French fries are a near perfect food. It's hard to improve upon perfect, but when we're talking sweet potato fries, the old classic may have found its rival. They're a little sweet plus they offer plenty of vitamin A and beta carotene- something a French fry doesn't. But none of that matters if they're swimming in fat and calories--which is an unfortunate reality for most things fried. At a restaurant, a small order of deep-fried sweet potato fries can set you back 260 calories and 13 grams of fat.
Luckily, making your own crispy sweet potato fries is easy to do in your oven, so you don't need a deep fryer. You'll save 122 calories and 11 grams of fat per serving when you "fry" them in your oven instead. Here are a few tips for making perfect crispy (!) sweet potato fries without burning:
1. Cut All Fries the Same Size
Whether you cut your fries into sticks or wedges, the pieces need to be the same size. This ensures that the fries cook at the same rate. Remember: you're cooking at 450 degrees F--that's high heat. If you cut the pieces too big, they'll be overdone on the outside and underdone on the inside. If you're going for the classic "fry" shape, 1/4-inch-thick matchstick slices work. A medium sweet potato cut lengthwise into 8 wedges works well too.
2. Coat the Fries with Oil (but not too much)
To successfully oven-fry, you still need to use oil--just not as much as you'd need to fill a deep fryer. About 2 teaspoons of canola oil should be enough to coat one medium sweet potato cut into fries or wedges. Toss your oil and sweet potato pieces in a large bowl. Use your hands to mix them together to distribute the oil more effectively. This is also a good time to add seasoning, since the oil will help it stick evenly to the food. And while you're at it, a little oil or cooking spray on your baking sheet is a good idea to prevent the fries from sticking. Cooking spray will give you the best coverage using the least amount oil.
3. Boost Flavor with Seasonings
Salt is a must for seasoning fries (don't go overboard--about 1/4 teaspoon is enough for one medium sweet potato), but you don't have to stop there! Paprika is a nice mild spice to add to sweet potatoes--and it looks pretty too. Garlic powder makes them extra savory, and if you like a little kick, chili powder is a great addition. Just make sure that whatever spice you add doesn't contain added salt. If it does, adjust the amount of salt accordingly.
4. Don't Overcrowd Your Baking Sheet
The secret to crispy instead of soggy sweet potato fries is to spread them out in an even layer with enough room so that they don't touch. This is especially important if you're making a big batch of fries. Instead of just piling more onto one baking pan, spread them out over two baking pans or cook them in batches. If they're all crammed onto one pan, they'll steam instead of bake and you'll end up with soggy fries.
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5. Cook Them in the Upper Third of Your Oven
We tend to cook most things on the middle oven rack, but sweet potato fries cook best above the middle position, farther away from the heat source. Since sweet potatoes are, well, sweet, the sugars tend to "caramelize," or brown, more quickly than a regular potato's. A little caramelization is a good thing--but too much and you'll get burning instead. Moving sweet potato fries farther up in the oven slows the caramelization process. If you're making two baking sheets' worth at once, position one oven rack in the middle and one above. Be sure to switch positions during baking and also to stir all the fries at least once so they cook evenly.
Oven Sweet Potato Fries
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Healthy Weight Lower Carbs High Fiber Healthy Heart
Active time: 5 minutes | Total: 25 minutes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into wedges
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss sweet potato wedges with oil, salt and pepper. Spread the wedges out on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until browned and tender, turning once, about 20 minutes total.
Makes 2 servings.
Per serving: 122 calories; 5 g fat (0 g sat, 3 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 3 g fiber; 323 mg sodium; 429 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Vitamin A (350% daily value), Vitamin C (30% dv).
What do you dip your sweet potato fries in?
By Hilary Meyer
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.
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