These tender, lightly sweetened, and fluffy sweet potato buns are the perfect way to serve burgers. Baked mashed sweet potato adds a ton of flavor to these burger buns, which freeze well and are straightforward to make!
Sweet potato buns are hamburger buns with the addition of just ½ cup of mashed sweet potato, resulting in a super tender and gently sweet burger bun.
They are fluffy and golden like Brioche buns, and tender like dinner rolls. If dinner rolls are more what you're looking for than burger buns, I actually have a recipe for sweet potato dinner rolls (and regular yeast rolls, at that) which are both slightly different than these.
Making homemade bread buns isn't a quick task, but there is plenty of downtime in this recipe that can be used for other tasks. Like making the sweet potato black bean burgers or lentil patties that I usually pair with these buns, perhaps?
- Flavors: Because these buns contain sweet potato, they do err on the sweet side. That being said, the sweetness rounds out a savory burger very well!
- Simple: Although making homemade bread takes time, the actual process is very straightforward. This recipe uses just 7 ingredients and requires about 25 minutes of active time.
- Added nutrition: Sweet potato is a great source of vitamin A, and it adds extra fiber that basic white hamburger buns generally lack. If you're looking for a little more fiber and nutrients, these buns can easily be made with whole wheat flour.
- Good for beginners: This is a good recipe for beginner bread bakers because sweet potato dough is easy to work with and is quite forgiving. It teaches you the method of proofing yeast, kneading dough, and forming the dough into buns.
- Baked sweet potato: You need one orange sweet potato to make sweet potato buns. One medium sweet potato usually yields about ¾ cup to 1 cup mashed sweet potato, but for this recipe we only need ½ cup. Leftover potato can be used in sweet potato burgers, or you can make a double batch of these buns and freeze half for later.
- Flour: Choose all-purpose flour. I have not tested this recipe with gluten-free flour, but if I did I would try using an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend like the kind that King Arthur and Bob's Red Mill make.
- Water: I use my electric kettle to heat water to 105F, which I call "bathwater warm". If you don't have a thermometer, test the water with your fingers. If it's too hot to keep fingers in for more than a few seconds, then the water will likely kill the yeast. It should be just hot enough that you don't need to take your fingers out of the water.
- Salt: I use table salt here. If using kosher salt or sea salt you may need to increase the amount of salt used.
- Oil: I prefer canola oil in baking, but olive oil is also a good option. Any neutral oil works.
Making the dough
Start by proofing the yeast. Simply combine the warm water with the sugar and yeast, then cover and let activate for 10 minutes. The yeast will appear frothy if it is activated.
Stir in the oil and salt. Stir together until smooth.
Add 3 cups of flour just 1 cup at a time, mixing until a shaggy dough is formed.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface lightly floured surface, such as a counter top or a silicon baking mat, which is my preference because it makes clean-up a lot easier.
Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add remaining flour if the dough is too sticky to work with.
Lightly oil a large mixing bowl. Add the dough, tossing to coat in the oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rest in a warm environment until doubled in size.
Forming the buns
When the sweet potato bun dough is doubled in size, punch it down (literally: take your fist and punch the dough to deflate it). Roll it out on the surface used earlier, kneading just a few times.
Use a bench scraper or knife to slice the dough into 6 pieces. For the utmost precision, feel free to use a scale to measure out exact sizes.
To form a circular bun, gently flatten a dough ball. Pinch the four corners of the dough into the center. Flip over and use your palm to gently roll the dough in circles.
Place the buns on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise an additional 15-20 minutes, until noticeably larger than before (they won't be doubled in size, more like 1.5 times larger).
Bake at 350F for 25-28 minutes, until golden on top. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.
Tips for success
- Warm environment: The warmer the environment, the quicker the dough doubles in size. In the summer, my kitchen counter tends to be warm enough. In the winter, I turn the oven to 180F (the lowest the oven goes). Once it reaches temp, I turn the oven off, crack the door and place the bowl with the dough inside.
- Type of yeast: I haven't tested this recipe with instant yeast, but I have a feeling that it would work just fine. Instant yeast doesn't need to be proofed.
- Whole wheat flour: Substitute half of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour if you prefer. 100% whole wheat is a bit harder to work with, so I usually keep it half white/half wheat.
- For more tender sweet potato buns, brush melted butter onto the tops of the buns before baking them.
- If you prefer sweet potato buns that are completely smooth and without any flecks of sweet potato, just transfer the proof yeast, sweet potato, oil, and salt to a blender and blend until smooth.
Leftovers are best within 2-3 days. I store them at room temperature in an airtight container, as storing bread in the fridge tends to dry it out. Let the buns cool completely before storing.
Freezing: These buns freeze well in an airtight container. Let freeze for up to 3 months. Pop in the microwave to thaw or let thaw overnight on the counter.
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Sweet Potato Buns
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1 cup warm water about 105-108F, see note #1
- 2 and ¼ teaspoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or other enutral oil
- 1 and ½ teaspoons table salt
- 3 to 4 cups all purpose flour
- Heat the oven to 400F. Pierce a sweet potato several times with a knife. Place on a baking sheet or wrap in foil. Bake at 400F for 45 minutes to an hour, until completely soft. Turn off the oven. Remove the skin and any stringy bits. Mash with a potato masher or fork until very smooth, then measure out ½ cup of mashed sweet potato.
- Stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let sit for 10 minutes, or until yeast is foamy and activated.
- Add ½ cup mashed sweet potato, canola oil, and salt to the yeast mixture. Stir until smooth. Add in flour one cup at a time, stirring with a large spoon or stand mixer. Continue mixing until 3 cups of flour are added. The dough should be shaggy and slightly sticky, but easy to work with.
- Turn dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-6 minutes, until elastic and slightly tacky. If the dough is too sticky to work with, continue adding flour ¼ cup at a time, up to 4 cups total.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a dish towel and let rest for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Return dough to a lightly floured surface, punching down to deflate. Divide into 6 equal pieces using a bench scraper or knife. Use a scale for exact pieces, or just eyeball it (that's what I usually do). Gently flatten each dough piece, then pinch all 4 corners into the center. Fip and gently roll each ball with the palm of your hand to form a smooth bun shape.
- Place each bun on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cover the buns and let rise for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has noticeably increased in size. Bake sweet potato buns on the middle oven rack for 25-30 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Remove from oven and set on a rack to cool.
- Store buns in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
- Water should be no more than 110F or the yeast may die. I've found that 106-108F is an ideal temperature for happy yeast. If you don't have a thermometer, use your hand to test the water. It should be just hot enough that you can leave your hand under the water without it burning, like a hot bath tub.
- Substitute half of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour if you prefer. 100% whole wheat is a bit harder to work with, so I usually keep it half white/half wheat.
Author's note: This recipe was first published in Feburary 2018. It was updated in March 2023 with new photos