The 3-Ingredient Japanese Sweet Potato Recipe I Make (Almost) Nightly for Gut Health

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After culinary school, I quickly learned that one of the easiest ways to impress guests at any soirée is by whipping out ye ol’ reliable culinary torch. It’s a sure-fire way to get the crowd going—and few finishing touches beat a brûlée when it comes to imparting deliciously toasty, caramelized flavor.

But during the week when torching is not on the proverbial table, I lean on a more convenient culinary tool that replicates the flavor of a hot sear: An air fryer.

My go-to simple dish to cook myself in the air fryer this season? Bruléed Japanese sweet potatoes, of course. This fiber-rich, ready-in-15-minutes recipe doesn’t require any fancy equipment other than your handy-dandy air-fryer (or oven). And it's lit.


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How to make 3-ingredient bruléed Japanese sweet potatoes

In a recent Instagram post by @eggdressesup, content creator Em shares how to make three-ingredient bruléed Japanese sweet potatoes, and it’s much easier (and less intimidating) than it sounds. Unlike a traditional crème brulée—which involves a complex process of making a homemade custard, gently cooking it in a bain-marie, before finally brûléeing the sugar crust—this Japanese sweet potato version is much simpler to make.

No, really: It's three ingredients, three steps. All you’ll need? Japanese sweet potato, honey, and brown sugar.

  1. To begin, start by cutting a steamed Japanese sweet potato into large discs about two inches tall (eyeballing it is totally fine in this case) and lay them out on a flat sheet of aluminum foil.
  2. Next, add a drizzle of honey over the exposed surface, and coat with a thin layer of brown sugar. The key is to spread the mixture across the surface evenly using the back of a spoon—this will help create that sought-after crunchy brulée crust.
  3. Finally, pop the sugar-coated potatoes in the air fryer for about 15 minutes at 360 ºF, or just until the sweet mixture has fully melted. (But we'd never stop you from using your culinary torch party trick, if you so please.)

The result? A caramelized (or bruléed) coat of honey sugar that adds the perfect amount of crunchiness to complement the pillowy-soft texture of the Japanese sweet potato. Swoon.

Health benefits of Japanese sweet potatoes

Roasted or baked sweet potatoes, known as yaki imo, are a popular snack in Japan. They're often sold by street vendors, but can even be found in vending machines (#jealous).

Japanese sweet potatoes, which have a naturally sweet flavor profile, become even sweeter as the natural sugars caramelize when roasted or baked. As such, yaki imo is typically served on its own—plain and simple, it’s utterly delicious.

This bruléed Japanese sweet potato recipe takes things up a notch and turns the snack into the dessert of your dreams thanks to the addition of two sweetening agents: sugar and honey. And while keeping in mind that consuming sugary foods in moderation is key, this three-ingredient snack does have a few health benefits worth noting. In fact, the star ingredient—Japanese sweet potato—is widely known as one of the staple foods in Okinawa, Japan, a longevity hotspot.

From a nutrition standpoint, these potatoes are packed with a bevy of nutrients. One medium-sized Japanese sweet potato contains 24 grams of carbohydrates, more than two grams of protein, nearly four grams of fiber, and 540 grams of potassium, along with considerable amounts of calcium and iron among other key antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Japanese sweet potatoes are also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds linked to longevity, including polyphenols and vitamins A, C, and E.

Lastly, honey (so long as you’re getting the good stuff) has some antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties, which only makes this simple, yet delicious dessert even sweeter. But if you prefer to opt out of using honey, it isn’t totally vital to the recipe—you can also use other similar alternatives like maple syrup or agave instead. And much like a classic crème brulée recipe, a bit of granulated sugar will also do the trick just fine if you can’t get your hands on any of these.

Another spud-tastic sweet potato dessert to try:


Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
  1. Li, Aoran et al. “Research Advances of Purple Sweet Potato Anthocyanins: Extraction, Identification, Stability, Bioactivity, Application, and Biotransformation.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 24,21 3816. 23 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3390/molecules24213816
  2. Samarghandian, Saeed et al. “Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research.” Pharmacognosy research vol. 9,2 (2017): 121-127. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.204647

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