How long do sweet potatoes last?
You’ve bought a big bag of sweet potatoes on a sale. And only as you got home, you realized it’s way more than you need for the next week or two. Sounds familiar? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person on Earth who likes to take advantage of a good price and ends up buying too much.
So you have, kind of by accident, stocked up on these root vegetables. And if I’m guessing correctly, right now you’re wondering how long do sweet potatoes last, and how to store them, so they last as long as possible. No need to worry, though, we got you covered. Plus sweet potatoes, similarly to potatoes (which are not related, actually), have quite a long shelf life, so you’ve got plenty of time to go through that big bag. Let’s address your questions one by one.
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash.
The good news is, raw sweet potatoes can last in great quality for between 3 and five weeks if stored properly. So even if you’ve bought too much, and you’re going on a vacation for a week, they will be just fine when you come back.
For the sweet potatoes to keep for the longest, choose firm, heavy, and blemish free ones. Buying at a store where there’s a high turnover also helps, as this guarantees you buy fresh ones, instead of ones that are sitting on the shelves for a week or more already.
Like with all veggies, proper handling helps with extending the shelf life. When it comes to temperature, slightly below room temperature is perfect for sweet potatoes, so if you have a basement or a root cellar, either is a perfect choice (1). The second best choice is room temperature, and that’s how I store mine. Please note the tubers should stay away from any heat sources, so they don’t become pithy (grow tiny holes inside). The fridge is not the place where you should keep your sweet potatoes. If you keep sweet potatoes in your pantry or kitchen, expect the shelf life to be closer to 3 weeks than five.
Photo by Mike Licht on Flickr.
Sweet potatoes should be well ventilated, so if you’ve brought them home in a plastic bag, transfer them in a basket or cardboard box that allows plenty of air in. And perhaps consider switching to reusable produce bags, which are much more environment-friendly than the plastic ones.
How to store cut sweet potatoes, you ask? If you like to prep your veggies in the morning to have them ready when you get home, that’s an option too. I usually cube them and store in an airtight container in the fridge. If you’d like to make them like a day or two before cooking, add water to that airtight container, so the cubes are submerged. And it’s best to keep them in the vegetable drawer, where it’s not as cold as in the rest of the fridge.
So you’ve cooked, baked, or steam your sweet potatoes and now you’re wondering how long they can be stored. Generally, like most cooked veggies, sweet potatoes can last up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container. I had sweet potatoes go bad (moldy, in most cases) around the 6th or 7th day in the refrigerator more than once. Because of that, when I cook them in bulk, I usually leave as much as I need for the next 3 to 5 days in the fridge and freeze the rest. That method works great for me, and I’m pretty sure it will work well for you too.
Photo by Marco Verch on Flickr.
If you’re making any other sweet potato-based dish, like a casserole, I wouldn’t expect it to last for longer than 3 to 4 days, depending on the ingredients. That’s, of course, a rough estimate, so consult the recipe you’re following for more details.
How long do cooked sweet potatoes last unrefrigerated, you ask? A few hours tops. You shouldn’t keep them at room temperature after cooking for much longer than it’s required for them to cool down a bit so that you can refrigerate them. If you plan on eating the leftovers in a few hours, at the very least make sure the pot where the sweet potatoes are in is covered.
As you’ve probably noticed, I already mentioned that you could freeze cooked sweet potatoes. Freezing raw sweet potatoes is an option too, but I find it more convenient to freeze cooked ones. Here’s how to go about that:
- Cook sweet potatoes the way you like them. You can cook them on the stove, bake them in the oven, steam them, and so on. Or make a dish with them that freezes well.
- Portion the food. Consider how much you will need at a time and divide the veggies accordingly.
- Wait until the sweet potatoes are cool enough to be thrown into the freezer.
- Pack the portions. Use airtight containers or freezer bags, whatever you find more convening and space-efficient.
- Put the portioned food into the freezer.
When it comes to defrosting, the fridge is the best option. When I forget to start defrosting the sweet potatoes the night before, I simply scoop them onto a nonstick pan and defrost it on low heat. Once they’re defrosted, I switch to medium to reheat them. If you’re short on time, you can defrost them in the microwave.
Photo by Carlos Scheidegger on Flickr.
Last but not least, let’s talk about what spoiled sweet potato looks like.
First of all, sprouted sweet potatoes, just like sprouted regular potatoes, are perfectly fine. Just cut off the growths, and you’re good to go. Second, if there are some tiny holes in the flesh, that’s okay too. Such tubers are called pithy, and while they might not taste the best, the condition is harmless in terms of food safety.
Like with other veggies, if there are some soft or dark spots, you can just cut them off, but if they cover like half of the specimen, it’s probably better to toss it out. If the sweet potato has shriveled, that indicates moisture loss, and you should get rid of it. In short, sweet potatoes aren’t unique in any way, and you go about figuring out if they are okay to eat or not the same way you about it for other produce.
When it comes to cooked sweet potatoes, look for any discolorations that weren’t there after cooking and signs of mold. If either is present, discard the food. And if the cooked veggies sit for more than a week in the fridge, throw them out too, just to keep things safe.