What Are Grilled Sweet Potatoes?

S.J. Merens

The sweet potato is a staple food in many countries throughout the world. This vegetable provides substantial nutrition and can be a flavorful addition to a main meal. Sweet potatoes typically are boiled and served with butter, or they can be steamed and then baked with brown sugar and cinnamon. Grilled sweet potatoes are cooked on a grill rather than in an oven or on a stove. They provide a change of pace from the traditional style of sweet potatoes.

Paprika is commonly used to season grilled sweet potatoes.
Paprika is commonly used to season grilled sweet potatoes.

To make grilled sweet potatoes, an individual generally first cooks the vegetables in water at a slow boil until almost tender, which takes about seven to 10 minutes. The sweet potatoes are removed and allowed to cool, then sliced lengthwise or crosswise, depending on the preferred wedge shape. The wedges are brushed with oil and placed directly on the grill or in a grill basket. Depending on how thick the wedges are and how long they were simmered, they are grilled for about three to seven minutes on each side.

A charcoal grills adds a smoky, charbroiled flavor to sweet potatoes.
A charcoal grills adds a smoky, charbroiled flavor to sweet potatoes.

Grilled sweet potatoes maintain the creamy texture of the vegetable on the inside, but they have a crispy edge on the outside. A gas grill is convenient, but grilling sweet potatoes over charcoal adds a smoky, charbroiled flavor. Cooking directly on the grill makes a contrast in color, with dark grill stripes against the yellow or orange vegetable, but cooking in a basket is an easier process.

Spices can be added to the oil before brushing it onto the sweet potatoes. Some spices that go well with sweet potatoes include the traditionally used cinnamon, as well as nutmeg, cumin and paprika. Chipotle powder and garlic can be used as well.

Another option is creating a sauce to pour over the grilled sweet potatoes after they are thoroughly cooked. A sauce might contain olive oil, green onions, garlic and Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce. The grilled sweet potatoes also can be allowed to cool, then cubed and made into a cold salad with a vinaigrette sauce or with white potatoes and mayonnaise for a twist on the traditional potato salad.

Grilled sweet potatoes provide a flexible and nutritious side dish option. The dish is vegan and makes a good complement to a vegetarian meal as well as a meal that includes meat or fish. Cooked sweet potato is an excellent source of vitamin A. It also provides vitamin C, calcium, iron, protein and fiber.

Sweet potato plants have starchy yellow or orange roots shaped relatively similar to large russet potatoes, the standard baking potato. A sweet potato has a stronger and sweeter flavor than a russet potato, and its taste is reminiscent of butternut squash. This plant is native to Central and South America, but sweet potatoes are grown for food in other warm climates.

Although sweet potatoes aren't related to the yam, stores and consumers alike often refer to sweet potatoes as yams. The yam is a completely different root vegetable and is a member of the Dioscoreaceae family. The sweet potato is part of the Convolvulaceae — or morning glory — family. Yams grow only in tropical regions.

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