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Sweet Potato vs. Yam: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on January 30, 2024
Sweet potatoes are tuberous roots with a sweet taste and smooth skin, while yams are starchy tubers with rough, bark-like skin, and are less sweet.

Key Differences

Sweet potatoes, belonging to the Convolvulaceae family, are native to Central and South America. Yams, on the other hand, are part of the Dioscoreaceae family and are primarily grown in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.
Sweet potatoes have smooth, thin skin with varying flesh colors ranging from orange to purple. Yams have rough, scaly skin, and their flesh can range from white to orange or purple, but they are generally whiter than sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are known for their sweet flavor and are rich in vitamins A and C. Yams are less sweet, more starchy, and are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and potassium.
Sweet potatoes are versatile in cooking, used in both sweet and savory dishes. They can be baked, roasted, or mashed. Yams, with their starchy texture, are often boiled, fried, or included in stews and soups.
In the United States, the term "yam" is often incorrectly used to describe orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, particularly in the context of Thanksgiving meals. True yams are a staple food in African and Caribbean diets and have different cultural significances.

Comparison Chart



Skin Texture

Smooth and thin
Rough and scaly


Less sweet, more starchy

Nutritional Value

High in vitamins A and C
High in carbohydrates and fiber

Common Culinary Uses

Baked, roasted, mashed
Boiled, fried, used in stews

Sweet Potato and Yam Definitions

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes often have orange or purple flesh.
The sweet potato's bright orange flesh was perfect for the pie.


Yams are starchy tubers with a rough texture.
She chose yams for their starchy quality to thicken her stew.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are known for their natural sweetness.
The natural sweetness of the sweet potato complemented the savory spices.


Yams are a good source of carbohydrates and fiber.
Yams were a major carbohydrate source in his diet plan.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes have smooth, thin skin.
The smooth skin of the sweet potato was easy to peel.


Yams are less sweet compared to sweet potatoes.
The less sweet flavor of yams balanced the spicy dish.

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C.
For a vitamin boost, he added sweet potatoes to his diet.


Yams have rough, bark-like skin.
The yam's rough skin was peeled away to reveal the flesh inside.

Sweet Potato

A sweet potato is a nutritious and versatile root vegetable.
She roasted sweet potatoes for a healthy side dish.


Yams typically have white to orange flesh.
The yam's white flesh turned golden when fried.


Any of numerous chiefly tropical vines of the genus Dioscorea, many of which have edible tuberous roots.


The starchy root of any of these plants, used in the tropics as food.


Can you substitute yams for sweet potatoes in recipes?

Yes, but the taste and texture will be slightly different.

Are yams common in the U.S. supermarkets?

True yams are less common and often found in international markets.

Can sweet potatoes be eaten raw?

Yes, sweet potatoes can be eaten raw, but they're usually cooked.

Are yams used in traditional African cuisine?

Yes, yams are a staple in many African and Caribbean dishes.

Are sweet potatoes and yams the same?

No, they are different plants with distinct tastes and textures.

Do sweet potatoes help with vision?

Yes, the vitamin A in sweet potatoes is good for eye health.

Are yams used in traditional medicine?

In some cultures, yams are used for their medicinal properties.

Are sweet potatoes healthier than yams?

Sweet potatoes have higher vitamin A content, but both are nutritious.

Do yams have a high glycemic index?

Yes, yams have a higher glycemic index than sweet potatoes.

Is the skin of yams edible?

Yes, but it's usually peeled due to its rough texture.

Do sweet potatoes come in different colors?

Yes, sweet potato flesh can be orange, white, or purple.

Can yams be stored for a long time?

Yes, yams have a long shelf life when stored in a cool, dry place.

Can sweet potatoes be used in desserts?

Absolutely, sweet potatoes are popular in pies and other desserts.

Are yams related to sweet potatoes?

No, they belong to different botanical families.

Are sweet potatoes rich in antioxidants?

Yes, particularly those with purple flesh.

Are sweet potatoes a good source of fiber?

Yes, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of dietary fiber.

Can sweet potatoes be baked?

Yes, baking is a popular way to cook sweet potatoes.

Do yams need to be cooked before eating?

Yes, yams should be cooked to improve digestibility and flavor.

Can yams be mashed like sweet potatoes?

Yes, yams can be boiled and mashed.

Are sweet potatoes gluten-free?

Yes, sweet potatoes are naturally gluten-free.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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