Sweet potato vs yam: Just the facts.

I’ve wondered about the sweet potato vs yam difference for a long time now. (I love sweet potato fries and sweet potato hash more than anything in the world.) Every time I walk into my local Whole Foods, there is one display cart with sweet potatoes on one side and yams on the other. I always just grab one or the other without thinking, because really, what’s the difference? They look similar, and as far as I can tell, they taste pretty similar. So what gives? Sweet potato vs yam—is there a difference? I decided to look into it.

Is There a Difference Between Sweet Potatoes vs Yams?

It turns out that sweet potatoes and yams are actually very different. Each comes in a variety of colors and varying degrees of sweetness, so you can’t necessarily tell them apart by how they look. Here's the sweet potato vs yam definition: yams are what they call monocots, while sweet potatoes are dicots; all that means is that yams have a single embryonic seed leaf, while sweet potatoes have two. Yams are native to Asia and Africa. The majority of yams are still grown in Africa. Yams tend to be drier, starchier, and sweeter than sweet potatoes. Supposedly, they can also grow up to seven feet long! Aye carumba!

Real Yams?

However, while the sweet potato vs yam debate reveals many differences between the two, the truth is that most of what we call yams here in the United States are actually sweet potatoes. It is possible to buy yams, of course, but just keep in mind that when you see “yams” at the grocery store, odds are that they are actually sweet potatoes. The reason for this is that some sweet potatoes remain firm when you cook them, and some become soft when you cook them. The kind that turn soft are the ones that we call “yams.” And the reason we call them yams is because that’s what African slaves used to call them, because they reminded them of the yams from Africa. So the name stuck.

In Good Taste

As far as sweet potato vs yam taste is concerned, one is not necessarily better than the other. There are many varieties of sweet potatoes and yams, ranging in color from white to yellow to orange to even purple! They all have slightly different tastes. Some are sweeter. Some are firmer and some are softer. Some work better for certain recipes and others work better for other recipes. However, the taste differences are relatively small, for most people. If you’re an expert cook with a discerning palate, you will definitely be able to appreciate the differences when you compare sweet potatoes vs yams. But most of us probably won’t notice the difference all that much. For most of us, it just doesn’t matter that much.

Is One Healthier?

What about health benefits? You can read more here about sweet potato nutrition facts, to learn more about what vitamins and minerals they supply and which they don’t. But to make a long story short, they’re both good for you. So when it comes to sweet potatoes vs yams, no matter which one you eat, you’re assured of a healthy and delicious treat. So eat meals with sweet potatoes or meals with yams. Some other healthy foods you might want to try include avocado and artichoke. Thanks for reading my sweet potato vs yam article! Enjoy!