Guide to Hawaiian sweet potato – why you should eat it and delicious recipes

Guide to Hawaiian sweet potato, delicious recipes and health benefits

Hawaiian sweet potatoes are fantastic to put into your diet and so tasty, healthy and filled with so many vitamins and minerals. Popular to eat around the islands, you can easily find sweet purple potatoes or more common Okinawan sweet potatoes at farmers markets, specialty food stores, roadside stands and even grocery stores around the islands. Used as a supplement and typical side dish, this nutritious food is used for both savory and sweet dishes around the islands and worth finding on the menu or making your own dish with the recipe samples below that are easy to follow and make.

HIstory of Hawaiian sweet purple potato

Hawaiian sweet potato or Uala or Uwala in Hawaiian is one of the essential canoe plants that were brought from the various Polynesian islands to Hawaii. The sweet potato were important canoe plants the early settlers to brought with them to Hawaii to grow and harvest quickly and supplement their meals with nutritious food to feed the settlers. Sweet Hawaiian potatoes were a large part of their daily diet on the islands, unfortunately the original sweet potato plants are not grown commercially anymore on the islands on a large scare. This has been replaced with the more popular to grow Okinawan sweet potato variety which is typically grown and sold all around the islands.

Guide to Hawaiian sweet potato, delicious recipes and health benefits

Purple sweet potato is also called a variety of other names

Hawaiian sweet potato

Okinawan sweet potato

Purple yam


Purple sweet potato is also called a variety of other names

What is purple sweet potato?

Prized for its purple flesh, this potato is typically white skin colored with the beautiful purple colored flesh unlike the sweet red potato with white flesh. The purple sweet is just slightly sweeter tasting but much dryer and starchier which requires more time to cook. The typical sweet purple potato in Hawaii is called Okinawan sweet potato that is cultivated in Japan and eventually made it to the islands. There is another unique Molokai sweet potato that is cultivated specifically in Molokai and developed in 1978 with purple skin.

Interesting fact: Hawaiian Sweet Potato is not part of the potato family. It is part of the morning glory family.

What is purple sweet potato?

What are the health benefits to eating purple sweet potato

High in fibre and antioxidants and also considered a superfood, purple sweet potato contains beta -carotene, vitamin C and potassium, anthocyain with dementia reducing antioxidants, anti-aging agents, maintaining brain health and reduces heart disease.

The skin is also full of nutrients and vitamins and is also edible. Anthocyain is what makes the sweet potato is famous purple color.

Here’s some more benefits to eating purple sweet potato

What is purple sweet potato?

Grow your own Hawaiian sweet potato

Growing Hawaiian sweet potato is relatively easy and carefree once you have the area and soil conditions set up which requires full sun and well drained soil. You can easily just buy a sweet potato at the local market and cut them up into two to three inch sections and place them in a cool area to sprout on their own and eventually plant them in the ground and spaced out in the garden. Although you can plant year round, spring is usually the best time when the winter rains have subsided. It takes about 4 to 6 months for the tubers to grow into a sizeable shape to harvest. You can tell when harvesting is ideal when the vines start to turn yellow and you can dig up the tubers.

Grow your own Hawaiian sweet potato

Grow these easy purple sweet potato below

How to cook with Hawaiian sweet potato

Purple sweet potatoes can be cooked in the same fashion as yams and white potatoes but it takes a little longer to cook because of the dry flesh. You can steam, boil, roast and then mash, saute or create into casserole dishes as a main ingredient.

How to cook with Purple sweet potato

Mashed Hawaiian sweet potato

Bring a pot of water to boil with the sweet potato until soft and take out of the water and mash together like a regular potato

Steam Hawaiian sweet potato

A popular method to steam the potato with the skin on for a bout half an hour until the flesh is easy to poke and soft. You can eat the potato hot and fresh or used as an ingredient

Roasting Hawaiian sweet potato

Coat the skin with some olive oil and salt and roast for about 45 minutes and split open and eat or use as an ingredient.

Delicious recipes to try with your purple sweet potato

Delicious recipes to try with your Hawaiian sweet potato

You definitely can steam, boil or roast your sweet potato easily and serve but if you want to take it up a notch and create some sensational foods using sweet potatoes, why not try these recipes.

Check out these fabulous and easy to follow recipes below with the key ingredient using sweet potatoes.

Purple Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Hawaiian Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Manju Recipe

Hawaiian Sweet Potato Mochi

Okinawan Sweet Potato Haupia Pie

Hawaiian Sweet Potato Pudding

More inside tips on the Hawaiian Sweet potato

Hawaiian sweet potatoes, known locally as “uala,” are a delicious and nutritious staple in Hawaiian cuisine. Here are some inside tips on Hawaiian sweet potatoes:

1. Two Main Varieties: Hawaii primarily grows two types of sweet potatoes: Okinawan sweet potatoes (purple-fleshed) and Molokai sweet potatoes (orange-fleshed). Each has its unique flavor and culinary uses.

2. Nutrient-Rich: Hawaiian sweet potatoes are not only tasty but also packed with nutrients. They are a good source of vitamins, especially vitamin A and vitamin C, and provide dietary fiber and antioxidants.

3. Culinary Versatility: Hawaiian sweet potatoes can be used in various culinary applications. They can be roasted, mashed, boiled, or even turned into sweet potato pie or haupia (a traditional Hawaiian dessert).

4. Purple vs. Orange: Okinawan sweet potatoes have a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and are often used in both savory and sweet dishes. Molokai sweet potatoes have a sweeter taste, making them great for desserts.

5. Local Dishes: Hawaiian sweet potatoes are featured in several traditional Hawaiian dishes, such as “poi” (a mashed and fermented taro and sweet potato dish) and “lau lau” (pork wrapped in taro or sweet potato leaves).

6. Farmers’ Markets: For the freshest Hawaiian sweet potatoes, visit local farmers’ markets. You can find both varieties and chat with local farmers to learn more about their cultivation.

7. Storage: Store Hawaiian sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place (not in the refrigerator). They can last for several weeks if stored properly.

8. Health Benefits: Sweet potatoes, in general, are known for their health benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, making them a nutritious addition to your diet.

9. Unique Dishes: Try some unique Hawaiian dishes like “sweet potato and marshmallow casserole” or “sweet potato pancakes” to savor the flavors of Hawaiian sweet potatoes in a different way.

10. Cultural Significance: Hawaiian sweet potatoes have cultural significance in Hawaiian history and traditional ceremonies. Learning about their importance can add depth to your appreciation of Hawaiian culture.

11. Sweet Potato Haupia Pie: Don’t leave Hawaii without trying a slice of sweet potato haupia pie. It’s a delightful dessert that combines the sweetness of sweet potatoes with the creaminess of coconut haupia.

Whether you’re exploring Hawaiian cuisine, shopping at local markets, or simply looking to enjoy the unique flavors of Hawaii, Hawaiian sweet potatoes are a must-try delicacy that offers both cultural richness and nutritional benefits.

Check out these other Hawaii Inspired foods and recipes

Breadfruit in Hawaii

Try these traditional Hawaiian foods

Popular tropical fruits from Hawaii

Avocado season in Hawaii

Ripe pineapples in Hawaii

Hawaiian breakfast favorites on the islands

Conclusion on Hawaiian sweet potato

If you found some other delicious sweet potato recipes to try from this post, please share your experiences in the comments below for everyone to enjoy. Or even if you have any questions about visiting, I would be more than happy to answer them below.

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  1. LeeLee

    Hi , Can I buy some Okinawan sweet potatoes ( those can be grown ) from you to ship to me at Singapore to grow for my little space ?

    Please help . I have been trying to get some of these to grow .

    I need about 4LB to 6LB – Can you give me a price include shipping to Singapore please ?

    • Sharon

      Same here, I’ve been trying to get some here in Alabama but haven’t found a source yet.

  2. Sean

    How do you store Okinawan sweet potatoes until next year? Long term storage ideas please.

    • emorata

      In a paper bag or cardboard box in a cool dry place

  3. Joy

    Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • emorata

      Thanks for visiting and hope you enjoyed the post on Hawaiian sweet potato and found some of the recipes worthwhile



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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.