Healthy Thanksgiving hack: garlic confit

Instead of butter, use this condiment to make fluffy mashed potatoes.

With the holidays come indulgences, but that doesn't mean you can't fit in quick workouts and make healthier versions of your favorite Thanksgiving foods. In this series, Julia Heffelfinger, a Denver-based recipe developer, shares culinary tips for reinventing classic comfort foods.

"Mashed potatoes can easily be transformed into a better-for-you version by using garlic confit instead of butter," says Heffelfinger. "The cloves are cooked slowly in olive oil until soft and caramelized, yielding a slightly sweet, flavor-packed condiment. You can incorporate it directly into your mashed potatoes, or puree it into a creamy paste to spread on biscuits, blend it into gravy to help thicken the sauce (and add depth), or even combine it with herbs and rub it under the skin of your turkey before roasting," she says. Plus, as an extra bonus, "you also get a delicious oil when making the confit that’s great for vinaigrettes, drizzling over roasted vegetables, or whisking into homemade aioli." Here, Heffelfinger shares how to use it in a healthy side dish recipe featuring vitamin A-rich sweet potatoes.

Creamy Harissa Sweet Potatoes

Serves 10 to 12

"Garlic confit's mellow sweetness perfectly complements the subtle kick of heat from the harissa, a chile paste used in North African and Middle Eastern cooking," says Heffelfinger. Pro tip: buy pre-peeled garlic to save on time and a potato ricer, a tool that gives you a smooth texture without excessive mashing, which can make the dish gummy.


2 heads garlic (about ½ cup peeled cloves)
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed
½ cup tofu sour cream, such as Toffuti brand
¼ cup harissa*
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Snipped chives
Flaky sea salt


In a small saucepan, add the garlic cloves and olive oil. Bring the oil to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to very low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer until the garlic is golden and very tender, about 45 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the garlic cloves to a clean jar and cover with the infused oil. Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prick the sweet potatoes all over with a small paring knife and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake the potatoes until very tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool slightly, then peel and cut into chunks.

In a food processor, puree ¼ cup of the garlic cloves with ¼ cup of the infused garlic oil until smooth. 

In a large bowl, use a potato ricer to mash the sweet potatoes. Fold in the garlic puree, tofu sour cream, harissa, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to a serving bowl, drizzle with some of the garlic oil, and garnish with chives, flaky sea salt, and additional pepper as desired. Store the remaining garlic confit in its oil for up to two weeks in the fridge. 

*Store-bought harissa can vary in heat, so incorporate it gradually until you reach your desired spice level.