Purple Sweet Potato Salad

I realized I live in Hawaii but haven’t made any Hawaiian food yet! So the next few posts will be devoted to Hawaiian dishes.

I knew sweet potatoes came in other colors, but I have only seen orange on the mainland. The first time I went to the Hilo Farmers Market, a lady was selling a bag marked “potatoes” for $2. I thought awesome! Cheap fresh little finger potatoes. When I cut into at home, I was surprised that they were purple inside.  I asked my roommate at the time, who was from Maui, and she looked at me like I was crazy. “They are sweet potatoes…You know like Thanksgiving casserole?”

Purple sweet potatoes, or ‘uala,  are a member of the morning glory family and are native to Japan.  Japanese immigrants brought them to Polynesia more than a century ago. However, it is believed that the Polynesians brought some form of sweet potatoes with them on their travels throughout the Pacific prior to the Japanese introduction. All sweet potatoes are loaded with antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. They also have tons of fiber and vitamin A.

Although common to Hawaiians, they were totally strange to me. I love them now though. Not only are they my favorite color, but they are also delicious. They aren’t quite as sweet a the orange or yellow ones, and bit more starchy. They are great for fries or chips, but I love them in curries.

I decided to make a healthier version of a very common side dish in Hawaii: potato salad. Potato salad and macaroni salad are  are always part of the classic Hawaiian plate lunches. But, they are loaded with fat and calories, and I have yet to find a plate lunch place that has a vegan version. For this recipe, so no one can argue I took the Hawaiian-ness out of the salad, I used as many local products as I could. Local organic purple sweet potatoes, and carrots, plus Sweet Maui onions, and Maui Sweet Onion dressing from Rainbow of Tastes.

This recipe calls for some very specific ingredients and if you can get them, great! If not, you can always adapt the recipe to what you can get. However, I would not recommended using regular orange sweet potatoes in this recipe. Like I said, purples are starchier and sturdier, more like a real potatoes than creamy orange sweets. If you cannot get purples, just use regular potatoes.

Purple Sweet Potato Salad
8-10 small purple sweet potatoes, peeled and chop into chunks
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1/4 Sweet Maui Onion, diced finely
2 tbs sweet pickle relish
1/2  to 1 cup  Maui Sweet Onion by Rainbow of Tastes
Salt and pepper, to taste

Fill a pot 2/3 of the way with cold water.

They aren’t solid purple, more like marbled.

Rinse, peel, and chop the sweet potatoes into chunks. Put in the pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat.

 You can shred the carrots if you like too.

While the potatoes cook, dice the carrots, celery, and onions.


Still purple when cooked.

Once the potatoes are soft enough for a fork to be inserted with little resistance, remove from the heat and drain. You do not want them totally smushy like for mashed potatoes, but soft enough to eat and still remain in chunks. Do not rinse, it will make them smushy. Let them cool for a few minutes. The potatoes will absorb more flavor while warm, so don’t let them cool entirely before dressing.

I should have got a bigger bowl…

In a large bowl, add the potatoes, diced veggies, relish, and dressing. I recommend putting the dressing in a little at a time so you don’t over do it. It takes a minute for it to absorb. Mix it all together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Try not to mash up the potatoes too much.

Cover and let it chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

I love the colors, and the sweet onion dressing is the perfect compliment to the sweet potatoes.


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