The great American sweet potato. We all recognize it as a staple of any Thanksgiving dinner, and see sweet potato fries now offered as a healthier alternative to white potato ones at almost every restaurant. They’re even showing up more often as a substitute in traditional potato salad recipes. But though the orange-fleshed vegetable is an occasional visitor for lunch and dinner, we almost never see it on our plates before noon.
Why, exactly, are they absent from breakfast? Why aren’t sweet potatoes more integral to our morning meals when their flavor profile has a lot in common with the foods we already eat every morning? We’ve got the savory foods like eggs, potatoes, bacon, and sausage. And then on the sweeter side, we have pancakes, French toast, waffles, cakes, and doughnuts to indulge in. Just like the entire category of breakfast, the sweet potato can easily be prepared in either way.
So how exactly do you get the sweet potato to come for breakfast? Harris Cutler especially wants to know.
I was recently invited to watch and taste the sweet potato’s transition into our morning meal. Cutler, president of the produce distributing company, Race-West, has been working with Jonathan Deutsch to develop recipes that use produce in new, unconventional ways. Deutsch, who supervised a creative group of culinary students at Drexel University for the project, first challenged them to reinvent the sunchoke. Now, they are focusing on the sweet potato, and its presence — or lack thereof — at your first meal of the day.
Of course, we all know the star starch of breakfast is the white potato. “Potatoes are on every breakfast table. You have your hash browns and your home fries,” said Deutsch, whose culinary students extensively experimented with repurposing the vegetable. “But sweet potatoes are healthier in terms of vitamins, and arguably more delicious.”
Despite their shared name, the white potato and sweet potato are two very different vegetables. “They’re not really related — not closely at least,” said Deutsch. “When I cook, I treat them as two different things — not as a continuum from savory to sweet.”
Sweet potatoes are less starchy and, obviously, sweeter-tasting than their plain counterpart. They also have more fiber, which fills you up without filling you out. Healthier and tastier, the sweet potato is an ideal food to add to your morning.
For any meal, sweet potatoes can be prepared savory or sweet. When put to the test, the small group of culinary students executed sweet potato-inspired breakfasts from both sides of the flavor spectrum. “You can have a sweet potato anything,” said Deutsch as he supervised the kitchen.
Some culinary students disguised the vegetable in familiar breakfast foods — like shredding it into a quiche, mixing it into a granola bar, or adding it to oatmeal. Others aimed to make the sweet potato the central focus of a dish — sweet potato hash browns, muffins, and smoothies. One even felt adventurous enough to use blanched sweet potatoes as an ingredient in a “fruit salad.”
Whether the result was sweet or savory, I found myself wondering why more breakfast dishes didn’t include sweet potatoes already. My favorite recipes, found below, will make you reconsider the sweet potato’s place at the breakfast table, too.
Could sweet potatoes possibly be the new breakfast of champions? I think they just might stand a chance.
Sweet Potato Breakfast Latkes
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
2 russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
4 eggs, lightly beaten
½ onion, shredded
½ bunch chives, chopped thinly
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable or blended oil to fry
Combine all ingredients together and make patties. Heat up pan of blended or vegetable oil enough to cover bottom of pan. Fry patties until heated all the way through or until golden brown. Serve with apple sauce or sour cream.
Recipe by Kaitlyn Hoefert
Sweet Potato Pancakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing griddle
2 large sweet potatoes, cooked until tender, peeled and puréed (about 1½ cup purée)
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Whisk until smooth. Cook batches in buttered griddle on medium-high temperature until bubbles form on the surface, then turn over and cook until dark golden brown. Serve with Fig Compote (below), or with butter and syrup.
6 large fresh figs, cut in half
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Add butter, brown sugar, and honey to a cast-iron pan or a sauté pan. Cook for about 1 minute over high heat, until syrup begins to bubble. Add figs and stir to coat them with the syrup. Cook for about 10 minutes until the syrup comes together. Serve warm over pancakes.
Recipe by Alexandra Zeitz
Sweet Potato Quiche
For the crust:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¼ cup ice water
¼ cup sweet potato puree
For the filling:
1 cup cheddar cheese
6 sweet potatoes, peeled and shredded
½ cup sausage
¼ cup leeks, sliced
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
To make the crust, combine all ingredients (except for water and sweet potato purée) in a food processor and pulse until gritty.
Add the sweet potato purée and water slowly and continue pulsing. Transfer dough onto plastic wrap, form into a flattened ball, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Dice the sausage and cook in a sauté pan with 4 tablespoons of butter and sliced leeks. Peel and grate the sweet potatoes. Grate the cheddar cheese.
In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, cheese, shredded sweet potato, cooked sausage and leek mixture, salt, pepper, and cream.
Remove dough disk from fridge, and roll out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin, then roll into a greased quiche mold. Pinch bottom and sides to fit the mold and patch up any tears or cracks.
Place mold into oven for about 15 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden.
Pour the filling mixture into the par-baked crust and return to oven for 30-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the contents do not jiggle or slosh around when the side is tapped.
Let sit for 10-15 minutes to set before serving.
Recipe by Erika Ellefsen
Sweet Potato and Peanut Butter Smoothie
½ cup sweet potato purée
¼ cup peanut butter
1 cup milk
Cook sweet potato in boiling water until soft, then purée in blender until smooth.
Place all the ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth and incorporated. Serve in a chilled glass.
Recipe by Alexandra Zeitz
Grilled Sweet Potato Muffins
1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
½ cup of cake flour
2 tablespoons of baking powder
½ cup of sugar
1 large whole egg
¼ cup oil
1 cup of milk
1½ cups of sweet potato purée (see below)
To make the puree, add 1½ cups of peeled, large-diced sweet potato to a small pot. Cover with water and boil until fork-tender. Drain and add to blender, then blend on high until smooth. Place sweet potato purée in a small bowl and allow it to cool before adding it to the muffin batter.
Preheat oven to 325° F. Grease and line muffin tins.
In a bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients together. Be sure that the potato purée has completely cooled before adding it to wet ingredients.
Gradually mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until evenly moist.
Pour the batter into greased and lined muffin tins, filling ¾ of the way.
Bake muffins in a 325° F oven until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean from the center. Remove from oven and let cool.
While the muffins are cooling, heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Add about a teaspoon of butter or neutral oil, or spray pan with cooking spray.
Cut the muffins in half and brown them on the grill, cut side down. Serve and enjoy.
Recipe by Jessica Lawyer
Sweet Potato Strata
2 sweet potatoes, cut into ½-inch slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
12 picked jalepeño slices
1 cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Lay sliced sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
In a small loaf pan, layer potatoes, bacon, cheese, and jalepeños, lasagna-style.
In a small bowl, beat half-and-half and eggs together and season with salt and pepper.
Pour eggs over sweet potato layers until the liquid reaches about one inch below the top of the loaf pan.
Bake, covered, for about 30 minutes, until half-and-half mixture is mostly cooked. Uncover and continue baking until golden brown, about 10 additional minutes.
Recipe by Jonathan Deutsch
Photos by Rachel Wisniewski