How to tell if a sweet potato is bad

Sweet potatoes are a favourite food for many people worldwide. They are nutrient-rich, yet low in fat and calories, making them a go-to food for dieters. However, often, you would come across sweet potatoes that aren’t up to par. You’d be left with a dilemma of whether or not to consume them. Well, how to tell if a sweet potato is bad?

In general, sweet potatoes reach you after going through a lot of shipping processes, being exposed to excessive heat, and being in inventory for a long time. Besides, sweet potatoes have a high moisture content, which means they can go bad quickly if not preserved carefully. As a result, they undergo several changes, like changes in smell, texture, and appearance, which indicate that they aren’t edible anymore.

This article will teach you how to spot bad sweet potatoes and how to tell the difference between good and bad sweet potatoes. Let’s get started.

uncooked sweet potatoes

Table of Contents

How to tell if a sweet potato is bad?

Well, you can distinguish a fresh sweet potato from a bad one even before cooking or tasting it, by observing the changes in its smell and appearance. Typical signs of a sweet potato that has gone bad are a foul odour, discoloured skin with mould or sprouts, and a soft, mushy texture. 

1. Appearance


If you notice the presence of mould on the outer layer of the sweet potato, it is a clear sign that you should throw it away. If the mould is yellow, orange, or black, it’s not just spoiled, but rotten as well. As mould can quickly spread, make sure you check the other sweet potatoes that the rotten one made contact with.


You can be sure that the sweet potato is bad if you find that its skin has turned grey, dark green, or black, and it appears wrinkled and dull in appearance. Fresh ones usually feature bright orange skin, which is smooth on the outside.


Check for sprouts. Sprouts don’t actually mean that you’ve got to trash the sweet potatoes, but it’s a sign that they aren’t fresh. If you find sprouts only in a small area, but the sweet potato is firm, you may just cut off that part and use the other parts.

rotten sweet potato

2. Texture

A sweet potato that is dry and wrinkled on the outside is not fresh anymore and perhaps it’s on its way to going bad. However, if it is only dry and wrinkled without other serious signs like mushiness or mould, you may probably use it.

A normal, fresh sweet potato has a firm texture and smooth surface when you cut into it. You can label it as rotten or spoiled if the texture is mushy and soft with discoloration on the inside.

3. Odor

A sweet potato that is spoiled gives off a foul smell, and this is often accompanied by other serious signs like mushiness or mould. A fresh sweet potato normally has a neutral smell.

eat sweet potatoes

How do you select a sweet potato?

  • When picking sweet potatoes, make sure they are firm and plump, with even-toned and smooth skin. Don’t buy those that appear shrivelled or have blemishes.
  • You can tell its ripeness by its smell. A fresh sweet potato gives off a naturally earthy smell, whereas a rotten one smells sweet, because it is rotten and the bacteria have already converted it to sugar.
  • Look for small to medium-sized sweet potatoes. Depending on the type of sweet potato, its skin colour ranges from rose to bright red to pale copper. If you notice any green patches, it is a sign that the potato hasn’t ripened yet.
  • Gently squeeze the sweet potato. If it feels mushy or soft to the touch and has black spots or holes, these are signs that it has gone bad.
  • Keep these tips in mind when picking sweet potatoes. I’m sure they will be perfect.
picking sweet potato

How long do sweet potatoes generally last?

It is possible to extend the shelf life of sweet potatoes if you store them appropriately and under the right conditions.

Storing sweet potatoes at room temperature

Well, at room temperature, you can store sweet potatoes quite well in a cool and dry place. You should spread them over a large area without cramming them together. Cramming them together creates a breeding ground for mould and microorganisms, and sometimes causes bruising. 

Generally, you should keep sweet potatoes in a dark space where there isn’t direct sunlight. If you store them this way, they’ll probably last between 3 and 5 weeks.

Storing sweet potatoes in the refrigerator

You should not store raw sweet potatoes in your refrigerator. Doing so will make their cores firmer, alter their taste, and make them harder to cook. But, if you have cut or peeled them, you can keep them in a bowl of cold water and place the bowl in the refrigerator. This way, you can keep them fresh for about a day.

In the case of cooked sweet potatoes, store them in your fridge for about 3-5 days. Make sure you use an airtight bag or container to store them. Even when it comes to freezing, it works best for cooked sweet potatoes. Perhaps raw ones don’t freeze well.

Storing sweet potatoes in the pantry

On average, sweet potatoes often last for up to 30 days if you store them at room temperature in your pantry. However, the exact time depends on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen and location.

food pantry


How to tell if a sweet potato is bad? Let me quickly summarise the important points for you:

  • Signs such as mould, sprouts, a soft and mushy texture, a bad smell, and discolouration are clear indicators of spoiled sweet potatoes.
  • When buying sweet potatoes, make sure they are fresh, firm, even-toned, and have an earthy smell.
  • Store these potatoes in the right conditions in a cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated place so that they last longer.
sweet potato conclusion

People Also Ask

Do dark spots mean the sweet potato has gone bad?

Dark spots are quite common on raw as well as cooked sweet potatoes. If the dark spots and discolouration tend to be superficial, and pretty close to the skin, they are still safe to eat. On the other hand, if the discolouration or dark spots run deep into the middle of the vegetable, it could be due to a fungal infestation, and thus unsafe to consume.

If white stuff oozes out of the sweet potato, is it bad?

When you cut a sweet potato, at times, you can notice a white liquid (a small quantity) oozing out. Well, this is normal. You can observe this phenomenon even in the freshest sweet potatoes. 

This white liquid consists of natural sugars and starches found in sweet potatoes. There is nothing to worry about as long as their texture is firm and there aren’t any signs of expiration such as mould, discolouration, or a foul smell.

However, if the texture of the sweet potato is mushy and you notice the white liquid oozing out, don’t cook or consume it. If you don’t find any other signs along with the white liquid, you can go ahead and cook it.

What happens if you consume a spoiled sweet potato?

When sweet potatoes are raw, they can stay fresh for a few weeks when they’re stored properly. Cooked ones, on the other hand, don’t last long. They can last in the refrigerator for up to four days; however, after that, they go bad.


If you consume a spoiled sweet potato, you can suffer from food poisoning, with symptoms including vomiting, diarrhoea, and nausea. In several severe cases, some may experience abdominal pain and fever. If you have any doubt that you’ve consumed a spoiled sweet potato, make sure you consult with your doctor right away. While most cases of food poisoning tend to be mild and usually resolve on their own, a few can turn out to be more serious. So, you’d better identify the spoiled sweet potatoes, and make sure you toss them away.

How do you store sweet potatoes so that they generally last longer?

Cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated places are often preferred for storing sweet potatoes. Places like your basement, cellar, or pantry cupboard work well for this. Storing in these places and under the above-mentioned conditions, sweet potatoes can last for up to 2-3 months. 

Given below are some tips for storing sweet potatoes to make them last longer:

  1. Make sure that the sweet potatoes are fresh and that there isn’t mould on the outside. If you notice any mould or sprouts on the outer skin, discard those potatoes.
  2. Brush off any dirt or dust from the sweet potato. However, don’t wash them, because this will introduce moisture, eventually increasing the chances of mould growth.
  3. Spread them out neatly, ensuring they aren’t. This will reduce the spread of fungi and bacteria.

Don’t store sweet potatoes in contact with other fruits or vegetables, as this will make them ripen quickly.

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Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

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