Sweet Potato Fries: Make Them Crispy and Spicy

Lori Lamothe

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We can all agree homemade sweet potato fries are healthier than the grease-laden, regular fries sold at fast-food restaurants. They're full of fiber and "good carbs," not to mention antioxidants and vitamins. Even the much-maligned white potato has lots of Vitamin C and potassium. As for sweet potatoes, they're packed with vitamin A, carotenoids, B vitamins and medicinal bioactive plant compounds.

Here's the rub: while they might be healthier, homemade fries don't usually taste as good. They're missing that definitive crunchy taste the "bad" fries have in abundance.

A dozen baking hacks for crispier oven fries

There are a few tricks you can use to create crispier root-vegetable fries. This recipe calls for tossing the fries with olive oil, which will help turn your root fries savory as they carmelize in the oven. However, you might want a few more ways to make your fries crisp without sacrificing nutrition.

Here are 12:

1. Make sure you cut fries in similar-size strips or chunks and spread them evenly across the sheet pans so they cook uniformly. Do not crowd them. One pan generally is better than two.

2. Pre-heat the sheet pan(s).

3. OR use parchment paper. (Parchment paper is a baking staple and should be safe to use in an oven heated up to 450 degrees; however, I have seen cheap paper burn in professional ovens so check out these tips for using it correctly.)

4. Cook fries on a higher shelf in the oven (upper third).

5. Toss fries in beaten egg white in place of olive oil.

6. Avoid using salt when you coat the fries. Salt can make your root veggies go limp. Add it later.

7. If you have the time, presoak uncooked, cut fries for 20 minutes to 3 hours or so to lessen the starch. Use a mixture of 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 gallon of cold water. You can also use plain water. Dry thoroughly.

8. If you don't have the time, even washing the fries and drying them will make them crispier. Dry thoroughly with paper or tea towels.

9. Thinner-cut fries equal crispier fries.

10. Use lower moisture varieties of potatoes for more crispness. Russet potatoes are the recommended choice for crispy white fries.

11. Use peanut or coconut oil.

12. You can cook more than one type of root vegetable at the same time. However, avoid mixing starchy and non-starchy veggies. Starchy: potatoes, yams, parsnips. Non-starchy: carrots, turnips, beets, red onions, garlic, rutabaga.

I don't think I've ever had a roasted rutabaga but my grandmother used to roast parsnips for Thanksgiving and they're sweetly flavorful (roast at 450 degrees for best results). Roasted garlic is also great to spread on warm bread, add to pizza or to season soups.

The recipe below is adapted from The New York Times recipe for sweet potato fries, with a few key changes. First, I cut the salt because adding it beforehand can make fries less crispy. Second, I up the oven temperature by 25 degrees and preheat the baking sheet(s). Third, I recommend pre-soaking the fries to reduce the starch. Finally, I serve the fries with a yogurt dipping sauce (recipe below).

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Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

2 pounds of sweet potatoes (or a combination of starchy/non-starchy root vegetables of your choice)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Salt, added after baking

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put baking sheet into oven.

2. Wash and scrub the vegetable skins with a brush.

3. Peel the skins. This step is optional since many nutrients are in the outermost layer of root vegetables.

4. Slice into hand-cut fries using a sharp chef's knife or a french-fry cutter. For the best 2022 cutters, see this ranking. For the best method to hand cut fries, see below.

5. If you have time, soak the fries in water or the vinegar mixture mentioned above to reduce starch. If not, rinse and thoroughly dry the fries.

6. Toss with olive oil and seasoning mixture. You can experiment with combinations: substitute onion powder and parsley for the garlic powder and paprika; mix and match other spices like ground chipotle, thyme, or cayenne; or use a premade blend like Cajun or Italian. The fries are also good roasted plain with salt and pepper added later.

7. Roast uncovered at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes for sweet potato fries. Flip and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your fries and for other root vegetables. Watch them carefully so they don't burn.

8. Add salt and serve warm with yogurt dipping sauce.

Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro or parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Sea salt to taste

Instructions

1. Combine ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Keeps for up to 1 day.

How to cut potatoes into fries (courtesy of Japanese Cook)

1. Wash and scrub potatoes.

2. Peel potatoes (optional).

3. Using a sharp chef's knife, cut a potato in half. Cut off tips on each end.

4. Place the cut side down on each half. Cut them lengthwise into slices that are between a quarter and a half of an inch thick

5. Stack half the slices and cut them lengthwise into fries between a quarter and a half inch thick (or desired thickness). Repeat until you've cut all the potatoes.

You can also watch this video:

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Writer, assistant professor, former baker. I cover cold cases, history, recipes, and culture. If you have a story idea you'd like me to investigate, you can email me at lorilamothe29@gmail.com.

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