If you’ve stumbled onto this page after typing “how long do sweet potatoes last” in your browser search bar, we know what you’re really asking: Are the sweet potatoes that’ve been sitting on my counter for weeks…okay? And what if they’re growing sprouts or leaking an unspecified liquid? We have the answers you seek.
How long do sweet potatoes last?
Like other root vegetables, sweet potatoes are incredibly hardy—they’ll last for 3–5 weeks when stored at room temperature. If you’re tempted to toss a semi-old sweet potato in the fridge in the hopes of prolonging its shelf life, don’t. Thewarns that keeping uncooked sweet potatoes in the fridge will give them “a hard center and unpleasant taste.”
Sweet potatoes should be stored in a dry and cool (not cold!) place away from direct sunlight—the fruit basket on your counter should do just fine. Exposure to air gives the potatoes room to breathe, so a bowl with holes, a wicker basket, or even an open paper bag is ideal here.
Once cooked, sweet potatoes can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Cooking and mashing sweet potatoes ahead of time is never a bad idea, especially around the holidays. To make this Almost-Classic Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving, you can roast the sweet potatoes on Monday or Tuesday, store the cooked potatoes in an airtight container in the refrigerator, then assemble the casserole on the big day.
How to tell if sweet potatoes have gone bad
If your sweet potato is soft in spots, smells rotten, or oozes a mysterious liquid, that potato should be discarded. Another sign that sweet potatoes have taken a turn for the worse is if they start growing stalky purplish sprouts. “When potatoes begin to sprout, the growths have a high concentration of compounds called glycoalkaloids that can cause a sharp, unpleasant, bitter taste,” write BA staffer Antara Sinha and contributor Amiel Stanek. Not only do these sprouts not taste good, but if ingested in large quantities, they can be toxic.
If a sweet potato is growing some minor appendages but is still firm to the touch and otherwise free of blemishes, it’s A-OK to eat. Use a peeler or a small paring knife to carefully remove and discard the sprouts, then cook the potato ASAP.
How to select, clean, and store sweet potatoes
There are many different types of sweet potatoes, their skins ranging in color from orange to purple to ruddy red. No matter which variety you’re shopping for, look for firm sweet potatoes with smooth skin and no noticeable blemishes or soft spots.
Sweet potatoes often have a layer of dirt caked to their skins. This is normal—they grow underground!—but you’ll definitely want to give them a good rinse before cooking. Rinse the potatoes under running water, scrubbing with a clean scour pad or produce brush to remove any dirt or debris. Wash the potatoes just before you plan to cook them; introducing moisture too early will expedite their decline.
Need to use a whole bunch of sweet potatoes before they take a turn? Consider Sweet Potato Fries or Sweet Potato Wedges—great alongside Tuna Melts, Black Bean Smash Burgers, and any other sandwich under the sun. If you’re hosting, blend roasted spuds into silky-smooth Sweet Potato Hummus; any leftovers make a great weekday snack. If you feel a cold coming on, get a pot of Feel-Better Chicken and Rice Soup on the stove. Or if you’ve got Japanese sweet potatoes or yams, cut them into large rounds for this comforting Obe Ata Stew, or wedges for these crispy sweet potatoes, served atop a swoop of maple tahini.
On the sweeter side, mashed sweet potatoes can transform into a Sweet Potato Loaf Cake, dripping with dark chocolate ganache; classic Sweet Potato Pie, dolloped with marshmallow fluff whipped cream; or a showstopping Sweet Potato Cake, layered with salted cream cheese frosting. All to say: You’ve got options.