Yam vs. Sweet Potato. What’s the difference?

Food Tips, Thanksgiving

Yam vs. Sweet Potato. What’s the difference?

Have you ever gone to the grocery store to buy sweet potatoes and get overwhelmed and confused with the varieties of sweet potatoes? Who would have thought that there are so many options? So many questions enter my mind. Which one is the tastiest? What color is sweeter or softer once baked? Which is best for baking, mashing, grilling, or roasting? To my surprise, there are many key differences between sweet potatoes and yams.
Although many grocery stores use the terms “sweet potatoes” and “yams” interchangeably, both are very different. Besides being underground, tuberous vegetables originate on different continents and belong to different plant families. They vary in color, taste, nutritional content, and uses.
The most common variety used in America is sweet potatoes as yams are more used in tropical climates. Sweet potatoes that originated in Central or South America, are typically more sweet and moist, starchier, with a longer shelf life than regular potatoes. Yams, on the other hand, originated in Africa and Asia. With more than 600 varieties, these potatoes are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes.
Both varieties are highly nutritious and versatile. They are full of vitamins, rich in antioxidants, may help manage blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, and promote gut health. Depending on your preference, they can also be prepared and eaten differently. Most people often bake, mash, roast, fry, or puree for soups or to use in desserts.
To make your Thanksgiving shopping simpler, I’ve created a comparison between both to help.

Yam VS. Sweet Potato

What are the most common types of sweet potatoes?


This is the most common sweet potato found in pretty much every grocery store. They have a dusky-red skin color with a deep orange interior. The flesh is a bit juicier than other varieties which makes it so good for baking, boiling, frying, and mashing.


Garnets are recognizable by their deep reddish purplish skin color. Being sweet, flavorful, and moister, they are ideal for mashing and using for pie, casserole, or to just eat alone once baked.


Jewels have a copper-colored skin and a bright orange flesh that’s firm and moist. They can be baked, roasted, fried, or mashed for casseroles, soups, or desserts.


White in color, these sweet potatoes are dense, firm, and starchy. They are ideal for roasting, stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming, or mashing.


Rich in flavor, Okinawa sweet potatoes have tan skin and a sugary purple flesh. Whether they’re baked, roasted, boiled, or steamed, they are packed with antioxidants and delicious.


The Japanese Satsuma-imo sweet potatoes are small and round in size with a semi-rough brown (purplish) textured skin and pale yellow flesh. Much denser and starchier than other varieties, it can be roasted, baked, boiled, stir-fried, and steamed. The shape holds up even after cooking.


Available all year round, these rose-colored sweet potatoes with vibrant orange flesh are long, slender, and small to medium in size. They can be eaten raw, baked, mashed, or roasted.

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