What's the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes?

·2 min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

Yams and sweet potatoes are the same thing, right? Wrong! It's likely that what you might have referred to as yams (as in candied yams) is most likely is a sweet potato! Even some supermarkets will refer to them interchangeably (and incorrectly label them), but the truth is that an actual yam looks and tastes quite different than sweet potatoes. Read on to learn about yams versus sweet potatoes, and the differences between them.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

What is a sweet potato?

A sweet potato is a a root tuber native to Central and South America. Sweet potatoes come in a few varieties and be orange, purple, or even white in flesh. The most common type of sweet potato has bright orange flesh with smooth, rosy brown skin. Sweet potatoes are pretty common in the United States, and are used in many sweet and savory preparations like sweet potato casserole with marshmallow, air-fryer sweet potato fries, beef curry with sweet potato noodles, and Ree Drummond's family favorite Sweet Soul Taters (a yummy sweet potato casserole topped with mounds of brown sugar and pecans).

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

What is a yam?

Yams are also a root tuber, but not the same one as a sweet potato! They are cylindrical in shape and have white flesh and dark brown skin that is more bark-like in appearance. The flesh is drier and less creamy than a sweet potato when cooked—more similar to a russet potato. Yams come in many varieties and originated in parts of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. They can grow very large in size—up to 100 pounds and a few feet long! They're are usually prepared boiled or roasted, similar to sweet potatoes.

What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?

Sweet potatoes and yams are actually totally different vegetables! Though sweet potatoes are often referred to as yams, yams are their own separate vegetable and actually look and taste quite different from a regular sweet potato. Sweet potatoes have rosy brown skin and bright orange flesh while yams have a dark brown, bark-like skin and white flesh, and grow to be much larger than sweet potatoes.

Is a yam healthier than a sweet potato?

Both sweet potatoes and yams are nutritious, albeit completely different vegetables. They are both good to eat as a part of a healthy diet and neither is particularly nutritiously superior to the other. That being said, sweet potatoes contain more vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, and protein.

Do yams and sweet potatoes taste the same?

Yams and sweet potatoes don't taste the same. Sweet potatoes are much sweeter and creamier in texture, while yams have a flavor and starchier texture more comparable to a white potato.