Used in both savory and sweet dishes, Japanese sweet potato or Satsumaimo has a deep magenta skin and creamy pale flesh. It is starchier and has an intensely sweet flavor, and so good in all your favorite recipes. Learn more about the amazingly versatile Japanese sweet potato, its health benefits and how to cook with it today!
Japanese sweet potatoes are called Satsumaimo (さつまいも, サツマイモ). With distinct purple-ish or reddish color skin, inside the sweet potatoes are creamy white flesh that turns yellow after cooking. They come in small to medium size and are generally rounder with tapered ends.
In Japan, sweet potatoes are the signature flavor of fall. Nothing beats the warmth of a freshly roasted Japanese sweet potato when the weather turns cool. The sweet and wonderful aroma fills the air. So comforting that we simply enjoy it as a snack. They are also filling and packed with nutrients.
For many Japanese, they are nostalgic food that reminds us of home and the change of season. During the Japanese New Year, the sweet potatoes are boiled and mashed before they are mixed with syrup chestnuts to make a special dish called Kurikinton, which symbolizes wealth and prosperity.
If you are new to Japanese sweet potatoes, let’s discover more about this amazing root vegetable today!
How Does Japanese Sweet Potato Taste Like?
Japanese sweet potatoes have a much sweeter taste than ordinary sweet potato varieties found in the US. They have a nutty flavor reminiscent of roasted chestnuts. The texture is drier, firmer, and starchier, and its concentrated sweetness makes them an ideal ingredient for making desserts.
The Versatility of Japanese Sweet Potatoes (Satsumaino)
From roasting, steaming, simmering, deep-frying to baking, there are endless ways to enjoy Japanese sweet potatoes. You may have tried them as tempura, where they are lightly coated with batter and deep-fried into perfection. Another popular dish is Daigaku Imo, where they are diced into cubes, deep-fried till crispy, glazed in a sweet sugary syrup, and finished with a sprinkle of black sesame seeds. It is absolutely my favorite!
They can also be used to make sweets, confectionaries, mixed rice (takikomi gohan), or added into soups, stews or curries. The possibilities are infinite. Instead of regular sweet potatoes, I love using Japanese sweet potatoes as a filling for my holiday pies. You have to try it!
Where to Find Japanese Sweet Potatoes?
I usually buy satsumaino from my local Japanese grocery store, but you can find them available at major grocery stores in the US these days. Look out for them at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, farmers’ markets, or local co-ops when they are in season.
Do take note that Japanese sweet potatoes are different from the Okinawan sweet potatoes, which have striking purple flesh, although both are considered staple diets of Okinawa.
How to Choose Best Japanese Sweet Potatoes?
Delicious sweet potatoes are plump and thick and have a bright crimson color. Choose one that feels heavy when you hold it. If they are elongated and have a lot of roots, they probably have too much fiber.
Check the surface and make sure they have minimal scratches or discoloration. You might find some sweet potatoes that have sticky liquid coming out of the cut end. They are sweet for sure!
They will keep up to a month when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place. I usually put them in a basket under the pantry shelf.
After harvesting sweet potatoes, the starch turns into sugar and becomes sweeter. I highly recommend ripening them for at least 1 to 2 weeks after you bring them home.
Health Benefits of Japanese Sweet Potatoes
It’s a known knowledge that all sweet potatoes are good for you. The same goes for Japanese sweet potatoes. High in carbohydrates and dietary fiber, they provide a good source of energy. Which is why they are particularly enjoyed by farmers and hard labor workers in Japan. They are also a great source of vitamins (especially vitamin A), minerals, potassium, iron, and copper. Best of all they contain all the essential amino acids that our bodies need.
Recipes Using Satsumaimo on Just One Cookbook
Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy Japanese sweet potatoes:
Desserts & Snacks
- Daigaku Imo (Candied Sweet Potato)
- Sweet Potato Pies
- Japanese Sweet Potato
- Yaki Imo (Baked Japanese Sweet Potatoes)
- Japanese Sweet Potato Rice
- Steamed Vegetables with Miso Sesame Sauce
- Kuri Kinton (Candied Chestnuts with Sweet Potatoes) for Japanese New Year
- Gluten Free Tempura
- Vegetable Tempura
- Simmered Sweet Potatoes with Lemon