Roasted sweet potato halves make an excellent weeknight side dish, but they’re great for a crowd, too, as you can scale up the servings infinitely. Serve the halves simply – scored and brushed with a zest-infused butter – or take them to another level with your favorite custom topping. I’ve given you four here to get you started.

For the toppings I usually combine a small amount of a sautéed vegetable – such as shallots, corn, or shredded brussels sprouts – with an aromatic ingredient such as garlic or ginger. Sometimes I add a few chopped toasted nuts or a bit of cheese, and I usually finish with chopped fresh herbs. But feel free to improvise; ingredients such as crumbled bacon, toasted coconut, sautéed diced apple or pear, pickled cabbage, or chopped dried fruit could factor into the mix. 

Whatever you do, be somewhat judicious with your toppings – you’re not stuffing the sweet potato, just topping it.

If possible, I use long and narrow sweet potatoes (rather than stocky, plump ones) for this technique; the right amount of caramelization happens in the time it takes the slender sweet potatoes to cook through. But fatter ones will work too. Stick with a weight of between 8 and 10 ounces.

I like to line my sheet pans with both foil (for easy clean-up) and parchment paper, but the parchment paper alone is fine – it’s the key to no sticking.

Makes 8 halves, serves 4 as part of a veg-heavy supper or 8 as a side dish

For the sweet potatoes and zesty butter

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes (about 8 to 10 ounces each), each cut in half lengthwise
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Zest of one lemon, one or two limes, or ½ orange
  • 2 topping combos (see below) or a double batch of 1 topping

Topping Combos

  •  2 large shallots, thinly sliced and sautéed in a little olive oil until crisped and browned + 1 to 2 teaspoons chili crisp + 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro or tender cilantro sprigs


  •   ½ cup fresh corn kernels, ½ teaspoon garlic, and ½ teaspoon serrano pepper sautéed for 1 to 2 minutes in 1 teaspoon butter +1 tablespoon sliced chives


  •   2 large or 4 small Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced, sautéed until brown and crispy in a little olive oil + 1 to 2 tablespoons Parmigiano + 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts + parsley leaves


  •   ¼ cup diced dried cranberries + 2 teaspoons minced crystallized ginger + 1 teaspoon thyme leaves + 2 tablespoons finely chopped pecans (Variation: replace half of the cranberries with ¼ cup diced apple, sautéed briefly until lightly golden.)


1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a heavy-duty rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil. Lay a piece of parchment paper over the aluminum foil.

2. Coat the sweet potatoes completely with olive oil, season the cut sides with salt, and arrange, cut side-down on the baking sheet. (I find it easiest to pour a slick of olive oil onto the parchment paper, sprinkle the oil with salt, arrange the sweet potatoes cut side-down in the oil, and then use a pastry brush dipped in the oil to thoroughly brush the tops of the sweet potatoes.)

3. Roast, 40 to 45 minutes, or until the bottoms of the sweet potatoes are caramelized and the flesh feels tender when you poke it. (You can peek at the bottoms of one or two and return to the oven if you like.) Remove from the oven and use a thin metal spatula (taking care to slide between the skin and the parchment) to flip the sweet potatoes over so that they are cut side-up.

4. While the sweet potatoes are roasting, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add your choice of zest and stir for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. (Reheat gently if necessary before using.) Make your toppings.

5. Using a thin knife, score a diagonal cross-hatch pattern in the halves. Transfer to a serving platter or serving plates. Brush the tops generously with the zesty butter and arrange the toppings on top (herbs last). Serve right away. 

Susie Middleton