How to microwave sweet potatoes for a healthy side dish in no time

How to microwave sweet potatoes for a healthy side dish in no time
Whole sweet potatoes take less than 10 minutes to cook in the microwave.Julia Semenova/Getty Images
  • Whole sweet potatoes cook in just 6 to 8 minutes in the microwave.
  • Always prick sweet potatoes with a fork before cooking to allow steam to escape.
  • Microwaved sweet potatoes can be served as a side dish, mashed, or used in baking.

Whether you're planning to serve sweet potatoes as a side dish or use mashed sweet potato to add body to soup or baked goods, the bright orange vegetable needs to be cooked until tender. The oven is a popular method, but sweet potatoes can take up to an hour to cook this way.

A quick and easy option is the microwave. There are several benefits of microwaving a sweet potato:

  • Shorter cook time: "Because microwaves cook the food itself rather than heating up the air around the food, cooking something in the microwave typically cuts out around 50 to 75% of the cook time [when compared to other methods]," says Steph Chen, founder and CEO of Anyday, a microwave cookware company. A sweet potato cooks in the microwave in just 6 to 8 minutes as opposed to 40 minutes to an hour in the oven.
  • Energy-efficient: The short cook time means less energy is used, especially since the microwave won't heat up your kitchen like an oven will. This makes it an especially good option in the summertime.
  • Nutrition: "Microwaving retains more nutrients in food than any other cooking method. This is because it cooks faster [and] uses lower heat," says Chen. This makes it a nutritious option for cooking sweet potatoes than baking, steaming, or boiling.
  • Moist results: "The microwave acts like a super-fast steamer, resulting in an incredibly fluffy and spoonable sweet potato," says Chen. If you like sweet potatoes moist and creamy, then use the microwave.

Quick tip: The output wattage, or the amount of power a microwave generates, can vary greatly from model to model, ranging anywhere from 600 to 1,200 watts. Keep your microwave's wattage in mind as it has an effect on the cook time. Less powerful microwaves take longer to cook food and higher wattage models cook food faster.

How to microwave a sweet potato

How to microwave sweet potatoes for a healthy side dish in no time
Always clean the sweet potato before cooking. It can be peeled once cooked and cooled.Luiz Anselmo / EyeEm/Getty Images

To microwave a whole sweet potato, you'll need a fork and either a microwave-safe container with a lid or a microwave-safe plate and a paper towel or clean, thin kitchen towel.


If you're microwaving more than one sweet potato at a time, use a large enough dish that they can lay in a single layer.

  1. Clean the sweet potato. Run the sweet potato under cool water and scrub the exterior with a soft brush. Pat dry.
  2. Prick with a fork. Prick the sweet potato with a fork in a few different places, making shallow holes. "This gives an opening for the steam from the inside of the potato to escape so that it doesn't explode," says Chen.
  3. Place in a dish and cover. "The most important thing when microwaving anything is to keep the moisture inside the food", says Chen. To capture steam, place the sweet potato in a microwave-safe dish with a tight-fitting lid and close the lid. Alternatively, wrap the sweet potato in a moist paper towel and set it on a microwave-safe plate or wide bowl.
  4. Microwave. Cook the sweet potato on high power for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of your potato. If your microwave doesn't rotate, turn the plate 90 degrees and flip the sweet potatoes halfway through cooking. If your sweet potato is especially small, start checking at 4 minutes. If you are cooking more than one sweet potato, you'll likely need to add cook time. Start by adding one minute, check for doneness, and continue cooking in one-minute increments as needed.
  5. Check for doneness. The sweet potato is done cooking when it can be easily pierced all the way through with a fork or paring knife.
  6. Crisp the skin (optional). If you prefer the peel crispy, transfer the cooked sweet potato to a baking sheet and slide it under the broiler for a few minutes, just until the skin is crisp.
  7. Peel (optional). If you'd like your sweet potato peeled or plan to mash it, let the sweet potato cool slightly and peel, using a paring knife to help remove any areas that are stuck to the flesh.

Quick tip: You can also cook cubed sweet potatoes (peeled or unpeeled) in the microwave. Cut a potato into one-inch cubes. Spread out into a single layer on a plate and loosely tent with a dry paper towel. Cook on high for 3 minutes, then check for doneness using a fork. If not yet tender, continue to microwave for 1-minute increments until tender.

How to use microwaved sweet potatoes

How to microwave sweet potatoes for a healthy side dish in no time
You can use microwaved sweet potato in mashes, stews, baked goods, and more.The Good Brigade/Getty Images

"There are a million things you can do with microwaved sweet potatoes," says Chen. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Loaded: Split open a whole, microwaved sweet potato. Season with salt and pepper and top with butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, and chives.
  • Sesame: Roughly chop a cooked sweet potato and toss with a tablespoon each of tahini and sesame seeds.
  • Coconut mash: Mash cooked sweet potatoes with enough coconut milk to make a creamy mixture and a teaspoon of coconut oil per potato.
  • Brown sugar cinnamon mash: Mash cooked sweet potatoes and mix with 1 to 2 teaspoons of brown sugar and a half teaspoon of cinnamon per potato. Top with toasted pecans.
  • Soup: Peel and mash cooked sweet potatoes and purée with a cup of broth and aromatics like sautéed onions and garlic to make a soup. Add spices like curry powder or dried thyme.
  • Baking: Peel and mash sweet potatoes and use the mash to make sweet potato pie, bread, muffins, cupcakes, and more.

Quick tip: Store cooked sweet potato in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Whether whole, cubed, or mashed, it will keep for five days.


Insider's takeaway

If you need to cook a sweet potato fast, the microwave is the best option. Prick the outside with a fork before cooking and either place in a lidded container or wrap in a moist paper towel. The sweet potato is done when you can easily pierce it with a fork. Serve loaded with toppings, mashed as a side dish, or used to make baked goods.