Sweet Potato, Apple and Pancetta HashThis is the sort of dish that my belly likes! The flavors of the sweet potatoes and apples cooked in the fat of the pancetta are amazing, the texture is comforting, and the balance of starchy carbs and fat seems to be perfect for my particularly quirky digestive system.

When I first went grain-free it was in the context of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which operates under the theory that certain carbohydrates feed bacteria in the gut which creates a vicious cycle of irritation and inflammation and therefore does not allow starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, potatoes, parsnips, and jicama. Although I experienced some healing on that diet and finally got my anemia under control, many of my most frustrating symptoms remained and I also very rapidly lost precious weight I could ill afford to lose.

After I decided to eliminate additional foods that are known gut irritants and potential autoimmune triggers (dairy, legumes, nuts, seeds, coffee, alcohol, eggs, and nightshades) I immediately saw dramatic improvement in my bowel symptoms. For a while I continued to keep the starchy vegetables out of my diet – not wanting to undo any gains I had made in rebalancing my gut bacteria, but I still couldn’t gain weight, even as my digestion started working more normally. After doing a lot of research into the paleo autoimmune protocol and other sources, I came up with the theory that perhaps the beneficial bacteria in my gut actually needed some starch to feed upon as a prebiotic, so I decided to cautiously experiment with sweet potatoes. And just yesterday I found this FAQ answer on The Paleo Mom’s site that also refers to a bacterial “undergrowth” and notes that it mostly applies to people with IBD and celiac disease, so I feel like my theory may have some validity.

As it turns out, this was just what I needed. I saw immediate improvement in my bowel function as well as my energy levels. Gaining back the weight I lost is taking a little longer, but is slowly starting to happen. Now my diet follows the basic framework of the Perfect Health Diet, written by Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet, with modifications for autoimmunity.

Since the complications of my surgical history have left me with most of my ileum missing and only part of my colon, I always have to be cautious of eating too much fat or too much simple carbohydrate at a single time as either can overwhelm my system and trigger problems. However, I have found that if I balance the fat and carbohydrates with foods that are rich in fiber and/or starch, everything slows down a bit and I am able to digest and absorb the nutrients much more easily. This dish fits the bill perfectly, and with the addition of a fried egg (which I am still cautiously reintroducing to my autoimmune protocol diet), it also provides a good dose of protein!

I also make sure to use coconut oil because it is easy for my body to digest and absorb.

For more on “safe starches”…

I highly recommend this cookbook by Russ Crandall (also known as The Domestic Man).


Apple and Pancetta Hash Recipe

Sweet Potato, Apple and Pancetta Hash
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2-3
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
This delicious hash is perfect for a crisp fall morning! Pair with an egg for a complete breakfast, or enjoy on its own to be fully autoimmune protocol compliant.
  • 6 ounces pancetta, diced (or regular bacon)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large apple (or 2 small), cut into cubes that are no bigger than 1 inch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil, butter, ghee, or other solid cooking fat (if needed)
  • 1 large sweet potato (or 2-3 small), peeled and cut into cubes that are no bigger than 1 inch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  1. In a medium cast iron skillet over medium to medium-low heat, cook pancetta 3-5 minutes or until crispy and fat has rendered.
  2. Remove pancetta with slotted spoon, leave fat in pan.
  3. Add onion, apples, and cinnamon. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes.
  4. Remove from pan and add to reserved pancetta. Set aside.
  5. If pan is dry add 1-2 tablespoons fat and allow to melt. Add sweet potatoes to pan and allow to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir, allow to cook for another 2 minutes undisturbed.
  7. Continue cooking sweet potatoes, stirring as needed to insure all sides get browned and none burn, until soft (about 5-6 more minutes, about 10 minutes total).
  8. Add reserved pancetta, onion, and apples back to pan. Add sage and stir to combine and warm throughout.

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Sweet Potato Apple and Pancetta Hash

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