American Cuisine · Appetizers & Side Dishes · Seafood

Sweet Potato Shrimp Cakes

Crab cakes, step aside. Sweet potato and shrimp seem like an unlikely duo but the flavors are not to be discounted. Ever tried a pumpkin shrimp bisque? It’s similar but this time instead of bisque happiness, this translates to munchie happiness. The creaminess and sweetness of the sweet potato paired with the saltiness of shrimp and an array of spices are completely tantalizing.

Making this recipe was a rocky trek, I encountered stringy sweet potatoes, burnt garlic, and a spice grinder whose cap refused to twist off to give me peppercorns. A little surgery was required — I was determined to get to shrimp cake heaven.

This recipe requires of bit of advance preparation. Make the Latin spice mix the night before so you can quickly assemble the shrimp cakes the next day.

The rocky trek:

I’m 99% sure that not even Rambo could twist this cap off. He would probably snap if off, but that’s not the point.  I huffed and puffed for 5 minutes, gave up, and came back for more. Still no luck–brute force was not the answer. A knife was.

Microwaving sweet potatoes and garlic is a brilliant idea, it’s quicker than roasting. I happy-go-luckily put the sweet potato in for 12 minutes and the garlic for 3 minutes.

Looks like those ads they use to scare teens from smoking: “Cigarettes cause cancer”

My next try was much more successful, just 4 minutes in the microwave for the sweet potato.. and the garlic? Well, I sauteed them because mine kept turning into burnt wood chips.  The lesson here is check every few minutes. Prick with a fork, if it easily goes through, it is ready.


1 lb tan-skinned sweet potatoes
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
4 Tbsp (or more) vegetable oil
8 oz peeled, cooked shrimp, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup fresh cilantro
2/3 cup panko crumbs
2 Tbsp finely chopped preserved jalapeño chili
2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 1/2 teaspoons spice mix (recipe included here)

Spice Mix Recipe

1/4 cup cumin seeds
3 Tbsp whole black peppercorns
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
2 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Combine cumin, peppercorns, and coriander in a heavy medium skillet. Stir over medium heat until fragrant and toasted, about 8 minutes. Cool slightly. Finely grind toasted spices in blender. Transfer to a small bowl. Mix in sugar and salt. Makes 1/2 cup.You will have plenty of spice left over. More of a reason to make this recipe more or use it as a rub on chicken or nuts for a snack.


Microwave method (if you run into the same luck as me regarding the garlic, just chop fine and saute with a little bit of oil until fragrant and slightly soft)

1 Pierce sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Bake in microwave for about 10 minutes until done. Rub a Tbsp of oil over unpeeled garlic. Cook in microwave a couple minutes, until soft. Cool garlic and sweet potatoes slightly. Remove peel from garlic. Remove skins from sweet potatoes. Combine sweet potatoes and garlic in a bowl. Mash until smooth.

2 Add shrimp, cilantro,panko, jalapeno chili, onion, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of Latin Spice Mix. Stir to blend well. Season with salt. Form mixture into cakes about 2 inches in diameter.

3 Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat cakes in flour. Heat 3 Tbsp oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook cakes in batches until brown, adding more oil if necessary, about 2 minutes per side. Place on baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about 5 minutes.

Serve with lemon, a simply garlic aioli, or tartar sauce.

Adapted from


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