How to tell if a sweet potato is bad?

How to Tell If a Sweet Potato Is Bad? How Long Does It Last?

Have you ever found a sweet potato in your pantry and wondered if it’s still good to cook? It’s a common dilemma: the potato might look fine, but you notice it’s a bit wrinkly or has a sprout or two.

In this article, we’ll clear up the confusion about sweet potato spoilage. We’ll guide you through the signs that indicate a sweet potato is past its prime, discuss how long they typically last, and share tips for proper storage.

By the end, you’ll know exactly how to tell if a sweet potato is bad and how to keep them fresh for longer. Let’s get started on becoming sweet potato savvy!

How to Tell If a Sweet Potato Is Bad?

Figuring out if a sweet potato is still good to eat can be tricky. They don’t always make it obvious like some other foods do. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a breakdown of the key signs to look for. These indicators will help you decide whether to cook it, compost it, or toss it.

Visual Signs

The first thing to check is how the sweet potato looks. Here’s what to keep an eye out for:

  • Mold: This usually shows up as fuzzy or spongy spots on the skin. It can be white, green, or even black. If you spot mold, it’s best to throw the sweet potato away.
  • Discoloration: Look for any unusual colors. Sweet potatoes normally range from orange to purple, but if you see black, brown, or grey spots, that could mean it’s starting to rot.
  • Sprouts: Tiny shoots sprouting from a sweet potato are a sign that it’s getting old. While sprouts don’t necessarily mean the potato is bad, they can make it taste different and a bit woody.

Texture Changes

How a sweet potato feels can tell you a lot about its freshness. Here’s what to feel for:

  • Firmness: A good sweet potato should feel firm and solid. If you give it a gentle squeeze and it feels hard, it’s probably still good.
  • Softness and Mushiness: If the sweet potato yields to pressure, feels soft, or has mushy spots, it’s a sign of spoilage. Soft sweet potatoes may be starting to rot inside.


Trust your sense of smell when assessing sweet potatoes. Fresh sweet potatoes don’t have a strong smell. If you detect a sour or musty odor, it’s a clear indicator that the sweet potato is no longer fresh and should be discarded.

Inside the Sweet Potato

Sometimes, the outside of a sweet potato looks fine, but the inside tells a different story. When you cut into it, look for these signs:

  • Dark Spots: Dark, black, or brown areas inside the sweet potato can signal decay. If you find a small, isolated bad spot on a sweet potato but the rest of it feels firm and appears healthy, simply remove the affected area with a knife and proceed with your usual cooking method.
  • White Strings: These are actually the sweet potato’s vascular tissues, but if they are overly pronounced or discolored, it could mean the potato is past its prime.

Related: Do Olives Go Bad? How Long Do Olives Last Once Opened?

Shelf Life of Sweet Potatoes

The longevity of sweet potatoes greatly depends on how and where they’re stored. By getting to know their shelf life under different conditions, you can plan your meals more efficiently and avoid unnecessary waste.

Let’s break down the storage methods and their impact on the shelf life of sweet potatoes.

In the Pantry

Storing sweet potatoes in the pantry is a common practice. Here’s what to expect:

  • Pantry Shelf Life: In a pantry, they typically last up to a month.
  • Storage Conditions: The key to pantry storage is ensuring a cool, dark, and dry environment. Excess moisture or light can lead to quicker spoilage.
  • Optimal Storage Tips: Store them in a basket or a box with good ventilation. Avoid sealing them in airtight containers, as this can cause condensation and promote mold growth.
  • Best Practices: To maximize their shelf life, keep them away from direct sunlight and sources of heat. Also, avoid storing them near onions or bananas, as these can release gases that accelerate spoilage.

In the Fridge

Refrigeration can indeed prolong the life of sweet potatoes, but there are things to consider:

  • Extended Shelf Life: In the fridge, sweet potatoes can last anywhere from 2 to 3 months.
  • Cold Storage Considerations: While refrigeration slows down spoilage, it can also alter the taste and texture of sweet potatoes, making them harder and less sweet.
  • Best Practices: If you choose to refrigerate, store them in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer to maintain humidity while allowing airflow.

Storing Cooked Sweet Potatoes

Once sweet potatoes are cooked, their storage needs change:

  • Refrigeration: Cooked sweet potatoes should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking. Store them in airtight containers to maintain freshness and prevent them from absorbing odors from other foods.
  • Shelf Life: Properly stored, cooked sweet potatoes can last in the refrigerator for about 3 to 5 days.
  • Reheating: When reheating, ensure they reach a temperature of at least 165°F for food safety.
Type of Sweet PotatoStorage LocationShelf Life
Uncooked Sweet PotatoesPantryUp to 1 month
Uncooked Sweet PotatoesFridge2 to 3 months
Cooked Sweet PotatoesFridge3 to 5 days

Can You Freeze Sweet Potatoes?

Freezing sweet potatoes is a great option for long-term preservation:

  • Preparation for Freezing: For the best results, blanch peeled and cut sweet potatoes for a few minutes before freezing. This process helps preserve their color, flavor, and nutritional value.
  • Packaging: After blanching, cool them quickly in ice water, drain well, and pack them in airtight freezer bags or containers.
  • Freezing Whole Sweet Potatoes: You can also freeze whole baked sweet potatoes. Simply wrap them individually in foil or plastic wrap, then place them in freezer bags.
  • Shelf Life: Properly frozen sweet potatoes can last for up to 12 months in the freezer, but they’re best used within 6 months for optimal taste and texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Got questions about sweet potatoes? You’re in the right place! Here are some quick, handy answers to the most frequently asked questions about sweet potatoes.

How do you know when a sweet potato has gone bad?

A sweet potato has gone bad if it has a mushy texture, an off-putting odor, shows signs of mold, or has extensive discoloration or dark spots inside when cut open.

How do you know when sweet potatoes are done?

Sweet potatoes are done when they’re tender all the way through. You can test this by piercing them with a fork or knife; it should slide in easily with no resistance.

Why is my sweet potato dry inside?

A sweet potato might be dry inside if it’s overcooked, stored in too dry an environment, or if it’s an older potato. Sweet potatoes lose moisture and their natural sugars over time, affecting their internal texture.

How can you tell a good sweet potato?

A good sweet potato is firm to the touch, has smooth, unbruised skin, and doesn’t have any cracks, soft spots, or sprouts. It should feel heavy for its size and have a uniform shape.

What happens if I eat a bad sweet potato?

Eating a bad sweet potato can potentially lead to foodborne illness. Symptoms might include stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. It’s best to avoid eating sweet potatoes that show signs of spoilage.

What is the white stuff in a sweet potato?

The white stuff you sometimes see oozing out of a sweet potato is sap, a natural occurrence in many root vegetables. It’s safe to eat and often appears when the potato is cut or cooked.

Can you still eat sprouted sweet potatoes?

Yes, you can still eat sweet potatoes that have sprouted, but with some considerations. If the sprouts are small and the sweet potato is still firm and not discolored, you can simply remove the sprouts and any green parts before cooking.

However, if the sweet potato has become soft or shows signs of decay, it’s best to discard it. Remember, sprouting can affect the texture and taste, making the sweet potato less palatable.


In summing up, knowing how to tell if a sweet potato is bad is a crucial aspect of smart kitchen management. This guide has armed you with the necessary knowledge about their shelf life and provided you with the best storage practices.

By applying these tips and insights, you’ll be able to ensure that your sweet potatoes are always in prime condition.

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