If Mom is handling Christmas dinner, you may find a traditional Sweet Potato Bake, topped with marshmallows, at the holiday table. 

But many Americans, including organic consumers, are opting for more sophisticated flavors and exotic ingredients. 

“The way people in this country eat is gradually changing for the better,” says sweet potato grower Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. “And that goes for sweet potatoes, too. The message that sweet potatoes are a good, complex carbohydrate is getting out there. Sweet potatoes don’t have to be swimming in butter and blanketed by a thick layer of gooey marshmallows.” 

Johnson-Langdon believes you can keep things simple by adding a few spices, herbs, seeds, dried fruits and/or nuts to mashed sweet potatoes. 

“The mild sweetness and velvety texture of cooked sweet potatoes goes so well with spicy, salty and earthy seasonings,” she says. “Nuts and dried fruit add crunch and color, as well as additional healthy benefits.” 

Here is Johnson-Langdon’s list of top add-ins for mashed sweet potatoes: 

  1. The Usual Suspects. Traditional spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, ground coriander and sage.
  2. Curry Powder. Sweet potatoes are often paired with curry powder in Indian cuisine. A blend of up to 20 different herbs, spices and seeds, standard curry powder is milder than the Madras variety. The most common ingredients in curry powder are cardamom, chilies, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, red and black pepper, poppy and sesame seeds, saffron and turmeric.
  3. Rosemary. A member of the mint family, rosemary (fresh or dried) imparts subtle hints of lemon and pine.
  4. Cumin. Available as a whole seed or ground into a powder, cumin adds a strong, spicy-sweet and earthy flavor to dishes.
  5. Dried Fruits. For added flavor, texture and color, nothing beats dried plums (prunes), cranberries, cherries, apricots, blueberries, raisins and figs. Mix-and-match with other ingredients, as you desire.
  6. Nuts. Walnuts, pecans, almonds and peanuts add crunch and flavor, along with protein, heart-healthy fats, and other vitamins and nutrients.

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission