Recipe Review

I Tried Bryant Terry’s Vegan Sweet Potato Coconut Biscuits, and Here’s Why I’ll Be Making Them Again

published May 4, 2022
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Credit: Laurel Randolph

I’ve long admired Bryant Terry, a man who is equal parts chef, activist, writer, and educator. In addition to being so freaking smart, he writes excellent cookbooks. I especially love Vegetable Kingdom, a wonderfully inventive collection of vegan recipes that I return to again and again. I was obviously excited when Terry’s latest, Black Food, came out late last year. The gorgeous book is a collection of essays, recipes, and artwork from more than 100 contributors exploring the African Diaspora.

Terry appeared on Good Morning America to promote the book and showcase a few of the contributed recipes, including vegan sweet potato coconut biscuits. I promptly bookmarked Erika Council’s unique recipe. A culinary force in her own right, Council is the granddaughter of Mildred Edna Cotton Council, the founder of Mama Dip’s Restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I’m lucky enough to have visited Mama Dip’s, and I knew I would be in good hands.

Recently, I had a random sweet potato that needed eating, and I remembered — I need to make that biscuit recipe! Here’s what happened when I gave it a try.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

How to Make Vegan Sweet Potato Coconut Biscuits

To start, cook a large sweet potato until tender. You can certainly roast it, but any method will do, including the microwave. Mash the flesh, discard the peel, and measure out one cup. Add it to a bowl or liquid measuring cup and combine it with 1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk (make sure you shake the can really well first). Refrigerate the mixture until cold, about two hours. This can be done ahead of time.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the sweet potato mixture and mix just until the dough comes together, adding a little more coconut milk if needed (I ended up adding two more tablespoons). Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and pat it into a 1-inch-tall rectangle. Cut into rounds using a 2-inch biscuit cutter and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake until risen and golden-brown on the bottom (mine took 15 minutes). Eat warm slathered with vegan butter.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

My Honest Opinion of Bryant Terry’s Vegan Sweet Potato Coconut Biscuits

I’m a born Southerner and I have eaten and made many, many biscuits. I love them, and while I’m open-minded, I often fall back on the buttermilk variety. I’ve made sweet potato biscuits before, but I’ve never made vegan ones.

I enjoyed how easy these vegan sweet potato biscuits were to make — no need to cut in butter, and the dough was easy to cut out. It takes very few ingredients, and the only non-pantry item is the sweet potato. I also like that it’s a great way to utilize extra leftover sweet potato, which I had and was happy to use up.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

While these biscuits aren’t the flaky variety, they are delicious. The combination of flavors is a real highlight: creamy sweet potato, nutty coconut, a light sweetness from the brown sugar, and a touch of spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg. They are unlike any biscuit I’ve ever tasted, and in this case that’s a good thing. While they are flavorful, I could still see serving them a number of ways — with vegan butter alongside a spicy chili, or for breakfast with apple butter.

All biscuits have a short lifespan, declining quickly soon after they emerge from the oven. These are certainly best eaten warm and fresh, but I still enjoyed them immensely the next morning. I split a biscuit in half, topped it with butter and cinnamon sugar, and toasted it until melty and crisp around the edges.

Credit: Laurel Randolph

A Few Tips If You Make Vegan Sweet Potato Coconut Biscuits

1. Use canned coconut milk. Don’t reach for the carton stuff or anything low-fat. Use full-fat, good-quality canned coconut milk for this recipe.
2. Opt for an orange sweet potato. While a white or purple sweet potato will most likely work, part of the charm of these biscuits is their vibrant orange color.
3. Check the bottoms for doneness. It can be tricky to tell when these biscuits are done, as they don’t brown much on the top. When in doubt, take a peek underneath; they should be golden-brown and crisp.