This is part of a short summer series covering smart strategies for using leftover staple foods – things like rice, beans, pasta, and so on. Here’s what you do when you cook a bit too much and don’t know what to do with the rest!
Sweet potatoes are one of my family’s “hidden” staple foods. It’s not one of the obvious ones that people often point out, like rice and beans, but sweet potatoes are always available at a really inexpensive price, they’re always tasty, and they can be prepared in a lot of different ways.
In our house, we often eat baked sweet potatoes instead of normal ones. We’ll eat them as a side dish for many meals by wrapping them in foil and baking them in the oven, then serving them by simply slicing them open and adding butter and sour cream (and maybe a bit of brown sugar, too).
Sweet potatoes are rather large and they’re also a bit dense, which means that it’s really easy to cook far too many for your family’s needs, especially when they constitute a side dish. If you find yourself with some extra cooked sweet potatoes at the end of a meal (and you haven’t jazzed them up too much), there are actually a lot of tasty things you can do with them in the next day or two. Here are ten of my favorite ideas.
Make mashed chipotle sweet potatoes as a side dish.
This recipe for mashed maple chipotle sweet potatoes is a great use for leftover sweet potatoes. Since step one is just cooking the potatoes in a normal way, you can just skip that and jump right into the two remaining steps, which basically add up to adding some flavorings to the potatoes and mashing them like mashed potatoes.
These end up being this perfect mix of sweet and savory and work perfectly as a side dish for all kinds of meals. The secret here is the chipotle pepper, which adds a great spiciness to the natural sweetness of the potato and the hint of maple syrup. This stuff is so delicious!
Cube cooked sweet potatoes into tiny cubes and add them to oatmeal.
We often have steel cut oats for breakfast and we usually flavor them in simple ways, with brown sugar or maple syrup. Those are flavors that practically beg to also have a bit of sweet potato.
It’s easy – just cube up a baked sweet potato just before serving and toss the cubes in there just long enough to warm them up. Make the cubes relatively small – you want a small bit or two in with your oatmeal, not a whole mouthful of sweet potato – and you’ll find yourself with a surprisingly delicious breakfast treat!
Cube the cooked sweet potatoes and add them to a salad.
This might seem a bit different, but you’d be surprised how well some cubed sweet potato works on most salads. Their firm texture and hint of sweetness works with many different kinds of salad and many vinaigrette dressings work like a champ in terms of complementing the flavors of the sweet potato.
I often make salads out of whatever green mix is on sale at the store, often for lunch, but sometimes as a side dish for dinner. Adding some cubed sweet potatoes to the salad makes the whole thing distinct and surprisingly flavorful.
Turn them into sweet potato pancakes.
This is so easy. All you need to do is take a cooked sweet potato with the skin removed, add two eggs, add a pinch of nutmeg and sweetener if you want, then mash it into a consistent mix. Form that mix into pancake-sized discs and cook them on a griddle or in a skillet with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. They turn out delicious and fluffy and you just can’t get enough!
I’m quite serious when I say that I would happily replace normal pancakes with these. They are almost magical with some maple syrup on them.
Another approach, if you’re not quite that committed to sweet potato pancakes, is to just puree one cooked potato without the skin along with some ordinary pancake batter. That way, you get a nice jolt of sweet potato flavor with the ordinary texture and cooking style of pancakes.
Blend them and use it to thicken chili.
Just take a leftover cooked sweet potato, remove the skin, add a couple of cups of chili to a blender, toss in the sweet potato, and puree it until it’s a thick paste. Mix that back into your chili.
This process thickens the chili and adds a bit of sweet potato flavor to it while also improving the nutritional value. The flavors tend to combine really well. It also bulks it up quite a bit, meaning that the same amount of chili can now feed another person or two.
Turn an uncooked sweet potato into a bunch of sweet potato chips.
All you have to do is take an uncooked sweet potato, slice it as thinly as possible (a food processor really helps here), then dredge the slices through olive oil, then top them with a bit of salt or other powdered flavorings of your choice, then bake them at 250 F for two hours, flipping them halfway through.
These make for a wonderfully crispy treat, flavored just the way you like them. It’s a great way to transform a leftover uncooked sweet potato or two into a snack that everyone will devour.
Mash them and make sweet potato quesadillas.
Got some leftover tortillas, too? Just take a sweet potato without skin, mash it thoroughly, then spread that mashed sweet potato thinly on the inside of a tortilla. Add some shredded cheese, fold it in half, and cook it in a skillet over high heat until the tortilla is just barely browned in places. Perfect!
It turns out that the sweet potato flavor meshes well with quite a few different cheese varieties, making this a very simple and tasty sandwich for lunch. You can also jazz it up with additional ingredients as you so choose – I like to add just a little bit of salsa to this.
Shred them and make sweet potato latkes.
I absolutely love these next to a fried egg for breakfast. Their flavors just bounce off of each other so well, and they’re easy to prepare, too.
Just take an uncooked sweet potato and shred it. For every pound of shredded sweet potato, add 1/3 cup flour, two large eggs, a teaspoon of salt, and some black pepper to taste and mix thoroughly. Then, just take about 1/8th of a cup of this mixture, flatten it into a disk, and add it to a skillet with a bit of oil in it over medium high heat. Cook until brown on one side, then flip and brown it on the other side. Perfect!
Mash them and bake them into sweet potato cupcakes.
Sweet potatoes make for a wonderful backbone for sweet baked items, such as sweet breads and, yes, cupcakes. Without getting too much into detail, here’s a great recipe for sweet potato cupcakes that works perfectly with the insides of a leftover sweet potato or two.
Baked goods like this perfectly accentuate the gentle sweetness of a sweet potato, bringing out all of those flavors and mashing them up with other flavors (like cinnamon) for an amazing sweet treat. For a different take on turning sweet potatoes into a delicious dessert, check out this amazing pecan and sweet potato bread recipe, which works great with leftover sweet potatoes.
Scrape out the insides, preserve the skins, and make loaded sweet potato skins.
What about all of those unused sweet potato skins? You can easily turn them into “loaded skins” for a great snack. Just take a bit of the sweet potato insides and mix it up with things that you like – cheese, sour cream, bacon crumbles, whatever sounds good to you. Blend it to consistency, then scoop that mix right back into the skins.
I like to then top them with a bit of cheese and bake them for a short while at 350 F until the top is just a bit crisp and the whole thing is just perfectly warm throughout. It’s such a delicious snack!
A leftover sweet potato, whether cooked or uncooked, can be used in so many ways. It doesn’t have to be the centerpiece of a meal or even a side dish on its own. Instead, get a little creative and you’ll find infinite easy ways to enjoy that sweet potato flavor!