Do Sweet Potatoes Go Bad?

It’s easy to buy that five-pound bag of sweet potatoes, and then realize that it’s going to take far more than a few meals to go through them all. And of course, everyone forgets about that bag soon enough.

That begs the question like “do sweet potatoes go bad?”, or “how long do sweet potatoes last?”.

Fortunately enough, we got you covered. In this article, we go through storage methods, shelf life, signs of spoilage and even freezing sweet potatoes. If you are interested in any of these topics, read on.

Sweet Potatoes
Image used under Creative Commons from NatalieMaynor

How To Store Sweet Potatoes

You should store fresh raw sweet potatoes in a cool and dark place, preferably in the pantry.

Sweet potatoes don’t do well in either cold or hot temperatures. Cold makes them hard inside and may alter the taste a bit. Hot temperature causes tiny holes inside the sweet potatoes to form. Some people call such potatoes spongy, but the proper term to use is pithy.

While pithy sweet potatoes are safe to eat, their quality, and therefore taste, is inferior. The sweet spot for storing sweet potatoes is a few degrees below room temperature.

If you want to cut your sweet potatoes beforehand so they are ready to be cooked once you’re back from work, you can do that.

After cutting the potatoes transfer them into an airtight container filled with water and put into the veggie drawer in your fridge. The veggies should be fine there for a few days, but it’s best to use them within 24 hours.

Alternatively, you can wrap the vegetables in kitchen paper or aluminum foil, and then transfer into the fridge.

Sweet potatoes on farmer's market
(credit: Juno Jo)

After you have cooked the sweet potatoes, you should store them in the refrigerator. Give them some time (like 20 – 30 minutes) to cool off before chucking them into the fridge.

Store them in either shallow airtight containers or freezer bags. The same thing goes for baked sweet potatoes – they have to be refrigerated.

Can You Freeze Sweet Potatoes?

Another storage option for sweet potatoes is freezing.

While you can freeze raw sweet potatoes, you get better results by freezing cooked ones. Plus they are already cooked, so you can defrost and reheat them, and they’re ready to go.

Here’s one of the methods of freezing sweet potatoes:

  1. Cook, bake or steam sweet potatoes. It’s up to you if you cut them or leave whole.
  2. Divide the veggies into meal-size portions. It’s much easier to do when they’re cut into strips/fries.
  3. Let the sweet potatoes cool down to room temperature. 30 – 40 minutes should be enough, less if you’ve cut them.
  4. Transfer the veggies into freezer bags. Label the bags with name and date if needed.
  5. Put the bags into the freezer.

While sweet potatoes can be frozen indefinitely, it’s best to eat them within a month due to quality reasons.

When it comes to defrosting and reheating frozen sweet potatoes, there are a few options:

  • Microwave. You can use the microwave to both defrost and reheat the potatoes.
  • Non-stick pan. Put in on low for a few minutes to defrost and then slightly higher to reheat.
  • If you’re using these in a soup, you can throw them in frozen. Add a few minutes of cooking time to account for the frozen veggies.
  • Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat with the rest of the veggies.
Baked cinnamon sweet potato slices
(credit: Ella Olsson)

How Long Do Sweet Potatoes Last?

Fresh raw sweet potatoes last about two weeks in the pantry. If the temperature is lower than room temperature, they can last even up to a month.

When it comes to cut sweet potatoes, they probably can last even a week or so in the fridge if stored properly. Nevertheless, for quality reasons, I suggest using these within a day or two.

Last but not least, cooked sweet potatoes. These can last about 3 to 5 days in the fridge. If you need to store them for longer, transfer them into the freezer and make sure you wrap them properly.

Precisely the same rules apply to prepared dishes with sweet potatoes like casseroles.

 PantryFridgeFreezer
Fresh sweet potatoes2 – 3 weeks  
Cooked sweet potatoes 3 – 6 days1 month+
Sweet potato fries
(credit: Louis Hansel)

How To Tell If Sweet Potatoes Are Bad?

Like all root vegetables, sweet potatoes will spoil after a period of time.

Growths from the “eyes” of the sweet potato are the first sign that the quality is beginning to deteriorate. It is not a sign of spoilage, and the sweet potato still edible at this point.

Tip

If you notice sprouts on your sweet potato, just cut off the growths and cook as soon as possible.

Hole in sweet potato
Old sweet potatoes tend to develop holes

Similarly, small brown or black spots on your sweet potato do not necessarily indicate that it has spoiled. You can remove the spots, and cook and enjoy the rest of the sweet potato.

The exception is mold spots; if a sweet potato has begun to mold, throw it away.

Rotten sweet potato beneath skin
Sweet potato: rotten beneath the skin after long storage

When it comes to pithy sweet potatoes, as long as the inside of the potato has only a few holes here and there, it should be perfectly safe to eat. If the holes are all over the place, throw it away to be safe. That sweet potato probably isn’t spoiled, but it will taste bad, so there’s no point in cooking it.

Shriveled sweet potato
Shriveled sweet potato

As sweet potatoes begin to spoil, they will shrivel (like the one on the photo above) as they lose moisture. The veggie will then become mushy and turn brown or black. Do not eat sweet potatoes once they have begun to shrivel, and certainly not past this point.

Last but not least, if you notice that there is anything wrong with the sweet potato that wasn’t described above, get rid of it. Better safe than sorry.