difference between sweet potatoes and yams

The Sweet Potato vs. The Yam: What’s the Difference?


Sweet potatoes and yams are two root vegetables that often get confused for one another. Even though they look similar, they are actually from two different plant families and have distinctive taste, texture and nutritional profiles. In this article, we will explore the differences between sweet potatoes and yams, so you can make informed choices about which to buy and how to prepare them.

Origins and Botany

Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are native to Central and South America and are members of the morning glory family. They come in many varieties, ranging from pale yellow to deep purple, and can be found year-round at grocery stores. They have thin, smooth skin and a moist, sweet interior.

Yams, on the other hand, (Dioscorea) are native to Africa and Asia, and belong to the yam family. They are less popular in the United States and are only found in specialty markets. Yams are usually larger, have rough, scaly skin, and their interior is cream colored, dry and starchy.

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Taste and Texture

When cooked, sweet potatoes have a sweet, nutty flavor and a creamy texture that is perfect for both sweet and savory dishes. They are great roasted, mashed or used in soups and stews.

Yams, on the other hand, have a less sweet, earthy flavor and a dense, starchy texture. They are often boiled or fried in Africa and Asia, but in the United States, they are more commonly baked or roasted.

Nutritional Profile

While both yams and sweet potatoes are good sources of fiber, potassium and vitamins A and C, they have different nutritional profiles.

Sweet potatoes are higher in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, which is essential for good vision, healthy skin and a strong immune system. Yams are slightly higher in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and promote heart health.


In conclusion, while sweet potatoes and yams may look alike, they have distinct differences in taste, texture and nutritional value. Knowing these differences is important if you want to make the most of their unique qualities. Make sure to properly label your sweet potatoes and yams when storing them so that you don’t mix them up, and enjoy experimenting with the different ways you can use these versatile and nutritious vegetables in your meals.

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Table difference between sweet potatoes and yams

Differences Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Criteria Sweet Potatoes Yams
Color Range from pale yellow to deep orange Can range from off-white to reddish-purple
Texture Moist and soft when cooked Dry and starchy when cooked
Taste Sweet and nutty Mild and earthy
Origin Native to Central and South America Native to Africa and Asia
Usage Used in both sweet and savory dishes, such as baked goods, casseroles, fries, and more Typically used in African and Caribbean dishes as a substitute for potatoes or rice