By Carl Hanson

Sweet potatoes are so closely associated with Thanksgiving dinner, they're practically held hostage by the holiday. But we're here to set 'em free. Because if you only eat sweet potatoes once a year, and eat white potatoes the rest of the year, you're truly missing out.

Sweet Potato Fries with Hummus
Sweet Potato Fries with Hummus | Photo by Meredith

Sweet Potatoes Are Good for You

Why so sweet on sweet potatoes? They combine delicious, addictive flavor with versatility and loads of nutrition.

Just looking at the orange flesh of the sweet potato, you know it's bound to be healthy. The deep orange color comes courtesy of carotenoids. In fact, one sweet potato supplies your full daily allowance (and then some) of beta carotene. And that's not all. Compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes have way more vitamin A, fewer calories, and a bit more fiber. Sweet potatoes also weigh in with vitamins B6, C, and E, plus calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Sweet Potatoes: Living a Lie

The sweet potato is versatile and flavorful. It is, however, living a lie. People, it's not a potato. Not even a tuber. It's actually a root veggie, like a carrot. And the sweet potato isn't exactly candy sweet, not until you candy it up with maple syrup, brown sugar, and/or tiny marshmallows. It does, however, have a subtle, natural sweetness all its own, which comes courtesy of an enzyme that turns its starch into sugar (hence storing sweet potatoes makes them sweeter).

Bottom line: You don't need to load up sweet potatoes with sweet stuff. Simply bake or microwave a sweet potato, top it with a little salt, a sprinkle of olive oil or butter, and you have a super-simple side that's tasty and healthier than baked white potatoes.

Here are more everyday ways to slip sweet potatoes into your tater routine, by swapping them in where white potatoes usually reign. We're not including sweet potato casseroles here. But there are plenty recipes where that's concerned.

The best sweet potato recipes

We love a traditional twice-baked potato. Simple and satisfying. But sweet potatoes make 'em twice as nice. This quick recipe adds a little ricotta cheese for silky texture and rich flavor without a ton of butter.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta Cheese
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Ricotta Cheese | Photo by Allrecipes

You can always add a few sweet potatoes to any oven-roasted potatoes or roasted vegetable medley recipe. This recipe doubles down naturally sweet, savory ingredients, calling for sweet potatoes and sweet onions, plus a splash of balsamic vinegar. RockLobster praises its virtue in a haiku: "Yay, no marshmallows! Savory sweet potatoes, glad that I found you!"

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Sweet Potatoes | Photo by Meredith

True, we accept no substitute for classic mashed potatoes. But from time to time, a sweet potato mash is just the right change of pace -- they're exceptional with a spoonful of goat cheese or cream cheese. This recipe calls in the Neufchatel. "I love that these potatoes aren't overly sweet," says JenFL. "They're super creamy and were easy to make."

Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Mashed Sweet Potatoes | Photo by Meredith

Here's another delicious break from tater tradition. BONUS TIP: "Try putting the dough in a floured pastry bag (or a Ziploc with a corner cut out) and squeezing it out like toothpaste," says Rachel D. "Then slice off bits with a sharp knife to make dumplings. You can squeeze them right into the pot of boiling water!"

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Sweet Potato Gnocchi | Photo by Chef V

Yes, baked French fries are a healthier way to make fries. But swapping in sweet potatoes, that does it one better. And for crispier sweet potato fries, Erin has a recommendation: "Bake at 275 for 20 minutes and then at 425 for another 20 minutes."

Savory Sweet Potato Fries
Savory Sweet Potato Fries | Photo by Christina

Hash isn't just for leftover corned or roasted beef. This recipe is "a favorite breakfast hash," says littlewummer . "It's sweet, savory, spicy, and fantastic with eggs!"

Sweet Potato Hash
Sweet Potato Hash | Photo by Meredith

A spicy and sweet grilled snack, these sweet potato rounds are seasoned with chile powder, cumin, and garlic, and tossed on the barbeque. They'll never completely take the place of the original potato chip -- and they'd be crazy to try. But they're a seriously delicious alternative.

Grilled Spicy Sweet Potato Chips
Grilled Spicy Sweet Potato Chips | Photo by the Gruntled Gourmand

Stuff baked sweet potatoes with chorizo, poblano peppers, and onions. Add an egg, a sprinkle of cheese, and bake again until the cheese is melted. Convert them to vegetarian by subbing in sauteed mushrooms and zucchini for the chorizo.

You'll love these every bit as much as traditional potato latkes. "DELICIOUS!" says Christina. "Would not change a thing...really great flavor! I served these with sour cream, but they really didn't need anything."

Sweet Potato Pancakes
Sweet Potato Pancakes | Photo by Meredith

"The warm goat cheese medallions take this salad to a whole new level," says Kim's Cooking Now! "I like to serve this as a main dish salad with a nice crusty baguette on the side."

Roasted Sweet Potato and Beet Noodle Salad
Photo by Kim's Cooking Now!

"This cheesy sweet potato dish is easy, fast to put together, and looks impressive," says Jones. "More importantly, it is delicious! You can do the first two bakes earlier in the day, set aside, and then do the final bake about 40 minutes before you're ready to eat. It also travels well after two bakes. You can finish baking at your destination."

Cheesy Sweet Potatoes
Photo by Jones

Check out our complete collection of Sweet Potato Recipes.

We won't get into the whole yam vs. sweet potato issue here, though we sure do get into it here.