Smoky purple sweet potato soup – creamy, sweet, and so satisfying, with a touch of heat and smokiness – the perfect comfort food for a cold, rainy day.
Flights being checked, flip-flops and bathing suits dug up, daydreaming in full force, anticipation building up…It’s happening! In just one short week, I’ll be in a tropical paradise, lazily sipping margaritas, under a nice beach palapa, with a view of the gorgeous Akumal beach sprawling before me…Oh, I can hardly wait to berry my feet in the hot, white sand, and dive into the warm, bright turquoise water of the Caribbean!
I can hardly wait to leave cold and rainy California behind. I’m so tired of my fleece jackets, and long sleeves, winter boots, and fuzzy socks, tired of turning up the heater, and putting on my thick, warm robe in the morning, tired of waiting for spring to happen!
So last week, when it was freezing and gloomy outside, I thought of making soup. Soup again, I know. This one, even has more of a fall-ish vibe, with its earthy sweetness, but it felt so right and good at the time. Plus I know for a lot of you, especially those who live on the other side of the continent, being hit by yet another storm, this will feel right too.
I had a vision of this soup, the moment I laid my eyes on the purple sweet potatoes at the Asian store. Ten minutes of prep work, and 30 minutes later, I had a bowl of hot purple cream in my hands, sinfully indulgent, awesomely comforting, melting in your mouth, and leaving a note of heat and smokiness. It was a sweet, purple bliss, and brought a bit of brightness to the otherwise dull, and rainy day.
The purple potatoes I use here are pretty sweet and creamy, and they really soak up a lot of liquid. If you have leftover soup the next day, you can add more milk or broth to thin it out.
You can easily adapt the recipe and make it vegan, or vegetarian by skipping the bacon, and using any nut milk you like (coconut milk would work great here). Don’t skip the chipotles though! They give the best smoky flavor and heat – you don’t feel it immediately, it rather swells and lingers at the back of your throat, after you swallow the first spoonful.
Which purple sweet potato variety do you need?
That is definitely the key question here. There is quite a bit of a confusion, when it comes to sweet potatoes in general – there are so many varieties, with different skin color, different flesh color, and most importantly different taste, that it can be overwhelming. To further add to the confusion, you often see the same-looking sweet potato, labeled as a ‘yam’ and then, there is the purple ube, which you might also confuse with a ‘purple yam or purple sweet potato’.
If you want to get more in-depth explanation, you can read about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams here (spoiler alert – they really are completely different species, but what we have in U.S. are all sweet potatoes – just labeled wrongfully as ‘yams’), or watch a nice little video here. As for the ube, you cannot get it in its raw state, here in the U.S. (so one less sweet potato to worry about). Bottom line – we only have sweet potatoes in the U.S. and among those, you need to look for a specific purple variety, for this recipe.
To simplify matters, I would advise you to go by the look, rather than the label. The ones that I use in this recipe have a pale beige skin, and purple flesh. They are called Okinawan purple sweet potatos, but they are also known as Hawaiian sweet potatoes. Not to be confused with the dark purple-skin/purple-flesh sweet potatoes, a.k.a. Stokes purple sweet potatoes, which are far less sweet, and will not work in this recipe. Here’s a good reference with a nice visual. Also look at my picture below – white skin, purple flesh is what you are looking for. I always find them at 99 ranch market.
So what if you can’t find that Okinawan sweet purple potato?
You can’t go wrong with regular orange-flesh sweet potatoes – you will still have a bright and cheerful, albeit orange bowl of soup, and similar sweetness and texture. The whole idea is to create this balanced sweet and savory, spicy and smoky flavor that comes in a steaming hot, creamy bowl of soup!
Smoky purple sweet potato soup - creamy, sweet, and so satisfying, with a touch of heat and smokiness - the perfect comfort food for a cold, rainy day.
- 1 lbs Okinawan purple sweet potatoes * (about 4 medium ones)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
- 2 pieces of lean bacon, diced (plus more for garnishing)
- 4 cups of water (or broth)
- 2 cups milk (regular, coconut or other nut milk of choice)
- 1 (scant) tsp chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce)
- chopped fresh chives
- salt to taste
In a soup pot, cook the finely chopped bacon for a few minutes until it starts to color.
Add the chopped onion, and garlic to the bacon and saute for 5 minutes. If too dry, add a bit of oil to the pot.
Add the chipotle pepper, the chopped sweet potatoes, and water, and season with salt to taste.
Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender (20-25 minutes).
Transfer the soup to a blender, add the milk, and puree until smooth.
Serve garnished with chopped bacon, chives, and a drizzle of cream, or for a vegan/vegetarian version, skip the bacon altogether, and top with nuts, and coconut cream.
* Okinawan purple sweet potatoes have light tan colored skin, and purple-magenta flesh. Substitute with regular orange-flesh sweet potatoes.
Do NOT substitute with other purple flesh sweet potatoes, like Stokes variety (dark purple skin/purple flesh), as these do not have the same sweetness.