Learn the best way to make baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes for the perfect texture and flavour in this simple guide. Called Yaki Imo in Japan, these nutritious spuds are creamy, sweet and taste like cake. The ultimate healthy and satiating snack! (+ other cooking methods).
I’d like to think I’m a Japanese Sweet Potato connoisseur– I’ve been eating these since I was born and to this day, they are still one of my favourite foods. Especially when baked (also known as Yaki Imo in Japanese). In fact, I think if I had to choose one food for the rest of my life it would be these gems. Not only are are they super sweet and taste like dessert— they’re also incredibly nutritious, healthy and satiating. Plus, they are so versatile!
What are Japanese Sweet Potatoes?
In Japan, these potatoes are called Satsumaimo (さつまいも). They have a red toned purple skin with a pale cream interior that becomes a creamy yellow colour after cooking. They’re typically much smaller or slender than other varieties. In Japan, these gems are a signature flavour of fall next to chestnuts and kabocha. You’ll find limited edition Satsumaimo flavoured ice cream, cakes, drinks, chocolate and all sorts of snacks.
Japanese Sweet Potatoes vs. Orange Sweet Potatoes
Aside from the obvious difference in the colour of their skin, both colour and texture inside is also quite different. Orange sweet potatoes are orange on the inside and stay orange after being cooked. The texture is a lot more moist and wet kind of like pumpkin. Japanese ones are creamy white on the inside and then turn creamy golden yellow after being cooked. The texture is starchier and dryer (in a good way like a russet potato), almost fluffy like a dense cake. They’re also a lot sweeter, caramelize and ooze out sugar on the outside when baked and has a subtle nutty flavour. It’s often described to have a sweet chestnut-like texture and flavour.
Nutrition & Health Benefits
We all know sweet potatoes are healthy and full of complex carbs. They’re an excellent source of energy, high in dietary fiber and are rich in vitamins and minerals (notably, Vitamin C, Vitamin A & Vitamin B6).
Here’s a nutritional breakdown per 200g:
- 264 calories
- 2.4g protein
- 0.4g fat
- 63g carbs
- 4.6g fibre
They’re super hearty and satiating so great for meal prepping, adding it on the side or snacking.
Where to Buy Japanese Sweet Potatoes
I’m able to find them at most of my local Asian grocery stores but I’ve also seen them at Whole Foods and some farmers markets! If you’re from the US, I’ve seen some people purchase them at Trader Joes as well.
How to choose the best ones
Choose slender and smaller sweet potatoes with a smooth skin. About 250-350g is ideal.
Note: Japanese sweet potatoes are different from the Okinawan sweet potatoes, which have a vibrant purple skin and flesh.
How to store
They are best kept stored in a cool, dark and dry place for about 3-4 weeks.
How to Bake Japanese Sweet Potatoes (Best Methods)
There are several methods to making baked Japanese sweet potatoes but I want to share some tips, tricks and ways to cook them to your ideal texture and so they taste like true yaki imo.
Oven Baked / Roasted
The most common method and my personal favourite. Baking at low temperature allows the enzyme amylase to break down more starches into sugars resulting in its dessert-like sweetness.
- At 325 F (162 C): for 70-90 minutes – produces a cake-like texture and super sweet
- At 375 F (190 C): for 50-65 minutes – produces a super sweet, buttery cheesecake-like texture with a crispy and caramelized outside
- Best baked naked or with only foil (see below)
- MY personal favourite: Baked at 325 F with foil, and then I reheat at 375 F naked.
- Roasted at 400 F (200 C): for 45-60 minutes – produces a creamy chestnut-like texture and flavour with crispy outside
- Best baked naked or with news paper and foil
- Wash, wrap in foil (or leave naked) and place on a cast iron skillet (affiliate link) covered
- Cook on low heat for 60 minutes, turning them every 20 minutes
- Turn heat off when you can pierce them with a chopstick and then let it rest for 10 minutes before eating
- Produces a super creamy cake-like texture much like baking it at 325 F
Microwave (in a ceramic stone pot)
I don’t recommend just microwaving it on a plate like you would a orange sweet potato because it tends to dry out. If wanting to microwave, I highly recommend using a ceramic stone pot (affiliate link) that is meant to cook Japanese sweet potatoes like yaki imo. Place the washed, rinsed and prickled sweet potato in the ceramic stone and microwave for 5-8 minutes, rotating the sweet potato half way. Let it sit in the sweet potato maker for 5 minutes.
Steamed / Instant Pot
I do not recommend steaming or cooking these sweet potatoes in an instant pot if because they get too wet, lose their flavour and texture. But, if you just need them for a recipe:
- Steam: Chop into 1 inch chunks and place in a steamer basket over boiling water.
- Instant Pot: Add 1 cup water (for 6 quart instant pot) and place the sweet potatoes whole on the trivet. Make sure valve is on ‘sealing’ and then cook on manual high pressure for 10 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release before opening the lid. However, if making a recipe out of it and just want to cook it, then chop the sweet potato into cubes and steam over a steamer basket for about 10 minutes.
Tips & Tricks
- Piercing: don’t pierce your sweet potatoes too deep or it actually makes it take longer to bake
- To wrap or not to wrap:
- No wrap: creates a crispy outside
- Foil: gives a ‘cake’ like texture yet still moist
- Foil & newspaper: more like a steamed texture and moist
- Rest the potato: rest for at least 15 minutes post cooking— this finishes it off and ensures the middle is cooked.
- Time: this will vary depending on the size of the potato but all times listed above are for ones that weigh 250-350g.
- To store: After being baked, let them cool completely and then store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. They can also be kept in the freezer for up to 2 months. Simply just thaw them at room temperature before eating.
How to eat them
Baked Japanese sweet potatoes tastes amazing straight out of the oven on their own! Just peel the skin and eat as you would a churro– it’s honestly one of the best portable grab and go snacks since they come with their own package.
Sometimes, I find them almost too sweet so I’ll drizzle some almond butter or tahini to balance it out. When I’m feeling a little fancier, I’ll drizzle a tad bit of vegan butter too (warning: i n c r e d i b e ).
Like savory food? These are great for savory dishes too! Think stuffed potatoes, roasted or air fried, stews, soups, curries, gratin or baking them into fries with some spices and salt.
If you try this Baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!
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