So— what is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes anyway?

difference between yams and sweet potatoes

These common varieties of root vegetables often get confused— but what is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes? For starters, they are not the same vegetables, contrary to popular belief. Yams are drier and have a higher sugar content than sweet potatoes. 

Their flesh also tends to be lighter than intensely orange sweet potatoes. When you cut into a raw yam, both the interior and exterior is more likely to resemble a russet potato than a sweet potato. While we don’t know anyone who eats raw potatoes, raw yams contain toxins that are harmful to humans so always cook them before eating.

Both varieties offer tons of potassium and are loaded with vitamin A and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are healthier than yams in terms of calories— 1 cup of sweet potatoes contains about 114 calories, whereas yams contain approximately 177 calories. Sweet potatoes are also richer in beta-carotene. You can prepare them similarly by roasting, microwaving, or boiling them, or even using an Instant Pot to cook sweet potatoes.

When shopping for sweet potatoes, choose ones that are uniform in size, as they’ll cook evenly. Keep an eye out for large sprouts, which are a sign the potatoes have been on the shelf for an eternity. Always wash potatoes thoroughly before cooking with them, particularly if you are going to be eating the skin.

The Readers Digest version:

Sweet potatoes are a starchy root vegetable originating in Central or South America. There are two main varieties. They have a long shelf life and are usually sweeter and moister than regular potatoes.

True yams are an edible tuber originating in Africa and Asia. There are over 600 varieties, which vary widely in size. They are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes and rarely found in local grocery stores.

Still curious? This is what Master Class has to say about the subject.