Root veggies are a core ingredient to hearty winter meals, like stews and curries, but they provide more than a cure for a comfort food craving. Here in the U.S., white potatoes are one of the most popular root veggies to incorporate into nourishing meals. And while the root veg certainly has its benefits, on the other side of the world, in Okinawa, Japan, another potato variety reigns supreme: purple sweet potatoes, also called Japanese sweet potatoes. (Not to be confused with ubes, with are purple yams.)
Okinawa is what’s known as a Blue Zone, one of the few places in the world where people regularly live to be over 100 in good health. While Okinawans’ longevity isn’t attributed to diet alone—regular movement, having a sense of purpose, and a strong support system are also important—it certainly plays a big part. This vegetable is unique nutritionally in that it’s very low on the glycemic index compared to other types of potatoes and sweet potatoes, meaning they won’t have as strong an impact on your blood sugar levels. They also have high amounts of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
Purple sweet potatoes grow easily in this part of the world and are incorporated into meals like miso stew with tofu, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and onions. Want to find them near you? If your local grocery store doesn’t stock them, try a specialty Asian grocery store. If you’re in need of some recipe inspiration, check out the 10 recipes below!
10 Japanese sweet potato recipes to try at home:
If you’re looking for a recipe to help you enjoy the vegetable without much fuss, this is it. The recipe here explains step-by-step how to roast them in the oven at home. When they’re done, add a little olive oil or butter, seasoning of your choice, and dig in!
Get the recipe: Baked Japanese sweet potatoes
You don’t have to wait until dinner to enjoy your colorful ‘taters—they make a great afternoon snack, too! Follow the recipe here to see how to turn them into sweet baked chips, sprinkled with cinnamon and olive oil.
Get the recipe: Cinnamon roasted Japanese sweet potatoes
Watch the video below to see why cinnamon is so good for you:
Okay, this way of enjoying purple sweet potatoes probably isn’t exactly common in Okinawa, but it’s still a delicious way to enjoy the tuber. The potatoes are baked, not fried, which keeps the nutrition benefits front and center.
Get the recipe: Japanese sweet potato fries
Just like white potatoes and orange sweet potatoes, this variety tastes delicious when mashed. Play up the sweetness by blending them with coconut milk and coconut oil. The end result is so sweet and flavorful that all you’ll need to add is a little salt and pepper on top before digging in.
Get the recipe: Whipped Japanese sweet potatoes
We see you cloud bread, and we raise you this purple sweet potato manju, a traditional Japanese dessert. Typically it’s flour-based with something sweet in the middle. And in this recipe, that scrumptious center is the purple sweet potatoes. This snack is perfect to pair with an afternoon cup of tea.
Get the recipe: Japanese sweet potato manju
If you’ve mastered baked purple sweet potato fries and are ready to step it up, consider this recipe Level Two. The tuber is baked with sesame seeds, togarashi or cayenne powder, scallions, and nori crisps. As for the dipping sauce: it’s a wasabi aioli. Told you it was next level.
Get the recipe: Japanese sweet potato oven fries with wasabi aioli
These rounds are simple to make and are a good snack, appetizer, or side dish. All you need to whip ’em up are the tubers, olive oil, garlic, onion, paprika, red chili flakes, chives, and sour cream. Easy!
Get the recipe: Japanese sweet potato rounds with sour cream
Ready to step up your Japanese sweet potato game? Here, they’re used shredded and used to make moist, savory muffins and topped with an avocado and cucumber tartate. The tartare is made with green onion, sesame seeds, cilantro, and smoked paprika and the end result is a flavor explosion that pairs perfectly with the Japanese sweet potatoes’ natural taste.
Get the recipe: Japanese sweet potato muffins and avocado tartare
Like orange sweet potatoes, purple sweet potatoes can be enjoyed for dessert just as much as they can for dinner. Here, they’re the main ingredient in an easy pudding. Combined with milk and sugar it tastes similar to caramel, like toasted candy.
Get the recipe: Japanese sweet potato pudding
10. Daigaku imo pie
Like purple potatoes themselves, Daigaku imo pie’s roots can be traced back to Japan. The potatoes are combined with sesame oil, brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, vanilla extract, maple syrup, and toasted sesame seeds. Aquafaba, aka chickpea water, is used in place of oil—a creative way to cut down on food waste in the kitchen.
Get the recipe: Daigaku imo pie
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