Sweet potatoes – a substitute for pumpkin?

"Pumpkin shortage" might be the most devastating phrase bakers and food manufacturers will hear this holiday season. But fear not, another orange vegetable is ready to step up and relieve us of all our shortage sorrow. Sweet potatoes, packed with nutrition and big on flavor, are a great substitute.

The truth is pumpkin by itself isn't so packed full of flavor. Instead it's the familiar fall spices – nutmeg and cinnamon – that make pumpkin-filled concoctions so deliriously delicious. Swapping the ingredient which gives the recipe its orangey goodness won't minimize flavor, but it can certainly maximize health benefits.

"Sweet potatoes bring a lot to the table as far as nutrition. Not only do these spuds offer more fiber and protein than a pumpkin, they dominate in the Vitamin C and A departments too," said Kelly McIver, Executive Director of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Ranked as the number one sweet potato producing state in the U.S., North Carolina is the largest grower of sweet potatoes, accounting for nearly half of U.S. production.

Here are three foolproof methods for transforming sweet potatoes into the fluffy, orange puree that can be substituted for pumpkin:

Bake - Easy as popping that tater into a hot oven, 45 minutes later you have a steamy pocket of sweet, fluffy goodness.

Microwave - Without wasting precious time to preheat and bake, you can still achieve the sweet caramelization that an oven-baked sweet potato is known for. Not sure when your microwaved sweet potato is ready? After about 5-8 minutes, the sweet potato's thin skin puffs to a crisp finish and inside you'll discover the sweet, pillowy deliciousness.

Slow-Roast - The crock pot is designed to cook for an extended period of time, releasing the intense flavor of the ingredients it holds. For sweet potatoes, that means an intensified rich, caramel flavor.