The Best Way to Meal-Prep Sweet Potato Cubes So They Hold Their Shape

published Nov 7, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Grain bowls and salads topped with sweet potatoes and other hearty vegetables can be as beautiful as they are tasty. But even if you’re not styling your lunch for the ‘gram, it’s always better to have sweet potatoes that hold their shape instead of turning into mush with every forkful.

If you bake or microwave a whole sweet potato and try to slice or cube it after it’s been cooked, the flesh will be too soft to keep its shape. The same goes for steamed sweet potatoes, whether whole or sliced: The result is a fluffy, soft potato that’s perfect for mashing, but too squishy to stand on its own.

The key to perfect cubes or slices of sweet potato is to cut the potatoes before cooking, and then cook them at a high, dry heat. This can be done through oven-roasting or air frying. This works whether you want cubes, wedges, or sliced rounds, and whether you’d prefer to peel them or to leave the skin on. Ready to give it a shot? Here’s how to do it.

Perfect Roasted or Air-Fried Sweet Potatoes for Grain Bowls & Salads

  1. Heat the oven and prep the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven or air fryer to 400°F while you peel (or not) and cut your sweet potatoes. Toss with just enough olive oil to lightly coat the pieces.
  2. Season the sweet potatoes: This is the fun part. You can add any seasonings that will enhance the final flavor of the grain bowl or salad before cooking your sweet potatoes. Try a BBQ rub or furikake, or just sprinkle them with a bit of salt and pepper.
  3. Cook the sweet potatoes: Spread the sweet potatoes out on a sheet pan or in a cast iron skillet and roast just until tender, which should take around 15 to 20 minutes. They’ll be a little crispy at the edges, but not dry. Serve warm or at room temperature or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to five days.

Another Option: Blanch the Sweet Potatoes

As an almost-as-good alternative that’s faster than roasting, you can blanch peeled, cubed sweet potatoes. You won’t be able to pre-season blanched sweet potatoes, nor will they have the crispy-but-tender edges that come with a high-and-dry roast, but your salad will be ready more quickly. Also note that this method won’t work as well for larger cuts of sweet potato, like wedges or thick rounds, since the edges will cook more quickly than the rest of the potato, leading to mushy outsides or undercooked middles.

  1. Blanch the sweet potatoes: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the cubed sweet potatoes. Cook just until tender but not too soft, 8 to 10 minutes. 
  2. Transfer to an ice bath: While the sweet potatoes cook, fill a bowl with ice water. Use a spider or strainer to transfer the cooked potatoes to the ice water.
  3. Cool the sweet potatoes: Let them rest in the ice water until completely cool to the touch. Use them right away or store them in an airtight container for up to five days.