sweet potato–cashew cookies

After three solid weeks of long-awaited bliss, I’m back from Australia. I promise I’ll give you all of the details of our adventures later (with pictures!), but for now just believe me when I say that Australia is a glorious haven of food and sunshine.

Before I get into anything Australia-related, I feel the need to write a little post about something that’s been tugging at me lately. A few days ago, during one of my endless scrolling sessions, one of those short-and-sweet baking tutorial videos popped up in my Facebook feed. You know, the kind that’s shot from overhead and set to a catchy tune, with perfectly manicured hands adding each ingredient to the mixing bowl and producing a beautiful baked good in 15 seconds flat?

I’ll admit, I’m usually a sucker for those videos. Often I find them entertaining and sometimes I’m even able to draw inspiration from their recipes. But this video—well, it IRKED me, and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind.

The video showed a recipe for “healthy” brownies—with “healthy” featured prominently in the title and throughout the video. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I watched it and found that the brownies contained nearly a full cup of sugar and a cup of chocolate chips. Like, wut? It seemed that replacing the butter with oil in the batter and sprinkling some fruit and nuts on top was enough to make these brownies “healthy.” I wanted to reach into that video and (gently, lovingly) smack some sense into the people who made it.

Of course, in the grand scheme of everything that’s going on in the world, misleading brownies are NOT a big deal. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “healthy” lately, as it becomes a bigger part of how we market food and recipes (there’s a great article from Food52 written awhile back that criticizes the media’s freewheeling use of the word). The recipe video in question came from a well-known food site that I greatly respect, but I found their mislabeling irresponsible at worst and just plain nonsensical at best.

Seeing a popular food media source take advantage of the concept of “health” in such a blatant way made me think about honesty and responsibility in my own writing about food. Too many times, I find myself describing a recipe as “quick,” “easy,” or “healthy” (yup, I’ve done it too). These words have become overused to the point of meaninglessness, all in the name of generating website traffic and search hits. After all, the quickness, ease, and healthiness of a recipe are subjective, depending on how much time you have, your skill level and the accessibility of ingredients, and the rest of your diet.

So while the video got me fired up, I want to use these feelings to reaffirm how and why I write: honestly, personally, consciously, and openly, to encourage readers to cook and bake confidently with all the information they need. Which brings us to today’s recipe for sweet potato–cashew cookies (finally!).

For the last few weeks of January, I’ve been doing a personal vegan challenge, cooking and eating only plant-based foods. It’s been delicious and I’ve learned so much already. This cookie recipe is vegan, but I won’t tell you that means it’s necessarily “healthy.” Instead, I’ll say that the sweet potato lightens up the recipe because its starchiness and sweetness allow you to decrease the amount of extra fat and sugar you need to add.

Instead of calling this recipe “easy,” I’ll let you know that the dough might be a bit sticky and challenging, but that wetting your hands when shaping the cookies will counteract any stickiness. Instead of dubbing these cookies “quick,” I’ll talk about how the most time-consuming part of the recipe is waiting for the sweet potato to bake. The dough itself comes together in minutes, with no need to chill anything.

What else do you need to know about these bad boys? They make a great on-the-go breakfast or snack. The cinnamon and vanilla make you feel like it’s Christmas all over again. They’ve got a great texture and stay super moist for days because of the mashed sweet potato and ground cashews. (They taste so good that they won’t last for days.) You’ll probably devour two cookies right out of the oven and then have to eat another because you forgot that cookies are meant to be dipped in coffee.

Thanks for sticking with me through the thorny wilderness of my brownie-induced fury. I think the sweet potato–cashew cookies are worth the diatribe, but maybe treat yourself to an extra one as a reward for getting through it, just in case.

sweet potato–cashew cookies
serves: 12 cookies
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. agave, maple syrup, or honey (if not vegan)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 chia egg (see Note) or 1 egg (if not vegan)
  • Desiccated coconut and chopped cashews, for topping
  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F / 200° C. Using a fork, prick holes on all sides of the sweet potato. Wrap in foil and bake for about 50 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft and easily pierced. Remove from oven and let cool. Turn the oven down to 350° F / 175° C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the oats and cashews in a food processor. Pulse until a fine meal forms, then add the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and pulse until just combined.
  3. Once the sweet potato is cool enough to handle, peel away the skin and mash the potato with a fork until smooth. Measure out 1 cup of the sweet potato mash and reserve any leftovers for another use.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the sweet potato mash, coconut oil, agave syrup, vanilla, and chia egg. Mix until the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the sweet potato mixture and stir until completely combined and a sticky, wet dough forms.
  5. Scoop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheet and form each one into a flat round (you may find it easier if you wet your hands a bit as you shape them). These cookies won’t spread in the oven like a typical cookie, so shape them as you’d like them to look after baking. Sprinkle each cookie with desiccated coconut and chopped cashews and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown in places.
To make a chia egg, combine one tablespoon chia seeds with 2½ tablespoons water, mix, and let set for about 15 minutes.

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