Sweet potatoes are a favorite of mine with their vibrant, creamy, naturally sweet interiors. Whether mashed, roasted, fried, or steamed; whether they hold a starring role as a main dish or add a little something special to a recipe, sweet potatoes are a superstar veggie.
While I love a perfectly baked sweet potato, they certainly take their sweet time to cook through. You can easily end up waiting an hour for a baked sweet potato—fine if you have the time and don’t mind heating up your kitchen, but not great for a quick meal.
Enter the microwave. While the device is often relegated to reheating leftovers, it’s also great for steaming foods like broccoli, rice, and sweet potatoes. In less than 10 minutes flat you’ll have a moist, fluffy, ready-to-eat sweet potato. If you have an extra 10 minutes, pop it in the oven to crisp the skin. You won’t be able to tell the difference between your shortcut microwave sweet potato and a 100% baked one.
What Kind of Sweet Potato is Best?
You can cook any type of sweet potato using this method, but orange varieties with more moisture like Jewel or Garnet are especially good for microwaving. Most importantly, look for sweet potatoes that are smooth and plump, not shriveled, and free of bad spots. Old sweet potatoes will take longer to cook and often turn out dry with lackluster texture and flavor.
A Note on Microwaves
Home microwaves come in a wide range of wattages, typically between 600 and 1,200 watts. As you might imagine, this has a big impact on the cook time. A weak little dorm room model is not going to cook food in the same amount of time in a big, new, shiny model.
I recommend you become acquainted with your microwave’s stats—they’re often displayed on a sticker on the door or interior. Look for the “output wattage,” which will tell you how powerful your model is. My built-in model has an output of 1,000 watts—a common wattage for relatively new, medium to large microwaves.
Tips for the Best Microwave Sweet Potato
While popping a sweet potato in the microwave couldn’t be simpler, there are a few tricks to help ensure it emerges perfectly cooked.
- Adjust the cook time as needed. This recipe is for a medium potato. Smaller or larger will take less or more time, respectively. The cook time can also vary depending on the strength of your microwave.
- Give it a poke. Don’t forget to pierce the sweet potato a few times with a fork before cooking. This will help prevent any blowouts.
- Keep it moist. Don’t dry the sweet potato after rinsing it and either wrap it tightly in a moist paper towel or nuke it in a covered container to keep it from drying out.
- Crisp the skin. If you’re planning to eat the skin, brush with oil and bake for a few minutes. It’s not quite as quick as just microwaving, but it makes the sweet potato about 5 times better. The skin becomes a little bit crisp rather than tough, leaving the interior moist and fluffy. It’s a dead ringer for a baked sweet potato in just 15 minutes.
How to Enjoy a Microwave Sweet Potato
For a super quick side or main dish, simply split open the microwaved sweet potato, top with salt and pepper and your choice of butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, chives, chopped bacon, chili, or a combo. Go sweet with a light sprinkling of brown sugar and cinnamon.
You can also turn the microwave sweet potato into something else entirely. Let the potato cool, slice into thick slices, and pan-fry for sweet potato home fries. Or dice and use in home fries or toss into a vegetarian chili or curry. To use just the flesh, discard the peel, mash, and use to make mashed sweet potatoes, sweet potato casserole, or a sweet potato soup.
More Ways to Enjoy Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Latkes
- Classic Sweet Potato Pie
- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
- Instant Pot Mashed Sweet Potatoes
- Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
Prepare the sweet potato:
If you’d like to crisp the skin on your sweet potato, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Give the sweet potato a wash, but don’t dry it off. The residual moisture will help keep the sweet potato moist.
Use a fork to prick the sweet potato 4 to 5 times all over.
Wrap the sweet potato:
Moisten a paper towel with water and wring it out. Use it to tightly wrap the sweet potato and place it on a microwave-safe plate.
Alternatively, you can add the sweet potato to a microwave-safe lidded container. Add the lid, leaving it just barely cracked.
Place the plate in the microwave and cook on high power for 5 minutes. When done, you’ll be able to easily pierce the sweet potato all the way to the center with a fork or all the way through with a paring knife. If your sweet potato is not quite tender enough, re-wrap it and microwave it for another minute.
Once you’ve figured out what size potato and what timing works with your microwave, make a note and do it every time for the best results.
Crisp the skin (optional):
For lightly crispy skin, unwrap the sweet potato, place it on a small baking sheet, and brush all over with oil. Sprinkle with salt, if desired. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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