Discovering Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in Hawaii + 2 Tasty and Easy Recipes

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Here’s a fun and delicious ingredient that you might not have encountered before, Okinawan Sweet Potatoes, AKA Hawaiian purple potatoes, or purple sweet potatoes. They are known for their distinct purple color and unique sweet yet earthy taste, and I think they are way better than a regular sweet potato.

I discovered this culinary delight on my recent trip to Hawaii and have been hooked ever since. Because it was so delicious in all of the forms I tried, I had to experiment with this ingredient once I got home and I decided to make something from it for Thanksgiving.

First things first, here’s how they use the potato in Hawaii:

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In a purple potato mash at a touristy restaurant on Waikiki Beach, Tiki’s. I believe they made these with butter, milk, salt, and pepper. It was served it with Laulau Pork (the kind you get at a Luau). This was my introduction to the product and it was delicious.

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Okinawan Sweet Potatoes deep fried and salted in chip form (shout out to my brother’s stunt hand for holding and my dad for providing the background) – we ate 2 very large baskets of this, and I had this dish a couple more times on the trip. Possibly the best chips I have ever had, and the flavor is all natural.

If you are wondering if these potatoes are the same as taro (because they are purple too), the answer is an astounding NO. These are way better! Okinawan Sweet Potatoes are more flavorful, deeper in color, and not nearly as tough.

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So where do you find Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in Austin? Whole Foods doesn’t have them and HEB certainly doesn’t carry them. After some searching and making calls, I managed to find them at the MT Supermarket in Chinatown for $1.99, the Hong Kong Supermarket for $2.29 a pound, and at Central Market North for $2.99 a pound. I heard a rumor that most Korean markets carry them, but I didn’t actually investigate. The potatoes at Central Market seemed a bit easier to peel because I think they hand pick the longer, more slender ones from the crop, which lend themselves to quicker peeling.

I have been making mashed potatoes for the last couple of years for Thanksgiving, so when I got home, I searched the internet for a good Okinawan sweet potato mash recipe. The first one I tried was Sony’s Okinawa Sweet Potato Recipe – I don’t know how I felt about the mixing of garlic with the sweet coconut milk in that dish, but when I added Massaman Curry on top of the dish to give it a little kick, it tasted like heaven.

The second time around, I adapted the above recipe for Thanksgiving. I wanted to take advantage of the Potato’s natural sweetness, and I wanted to make the dish more of a dessert, so I used a whole can of coconut milk this time and added a lot of cinnamon powder. The dish was a big hit at Thanksgiving, and it was so easy to make. Also, it is good either hot or cold and the purple color of the dish really makes it stand out.

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Without any further ado, here is the very simple recipe for Peter’s Purple Potatoes.

Peter’s Purple Potatoes

Ingredients List – Serves 12? people

  • 3lb Okinawan Sweet Potatoes AKA Hawaiian Purple Potatoes
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • cinnamon powder

Preparation steps

  1. Peel your Okinawan Sweet Potatoes
  2. Vhop the peeled potatoes into 1 inch cubes
  3. Boil potatoes for 30 minutes or pressure cook for 6 minutes until soft. Drain the water (it will turn green or purple)
  4. Mash the purple potatoes while adding in coconut milk
  5. Continue to mash and add cinnamon powder liberally
  6. Add sea salt to taste if desired

Happy Tasting!

10 thoughts on “Discovering Okinawan Sweet Potatoes in Hawaii + 2 Tasty and Easy Recipes”

  1. This blog entry was AWESOME. So well written. I’m going to try finding some purple potatoes here in Cali. And make YOUR recipe!!

  2. Nice to see Okinawa Sweet Potato in this blog entry! I like it and this tastes not as like normal sweet potato. I also found it at Central Market (it is a little bit expensive…)but did not know it is also available in Hong Kong Market. I did not find it at Korean Market, but I saw japanese sweet potato and it is also savory 🙂 Anyway, I like this blog!! It is nice to know about food in Austin!

  3. @James – I only know where to buy it in Austin – It should be at the local Chinese grocery store wherever you are though. 2 of them carry it here.

  4. you can buy them online from Hawaii very reasonably ( ) I just got mine. I ordered the Fingerlings and boy did I get a giant box. They only ship once a month so if you want them do not wait too long. Mahalo Leilani

  5. Great article. If you are on the Big island, please stop by and try our Hawaii Island Sweet Potato Chips. We are the first chip company in Hawaii and have been making chips since 1936! Thank you again for the great article.

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