Elements of Food, Elements of Home

Sweet Potato Soup…and a little lesson on potatoes.

Fall is one of my most favorite times of the year. There is nothing that I love more than all the wonderful dishes that I only make during these months. Some of my favorite things to make are soups. The options are endless, they are (usually) good for you, filling and easy. I came across a recipe for sweet potato soup and I decided to give it a try. I went to the store to pick up my ingredients including 4 large sweet potatoes. Lund’s had a whole bin of sweet potatoes right by the yams and russets. Yes, they were actually labeled, sweet potatoes. I took them home and started peeling them. They were white. The picture on my recipe had a vibrant orange colored soup…was I missing something? Did they actually mean yams? I asked my mother about this and it turns out, that sweet potatoes are quite different than a yam, and most grocery stores do not distinguish the two. People use the term interchangeably, even though they are different veggies.  Lunds, being a gourmet grocer, does in fact separate the various types of potatoes. A lot of times, yams are labeled sweet potatoes in error. Here’s the short and sweet version of the differences.

True sweet potatoes are actually the root of a vine in the morning glory family. Current sweet potato varieties include: Goldrush, Georgia Red, Centennial, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and Velvet.  They can range in color from pale yellow almost white, to deep orange. Sweet potatoes are unrelated to true potatoes. I used the New Jersey variety in my soup tonight.

A true yam is the tuber of a tropical vine and is not even related to the sweet potato. It is however, generally sweeter than a sweet potato. They have a higher sugar content and a higher moisture level and is always bright orange. Most likely, everything you see in the grocery store is a version of sweet potato. My grocery happens to carry the pale yellow New Jersey variety.

I was a little worried my soup was going to turn out absolutely terrible. However, it actually turned out better than I could have imagined. I think I probably would not have liked it as well if I had used a yam in place of a sweet potato. I think using yams would have been too sweet…too heavy and too pumpkin pie-ish. So for this recipe, use New Jersey Sweet Potatoes…your recipes may not look like the vibrant orange (depending on the variety of sweet potato) but the taste will be amazing.

Oh…and get an immersion blender. It will be your best friend for this recipe and may other culinary adventures. It will prevent soup from exploding all over your kitchen walls and ceiling by putting hot soup in a traditional blender. Trust me.

  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 2 leeks, halved, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 large New Jersey sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed in 2 inch pieces
  • 8 cups of low sodium chicken broth (always better to add your own salt if you want it)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Toasted pecans for garnish (optional)



  • In a large heavy bottomed stock pot, melt the butter and saute the leeks and celery for 5 minutes until leeks are translucent.
  • Add the sweet potatoes and broth and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to medium/low and simmer the sweet potatoes until they are tender (about 30 minutes)
  • Using a blender* (or the immersion blender I told you to get…) puree the soup until it’s completely smooth and creamy. This soup is so smooth…you will think there is cream or milk added, but there isn’t. The starch in the potatoes creates a velvety textured soup.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

*If you choose to use a traditional blender, puree the soup in batches. And by batches I mean do not fill the blender more than 1/2 full or the above mentioned will happen.

Garnish with the toasted pecans if desired.

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