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Sweet potatoes: not just for dessert anymore

Sweet potatoes: not just for dessert anymore

Sweet potatoes for dessert? As I remember it, my mom’s traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole might as well have been dessert. She sliced the potatoes in half, coated them generously in a mixture of brown sugar, orange juice concentrate and butter. Of course, they were delicious, but also pretty deadly from a calorie perspective. The flavor of the poor sweet potatoes was drowned out by sugar. If she had served that for dessert, no one would have blinked an eye. In fact, they probably would have put whipped cream on it.

I don’t recommend this sort of sugar excess as a side dish to any meal, let alone a big holiday meal. But the tradition rolls on. Recipes for sweet potato casserole include toppings like marshmallows, coconut crisp, marshmallows+pretzels and pecan streusel. The sweet potatoes underneath all that are mashed with sugar, cream and eggs. Gah!

Healthier Options

  • You can always just bake the sweet potatoes and serve them plain.
  • Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 4-6 chunks each. Toss with olive or canola oil, salt and herbs or spices of your choice. Cinnamon and a bit of ground ginger for a sweeter flavor; fennel, thyme and garlic for an herbal flavor. Roast the potatoes at 400º for about 20 minutes or until fork-tender.
  • Make chili sweet potatoes: peel and cut up sweet potatoes, as above. Toss with ground chili, minced garlic and salt. NOTE: use pure ground chili, not ‘chili seasoning’. You can choose mild or hotter chili, or varieties like chipotle (hotter) or ancho (less hot, rich flavor). Roast as above. Toss with a squeeze of fresh lime juice before serving.

None of these involve adding sugar, so you can appreciate the subtle flavor of the potatoes.

Sweet potatoes + left over turkey

If you have unused sweet potatoes around, try making Mulligatawny soup. Sometimes referred to as curry soup, Mulligatawny originated in South India in the 19th century. Classic recipes include red lentils, vegetables and a variety of Indian spices. Mulligatawny is traditionally vegetarian and is served with cooked rice. Brits living in India added chicken or lamb.

Aside from the classic ingredients, there are lots of different Mulligatawny variations. I found a vegetarian version that’s hearty and delicious ‘as-is’, but would pair nicely with bite-sized pieces of leftover Thanksgiving turkey. This boosts the protein and makes the soup into a main meal.

Mulligatawny Soup

November 22, 2022
: 8 or more
: 1 hr
: 45 min
: 1 hr
: moderate

This is puréed using an immersion blender. You can use a regular blender, but that means you have to transfer the hot soup in batches to the blender, and then to a pot. Immersion blender is highly recommended. Mulligatawny is traditionally served over rice. You can omit the rice if you prefer, or serve it on the side.


  • 3 TB canola or peanut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1TB garam masala
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or more as you prefer
  • 1-1/2 cups dry red lentils
  • 1 one pound can diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 TB fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted cashews
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • optional: cooked white or Basmati rice
  • optional: garnish with plain Greek style yogurt
  • optional: bite-sized pieces of leftover turkey or chicken
  • Step 1 Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot and sauté the onion, carrot and sweet potatoes about 8 minutes. Do not burn.
  • Step 2 Add the apple and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  • Step 3 Add the garlic, garam, tumeric, coriander, bay leaf, cayenne, 1 tsp salt and cook another minute.
  • Step 4 Add the dry lentils and stir everything together.
  • Step 5 Add the broth and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes until the lentils are soft.
  • Step 6 Remove from heat. Purée the mixture in the pot using an immersion blender.
  • Step 7 Stir in the coconut milk and lime juice. Taste for seasonings like salt and cayenne.
  • Step 8 Serve the soup garnished with cashews and cilantro.
  • Step 9 Optional: serve over cooked rice.
  • Step 10 Garnish with yogurt if desired.
  • Step 11 Add leftover turkey to each serving if desired.

Find more info on sweet potatoes in my post from last January.

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