Mashed Sweet Potatoes

4.78 from 9 votes
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Your holiday table is incomplete without this easy mashed sweet potatoes recipe. A hint of maple syrup and bold spices elevates the natural caramel flavors and will have guests diving in for seconds.

Mashed sweet potatoes in a white bowl with melted butter on top.

A big bowl of classic mashed potatoes is always the perfect side dish to have on the dinner table. But why not try a colorful twist to delight your guests? Most recipes boil the sweet potatoes, which creates soggy pieces diluted in flavor and loss of water-soluble vitamins and minerals. To avoid this, I use a more straightforward method that only requires one pot.

Start with sauteing small pieces of sweet potato in butter. Yes, you read that right. The fat flavors the spuds and prevents the starches from getting pasty when mashed. Next, steam the potatoes until fork tender. I use the same pot—no extra dishes or wasting water. The pieces will crush easily and finish with velvety cream and fragrant spices. You may want to double the recipe for Thanksgiving, as it disappears fast!

List of ingredients to make mashed sweet potatoes on a table with labels.

Potato selection

Select a type of sweet potato with bright orange flesh for the most stunning appearance. Beauregard and Jewels are my top choice for the sweetest taste and tender texture. However, if you like white-fleshed varieties, go for Japanese White, also called Satsumo-Imo, Oriental, or Murasaki. They have a nutty sweetness and aren’t as dry and starchy as Hannahs.

Once mashed, you can adjust the consistency with more liquid since the composition differs between varieties.

Recipe Resources

Preparing the potatoes

Peel the sweet potatoes then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. The smaller surface area gives more opportunity to develop a golden brown color and deeper flavor on the surface. The result is more flavorful potatoes!

Saute to brown the surface

I recommend using a heavy-bottomed pot like a Dutch oven with a cover to make the mash. Saute the sweet potato pieces in butter over moderate heat. The maltose sugars on the surface will lightly brown, and you’ll be able to smell the caramel aromas.

In addition, the cooked milk solids from the butter create a nutty butterscotch flavor, similar to browned butter. The key is frequent stirring to cook the spud’s surface while preventing the sugars from sticking to the pan and burning.

Steam to tenderize

I’m a big fan of steaming sweet potatoes instead of boiling them, which is effective but makes them mushy and weak in taste. The trapped hot and moist heat softens the hard pectin in the cell walls and hydrates the starches. I do this for my Instant-Pot version, as the pressure cooker creates a similar environment.

Instead of using a separate vessel, add just enough water to the sauteed sweet potatoes and cover. The steam generated on the stovetop will make them tender in about 10 minutes. Use vegetable stock or add a little miso paste for a more refined savory taste.

Potato masher breaking down sweet potatoes in a pot.
Step 3. Mash the sweet potatoes

Mash into a puree

Use a potato masher to crush the cooked sweet potatoes for a simple rustic texture. I like to leave little pieces for bursts of flavor so that it’s not entirely smooth. Otherwise, if you want a light whipped texture, add them to a food processor and pulse until a puree forms. The sheer from the blades also helps to break up any fibrous pieces.

Enhance the taste

To add extra creaminess to the mashed sweet potato, add in heavy cream, half-and-half, or whole milk. The higher the milkfat, the thicker the desired consistency will be. Sour cream could be used for a hint of tanginess. You don’t want the dairy to curdle, so turn off the heat. The potatoes should already be quite sweet, but I add a bit of pure maple syrup or brown sugar for molasses notes to enhance the caramel taste. You don’t have to add any extra sweetener if you don’t want to. Chef’s choice! 

I also add bold spices to the potatoes for dimension. I like cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. However, you can grab some pumpkin pie spice instead with ginger, allspice, and cloves. It makes it taste like a sweet potato casserole. It’s delicious! This is a great make-ahead recipe for the holidays. Just store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

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FAQ

Are sweet potatoes healthier than mashed potatoes?

They both contain fiber, protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins, and ascorbic acid from vitamin C. Sweet potatoes contain amylase enzymes, and regular potatoes like russets do not. This adds more sugars from maltose when cooked but still has a low glycemic index. If using orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, each serving will contain more vitamin A. Purple potatoes are the healthiest as the dark pigment delivers more phytonutrients.

How do you make mashed sweet potatoes not watery?

Do not boil! Instead, saute the pieces to coat them in a protective fat layer, then steam. The flesh will absorb enough water to hydrate the starches, so they swell and get fluffy, and the pectin in the cell walls will soften. This prevents the texture from being too watery and diluted in flavor.

Can you make the recipe dairy-free or vegan?

Yes! Substitute the butter with olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, or margarine. Use canned coconut milk instead of heavy cream or whole milk.

Bowl of mashed sweet potatoes with a butter patty placed in the center.

Recipe Science

Use two techniques to make the potatoes sweeter!

To develop the best taste and texture, I use two techniques; sauteing and steaming. The dry-heat cooking of the butter helps to caramelize the sugars on the cut sides of the potato. When temperatures in the hot pan and the covered pot reach between 140 to 170ºF (60 to 77ºC), this triggers the activity of the amylase enzymes in the potatoes. It breaks down the amylose and amylopectin starches in the cell walls, converting them into maltose. The result sweeter bites!

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

The holiday dinner table is not complete without creamy mashed sweet potatoes, just make sure to have enough for guests to grab seconds.
4.78 from 9 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Side
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½" pieces
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream, or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup, or brown sugar (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions 

  • Brown the Surface – Heat a large pot or dutch over medium heat. Immediately add the butter. Once melted, add the sweet potatoes and salt. Cook until the surface is lightly browned and the potatoes are fragrant, stir frequently to prevent sticking, about 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Cook the Potatoes – Carefully add the water and stir. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 10 to 13 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom of the pot. Turn off the heat.
  • Mash – Use a potato masher to crush the sweet potatoes into a smooth puree with some small chunks. Alternatively, add to a food processor and pulse until very smooth.
  • Add Flavor – Add the heavy whipping cream, maple syrup (if using), cinnamon, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add more water or vegetable stock if a thinner consistency is desired. Rewarm mashed sweet potatoes if needed.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 4 cups
  • Serving Size: ½ cup
  • Using pumpkin pie spice: Add ½ teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon and nutmeg.
  • Using vegetable stock: For a savory taste, add unsalted vegetable stock instead of water.
  • Make it Dairy-Free and Vegan: Use margarine, olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil instead of butter. Substitute heavy whipping cream with canned coconut milk.
  • Make it Paleo: Use olive oil, avocado oil, or ghee instead of butter. Use coconut milk instead of cream.
  • Storing: Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 
  • Reheating: Cover and microwave on high setting in 30-second increments until hot, stirring in between. On the stovetop, stir and warm over medium-low heat until hot. Add water if needed to make it less thick.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 169kcal (8%)Carbohydrates 19g (6%)Protein 2g (4%)Fat 10g (15%)Saturated Fat 6g (30%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 32mg (11%)Sodium 127mg (5%)Potassium 305mg (9%)Fiber 3g (12%)Sugar 5g (6%)Vitamin A 12416IU (248%)Vitamin C 2mg (2%)Calcium 41mg (4%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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4 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Marissa Meyers says

    wow – just made these mashed sweet potatoes. I have been making them for years and they have been ok but now I realized I have been missing out on how special this dish is thanks to you Jessica! This recipe is easy and wow – the taste is incredible! Can’t wait for everyone to try them for Thanksgiving 🙂