Ina Garten’s ‘Better for You’ Sweet Potato Fries Have 1 ‘Unusual Step That Really Makes a Difference,’ According to the Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten’s Sweet Potato “Fries” are a relatively quick and easy Barefoot Contessa side dish. However, they do require what the celebrity chef calls an “unusual step.”

Ina Garten’s Sweet Potato ‘Fries’ are baked

Ina Garten smiles and looks on as she holds a microphone
Ina Garten | Brad Barket/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Unlike traditional French fries Garten’s Sweet Potato “Fries” are baked hence the name. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have a salty, crunchy bite to them. 

“These potatoes are crispy like fries but they’re better for you because they’re baked,” Garten wrote in her Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Back to Basics

Although they can be made any time of the year Garten recommends fall and winter for the best sweet potatoes. 

“Sweet potatoes are available year-round, but their prime season is really autumn and winter,” she said. Look for “potatoes that are smooth and unblemished.” Additionally, don’t let them sit around. “Use them fairly soon because they don’t keep as well as other potatoes,” Garten explained.

The Barefoot Contessa sprinkles sweet potatoes with a brown sugar mixture

Ina Garten stirs with a wooden spoon wearing a blue button-down shirt wearing a
Ina Garten | Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

Like many of her Barefoot Contessa cooking tips and tricks, this one isn’t complicated. For her “new take on classic fries,” Garten adds a little sweetness to the potatoes with what she calls an unexpected addition. 

“Here’s an unusual step that really makes a difference,” she said on Barefoot Contessa. So what’s the “unusual step”? It doesn’t have to do with an unexpected ingredient but rather a few pantry ingredients — brown sugar, salt, and pepper — she mixes together. 

Garten combines brown sugar in a bowl with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then she pours it over potatoes before they go in the oven.  

How to make Ina Garten’s Sweet Potato ‘Fries’

Garten’s Sweet Potato “Fries” are, unsurprisingly, simple to make. The longtime Barefoot Contessa host uses only five ingredients, many of which are pantry staples, such as “good” olive oil and kosher salt.

Per Garten’s Food Network recipe instructions, her Sweet Potato “Fries” are considered easy to make. They require five minutes for prep and another 25 for baking which means they clock in at a 30-minute dish.

So how are Garten’s Sweet Potato “Fries” made? To start, Garten cranks the oven up to a high temperature, 450 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Next, she peels two sweet potatoes, which will yield an estimated four servings, according to Food Network. Then, as she explained on Barefoot Contessa, Garten cuts the potatoes into long spears by halving them lengthwise then cutting the halves in thirds. 

Then she arranges the potatoes on a sheet pan, her most-used kitchen tool that comes up again and again in Barefoot Contessa recipes, and drizzles them with olive oil.

Now for step Garten calls “unusual.” She combines light brown sugar in a bowl with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkles it over the potatoes. 

Finally, she puts the Sweet Potato “Fries” in the oven for 25 minutes being sure to turn them at the 15-minute mark. Once they’re lightly browned Garten removes them from the oven, sprinkles them lightly with salt, and serves them hot. 

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