrote about sweet potatoes, and my love of this veggie has only increased. As a child, my only encounters with sweet potatoes came at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then, as part of a huge meal featuring more side dishes than I can comprehend to this day, the sweet potatoes were cooked in butter, covered with brown sugar, and, honestly, were left off the dessert table more from tradition than anything.

I hated them.

As an adult, I spent a few years recreating the “family recipe”, but never indulged in the dish myself. I’m not into sweet foods or drinks, so I might taste the dish to make sure it was good, but I couldn’t actually *eat* what I’d made. And this, I have come to understand, is the first problem most of us make with sweet potatoes: trying to make them, you know, sweeter.

These days I make my sweet potatoes many ways, but I balance the sweetness with savory or even heat. Below are some ideas from various sites (including mine) for great sweet potato dishes. If you’re working to lower your glycemic intake (or going generally lower carb), sweet potatoes are, contrary to their name, the perfect addition to your diet.

  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Jalapeno — Do not fear the hot chile pepper. For my money, jalapenos add just the right level of heat to complement the sweetness of the potato. This recipe from Dad Cooks Dinner doesn’t just work for sweet potatoes — I’ve also used it for carrots and butternut squash (seriously, the incredible caramelization that occurs makes for an incredible, rich soup). Substitute jalapeno for the chipotle in adobo sauce (though, honestly, try the chipotle; you may become addicted to the smoky heat).
  • Sweet Potato Hash— I love trading out regular potatoes for sweet potatoes in hashes. Add a bit of salmon and quinoa to the dish to make it a main course, and add a mustardy sauce to increase the flavor. Or top with an egg. Or build from the basic recipe in whatever direction you like. It’s all good…literally!
  • Stuffed Sweet Potatoes — Take your basic stuffed baked potato. Switch out the potato for a sweet potato. Eat. I make variations on this sweet potato with spinach and feta from Cookin’ Canuck at least once a month.
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes — I am a sucker for roasted veggies, and sweet potatoes are a favorite. I counterbalance the sweet of the potato with something spicy like a dash of ground cayenne or chipotle. For fun, try a variation on Tajin seasoning, which features chile pepper, salt, and lime. Toss cubed sweet potatoes with olive oil and seasoning, and roast at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes. Other flavors that work great: tahini sauce, curry spices, gorgonzola sauce, and, yum!, avocado salsa.
  • Sweet Potato Patties — I love patties, burgers, and “meatballs” because they’re not only great for dinner, but they’re ideal for packing for lunch, too. Plus, once you have a basic recipe, you can customize the ingredients to meet whatever mood. The recipe I’ve linked to here includes a Sriracha-Yogurt sauce, but you can change that up if you prefer less heat (lime-yogurt sauce? tahini sauce? any sauce you like).
  • Old-Fashioned Sweet Sweet Potatoes — My friend Jill does the honors here with a recipe that mirrors my family’s. In fact, I’ve served this at many a holiday gathering without my mother noticing that I’d used Jill’s genius addition of eggs…which makes for a much better casserole. I skip the topping because, well, this is already a pretty indulgent recipe. If you want the topping, substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour for the flour in the recipe.

Tip of the Week

Here is where we get into the “a rose by any other name” issue, or yams versus sweet potatoes. They are, indeed, different vegetables. Yams come from Africa and Asia; their skins are more bark-like, and they are starchy and dry. True yams are not common in U.S. grocery stores. Sweet potatoes have smoother skins, variously colored flesh, and are tapered on the ends. What most U.S. grocery stores call “yams” are actually soft-fleshed sweet potatoes; these are great for baked stuffed potatoes and casseroles. I like the firmer-fleshed sweet potatoes for roasting and hashes.

Gluten-Free Meal of the Week

Last week, I felt super-ambitious and did a heroic job of vegetable prep for the week’s meals. That meant when Friday night rolled around, I avoided my impulse to order in. It was just as a easy (and faster!) to toss some veggies into the oven with seasoning and throw a steak on the grill.

I tossed my sweet potatoes in olive oil with a bit of salt and cayenne (go light on the cayenne if you don’t adore heat!). Then I took a long look at the cauliflower I’d prepped and decided it needed a miso-honey coating before roasting. You can always tell the success of my veggie ideas by the way both the husband and I grab bites from the still-hot roasting pan while putting together the rest of the meal…many nibbles were stolen!

  • Grilled Steak
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cayenne and Salt
  • Miso-Honey Roasted Cauliflower
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