Subtly sweet and gooey maple syrup and coconut milk, a hint of zesty ginger and orange with crunchy pecans, bake together for this simple maple pecan sweet potatoes side. This is a wonderful side dish to add to your holiday table of stuffed seitan roast, vegan scalloped potatoes, creamed onions and everyday brussels sprout & grapes. It’s easy enough to make on a weeknight too.
Make maple pecan sweet potatoes – stat
What's in maple pecan sweet potatoes?
When I started working on this recipe, I knew I wanted a baked sweet potato dish, but I didn’t want one of those overly sweet, covered-with-marshmallows experience. This isn’t what you’ll discover with this recipe. Sweet potatoes are wonderful with very little seasoning, in my humble opinion, so when it comes time to liven them up, it’s important to start with the most important ingredient – the sweet potato.
Quick sweet potato primer
I find it fascinating (and confusing) when I look at the potato’s shelves at our local market. Setting apart the fact that all the names are in Dutch, it’s a bit daunting to determine what’s what. I find sweet potatoes that are orange, white, yellow or purple. Cut them open and you’ll find white, yellow, orange or orange-red flesh.
What’s the difference?
In my grand sweet potato experiments, I come to understand that the color of the flesh of sweet potatoes have differences in taste and texture. The darker, the sweet is what I’ve learned. You’ll also discover a difference in the cooking. The lighter potatoes tend to cook up firmer while the darker, more orange will get creamier. This is one reason it’s important to consider cooking times. The more orange sweet potatoes that I used for my maple pecan sweet potatoes will bake up quicker and if you overbake them (especially if you cover them), you might end up with a bit of a fall apart.
How recipes are impacted
The differences in texture also impacts other recipes. For example, when I use more orange sweet potatoes for smothering mujadara over flatbread or in making sweet potato pizza crust, the dough is sticker, requiring more flour to make it manageable. When I used the purple-skinned sweet potatoes for make flatbread to accompany hummus, they required a bit longer to simmer to render them ‘mashable’, but when mixed with flour, the dough that was considerably less sticky.
Soft versus firm sweet potatoes
In many places, including the US, there are two main varieties of sweet potatoes – firm and soft. The firm have a more golden skin with a lighter flesh. These are ‘true’ sweet potatoes. Soft sweet potatoes have a copper-orange skin and orange flesh. Be careful, those soft sweet potatoes are often called yams. They aren’t. Remember my comment about darker flesh, sweetness and cooking times. That’s what counts between the two.
Sweet potatoes versus yams
Turns out that yams are an entirely different plant than sweet potatoes. You can’t miss a yam if you happen on one – they have dark, brownish skins that look like they are covered in bark. They are white on the inside and more like a russet potato.
Bait and switch
It happens quite often that what our supermarkets call yams, are actually sweet potatoes (usually the soft kind). Ah, this explains those messy jumbled piles. It happens less often that you actually find the real yams ins supermarkets. Yams come primarily from Africa. You can find them in specialty shops.
Back to maple pecan sweet potatoes
Now that we’ve determined that yes, we’re making sweet potatoes, I should tell you that it won’t matter a whole heap if you use the soft or hard sweeties. The hard will take a bit more time to cook. That’s about it.
No par-boil required
The first time I tried this recipe, I par-boiled the sweet potatoes. This means, I peeled and diced them, then boiled them for about 3 minutes. I immediately rinsed them in cold water until they were cool and stopped cooking on the inside. You know me, if I can avoid using another pot, I will and in this case you can. I decided to cut back on the prep time so just went straight to the oven the next time I made this dish. Perfection!
The second thing I learned working with this recipe was to cut back on the sauce. I am notorious for misjudging ingredients on the high side. I learned that if you use only ¼ cup of coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of orange juice it will be plenty to create a subtle, slightly gooey sauce. Adding 2 teaspoons of maple syrup will keep it sweet enough.
Once you get your potatoes covered in sauce, just cover them and pop them in the oven.
Why cover them?
Beyond a shorter baking time, covering your sweet potatoes takes care of 2 other important items. The first, no dry sweet potatoes. That wonderful sauce we’ll be adding will reduce by about 2/3 through the cooking process. Left uncovered, your potatoes run the risk of drying out. Secondly, we’re adding pecans and a bit of orange zest over the top. Although we want the pecans to remain crunchy, we don’t want them burning. So, cover that dish until the last 5 minutes of baking time. 5 minutes is all you need to slightly brown the pecans and ensure they keep their crunch.
Quick prep and oven bake
Once I cut a bit of prep time (and a pot to wash) and got the sauce right, I discovered maple pecan sweet potatoes to be a super quick recipe. Simply peel and dice your sweet potatoes, whisk up the sauce ingredients, pour them over the potatoes and mix. Top them off with orange zest and chopped pecans, cover them up and let them retire to the oven for some quality time.
I set about creating my version of maple pecan sweet potatoes with a clear idea of how I wanted it to taste and the basic ingredients it would take to get there. Still, it took me a few tries to get it ‘right’. I expect that because in my experience, achieving a goal (even a tiny one) requires having an idea of what you want and taking action to get there with the knowledge that there will be trail, error and adjustment along the way. Sometimes reaching a goal requires just a slight adjustment. Sometimes, there’s a lot more time and effort involved. And sometimes, you set off for a goal, miss it entirely and discover something even better. Aim for the moon, miss, hit a star. Peace.Print
Subtly sweet, gooey maple syrup and coconut milk, hints of zesty ginger and orange and crunchy pecans, bake up a simple maple pecan sweet potatoes side.
- 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ½ lbs. or 4 cups), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 tsp. maple syrup
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
- 1 small orange (2 Tbsp. orange juice + the zest)
- 1 tsp. minced ginger
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. ground cloves
- ¼ tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat the oven to 4250 F (2200 C).
- Peel the sweet potatoes and dice them into cubes (about 1 inch). Place them in a small baking dish (I used 10 x 7 inch).
- In a small bowl, whisk 2 tsp. maple syrup, 1/3 cups coconut milk, 2 tbsp. orange juice, 1 tsp. minced ginger, 1 tsp. cinnamon, ¼ tsp. ground cloves and ¼ tsp. salt.
- Add the sauce to the sweet potatoes and toss so the potatoes are covered.
- Sprinkle the top with the orange zest and chopped pecans.
- Cover the dish and place it in the oven. Bake for 40 minutes then uncover the dish for the last 5 minutes to toast the pecans. Your potatoes are done when they can easily be pierced with a fork.
- Because we are using orange zest, it’s a good idea to use an organic if you can. Otherwise, be sure to scrub the skin prior to grating.
- If you want to cut back on the baking time, you can par-boil the sweet potatoes first. To do this, simply peel and dice the sweet potatoes, place them in a pan and cover them with water. Boil the potatoes for 3 minutes and then immediately drain and rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process. Proceed with the instructions as outlined above. Bake for 20 -25 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
- Category: On the Side
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: maple pecan sweet potatoes