Open Arms of Minnesota

Weekly Recipe #244: Indian-Spiced Sweet Potato Bread

By Jillian Tholen, Dietetic Intern [University of Minnesota – The Emily Program]

Photo credit: Anne Putnam/Flickr

When I got my first whiff of the Indian spice garam masala, I thought it would go well with the sweet, nutty flavor of something like pumpkin or sweet potato.

Upon further investigation (I tend to be somewhat of a nerd), I discovered that garam masala is a blend of spices used in many Indian dishes, and its composition can vary depending on the region of the country. Some of the spices it often includes are nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, cumin, cardamom, and star anise. Interestingly the word garam translates to “hot” or “heat” in the Ayurvedic sense, meaning “to heat the body,” so it’s no surprise that it struck me as a perfect spice blend to use in fall and winter baking.

I set about creating this recipe with a sweet potato I had on hand (although you could certainly use pumpkin or squash as well), and the bread turned out great. It is soft and moist, lightly sweet, and has a complex spiciness that is subtle yet assertive – so delicious! I have to say, a thick slice goes perfectly with a steaming mug of coffee or tea and a cozy sweater on a chilly morning.

This bread is certainly a sweet treat, but I kept it reasonably low in sugar; this way you really taste the complexity of the spices and the deep, earthy sweetness of the sweet potato.

The herbs and spices that make up the garam masala itself contain many health-promoting properties. Spices like cinnamon and ginger have potent anti-inflammatory properties, and really do “warm” the body, as they promote increased circulation. Using sweet potato (or any other variety of winter squash) makes this bread rich in vitamins like beta carotene and vitamin A, both of which are excellent antioxidants and support healthy vision and brain function. Additionally, the use of coconut oil keeps the bread extremely moist, and contributes metabolism-enhancing medium-chain fatty acids.

Indian-Spiced Sweet Potato Bread

Makes about 10 servings


  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or butter)
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup well-pureed roasted sweet potato or winter squash (butternut squash, pumpkin, etc…)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup lightly toasted chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (for topping)


  1. Melt the coconut oil or butter in a small pan over medium heat. Set aside and allow to cool while you put everything else together.
  2. Preheat oven to 350˚ with a rack in the top third. Butter a 1-lb loaf pan (roughly 9x5x3-inches).
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, garam masala, ginger, and sea salt together into a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a smaller bowl whisk the sugar, eggs, squash, and milk. Whisk in the oil, but make sure it isn’t hot to the touch.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Fold in 2/3 of the walnuts.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and remaining walnuts, and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the center of the cake is well set. Do your best to avoid over-baking—part of this cake’s charm is its moistness! Use a cake tester if necessary.
  7. Let the bread cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, and then take it out and put it on a rack to cool completely.

Nutrition Information:

Per serving: 270 calories, 15g total fat (10g saturated fat), 4g protein, 34g total carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, and 210mg sodium

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