Yam vs Sweet Potato

If you’re like most people, you might believe that sweet potatoes and yams are interchangeable. They are actually two separate veggies with visible differences. You may select the ideal ingredient for your recipes and take advantage of their distinctive flavors and textures by being aware of the distinctions between yams and sweet potatoes.

Brazilian potato known as yam

Due to their similar appearance and use in both sweet and savory dishes, yams and sweet potatoes are sometimes mistaken.

They do, however, have various nutritional profiles and come from several plant families.

Sweet potatoes are indigenous to South America, but yams are indigenous to Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

Yams are larger than sweet potatoes, have a bark-like texture to their skin, and are more starchy. On the other hand, sweet potatoes are softer, sweeter, and have a smoother skin than yams.

Both yams and sweet potatoes, despite their peculiarities, are wholesome and adaptable foods that can be roasted, mashed, fried, or baked.

Yam Vs Sweet Potato: An Overview

There is frequently a misunderstanding between yams and sweet potatoes.

Raw sweet potatoes, organic

Although both phrases are frequently used synonymously, they do not mean the same thing.

We shall outline the distinctions between yams and sweet potatoes in this section.


Sweet potatoes and yams have a similar appearance, but they can stand out for different reasons.

Yams are often bigger and have a hard to peel, tough, scaly skin. They can get up to five feet long and have a cylindrical shape.

On the other hand, the skin of sweet potatoes is smoother and simpler to peel. They often have a tapering appearance and are smaller than yams.

Taste and Texture

Sweet potatoes and yams each have distinctive flavors and textures. Yams taste slightly sweet and have a starchy, dry feel.

They can be boiled, roasted, or fried and are frequently used in savory cuisines. On the other hand, sweet potatoes have a juicy texture and a sweeter flavor.

They can be mashed, baked, or boiled and are frequently used in sweet dishes.

Nutritional Value

Both yams and sweet potatoes are healthy, although their nutritional profiles differ.

While sweet potatoes are a rich source of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C, yams are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.

Yams and sweet potatoes are both nutritious additions to any diet because they are low in fat and calories.


The availability of yams and sweet potatoes is impacted by where in the world they are farmed.

While sweet potatoes are usually grown in the United States, Central America, and South America, yams are mostly grown in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.

It can be confusing because “yam” and “sweet potato” are sometimes used similarly in certain nations.

In conclusion, yams and sweet potatoes are two distinct plants, each with unique nutritional characteristics, tastes, textures, and looks.

You can choose the right component for your recipe and make informed dietary decisions by being aware of the distinctions between the two.

Origins and Cultivation

Yam: Origins and Cultivation

Yams have been grown for thousands of years and are thought to have originated in Africa and Asia.

Yam, brazilian potato, in a bowl.

In addition to being cultivated in Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America, they are a staple meal in many African nations.

Yams are a tuber that resembles a potato and come in a range of colors, sizes, and shapes. They often have a bigger size than sweet potatoes and a tough, scaly skin that is challenging to peel.

Yams are often planted in tropical or subtropical areas since they need a warm, humid climate to grow.

They are typically multiplied by planting tuber fragments or by utilizing vine cuttings. Yams typically take between 6 and 12 months to grow to maturity, which is longer than sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato: Origins and Cultivation

The Incas were the first civilization to cultivate sweet potatoes more than 5,000 years ago, and they are thought to have come from Central or South America.

Raw sweet potatoes on wooden background closeup

They later traveled to Asia and Africa after being introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus. Sweet potatoes are a type of root vegetable that can be found in several hues, such as orange, yellow, and purple.

They have a smooth, thin skin that is simple to peel and are often smaller than yams.

Sweet potatoes are primarily farmed in the southern United States, Central America, and parts of Asia since they need a warm, temperate climate to grow.

They are often multiplied by planting slips, which are potato-derived shoots. Depending on the cultivar, sweet potatoes mature in anywhere from three to six months.

Sweet potatoes and yams are both healthy veggies that can be utilized in a variety of recipes.

Despite frequently being mistaken for one another, they differ greatly in taste, texture, and appearance.

Knowing where these two veggies came from and how they were grown can help you appreciate their special traits and make the most of them in your cuisine.

Nutritional Comparison

Yams and sweet potatoes differ in certain ways and have some commonalities when it comes to nutrients. The breakdown of their nutritional comparison is as follows:

potato known as yam

Calories and Macronutrients

Sweet potatoes and yams both have a low caloric content. A cup of diced yams has around 155 calories, compared to roughly 114 calories in a cup of sweet potatoes.

Yams have 37 grams of carbs per cup as opposed to 27 grams for sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have more fiber than yams, with 4 grams per cup as opposed to 5 grams.

Vitamins and Minerals

Because they contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes are frequently promoted as a superfood.

They are a fantastic source of vitamin A, giving more than 700% of the daily required amount in just one cup. Additionally a rich source of vitamin B6, potassium, and vitamin C are sweet potatoes.

As opposed to sweet potatoes, which are a high source of vitamins A and B6, yams are a good provider of potassium and vitamin C. But yams have higher levels of several minerals like manganese and copper.

Glycemic Index

The fact that yams and sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index indicates that they digest slowly and do not result in a sudden rise in blood sugar levels.

Yams, on the other hand, have a lower glycemic index than sweet potatoes, making them a potential better option for diabetics.


Antioxidants, which can help prevent cellular damage and lower the risk of chronic diseases, are abundant in both yams and sweet potatoes.

High quantities of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A and has been associated with a lower risk of several malignancies, can be found in sweet potatoes.

Additionally, yams contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants such as anthocyanins, which give them their purple hue.

Overall, yams and sweet potatoes are both wholesome and nutrient-dense foods. One over the other may depend on personal choice or particular dietary requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions

Fresh Organic Orange Sweet Potato against a background

Are yams and sweet potatoes the same thing?

No, yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing. Although they are often used interchangeably, they are two different vegetables with different origins, nutritional profiles, and flavors. Sweet potatoes are native to the Americas, while yams are native to Africa and Asia. Sweet potatoes have a soft skin with a light brown or orange flesh, whereas yams have rougher skin and white, purple, or red flesh.

Which one is healthier, yams or sweet potatoes?

Both yams and sweet potatoes are healthy foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, they have different nutritional profiles. Sweet potatoes are higher in vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, while yams are higher in fiber and vitamin B6. The nutritional content of yams and sweet potatoes can also vary depending on the variety, growing conditions, and preparation method.

Can you substitute yams for sweet potatoes in recipes?

Yes, you can substitute yams for sweet potatoes in most recipes, but keep in mind that they have different textures and flavors. Yams are drier and starchier than sweet potatoes, so they may not be as moist or sweet in recipes that call for sweet potatoes. Yams also have a more earthy and nutty flavor, while sweet potatoes have a sweeter and milder flavor.

How do you cook yams and sweet potatoes?

Yams and sweet potatoes can be cooked in a variety of ways, including boiling, baking, roasting, and frying. Boiling is the most common method for cooking yams, while baking and roasting are popular for sweet potatoes. Both yams and sweet potatoes can also be mashed, pureed, or used as a base for soups and stews. When cooking yams and sweet potatoes, it’s important to adjust the cooking time and temperature based on the size and thickness of the vegetable to ensure even cooking.

Japanese Yam


In conclusion, both yams and sweet potatoes are healthy root vegetables that may be included into a number of meals. They differ significantly in taste, texture, and appearance, but they are not the same.

Compared to yams, sweet potatoes often have a sweeter flavor and a softer texture. They are also available in several colors, including orange, purple, and white.

Yams, on the other hand, have a rough, bark-like skin and are drier and starchier. They are native to Africa and Asia and are less prevalent than sweet potatoes in supermarkets.

Both yams and sweet potatoes are great providers of fiber, vitamins, and minerals when it comes to nutrition.

But yams have more potassium, while sweet potatoes often contain more vitamin A. Both vegetables are excellent additions to a balanced diet because they are low in fat and calories.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.