Baked Japanese sweet potatoes are the best sweet potato you’ll ever eat: nutrious, creamy, and sweet.
What is yaki imo?
Yaki imo is a baked Japanese sweet potato! Yaki imo translates to baked (or roasted) potato. Most people in Japan, when they’re referring to yaki imo, they’re talking about Satsuma imo, which are Japanese sweet potatoes, named after the Satsuma region on Kyushu island. Satsuma imo have dusty pinkish-purple skin and pale cream insides. When they’re roasted, the insides turn a beautiful golden yellow. They’re quite a bit smaller than your usual orange sweet potatoes. If you’ve seen the sweet potato emoji, you know exactly what a satsuma imo looks like: 🍠 . They’re super sweet and delicious, incredible and satisfying.
What is the best way to cook a Japanese sweet potato?
Baking! It’s the absolute best way: the subtle sweet and toasty aroma that will fill your house is absolutely irresistible.
Types of sweet potatoes
In Japan, there are hundreds of varieties of Satsuma imo, each with different sweetness levels, textures, and skins. Here in North America, the sweet potatoes we usually see are orange skinned sweet potatoes. Orange sweet potatoes are completely different, both in looks, taste, and texture. Japanese sweet potatoes start out their lives with pale creamy insides that turns golden after being cooked. They’re also a lot starchier, fluffier, and a bit more dry than orange sweet potatoes. When you bake them, their incredible sweetness caramelizes and condenses into a slightly, sweet, soft texture.
Where to buy Japanese sweet potatoes
They sell Japanese variety sweet potatoes at Asian grocery stores, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and farmer’s markets. Sometimes speciality stores will actually import in potatoes that have been grown in Japan, but usually what you’ll find are the Japanese variety of sweet potato that’s been grown in North America. If you have the chance and see imported Japanese sweet potatoes that have been grown in Kagoshima, please get them!
I just did a side by side taste test and they are SO MUCH BETTER. Creamier, softer, sweeter, and more custard-y. I found imported Kagoshima Honey Potato Beniharuka and they were amazing. They were labeled as small and were very slender. I would have preferred the medium size, but even having access to Japanese grown potatoes is amazing so I’m not complaining!
Pro tip: If you live near an Asian grocery store such as H-Mart or a Japanese grocery store, they may sell yaki imo. They keep roasted sweet potatoes in brown bags in a heated box and sell them as snacks. If you don’t have time to roast your own, you can grab some ready to go.
How to choose good sweet potatoes
Choose firm, smooth skinned potatoes that are dense and not too big. The smaller potatoes are sweeter and have the bonus of not taking as long to bake!
How to store
Keep your raw sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, dark space for up to 4 weeks.
How to bake Japanese sweet potatoes
Making yaki imo at home is incredibly easy: simply bake and allow the starch in the potatoes to break down and caramelize, becoming soft and sweet.
Start off by scrubbing and drying your sweet potatoes. If desired, use a fork to lightly poke a couple of holes in the potatoes.
Place them on a wire rack and bake in the oven, naked and without foil, until the skins are crisp and the insides are very tender and soft.
Baking at different temperatures will give you different potato textures.
325°F. Bake for 1-1.5 hours depending on size for a super sweet fluffy cake-like texture.
375°F. Bake for 1-1.15 hours depending on size for a super sweet tender custard inside and crisp caramelized outside.
I personally like baking at 375° which makes the outsides super crisp and caramelized with a very tender, very sweet, buttery dessert, custard-like texture.
Stove top yaki imo
If you don’t have an oven, you can also make yaki imo on the stove top.
Place the sweet potatoes in a cast iron pan and cover the potatoes and cook over low, turning every 20 minutes until they’re soft and cooked through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Nutritional information and health benefits
Japanese sweet potatoes are super healthy complex carbs. They’ll fuel you with energy and keep you full because they’re high in dietary fiber. They’re also rich in Vitamin A, C, and B6. Because they’re so satisfying, they make a great snack, side, or main.
How to eat yaki imo
Just like that! Enjoy them warm out of the oven after they’ve rested a bit. You can hold them, peel the skin, and eat them, or you can eat the skins too. Sometimes I like to use a spoon to scoop out the insides then eat the crispy skin at the end when I’m done scooping out the creamy middles. Seriously SO GOOD.
How to store cooked roasted sweet potatoes
If you have any extra yaki imo left over, wrap them up and place them in air tight container in the fridge. You can enjoy them straight from the fridge or reheat them in the microwave for a warm potato.
I love yaki imo so much. We’ve even been to Kagoshima, where satsuma imo are from to enjoy super local sweet potatoes. I love them so much that I have a favorite yaki imo shop in Ginza. It’s called Tsubo Yaki-imo. They sell Japanese sweet potatoes that roast in traditional pots. They are absolutely amazing. Lots of people buy them for omiyage and their imo is one of the things I miss most about Japan. If you love Japanese sweet potatoes and are ever in Tokyo, please go! Until travel opens again, I hope you find some Japanese sweet potatoes and roast them at home. You’ll love them, trust me!
The Best Yaki Imo Recipe
The best sweet potato you’ll ever eat: nutrious, creamy, and sweet.
The Best Yaki Imo Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 103 Calories from Fat 2
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 0.01g0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.