As much as french fries are the most heavenly of junk foods, and a mean side dish to any meat roast, they’re somewhat not ideal for regular consumption. There is, though, a healthier alternative that allows you to indulge on the pleasure of potato fries more often without feeling too guilty and that is baked sweet potato fries. I was not very used to sweet potatoes, but I became more and more familiar with this root vegetable after I moved to Sweden.
Oven roasted sweet potato fries, as I was saying, are a much healthier choice than regular french fries. Sweet potatoes themselves are much more nutritious than regular potatoes, and baking is a healthier choice than frying. Quite a nice change for an equally awesome side dish. I generally prefer to make baked fries, even when I make regular potatoes. A decent amount of oil and high oven temperature are the key to excellent baked chips, really.
Another secret is soaking the potatoes. This applies to both normal potatoes and sweet potatoes. Soaking the potato sticks after cutting helps to remove the excess starch that prevents the potatoes from cooking through. But there’s another trick for ultimate crispiness. After removing the excess starch, you actually want to add some potato starch to your sweet potato strips. It is the actual starch on the surface that will create the crispy effect as the potatoes roast; but it has to be the right amount. So for best results wash off the starch, then add the right quantity afterwards.
The potatoes need to soak in cold water for at least 45 minutes. Rinse them some more after removing them from the water, and dry thoroughly. Now they’re ready to become delicious and crispy oven-baked sweet potato fries.
Baked sweet potato fries:
- 1 sweet potato (about 400 g peeled)
- 3 tbsp oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp potato starch
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
After soaking the sweet potato sticks in cold water and rinsing them, dry them thoroughly and place them in a large freezer bag. Add 1 1/2 tbsp potato starch and 1 tsp of sweet paprika and close the bag tightly keeping some air inside. Toss the content of the bag so that the powdery ingredients get to evenly coat the sweet potato strips. Open the bag and add the oil. I have used cornflower oil, and I read that peanut or canola also work well; but not olive oil. We want to achieve a fried effect, so for best results an oil that is good for frying is better. Olive oil makes the fries tastier, but not crispy.
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the sweet potato fries on a baking tray, making sure they don’t touch each other but they’re pretty spaced out. My baking tray is decently non-stick, and sweet potato strips coated in oil will make them quite easy to turn. For this reason I generally avoid using parchment paper and bake the sweet potato fries directly on the baking tray.
Bake for 10 minutes, then take the tray out and carefully flip the strips over. If necessary, scrape them from the tray with a cooking spatula. Return them to the oven for 10 more minutes. After they’ve been roasting at 220°C for 20 minutes, turn off the oven, open the oven door and let the sweet potatoes sit for an additional 10 minutes. This will help dry them even further and maximise the crispy effect.
Add salt just before serving, as adding salt before baking will result in soggy sweet potato fries. The only condiment I’m using before baking is sweet paprika (smoked paprika is also a good alternative, just don’t overuse it) or, alternatively, cumin. Salt always goes after baking. Sprinkle with salt and serve immediately with your favourite dip.
Sweet potatoes naturally have a mushy texture, so do expect them to be soft inside even when achievig the best crispiness on the outside. These “fries” are by no means as stiff as regular fries. Still, the right quantity of starch, the right type of oil and a properly hot oven will make them really nice and crispy on the outside. Without the need to fry.