Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Sumac roasted sweet potatoes are a natural! The bright, citrusy flavor of the sumac balances the sweetness of the potatoes perfectly.
When I think about what makes the Thanksgiving plate so mouthwatering-good, it doesn’t take much for me to realize that it’s driven by sweet. Oh, and fat. Yes, there is the salty tenderness (brine it, baby!) of the turkey, the profound savory of the stuffing. But all of that for me is the backdrop to the cranberry and the sweet potatoes.
And not just any cranberry and sweet potatoes. Of course. I’m talking about my mother’s cranberry sauce, my mother’s sweet potatoes, and none other. The sauce is studded with walnuts (the Lebanese can’t keep away from them) and glistening with gems of mandarin orange, green apple, and pineapple.
The sweet potatoes are not marshmallow-topped—to my surprise, really, given the affinity both Mom and I have for anything marshmallow. Instead, Mom candies her potatoes in a buttery, dark brown sugar syrup.
Of all of the dishes, Lebanese and otherwise, I’ve inherited from her through study, practice, osmosis, or any path that will get them into my repertoire, the candied sweet potatoes have eluded me. She says they’re not difficult: boil the potatoes skin on, then slip the skins off when they’re cool enough to handle. Make a caramel-like syrup, pour over potatoes that have been halved in a huge baking dish. All of this she breezes over as though it’s no big thing: It’s just candied sweet potatoes, honey. But there’s more to it, Mama! The potatoes have to be boiled in that initial step…to perfection, not overcooked as mine were in the one attempt I made at the potatoes, with a mushy end result. You have to stay on them, piercing them until you have just the right amount of resistance and give. The syrup also has its nuances. Mine separated, and nothing good came from that.
So I decided long ago that I’d only eat Mom’s candied sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving; I work on other things, like the gravy (I start weeks early, making the dark turkey stock, then nurse it all Thanksgiving day to a smooth, rich sauce). The pie, of which I will make at least four. Stay tuned for one of them here shortly.
Then there is my version of sweet potatoes, spiced with sumac, a hit of cayenne, a drizzle of honey, and roasted to a blistery beauty. Easy as it comes. They’re so crazy delicious and unrecognizably different from my mother’s that I could bring them to the Thanksgiving table and there would be no protest.
Other than my own.
Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 2 large sweet potatoes or yams
- 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sumac
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more!)
- Few grinds black pepper
- 2 tablespons honey
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Place a large sheet pan in the oven and heat to 500°F.
- Scrub the sweet potatoes. Leaving the skins on, halve the potatoes crosswise, then halve them lengthwise. Lay the cut-side down and slice the potato crosswise into 2- to 3-inch wedges.
- Place the potato wedges in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the neutral oil, salt, sumac, cayenne, black pepper, and honey until combined. Pour over the potatoes and stir with a large spoon until the potatoes are well coated.
- Remove the sheet pan from the oven reduce the oven to 425°F. Line the pan with parchment. Place the potatoes on the pan, arranging them so they aren’t touching one another.
- Roast the potatoes for 20-30 minutes, turning the potatoes over with tongs halfway through roasting, until they are golden brown and cooked through. Take care not to overcook them.
- Serve the potatoes warm, drizzled with olive oil.
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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Lining a sheet pan with parchment paper after it has been preheated to 500 degrees sounds like a task only for those with hands made from asbestos! I think I’d skip that step. Otherwise the recipe sounds good.
Thanks Elaine! I use pre-cut parchment sheets which makes setting it into the pan a breeze. But either way you’re going to have excellent sweet potatoes!
Hi!! Can I use the Zaatar instead of just sumac?
Worth a try! Let me know how you like it!
Looks delicious, Maureen. Thank you.
Am mourning the siege of Paris yesterday, as I am sure you are. VIVE LA FRANCE and may peace prevail.
Yes, Toni, very much so, along with the siege in Beirut the day before that. Thank you for your peace-loving soul.
Yes Maureen, I learned how to duplicate my sweet Mother’s entire Thanksgiving repertoire, which was the best ever anywhere–except!!! her candied sweets! I could never ever duplicate–hers were divine, cooked beautifully, and candied to perfection–thank you for the memories!
I’m a huge sumac fan, and I have a super-sized bottle of it in my cabinet, so always on the hunt for new things to sprinkle it on!
I’m always looking for new ways to make sweet potatoes… they’re one of my favorite fall foods by far. I’ve never even tried sumac before (to my knowledge) but looks like I’ll be giving it a shot now! I just hope it’s not terribly expensive.
Made them last night for our dinner – I peeled the sweet potatoes just because I don’t care for the texture of the skin, but other than that, no changes
I love sumac and always love to use it in new ways – quite unique flavor
I’m a huge fan for sweet potatoes and always finding another way of cooking them… I’m gonna make these for tonight’s dinner! Thanks for sharing!
Finally, a sweet potato recipe that I like, savory and only slightly sweet. I peeled the potatoes before I realized they were supposed to be roasted skin-on, but I liked them that way. My only problem: when I added the honey, the coating seized up and separated from the oil. I was mixing it in a stainless steel bowl, so I set it atop a low heat on the stove to melt the honey enough to make more of an emulsion. The honey wasn’t cold; in fact, I had been heating the container in hot water because it had partly crystalized.
Hmmm, that’s odd–well, the dressing can simply be added directly to the potatoes rather than combined first if you like! Good fix with the low heat to melt the honey!
I adore this recipe! I made them for Thanksgiving and they were a hit! I made an appetizer for a tailgate party with your recipe but cutting sweet potatoes in bite-sized chunks with browned kielbasa on a toothpick. Serve with a lemon herb aioli to dip. So good!! Thank you!
Wow, your skewers sound excellent, thank you!
What a wonderful idea! I came across some sumac the other day in a Middle Eastern grocery and loved the color, so I bought it and made a Persian-based meal of chicken roasted with lemons and plums. The spicing of sumac, cinnamon, allspice, lemon zest and garlic was divine. I hadn’t considered other ways to use sumac, but you have most definitely inspired me now! Thank you! And if you want to check out the recipe for the chicken and plums, I’d love your input on my site and the recipes I cook. Love your page and visit often!
Too nervous to put my pans in 500 degrees. Trying 450.
This has become a favorite for my son and I. I have been using Garnet Sweet Potatoes. Thank you for giving us great ways to make veggies fun for our family.
PS… last time I made it put the parchment paper in the oven in the sheet until the oven warmed… It was pretty brown…lol.
I’m so glad you like this as much as we do Sandra!! And woopsie with the parchment!! Glad it worked out though!
I smiled when I read your description of your mom’s candied sweet potatoes. I am Lebanese on my father’s side and Irish on my mom’s …there must be a connection as our moms seemed to cook Thanksgiving sweet potatoes (NEVER with marshmallows!) in a similar way. Same start but my mom cooked hers in an electric frying pan. Start by melting butter – less than you think – then mix in dark brown sugar, heating and letting it dissolve then add some maple syrup add quartered sweet potatoes and let them soak in the syrup. YUMMMMM
Your mother’s sweet potatoes sound DIVINE…thank you Abigail!!