Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Almonds Recipe

When I was growing up, sweet potatoes never ever appeared on the menu: they don’t belong to the classic trove of French vegetables, and I don’t think I had a taste until I moved to the US in my early twenties. But I quickly grew to love and crave them as if they had been a part of my food landscape all of my life: the sweet flesh and versatility of these tubers makes them a delicious alternative to other starch options, especially regular white potatoes, and I indulge on a regular basis.

It doesn’t hurt that orange sweet potatoes (there are also white, less recommended varieties) have been touted a superfood for their exceptional antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, due to their super high content of beta-carotene and vitamin A, among other vitamins and minerals. They are also said to have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, despite a medium glycemic index.

On top of the wedges I sprinkle a lovely chopped condiment of black olives, toasted almonds, shallot, cilantro, and lemon zest, that brings a remarkable zing to the whole dish.

Steaming is the best way to retain the entirety of their nutritional qualities, but they do beautifully when you boil, roast or grill them as well. You can serve them mashed, turn them into fabulously creamy soups, add them cubed to grain dishes and meal-size salads to make them extra satisfying, or purée them for use in cakes as a sweetener.

They are included in the “clean fifteen” list* but I usually buy organic ones, making sure they are nice and firm with no bruises. They are increasingly easy to find in supermarkets, organic or not, and I have found that sweet potatoes from the US have a moister flesh and keep longer. I store them in a paper bag at cool room temperature (never in the fridge!) and when I cook them I leave the skin on, both for nutrition and to help the pieces keep their shape if that’s needed for a particular dish.

I am always surprised to see sweet potatoes often paired with sweet ingredients in North America (maple syrup! sweet spices! brown sugar! marshmallows!) as I much prefer to balance their natural sweetness with contrasting flavors: tangy, sour, acidic, savory, umami… And because their flesh becomes quite tender when cooked, I usually take care to add an element of crunch to the recipe I use them in.

One of my quickest and easiest tricks to serve sweet potatoes is to boil or roast them — either whole or in cubes — and top them with my simple tahini sauce and lots of freshly snipped herbs, or Aria Beth Sloss’s miso butter topping.

But in warmer months, when I have access to a barbecue — or just my trusty griddler — I like to cut the sweet potatoes into long wedges, par-steam them, brush them with a mix of oil and lemon juice, and grill them. I love the mix between lightly crisp outer skin and the creamy soft insides.

On top of the wedges I sprinkle a lovely — and very quick to throw together — chopped condiment of black olives, toasted almonds, shallot, cilantro, and lemon zest, that brings a remarkable zing to the whole dish. This I’m happy to feature as the centerpiece of the meal, along with a green salad, or to serve as a side with roast chicken, duck magret, or grilled pork.

Join the conversation!

Are you a sweet potato fan? What’s your favorite way to serve them?

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Almonds

* The clean fifteen is a list of the least contaminated conventional produce; the dirty dozen lists the most contaminated.

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Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Almonds Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Seves 4 to 5.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Almonds Recipe


  • 900 grams (2 pounds) small sweet potatoes, not peeled
  • 35 grams (1/4 cup) almonds, toasted and roughly chopped (I use these if I have them on hand)
  • 40 grams (1/4 cup) black olives (in bulk from a deli or from a jar), about 15, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot (about 1 small shallot)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley
  • The zest of 1/2 lemon or lime, finely sliced (I use this zester to get fine strips)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil fit for grilling
  • Fine sea salt


  1. Cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise into long wedges of even thickness; I make four wedges from the slim ones and six from the thicker ones.
  2. Steam the sweet potato wedges for 8 to 10 minutes, until just tender when tested with the tip of a knife. (This can be done the day before; let cool, arrange in layers in an airtight container, and refrigerate.)
  3. In a bowl, combine the almonds, olives, shallot, cilantro, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Add the olive oil and stir to combine. (This can be done the day before, but don't add the cilantro until the last moment to preserve its freshness. Cover and refrigerate.)
  4. Heat up the grill or an indoor griddler to medium-high heat (I set my griddler to 220° or 430°F, its maximum setting).
  5. In a bowl, combine the lemon juice and cooking oil, and use this to brush the cut sides of the sweet potato wedges. Sprinkle with salt.
  6. Place on the grill, one cut side down, for 3 to 5 minutes, until you get nice grill marks. Flip the wedges to the other cut side and grill until you get the grill marks you want.
  7. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with the black olive and almond condiment, and serve, hot or at room temperature.

Grilled Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Almonds

  • Fiona

    How very handy that I just planned to have some sweet potatoes for lunch and you post this recipe!
    By the way, why don’t you store them in the fridge?
    I get that regular potatoes are stored in a cool dark place but as sweet potatoes more resemble “normal” vegetables I’ve so far put them in the fridge.

    • Sweet potatoes go hard when stored in the fridge, and the flavor is altered and not very pleasant. Cool room temp, ideally a cellar, is best!

  • Annabel Smyth

    I like to pair them with butternut squash, maybe an onion, maybe some tomatoes…. everything cubed/chopped and cooked gently together on the stove with a touch of oil but mostly in its own steam. And last week I topped this mix with some grilled halloumi cheese, and it was very, very good!

    I also – in winter – like to cook them with diced swede and carrot to make what I call a 3-orange mash, lovely to serve with a casserole, perhaps alongside some steamed cabbage.

    • I love all those ideas, thank you Annabel!

      • Annabel Smyth

        And sometimes, with the mash, I add a bit of mooli, just to lift it and give it a kick.

  • this sounds fantastic! I do, like you said, gravitate to sweet preparations, though i’m not sure why (i stay away from the marshmallows- a bit too sweet!). I love to steam them, and then mash with a touch of butter and maple syrup, then top with toasted walnuts.

    • And what do you typically serve this with?

      • Usually with some sort of protein (pan-fried chicken, baked salmon, pork chops) and cooked leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach, etc).

  • TAS

    Current favorite – cube sweet potatoes and roast with a bit of olive oil, let cool and make a salad with the sweet potatoes, arugula, halved cherry tomatoes, some roasted walnuts and diced avocado, add a bunch of dried dill, fresh ground pepper, bit of olive oil and bit of white balsamic. Delicious!

  • Great recipe. I buy a sweet potato every week and sometimes eat it very plain with butter as a meal or cut it into slices and grill them as you have done. I see a 35 things to do with sweet potatoes soon.

  • Julie Czosek

    I love sweet potatoes and yams. I generally roast them and eat them as a meal however I just received a recipe from Hello Fresh – a meal shipment service where they provide ingredients and you assemble the meal – that suggested the following. Peel the sweet potato, slice thinly, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place single layer on a baking sheet for about 25 minutes, flipping midway. These delightful coins are delicious! They can be eaten as a side or added to a salad.

    • Do they crisp up a bit like chips?

      • Julie Czosek

        No. They firm up a bit but they are not crispy.

  • janinchina

    Mashed sweet potato makes a great filler for turkey “meat” balls – replaces bread crumbs

  • NotJoking

    In the south of America they made Sweet Potato pie often instead of pumpkin pie. Sweet potatoes smothered in butter, marshmallows and brown sugar was a dish I just could never bear. Not until I was grown did I have sweet potatoes cooked as they are in this article and now I love them.

  • I like sweet potatoes with salted butter, bacon and/or salt, but have never tried them with olives! Will make sure I try your recipe soon.

  • Liz_Macau

    An unusual and delicious way of doing them is to mash with plenty of butter and pepper and a few drops of Angostura bitters. My husband, who doesn’t really like sweet potatoes, will ask for seconds of this. Must try this olive version, sounds good. Thanks!

  • The chef Peter Gordon is from New Zealand, where they eat lots of sweet potato or kumara as they call it. I have his book “Sugar Club” and amongst others, there is a very good recipe with black beans and one for bread.

  • NotJoking

    I grew up in the midwest but they shared many recipes – corn bread, fried chicken, sweet potatoes etc.

  • This is a great recipe, thank you Annabel!

  • FM

    The is almost certainly something that I want to try. Thanks for sharing!

  • JaimeLobo

    I like to keep if fairly simple — I cut them in large pieces and roasted in the oven at a high temp (at least 475/245). I like to use a plastic bag with olive oil and a Latin seasoning and shake them to get them coated before roasting.

    Most of the time, I just use one of the commercial, achiote/annatto-based seasonings found everywhere in Florida stores. Sometimes I make my own from equal parts of ground cumin, salt, dried oregano, achiote/annatto powder, and cayenne pepper (less of this, if you don’t want too much spice). I pulverized that together and add to the olive oil with some crushed garlic to coat.

  • Thank you for the links! I really like yams and yams

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