Sweet potatoes accounted for 60 percent of the Okinawan diet until about 1950. This slightly sweetened preparation is delicious and can serve as a dessert or snack. On our last visit to this Blue Zones region, we watched the potatoes cooking and were uninspired until Jordan, a Hawaiian who lives on the island, produced two packages of macadamia nuts from his backpack. We ground them up, rolled the sweet potatoes into balls, and rolled the balls into the nuts. Voilà!

Excerpted from The Blue Zones Kitchen, by Dan Buettner. Copyright © 2019 by Dan Buettner. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

By Dan Buettner,


  • 1 pound (about 3) white, orange, or purple sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup ground peanuts, macadamia nuts, or sesame seeds
  • Dash of cinnamon


  • Boil or steam the potatoes until tender, then mash potatoes with sugar.
  • Once cool enough to handle, roll potatoes into walnut-size balls.
  • On a clean surface, spread a layer of ground nuts of your choice or sesame seeds. Gently roll the potato balls in the nuts to coat.
  • Powder with cinnamon to serve.

Comments (5)

(5 from 1 vote)

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Yum! A fun way to eat sweet potato.


I'm going to try using maple syrup and then pumpkin and sunflower seeds, instead of nuts. Betting it will be yummy!


can this be made without the sugar or using dates or something else instead? Sugar is off limits for me and nuts only in small quantities.

Jerky Jerkface

then make it without sugar and without nuts


Maybe try using oats to roll in and date or maple syrup to sweeten.

About the Author

Headshot of Dan Buettner

About the Author

Dan Buettner

Dan Buettner is a National Geographic Fellow and the author of multiple New York Times bestselling books, including The Blue Zones, Thrive, and The Blue Zones Kitchen. He has discovered the five places in the world—dubbed Blue Zones—where people live the longest, and are healthiest. Buettner works in partnership with Sharecare, municipal governments, and insurance companies to implement the program in more than 50 cities in North America, and has dramatically improved the health of millions of Americans. His work has been highlighted on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz, NPR, and Oprah. Find him on Instagram and LinkedIn.
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