This Okinawan Sweet Potato recipe will wow anyone who tries it. Okinawan purple sweet potatoes are unique and delicious, with a honey-like sweet flavor. This makes for a fun side dish that's excellent with almost anything.
These mashed purple sweet potatoes are stunning, and they're rich, creamy and delicious!
What is an Okinawan Sweet Potato?
- Also known as Hawaiian Sweet Potatoes or Hawaiian Purple Sweet Potatoes, these unique potatoes are magenta-purple on the inside, and a creamy beige on the outside.
- It's believed that these potatoes were brought to the Philippines and China in the 1490s from the Aztecs of South America with the Spaniards.
- They are thought to have reached Japan in the 1600s, where they were planted in Okinawa—the southern island of Japan—before they were cultivated throughout Japan.
- Later the purple potatoes found their way to Hawaii where they're now a staple and part of their native menu.
- As they cook, the purple color of the Okinawan sweet potato becomes deeper and more intense.
- Not only are these beautiful and incredibly delicious -- they're also full of nutrients. These purple sweet potatoes are prized for their high level of antioxidants, and are said to have 150 percent more antioxidants than blueberries.
The outer skin is beige, not unlike many other potatoes, including russets.
What do they taste like?
They flavor of an Okinawan sweet potato (Hawaiian Sweet Potato) is mildly sweet with notes of honey.
Slightly more dense than other potatoes, when mashed with a couple added ingredients, the result is super rich and creamy.
The inside is a magenta-purplish color with streaks of white -- unlike any other potato.
How to Cook Okinawan Sweet Potato
Like other potatoes, these purple tubers can be steamed, sautéed, roasted, baked and mashed.
I love them mashed because I think they make for an incredibly beautiful and vibrant side dish.
Where to Find Them
You should be able to find them in most Asian markets, and often in larger grocery stores. (They almost always have them at Mitsuwa Marketplace, which has locations in southern and northern CA, TX, IL, and NJ.) You can also order them here.
They are usually available year round.
Even the peels are pretty!
Ingredients for Mashed Purple Sweet Potatoes
- Okinawan Sweet Potatoes
- unsalted butter
- half and half
- unsalted butter
Recipe Tips and Substitutions
- To make the mashed potatoes even more rich and creamy, use heavy cream instead of the half and half.
- If you'd like to make a vegan version, substitute the butter and the half and half with about ½ cup of Cashew Cream or a creamy coconut milk.
- You can mash the potatoes as much or as little as you'd like. I leave a few small chunks, but make them pretty smooth.
Here are the Hawaiian purple sweet potatoes in water. On the left they're raw and about to be cooked, and on the right, they've just finished simmering for about 15 minutes and are completely cooked.
Look at how the Okinawan potatoes change from magenta when they're raw, to a deep purple color when they're cooked.
That's one of the things that makes these purple potatoes different from others -- most lose their purple color and become dull and/or dark, while these only become more vibrant.
I hope you love this recipe!
More purple potato recipes:
Mashed Okinawan Sweet Potatoes
- 1½ pounds Okinawan sweet potatoes
- 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup half and half
- 1¼ teaspoons sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Cut and add the potatoes to a pot of water. Fill a medium-sized stock pot with cold water. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks (approximately 2 to 3 inch chunks). Add them to the pot with the water as you go.
- Cook the potatoes. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender (they should easily slide off fork prongs), about 15 minutes.
- Strain and mash. Strain the potatoes and place them in a medium to large mixing bowl. Use a large fork or potato masher to mash them. (They can be as smooth or as chunky as you'd like.)
- Add the remaining ingredients and serve. Add the butter as soon as possible so that it melts into the hot potatoes. Then add the half and half, salt and pepper, and mix only until everything is incorporated. Serve!
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Looks good to me! I mean . . . really, really good! Beautiful! 🙂
We loved these when we lived in Okinawa. But where to find them in SC????
I would LOVE to know.
Most Asian markets should have them -- and I've heard the SM Farmers Market on Wednesdays has them. Otherwise you can order them here. Wish I could have them in Japan, too! 😉
We live in Honolulu and my wife grows Okinawan sweet potatoes in her garden. She planted them last summer and we watered them for a while. Then it looked like nothing was happening. We've had a wet spring and early summer this year, however. So a few days ago she went out to the potato patch and what did she find? A couple of dozen Okinawan sweet potatoes, some as big as a small football. Last night she fried up the potato greens Vietnamese style - very tasty. Now we're going to try your recipe. But in Hawaii, we usually use coconut milk instead of half-&-half. Works well if you have a coconut tree in your yard or your neighbor will give you some of theirs. Or you could always go to the store, but that's always "last resort" if you live in The Islands.
I love it! I bet it would be delicious with the coconut milk. (Wishing I had a coconut tree!) And cooking the greens sounds wonderful. I was in Hawaii just a few weeks ago, on the Big Island -- it was amazing and I ate the best Mahi Mahi of all time. I'll be writing about everything I ate on the trip soon. Thanks for visiting my site and trying the recipe. Hope you enjoy!
We've been growing Molokai purple sweet potatoes, this is the third year. At first, I couldn't find any recipes, and had a hard time finding a way to cook them that didn't leave them hard and dry. But I've finally found a few ways, and definitely want to try this recipe, thanks so much. Do you think the Molokais would be fairly similar to the Okinawans?
Hi Kathrynne, Thanks so much for writing in. I think in the case of this recipe, the Molokiais will work just as well.I haven't worked with them, so I'm not exactly sure of specific differences. I'm going to ask my contact at Melissa's Produce and get back to you with his response. So fabulous that you grow your own Molokais! I love it. ~Valentina
Hello again Kathrynne! I'm reporting back after talking with my produce contact. I was able to get samples of each type and tested them with this recipe. It was fun! The results: The Molokais were in fact quite similar to the Okinawans. The Okinawans were a touch sweeter and smoother with a slightly creamier texture.The Molokais were a cooked into a darker purple than the Okinawans. The both absorbed the cream and the butter in the same way. Both delicious! Hope this helps and enjoy! ~Valentina
I adore purple sweet potato...creamy, beautiful and healthful!
Me too! Thanks, Angie. 🙂 ~Valentina
Wow! I can definitely say I’ve never seen these potatoes! Purple is my favorite color, so I need to find these! I’d rather have these mashed potatoes than a birthday cake!
I love purple too, Mimi. Such a beautiful and happy color -- and can be calming too. 🙂 I wish I'd rather have potatoes than cake. Much healthier. ~Valentina
I find it wonderful if a blog visit leads to research and a learning experience. I remembered having eaten purple sweet potatoes in Hawaii but do not recall ever seeing them at my local supermarkets. Well, after a few clicks I have found that common they are not but the on-line market I intend to use this year and occasionally a few others at times seem to supply ! Love the look of them for a change and have them already on my next list !!! As I rarely use any form of cream shall 'play around' with coconut milk or other alike products probably but am looking forwards to the experience . . .
Hi Eha! I love that you've had these in Hawaii, where they're a staple. Hopefully you'll come across them one day where you are. The really are so tasty with the coconut milk, too. I think you'll love it. I hope you enjoy and thank you! 🙂 ~Valentina
Purple sweet potatoes are out absolute favorite. SO sweet! But the kind we buy must be a lightly different variety as they have purple skin and flesh. I'll be on the lookout for these!
Thanks, Marissa. There's a Molokai sweet potato -- also Hawaiian, that has purple skin. Maybe that's what you've had. Also delicious! 🙂 ~Valentina
David Scott Allen
My favorite thing about these sweet potatoes is that they keep their color when they are cooked. One time, when we did a theme dinner, based around the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral, One of my side dishes was a double mash of the sweet potatoes and regular orange sweet potatoes side by side in a yin and yang pattern . If you know the movie, Gareth says to Scarlett, “Scarlotta! Fabulous dress. The ecclesiastical purple and the pagan orange symbolizing the mystical symbiosis in marriage between the heathen and Christian traditions?” These potatoes were such a hit — the flavor is amazing!
David, that's SO creative -- love what you did with the "double mash." I bet it was incredibly beautiful (and tasty). I loved that movie, and it must have been such a fun movie to cook around. Love the whole thing. 🙂 ~Valentina
Definitely have to find these ! Looks beautiful !
Enjoy, Davorka! Thank you. 🙂 ~Valentina
Jeff the Chef @ Make It Like a Man!
Purple potatoes! I think they would look so great On Easter Sunday.
Thanks, Jeff. Oh yes, so pretty for Easter -- and they would be fantastic with lamb. (Should it happen to be on the menu.) Enjoy! 🙂 ~Valentina
Karen (Back Road Journal)
You are right, they do make an incredibly beautiful side dish. If I could find them, I would build an entire meal around them.
Thanks so much, Karen. Hope you see them in your stores soon. 🙂 ~Valentina
Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop
The color is stunning! I love how they change color when cooked. I will need to keep my eyes open at our market to see if I can find some of these amazing sweet potatoes!
I hope you see them, Kathy. Enjoy and thanks so much! 🙂 ~Valentina
Just discovered these gems at the local Asian market in Cherry Hill, NJ
The only problem I have is, do I eat them with the regular meal or do I eat them as a dessert. I consider them a delicacy.
What a great find.
Hi Ted. So happy you found the Okinawan sweet potatoes. I just love their beautiful color. They could certainly make for a unique dessert. Enjoy them with and after the a meal! 🙂 ~Valentina