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Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries

There are good reasons for me to eat sweet potatoes – like these science-y ones in this blog post about women’s health and carbohydrates, or these no-nonsense tips from Neely Quinn at Paleo Plan, or these facts about how nutritious these tubers can be.

But you know the real reason I like to eat sweet potatoes?

They are freakin’ delicious.

But sweet potato fries are so often disappointing. I can work a basket of french fries like it’s a high-paying job with full benefits and a generous vacation package, but anytime I’ve tried to make sweet potato fries at home, they’ve been kind of flabby and limp. At restaurants, they either taste way too much like the junky canola oil they were fried in, or they’re suspiciously crispy – which usually means they’ve been rolled in flour before deep frying, rendering the naturally awesome sweet potato a dangerous gluten bomb.

But my friends, I’ve made some breakthroughs on oven-baked sweet potato fries. Before you dig into the recipe, here are a few tips to ensure that you get the crispy, irresistible fries you crave:

1. Use Japanese sweet potatoes. You know that I’m all about the “You Know How You Could Do That” variations, but some recipes require you to not monkey around with them too much. This is one of those recipes. (Although there is some “You Know How You Could Do That” fun at the end). You maybe be tempted to ask me if varieties other than Japanese sweet potatoes will work, and I must ask you to abstain. I didn’t test all varieties of sweet potatoes, but I did try the regular ol’ orange sweet potatoes (usually jewel or garnets) carried in most grocery stores, and they were too wet and not nearly starchy enough. Here’s the thing: sweet spuds are cheap and kitchen experimentation is fun. If you’re curious, you can always try other varieties and see what happens; I just can’t guarantee you’ll get the same results as this recipe. (Here’s more on Japanese sweet potatoes, in case you’re not familiar.)

2. Set expectations appropriately. Please keep in mind that white potato french fries get super crunchy because they’re very starchy and are surrounded by boiling-hot fat while they cook. These sweet potato fries are baked in the oven. They do get crisp, but they don’t get “white potato french fry” crisp. Set expectations appropriately, and you will be very happy with these. (And yes, you could deep-fry these, but I’m not a deep-fry kind of person. I’m not afraid of fat, but I’m not swimming in it, either.)

3. Use a wire rack. Yes, you really should use the wire rack in the instructions. I know that needing extra kitchen equipment is sometimes a pain, but you probably cook and eat at home a lot. It’s worth the investment in yourself and yummy food. Plus, you can get two racks for about $7 – and they’re super handy for lots of kitchen chores.

4. Use the microwave. I know some people have concerns about microwaving food, and it’s not the most elegant cooking method, but it serves an important purpose in this recipe. Microwaves suck the moisture out of food, and removing some of the moisture from the sweet potatoes is what makes them crispy. If you’re concerned about microwaving, listen to the first few minutes of this podcast from Robb Wolf in which he explains why it’s OK. (If you don’t care about the science, but just want the conclusion, here you go: “But the long and short of it is, don’t worry about microwaving….”)

UPDATE: I’ve been getting questions about what to do if you don’t have a microwave; here’s the deal. The fries won’t get as crisp without the microwave because nuking them helps remove some of the moisture. They’ll still taste good – because sweet potatoes always taste good – but they probably won’t get as crispy. If you want to experiment, wash and cut up a potato into fry shapes, then spread the fries on a baking sheet and put them in the fridge overnight. The next day, toss them with coconut oil and follow the rest of the instructions; you might need to bake them a bit longer. The time in the fridge might help dehydrate them a little to make them crisper. I’ll test this technique soon and let you know how it goes.

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finalfries

Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Makes: a pile | Prep 15 minutes | Cook 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:
2 large-ish organic Japanese sweet potatoes — long and thin is better than short and fat
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
salt

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper, then place a wire rack on top of the parchment.

2. Wash the sweet potatoes and scrub the skins to remove dirt, but don’t peel them. Poke each potato a few times with the tip of a paring knife, then loosely wrap each still-wet-from-the-washing potato in a paper towel and place in the microwave. Nuke for 8-9 minutes, until they’re tender to a gentle squeeze.

3. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool enough to handle; you can cheat by plopping them in the fridge. Worth noting: I nuked a bunch of spuds in advance, then stored them in the fridge until I was ready to make fries. That works, too, if you need to divide your kitchen time – or if you just want to be prepared for a sweet potato fry emergency.

4. When you can handle the potatoes without burning yourself, cut them into strips that are 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide. You want them pretty thin, but not like shoestring fries. I wanted to make my fries look pretty by cutting the strips the entire length of the potato, but the shorter ones got crispier, so if you don’t care about aesthetics, cut the potato in half crosswise before you start making the strips. (If you need some help visualizing how to cut fries, this video is pretty good, but his fries are way too wide for our recipe,. Make yours about half as thick and wide as his – and don’t peel your sweet potatoes!) Worth noting: As you cut the sweet potato, the strips might break. I know they don’t look as lovely, but that’s actually a good sign. It means the microwave did its job drying out the potato.

cutting

5. Place your fries in a large bowl, pour in 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted coconut oil, and use a rubber spatula to gently toss the fries with the coconut oil. Transfer the fries to the wire rack, arrange in a single layer, and sprinkle generously with salt.

ovensetup

6. Slide the pan into the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, lightly brush the tops of the fries with the remaining coconut oil, and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes. This is where you need to pay attention! The fries need to bake long enough for the sugars to caramelize, but not so long they burn.

7. Remove from the oven and try not to burn your fingers while you sample them directly from the wire rack. Sprinkle with additional salt if you find that satisfrying. (Sorry!)

bakedonthetray

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You Know How You Could Do That?

1. Use different fat!
I also tried these with duck fat, and they were heavenly — I’m sure that some pastured lard would be amazingly good, too. If you have Well Fed 2, you might want to brush the fries with Better Butter instead of coconut oil in step #6.

2. Add spices!
When you take the fries out of the oven to brush them with fat in step #6, you can also add additional seasonings: Ras el Hanout, cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne — or some of the blends from Well Fed 2, like Jerk Seasoning, Sunrise Spice, or Lebanese Seven-Spice Blend. You could also sprinkle these little babies with truffle salt when they’re done baking, and then someone might call you a genius.

spices

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40 Responses to “Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries”

  1. Kel says:

    Omg! I can’t wait to try these!

  2. […] Clothes Make The Girl / Posted on: January 01, 1970The Clothes Make The Girl – There are good reasons for me to eat sweet potatoes – like these science-y ones in this […]

    • sunnyraindrops says:

      Hello Clothes makes the Girl!

      I love how you write and speak.I went through many sites and you are by fat the most thorough and as a creative soul and a teacher..it is brilliant how you take the time to share your thoughts!
      Thaank You..i’m on my way to find japanese sweet potatoes? : )
      sunnyraindrops

  3. Eileen says:

    Hi Mel. I just started a weekly Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable through my blog, and I would love it if you linked up this recipe. I’m trying to expand resources for the AIP community. As you know, it is damn hard to find good AIP recipes in the midst of all the ones full of ingredients we can’t have! I realize you are crazy busy with your new book publication, but just in case you find a free minute, here’s the link: http://www.phoenixhelix.com/2013/11/06/paleo-aip-recipe-roundtable-2/

  4. Rosann says:

    Damn it! I don’t have a microwave lol

    • Mel says:

      Don’t despair! The fries won’t get as crisp without the microwave because nuking them helps remove some of the moisture. They’ll still taste good — because sweet potatoes always taste good :-) — but they probably won’t get as crispy. If you want to experiment, wash and cut up a potato into fry shapes, then spread them on a baking sheet and put them in the fridge overnight. Then toss with coconut oil and follow the rest of the instructions. The time in the fridge *might* help dehydrate them a little to make them crisper.

  5. Sally says:

    Any suggestions of what we should do if we do not own a microwave????

    • Mel says:

      The fries won’t get as crisp without the microwave because nuking them helps remove some of the moisture. They’ll still taste good — because sweet potatoes always taste good :-) — but they probably won’t get as crispy. If you want to experiment, wash and cut up a potato into fry shapes, then spread them on a baking sheet and put them in the fridge overnight. Then toss with coconut oil and follow the rest of the instructions. The time in the fridge *might* help dehydrate them a little to make them crisper.

  6. Lydia says:

    Well. I know what I’m making as a side with our roasted chicken Saturday night. How much do I already love Japanese Sweet Potatoes? A LOT. How excited am I about this recipe? I HAVE NO WORDS.

  7. Laura says:

    I’m not sure I know what Japanese sweet potatoes are or where to find them! I know you live in Austin … I’m just down the road. Can you point me in the right direction, please? By the way, my Well Fed cookbook is well loved…just got my Well Fed 2 and am so looking forward to trying more of your amazing recipes! You have such a talent for flavor combinations. I am in awe. :-)

    • Mel says:

      I’ve found Japanese sweet potatoes at both Central Market and Whole Foods. They’re kind of purplish outside and white inside. They will be labeled clearly and I’ve only seen them organically grown.

      So glad you’re enjoying the recipes in my cookbooks. Thanks for buying them!

  8. Renee says:

    Favorite line ever: “I can work a basket of french fries like it’s a high-paying job with full benefits and a generous vacation package”.

    Seriously?! Everyone that knows me KNOWS my favorite food on Earth is potato. Back in the days before paleo I would double fry my fries making this incredible crunchy exterior, but with this soft melt-in-your-mouth interior.

    Thanks for this. I’ll be making these soon with generous amounts of salt.

  9. Of course you would take the best thing ever, and make it better. You are amazing. Can’t wait to try the microwave step and see the difference!

    Thanks also for giving me the skinny on where to find Machacados con Huevos in Austin. They were DIVINE.

    I’m devouring Well Fed 2 and hope to spend the better part of my weekend making Italian Pork Roast, Sunrise Spice, Merguez Sausage Spice, Zingy Ginger Dressing, Chinese 5 Spice Pork Ribs ……..

    I could not be more excited about all the amazing recipes. How do you do it, Mel?!

    • Mel says:

      Did you at at Habanero? I love that place so much. Since we’ve been in our elimination diet, we haven’t been able to eat there. It’s been 70+ days without our beloved Habanero, and we used to go every Saturday.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the new recipes in Well Fed 2. Thanks so much!

  10. Bailey says:

    Can’t wait to try this method! My fries always end up limp or burned so thanks for going step by step!

  11. melissa says:

    just finished roasting Mustard-garlic brussels sprouts!!! I cannot get my head out of the bowl. Unbelievably delish!!!!

    I am giving your book for the holidays for all of my foodie friends who cook!!! Everything so far (as usual) is unbelievably good.
    Had the short ribs last week from WF…..

    thank you for enhancing my kitchen and my cooking skills since going pale. I forget about that part because everything is just so darn real and delicious.

    Bon Apetit and stay healthy!!!

  12. melissa says:

    ..Should say paleoooo….forgot the O because I have a bandaid on that finger!!-

  13. […] [The Clothes Make The Girl] Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries […]

  14. Sallie says:

    So I know this has nothing to do with crispy sweet potato fries (although they do look delicious) but I wanted you to know that my non-paleo husband requested your Sunday Gravy spaghetti sauce for his birthday yesterday. THAT is a big deal. I’ve had to make spaghetti for his birthday for the past 28 years. Same recipe (his mom’s)every year. BORING. This year, after making your sauce a few times since you posted it on your blog, he has decided that it is his new favorite. My 16 year old son agrees. From my little corner in Ohio, we love your food! Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      Wow! This is such a sweet story… I’m delighted that you and your family like the recipe so much. That makes my day! Hope your husband enjoyed his birthday! (Hope his mom doesn’t hunt me down and punch me in the nose ;-)

  15. michele b. says:

    Aw crud…just cut up my sweet potatoes BEFORE microwaving them. Got a little excited (ie didnt pay attention to the order of the steps) & jumped the gun. Gonna try nuking ‘em for just a few minutes to dry these suckas out…???

    • Mel says:

      Bummer! Try wrapping them in a damp paper towel and nuking ‘em for 3-4 minutes. You want them to be pretty soft when they go into the oven, but without the protective shell of the skin, they might just get dry. But try it! Maybe you’ll invent something even better than what I did!

      Let me know how it turns out!

  16. michele b. says:

    I ended up throwing them in a dish and microwaving for 4 minutes (2 minutes, tossed them around a bit, then 2 more minutes). I didn’t wrap them in a damp paper towel, though, but I think that was okay because ghey didn’t dry out too much. Turned out delish!!! Not real crispy, but that could be due to 1) I was using the white/tan-skinned sweet potatoes, not Japanese; or 2) I didn’t let them bake quite long enough (I was afraid to burn them plus I was anxious to eat!). They looked gorgeous though, plus the insides were perfect!

  17. […] The Clothes Make The Girl: Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries […]

  18. Mark says:

    According to some of the reviews on Amazon for those cooling racks you linked they are not oven safe. Its supposedly indicated on the packaging.

    Thoughts?

  19. Shannon says:

    This is on the menu for this weekend. I made my trip to Whole Foods specifically for them! I miss fries the most so this is gonna be great! I trust your recipes, you haven’t been wrong thus far!

  20. […] 1. Crispy, Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries […]

  21. Kel says:

    After much harassment of the poor produce guy at Whole Foods, they finally were able to get these Japanese Sweet potatoes. Making these in duck fat as part of my Christmas dinner.

    Merry Christmas Mel!

  22. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this recipe! I have been living in Japan for the past 6 years (military spouse), and eating Paleo – especially following a Whole 30 plan, can be so difficult at times. I don’t have access to a lot of the great foods available stateside, and very few of the approved recipes use the yummy produce available to me here. These look delicious and I can’t wait to try them on my hubby. He is training for the Tokyo Marathon, which is next month, so I think this will be good starchy carb for him. Thanks again!!!

  23. The Roundup says:

    […] The Clothes Make the Girl: Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries […]

  24. Adam says:

    I wasn’t fully aware of the difference between traditional sweet potatoes and yams until my I ordered them from my local organic delivery service. We steamed them, and they were absolutely delicious, and to my surprise much different tasting than sweet potatoes.

    Thanks for sharing this tasty recipe!

  25. Michelle says:

    holy cow! talk about good!!

  26. Trish says:

    Hey Mel, I started paleo 8 days ago and I am shocked about several things
    . I’m not hungry
    . The ingredients aren’t too wierd
    . I love your baba ganoush( eggplant, really!!!)
    .i don’t miss bread( ok, not too much)
    Can’t wait to try these fries while I watch the sea hawks kick ass tomorrow!

    • Mel says:

      I’m really glad you’re feeling good on your new paleo plan, although I do think it’s messing with your critical thinking skills. Clearly you meant to say that you would be watching the Broncos kick ass tomorrow :-)

      Happy Super Bowl to you! Congrats on joining the paleo club!

  27. Michelle says:

    Can’t wait to try these! While I’m on the hunt for the elusive Japanese sweet potatoes…I’m wondering if the “nuke first” trick helps get turnip fries any crispier? I just may have to try it. :)

  28. Rayne says:

    Melissa. You are the best. I have Well Fed and am about to buy Well Fed 2. You are saving my Whole30 and helping me banish my sugar demons.
    Always had trouble with sweet potato fries, can’t wait to try these tonight!

  29. Kitty says:

    I had a Japanese sweet potato in my pantry and had already peeled it and started to slice it when I came across your recipe. So, I wrapped it in a wet paper towel and nuked it for a few minutes, then finished slicing, etc. I missed the step about putting more oil on near the end, and a few of the fries burned. Boy, the burned ones were so hard, I couldn’t even chew them! The others were good, but a bit dense – almost too dry. It could be that my potato was a little old, or maybe I cooked it too long before baking. They were good enough that I will try this again next time I end up with a white sweet potato, though!

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