The Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes and yams are essentially twins in the root vegetable world. If you’ve ever mistaken one for the other, trust us, you are not alone. Their oblong shape, coarse outer skin, and brownish color are almost identical.

So then the real question is…are they interchangeable? 

Well, as similar as they seem, yams and sweet potatoes are not the same. To be clear, a yam is not a type of sweet potato, nor is a sweet potato a type of yam. They are two different root vegetables that just happen to look very similar.

However, if you look beyond the first glance, you’ll might notice some differences between the two veggies that will help you determine which is which. And, especially for the calorie-counters among us, knowing this distinction can be crucial in your cooking.


Originally from Africa and Asia, yams have darker, brownish and sometimes rougher external skin. Internally, their flesh is whiter in shade and dry in texture; because of this dryness, yams typically required more oil, cream, or butter when cooked.One of the biggest fallacies in the “potato versus yam” debate is that yams are sold commonly in the U.S. Truth be told, most major groceries are NOT selling yams, but rather they’re selling sweet potatoes off as yams. Mind blown, right?Although yams are grown all over the world (they can literally be grown in almost any climate) your best bet for finding a REAL yam on NorthAmerican soil is at an international market or a farmer’s market. Most major chains are just dressing up a variety of sweet potato, which we’ll get into in a bit.If you do manage to get your hands on this veggie, congratulations! Yams are a sweet root, perfect for roasting as a delicious side dish, being diced up into a hearty yam stew, or candied with butter and brown sugar.

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