Hungry for an Easy, Healthy Dinner? This Baked Sweet Potato Recipe Is Your New BFF

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This isn’t your standard New Year’s plan. No restrictive diets, no weekly weigh-ins, no “whole new you” for this new year—because, hey, you’re pretty great already. These four expert-led plans—designed to help you move your body, eat more veggies, get a better night’s sleep, or show yourself some loving care—are all about developing healthy habits that better align with your goals.

Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to spend 30 minutes or more making dinner after a long day of work—especially when it’s chillier outside and you just want to grab some grub and curl up underneath a blanket. And that’s where a simple baked sweet potato can come in handy.

Sweet potatoes work well with so many foods, so you can go sweet or savory with toppings to mix things up. And because they last for a long time, they're easy to pick up during your weekly shopping trip and keep on hand for when you need a nearly-instant meal.

Plus, sweet potatoes are the perfect vehicle for quick and easy nutrition that’s super versatile, so you’ll never get bored of your recipes. “In addition to energy from carbohydrates to fuel your muscles, brain, and many other body functions, one cup of baked sweet potato offers over six grams of filling fiber and even four grams of protein,” says Kelly Jones, RD, CSSD. They're also an excellent source of the immune-supportive nutrients vitamins A and C as well as potassium.

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“Additionally they're a good source of many B-vitamins and magnesium while offering carotenoid antioxidants,” Jones says, which can improve your heart health, fight stress and muscle soreness post-workout while keeping you in better health.

ICYMI, potatoes of all kinds are healthy—here's the lowdown on their benefits:

That said, a plain sweet potato on its own is not enough for a meal. But Jones says it can make a fantastic base for a healthy, easy dinner. "Often I recommend clients bake their sweet potatoes as a part of food prep on the weekend and then they can slice open length-wise and quickly reheat during the week," she says. (It's a tip our ReNew Year program leader Liz Moody swears by as well.)

Here, Jones shares the basics on how to make a baked sweet potato, plus three different toppings ideas that will keep you happy and satisfied—without spending ages in the kitchen.

How to make an easy baked sweet potato

1-2 sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Take your washed sweet potatoes and prick all over with a fork to create steam vents (which aids the cooking process).

2. Place the prepared sweet potatoes on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment, or in a covered baking dish before placing in the oven.

3. Bake for roughly 40-50 minutes, or until cooked through. (“You'll know they're done when a fork can be poked through to the center without resistance,” Jones says.) Note: If you baked in a covered dish, cooking time may be faster, but you may want to remove the cover for the last 10 minutes to reduce any moisture buildup.

4. Let cool slightly until you can pick them up, then split open and season with salt, pepper, and any other desired seasonings.

Variation 1: “Loaded nacho” baked sweet potatoes

Take that baked sweet potato and slice lengthwise before adding in some classic nacho toppings to make the dish all the more delicious.

1-2 sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Cheese (optional)

1. Prepare the easy baked sweet potato recipe above.

2. Slice open the baked potato lengthwise, and top with black beans, salsa, guacamole, and cheese (if using).

Note: For extra protein, Jones suggests adding more toppings. “If you have a higher activity level and need more protein, add leftover seasoned shredded chicken or tempeh, along with spinach and cheese or a dairy-free cheese alternative,” she says.

Variation 2: Spicy baked sweet potato

“If you like spicy food, sweet potatoes can really offer a balance of flavor,” Jones says. Adding a healthy fat like tahini helps balance the meal and counterbalance the heat.

1-2 sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
Cooked tofu or canned salmon, drained
Hot sauce or sriracha of choice

1. Prepare the baked sweet potato recipe above.

2. Slice open the baked potato lengthwise. Top with seasoned cooked tofu or canned salmon, then drizzle with hot sauce and tahini.

Note: Instead of tahini, you can also go with nut butter (like cashew, peanut, or almond butter).

Variation 3: Baked sweet potato with chili

Chili is a great wintertime staple. Yet sometimes you don’t want to grab a spoon and eat a whole serving of it from a bowl—that’s when Jones says you can just top a sweet potato with a smaller portion of the stew instead. (And if you need a new chili recipe, check out these delicious vegetarian options.)

1-2 sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/2 cup pre-cooked chili
Shredded cheese, diced onion, and other toppings (optional)

1. Prepare the baked sweet potato recipe above.

2. Slice open the baked potato lengthwise and pour over the chili. Top with cheese, diced onion, or other chili toppings if desired.

Note: A stew or any other type of thicker soup would work too as a good filling! See what you have on hand in your fridge from meal prep during the week.

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