I bought 12 sweet potatoes. 1 for each expected potluck guest. I knew it would be way too much, but I did it anyway. Sweet potato fries go fast, and besides, they’re SO easy to make. Really, all you need are sweet potatoes, salt and a bit of cayenne. Others would say skip the cayenne and you’re golden, but you really need a tiny bit of heat (you won’t really taste too much of it) to cut the sweetness of the fries. Never, never, never skip the salt.
I used my family’s fall-back spice rub that we use on salmon (coat the fish with dijon and then sprinkle on a bit of the spice mixture. Grill, bake, or pan-fry). It’s mostly salt, but the paprika, chili, cayenne, garlic and pepper give this enough flavour without overwhelming conservative eaters/family members.
1/3 cup salt
1/4 cup paprika
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp cayenne
For the Fries:
3 tbsp olive oil
12 sweet potatoes
1. Cut sweet potatoes into your fry-shape of choice. I prefer long, thin matchsticks because the thinner they are, the faster they’ll cook, and the more rub gets on each fry. So cut one slice off the sweet potato lengthwise to give yourself a flat sweet potato surface. Place the big piece cut-side down on the cutting board and slice it thinly. Then re-stack those pieces (except the end piece, which won’t be stable) on their side, and cut lengthwise again to give you fry-like pieces. If the potatoes are too long to cut this way, cut them in half lengthwise first, and then continue with the cutting instructions above.
These are just suggestions. You can cut your fries however you want. The only thing to keep in mind is that all the pieces should be the same size approximately, so that they cook at the same speed. It’s no fun when you end up with some cooked and some not-cooked fries (you can try to separate them, but it never works, and it wastes a bunch of time when you wish you were eating), or some are perfect and the rest are burnt. So, make similarly sized pieces, however you want to cut them. You can make them like hash browns if you want, but also keep in mind that the thicker they are, the more oil you’ll need to use, because they’ll be in the oven longer and will burn more easily.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit.
3. Combine your spices in a small bowl.
4. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each 5 cups sliced sweet potatoes (you’ll need a few big bowls to do this, and the ratio isn’t so important. Just pour some oil over your sweet potatoes).
5. Pour half the spice rub over the sweet potatoes (probably don’t pour all of it. That would be a lot. Start with half and reserve the rest for another time or another dish)
6. Mix the potatoes, the oil and the spices up with your hands.
7. Place the fries in a single layer on baking sheets. Make sure they don’t overlap. They won’t cook evenly that way. Place one or two baking sheets (however many will fit) in the oven at a time and bake for 12 minutes. Take the pans out, carefully flip the fries over, rotate the pans if possible, and bake again for about 10 minutes, or until the fries are tender. Eat right away before they cool. Do not leave them sitting in the oven even if the heat is turned off unless you want sweet potato jerky…It’s not bad, but it’s not sweet potato fries.
Just a quick note: if you don’t want to make all the fires at once, you can freeze them after you’ve oiled and spiced them and then just bake them like you would frozen french fries. They just need to bake a bit longer. They can also hang out in the fridge for a few days un-cooked, until you’re ready to bake them.
These are so much better for you than deep-fried sweet potato fries that pop up at every vegetarian and vegan restaurant in the world (not raw places, obviously), and now also at every place that serves a burger (veggie or not). Normally even if they’re baked, they use a lot more oil, or they’re sautéd first with flour mixed into the spices to give a firmer fry. The fries tend to break down and get mushy, which is why they should be served right away, and definitely not too over-cooked. Such an easy recipe for a crowd, or just for one if you make a small amount for yourself in a toaster oven. Mmm…sweet and spicy.