The Sweet Potato vs. The Yam

It seems that most people get confused as to what is a sweet potato and what is a yam! In fact, in the United States, most people use both terminologies to refer to a sweet potato, when neither of these two vegetables is related! The sweet potato is found in tropical America and is a part of the Morning Glory family. The yam is a tuber (a bulb) of a tropical vine found in Central & South America, as well as the West Indies, Africa and Asia. Varieties There are mainly two varieties of sweet potato. The pale sweet potato has a very thin yellow skin with a bright yellow flesh. This variety is neither sweet nor moist, but more the texture of a white baking potato. The darker skinned sweet potato has a thicker orange skin with a sweet moist flesh. The true yam is not marketed or grown widely in the United States. Where it is marketed, is usually in Latin American markets. A yam can be as small as a potato and can grow as large as 7 feet and weigh over 120 pounds! The flesh can range in color from off-white to yellow to pink to purple! The skin color can be from off-white to a dark brown. Season Both the sweet potato and the yam are available fresh from October through March. How to Select When trying to choose a sweet potato, choose a medium sized variety with smooth unbruised skin. You will want to choose an unblemished yam with unwrinkled skin. Storage Store your sweet potatoes in a dry, dark 55 degree F (12 – 13 degrees C) area for approximately a month. Otherwise, use your sweet potato within the week. Never place a sweet potato in the refrigerator. Store your yam in a cool, dark, dry place up to 2 weeks. Never place your yam in the refrigerator. Nutritional Qualities Sweet potatoes have high Vitamins A and C. Yams have higher sugar content. Wine Pairings Depending on what you are serving with your yams or sweet potatoes and as to how you are preparing it, try a Chardonnay, a Fume Blanc, a French Colombard or a Syrah. Spices Brown sugar, butter, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, lemon juice, lemon peel, mace, marjoram, nutmeg, orange juice, orange peel, poppy seed, sage, savory, thyme.

Equivalencies 1 pound fresh = 3 medium = 3 1/2 - 4 cups cooked and chopped

Preparation A sweet potato can be prepared like a potato: baked, boiled, sautéed, steamed, microwaved, or fried. A yam can be prepared like a sweet potato!


African Squash and Yams

6 Servings

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 pound Hubbard squash, pared and cut into 1-inch pieces 2 yams, or sweet potatoes, pared & cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Cook and stir onion in oil in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until tender.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat.
  3. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes longer.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Source: Public domain recipes converted from Meal Master format

Orange-Glazed Sweet-Potatoes

4 Servings

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tablespoon wheat germ
  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 2 tablespoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice potatoes about 1/8 inch thick; spread evenly in an 8-inch square dish.
  2. Combine orange juice, brown sugar, wheat germ, margarine, orange peel, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Cover dish with foil or lid. Bake 1 hour, until potatoes are tender.

Source: Public domain recipes converted from Meal Master format

Sweet Potato Pie

8 Servings

  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup Mashed, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 3 lightly beaten eggs
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pie shell, Unbaked
  1. Cream butter and brown sugar in bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Blend in sweet potato and eggs. Add next 4 ingredients; mix well.
  3. Pour into pie shell. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake 35 to 45 minutes longer or until well set.

Source: Public domain recipes converted from Meal Master format

For more information about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, please go to Home Cooking hosted at

Or, try some of Suite 101's other editor's articles! "Cooking With Grandma" by Vaudie E. Harrison

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Jennifer Wickes may be contacted at . Click here to view more of their articles. Jennifer A. Wickes is a freelance food writer, researcher and cookbook reviewer. She has written several eBooks, and has had several articles and recipes in printed publications. She is working on her first cookbook.

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