Sweet potato casseroles are often way too sweet for many palates, especially when they are served around the holidays with an abundance of other rich dishes. This casserole, or side dish, gets all of its sweetness from the sweet potato itself and enhances the flavor by roasting it with ginger, fresh lime juice and some soy sauce. It is a traditional favorite at our house!
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Yams vs Sweet Potatoes
First of all, yams and sweet potatoes are not the same. It is not uncommon for grocery stores to label sweet potatoes as yams, but true yams are rarely found in American grocery stores.
Even the canned “yams” available in US stores around the holidays are actually sweet potatoes.
Yams have dark brown skin and the texture and flavor of their flesh is dry and starchy like a regular potato. Sweet potatoes have reddish skin, orange flesh and their flavor is much sweeter.
The reason sweet potatoes are labeled as yams in US stores is that in the 1900’s the Southern US potato growers wanted a way to distinguish sweet potatoes from their regular potatoes. Since this label worked for differentiating the two potatoes, it stuck around to this day.
Yams are not really potatoes, but rather a stem tuber that belongs to a different botanical family. They have pale white flesh and can become very, very large (see above photo). Unlike a sweet potato they have an earthy, neutral taste.
The copper-colored potato with orange flesh is probably what comes to mind when you think of the sweet potato, but there are many other varieties.
The most common sweet potato varieties in the grocery stores are Jewel or Garnet. I always go for the dark red ones and they never disappoint with their natural sweetness.
Ingredients and Additions or Substitutions
I chose the recipe below for my Thanksgiving table instead of the traditional sweet potatoes with marshmallows because my family prefers less sweet recipes. These sweet potatoes, flavored with grated ginger and fresh lime juice are a definite tradition for our family Thanksgiving dinner.
What to Serve with a Side of Sweet Potatoes
Although many people tend to add more sweetness to sweet potato side dishes, I think they are plenty sweet on their own and benefit by pairing with savory dishes or spices.
Here are a few of my favorite sweet and savory pairings for sweet potatoes:
- Chile spice blends
- Feta butter
- Maple syrup
- Steak fajita fillings
- Black beans
- Pork (chops, ribs, etc.)
Can You Have Sweet Potatoes on a Low Carb Diet?
While sweet potatoes have a lot of health benefits, they are not low carb. If you are on a low carb diet and want to include sweet potatoes, you would need to make sure the rest of your meals that day are essentially carb-free.
Remember that low carb does not mean no-carb (unless you are doing strict keto).
Although sweet potatoes have fairly high carbs and sugar content they are also rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
They’re also incredibly rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A to support good vision and your immune system.
Here is a nutritional rundown: One cup (200 grams) of baked sweet potato with skin provides:
- Calories: 180
- Carbs: 41.4 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
- Fiber: 6.6 grams
- Vitamin A: 769% of the
Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 65% of the DV
- Manganese: 50% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 29% of the DV
- Potassium: 27% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 18% of the DV
- Copper: 16% of the DV
- Niacin: 15% of the DV
What is the Best Cooking Temperature for Sweet Potatoes?
I love roasted caramelized vegetables and roasting sweet potatoes at a high temperature really brings out the flavor. The recipe below roasts the sweet potatoes for 50 minutes at 425 degrees F.
If you prefer a similar type of dish to a sweet potato casserole, but more of a dessert rather than a side dish, this Mexican celebration dish of candied pumpkin is an alternative for the holiday table.
Flavor Differences in Soy Sauces
I am no expert in this, but I am learning that there is quite a bit of difference in soy sauces. Soy sauce is basically a seasoning that adds umami and saltiness to a dish.
Here are a few tips on flavor that have some consensus among chefs:
- Japanese soy sauce is sweeter. Referred to as black soy sauce, they are thicker and sweeter. A recommended brand from Annie at Seattle’s Kitchen ABC brand
- Tamari is a gluten free soy sauce that is more refined and has a saltier taste as the soy doesn’t mask the salt
- Niki Nakayama, owner of Michelin-starred restaurant n/naka notes that the type of soy sauce she uses depends on the dish, but in general, at n/naka, they reach for “Yamasa for our regular soy sauce and seasoning when we cook things,” and “Higashimaru’s Usukuchi soy sauce for light colored soy for soups.” Yamasa is the soy sauce I am currently using for most of my dishes.
- You can get very expensive soy sauces (up to $75 per bottle), but those are generally reserved for specialty dishes like sushi.
Frequently Asked Questions
This seems to be a question that arises frequently with sweet potato casseroles.
Whether baking or boiling your sweet potatoes, make sure to cut your potatoes into equal sized pieces so they cook at the same rate. As you can see in the video, I used a mandolin which ensures same size slices.
If you are boiling sweet potatoes for your casserole, make sure not to overcook. They absorb water which can result in a watery filling. This is another reason to make sure they are cut to the same size so that you bake your casserole long enough to soften everything at the same time without overcooking.
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Ginger Lime Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 3 pounds sweet potatoes about 10 cups after slicing
- ⅓ cup flour all-purpose
- ¼ cup butter
- ⅓ cup brown sugar packed, I used light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lime rind grated rind from 1 large lime
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon orange rind grated rind from 1 medium orange
- 1-2 tablespoons grated ginger heaping Tablespoon
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce secret ingredient: use good quality
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt decrease salt if your soy sauce is a salty variety
- Preheat the oven to 425° F and grease or spray your baking dish.
- Use a mandolin or a sharp knife to slice sweet potatoes into thin pieces. Try and make sure they are the same thickness so they will get done at the same time. Loosely measure out 10 cups of sliced sweet potatoes into a large bowl.3 pounds sweet potatoes
- Sprinkle flour over the sweet potatoes and get them coated as thoroughly as possible. Use your hands to mix the flour and potatoes and get in between the slices.1/3 cup flour
- Melt the butter in a small pot over medium low heat. When melted, stir in sugar, citrus rinds and juice, grated ginger, soy sauce and salt (add a pinch of pepper if you want). Whisk this together over the heat until sugar has dissolved and all ingredients are combined.1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon lime rind, 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon orange rind, 1-2 tablespoons grated ginger, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss together well (hands work best). Spoon everything into your prepared baking dish, cover and cook at 425°F for 60 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.
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