Inside Out Sweet Potatoes

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Inside Out Sweet Potatoes

By Martha Foose

I’m a Mississippi native. Like most southerners, when I think of favorite fall flavors sweet potatoes come to mind. Although some folks find it a little déclassé, I absolutely adore sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. I simply can not help myself.

While I was working on my first cookbook, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook, I knew I had to have a rendition of that autumn classic. Flavoring deep orange sweet potatoes with dark brown sugar, cinnamon and a few grates of freshly ground nutmeg is just the right thing to do for the season. Add a pinch of cloves and a nip of Bourbon and you’ve brought some of the finest friends a sweet potato ever had together.  The only problem I saw with the classic casserole was marshmallow allocation.

Although thrilled as I was to be allowed to move up to the “grown-ups’ table” at holiday get-togethers, there was no guarantee marshmallow would be involved with dinner like there was at the “kid’s table”.  And if you were at the end of the buffet line or sat beside the wrong cousin there might not even be any marshmallows on top by the time you got there! This distribution problem was easily solved by enrobing a marshmallow for each guest with creamy, spiced sweet potatoes and crunchy crumb coating. My little first grader, Joseph, is quite a hand in preparing these and he loves being in on the secret that a marshmallow is waiting warmly inside each one.
In the spirit of Paula, I figured if I was going to take it that far I might as well fry the thing too! This can be kind of a production if making them for a large crowd though. Last Fall I made miniature versions of these yummy balls for a swanky food and wine gala by lining them up on cookie sheets and spritzing them with a little oil then baking for 25 minutes at 325ºF.  A crowd that might have turned up their noses at our beloved southern casserole ate them up and raved. For those who frown on marshmallow topped sweet potato casserole, well, they can just go sit at the grown-ups table.

Inside-Out Sweet Potatoes

Irresistible to children once they find out there is a marshmallow inside, and a guilty pleasure for adults once they become privy to the same secret.
Serves 8
1 cup crushed cornflakes
1 large egg
6 sweet potatoes, baked and mashed (see Notes)
4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1⁄3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon unbleached
all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 tablespoon sherry, Bourbon, or vanilla extract
8 large marshmallows
Canola oil, for frying

Preheat oven to 200º F.

Put the cornflake crumbs in a shallow dish or pie pan. Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine the mashed sweet potatoes with the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder, flour, orange juice, and sherry. Working with your hands, use the mixture to encase each marshmallow, forming a ball. Dip each ball in the egg wash and then roll in the crumbs. Refrigerate while preparing to fry.

Set a wire rack over newspaper or paper towels to cool and drain the balls after frying.

In a 2-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375º F.

Fry the balls one or two at a time for 3 to 4 minutes, turning as needed, until lightly browned. Remove with a spider or slotted spoon, and place the drained balls on the prepared rack and in the oven to keep warm while frying the remaining batches. Serve warm.

Martha’s Notes: 
• To make mashed sweet potatoes, preheat the oven to 375ºF. Place the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, or until tender and easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Allow to cool in their jackets. When cool enough to handle, halve them, scoop out the flesh, and mash it with a fork or potato masher.
• If the sweet potato mixture seems too soft
to hold its shape, stir in some of the crumbs to thicken it.
• You can form these ahead of time and roll them in the crumbs right before frying. They can be baked if you really want to, but are better fried, like most things. Bake on a baking mat or parchment, if you do.
• Marshmallows are named for the wild plant that lent its roots to the first marshmallow confections. Most marshmallows today are made with gelatin or gum arabic.

Paula’s Note:  Martha is a gem and a true cook.  She helped with the food styling on the boys most recent book, Take It Easy, so I got to spend time with her in my home.  I was so impressed with her beautiful cookbook, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, and just wanted to congratulate her again for winning such a prestigeous award.  Congratulations Martha!


Martha Foose is the author of Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook (Clarkson Potter), winner of the 2009 James Beard Award for American Cooking and was recently named the Best Cookbook of 2009 by SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. She lives in the Mississippi Delta with her husband and son. For more on Martha visit

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Reader Comments:


Martha...just wanted to say to you in the words of my youngest granddaughter when she was small..Yeah! So proud of a Mississippi girl, an Oxford girl..memories still come from your time at Bottletree Bakery and the time I picked up pastries at 2am, when you were working, to take to Texas to my oldest daughter. You said, you'd better put these in the trunk of your car or you won't make it to the county line with them!! That seems so long ago..a lot of water under our bridges since then. Congrats again Martha and I love to see you on tv whatever kitchen you are in to cook..I KNOW it will be good. Thanks again!! Bobbye Wiley Oxford, Ms former Delta girl (Yazoo City)

By Ms Bobbye Wiley on May 17, 2013


love all your recipes ,very goodddddd

By ray ward on March 10, 2011


My mom used to make the sweet potatoes like that many, many years ago. They were soooooo good! I can still remember the taste of them, and it's been at least 40 years since I've had them. Maybe I will try to make some soon. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes!!!

By Darlene Hillhouse on March 10, 2011


I was so surprised to see this recipe on here ,it took me back many yrs!I worked with an older Italian lady and boy could she cook and this is one of the things she taught me to make and sadly to say I haven't made them in years.I just wish wish I had wriiten down all the recipes she shared with me but being young at the time I thought I would always remember them and now they have faded from my mind!!!!

By Brenda Price on March 10, 2011


dogone these look plum good enough to eat, soon as i get to the store for sweet potatoes they will be on my table~~~~~ what about 2 marshmallows lol.thanks for this worth trying i'm sure~~joleen day.

By j. day on March 10, 2011


These sound so yummy and I have viewed the episode when Paula made these. Above it speaks about baking instead of frying, which is my preferred choice. At what Temperature do you bake them once they are prepared? And, for how long? I want to be sure that they do not burst! Many thanks. Forever in love with Paula and her sons. Michael, daughter in-law, step kids and dogs are all good too! LoL

By robin dinsmore on March 10, 2011

This recipe looks so yummy.  I can’t wait to make these Inside Out Sweet Potatoes.

Congratulations Martha on your wonderful cookbook.
I grew up in the Mississippi Delta.  So many good cooks.

By Mary Folsom on November 28, 2009

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