Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams: Nutritional Differences and Recipe

Updated on January 6, 2020
MickiS profile image

My passions are food, tennis, and travel. I love to write about cooking, gluten-free recipes, tennis technique, and tennis strategies.

A roasted sweet potato. You can tell it's a sweet potato because of the orange interior flesh. This is one of two types of sweet potatoes sold in US markets.
A roasted sweet potato. You can tell it's a sweet potato because of the orange interior flesh. This is one of two types of sweet potatoes sold in US markets. | Source

What's the Difference Between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?

Although the terms are often used interchangeably in America, sweet potatoes and yams are two different vegetables:

  • Sweet potatoes are a starchy tuber native to the Americas that is distantly related to a potato. Sweet potatoes in the US come in two varieties: one with a creamy, white interior and the other with an orange interior.
  • Yams, on the other hand, are a tuber native to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. They generally have darker, bark-like skin on the outside and vary in color on the inside from creamy white to purple. They contain no starch.

Simple, right? So why the confusion?

Going back to Colonial times, African slaves called the sweet potato a yam after the familiar tuber in Africa. This confusion was institutionalized by the USDA who started labeling the darker variety of sweet potato 'yam' to distinguish is from its paler cousin. Thus, the orange sweet potatoes are often sold as 'yams,' but the USDA requires them to also contain 'sweet potato' (which is what they really are) in the labeling.

Nutritional Data

Sweet Potato
Russet Potato
Total Fat
Total Omega-3 fatty acids
Total Omega-6 fatty acids
Total Carbohydrates
Dietary Fiber
Inflammation Factor*
+189 (Moderately Anti-inflammatory
-76 (mildly inflammatory)
-59 (mildly inflammatory)
Glycemic Load
Good Source of
Dietary fiber, Vitamin B6, Potassium
Dietary fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, and Manganese
Vitamin B6, Potassium, and Maganese
Very Good Source of
Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Manganese
Vitamin C
Serving Amount
100g, baked with skin, no salt
100g, baked with skin, no salt
100g, baked with skin, no salt
Inflammation Factor: The IF (Inflammation Factor) Rating™ estimates the inflammatory or anti-inflammatory potential of foods by calculating the net effect of different nutritional factors, such as fatty acids, antioxidants, and glycemic impact. Sourc

Nutritional Analysis

As you can see from the nutrition data above, sweet potatoes, yams, and potatoes have a very similar nutritional profile. This is not surprising given, that they are all tubers of one kind or another. Where sweet potatoes do have an edge, however, is that they are moderately anti-inflammatory, given the higher amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids and manganese (an essential trace mineral to maintain the integrity of skin and bone). This is particularly important for people who may be managing chronic illness or high-level athletes.

Both Are Great Alternatives to Potatoes

Whether you opt for a sweet potato or a yam, either make a great alternative to potatoes. Because both have more natural (albeit different) flavor than a russet potato, they are less likely to require additives such as butter, sour cream, or excess salt to make them taste good. However, because they usually require a longer cooking time (in excess of an hour), they are not the quickest thing to make for a late evening meal. However, my recipe below makes it a bit more manageable.

A sweet potato before cooking: the interior flesh has been scored in order to expose more of its surface area to heat while roasting.
A sweet potato before cooking: the interior flesh has been scored in order to expose more of its surface area to heat while roasting. | Source

Simple Roasted Sweet Potato (or Yam) Recipe

This recipe reduces the cooking time by halving the sweet potato or yam and scoring it to expose the interior flesh. Combined with roasting it at a higher temperature, the result is a recipe that takes only 45 minutes rather than the usual 1 1/2 hours.

Cook Time

Prep time: 2 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 47 min
Yields: Serves 4 people 1/2 sweet potato or yam, ~90 grams


  • 2 sweet potatoes or yams
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Half the yams lengthwise. Cut slits cross-wise into the interior flesh to expose it.
  3. Drizzle the yam with olive oil. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  4. Roast for 45 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the interior.

Tried This Recipe? Rate It.

3.4 stars from 21 ratings of Roasted Sweet Potatoes


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Nicely done! Over the years of my cooking life I have read dozens of articles that purport to show one way or another how to tell the difference between sweet potatoes and yams. Several have claimed there is no difference whatsoever.

      In the end, I have to rely on science for the answer, which it appears you have done as well. I thought you might like to know that two horticulturist specialists at the University of North Carolina wrote a short, definitive paper about the difference between the two vegetables, which includes a nice chart delineating the various horticultural factors. All supports your information quite nicely.

      If you would like to link to their page, you can find their article, "What is the Difference Between a Sweet Potato and a Yam?" at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/hil/hil-23-a.html.

      Thank you for writing this. I have a few recipes that involve yams, er, sweet potatoes. Would you mind if I link to this page, where appropriate, when I discuss their nutritional value and origins?

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You have educated me. I did not know there was a difference between the two. I do know I have been cooking and eating sweet potatoes however. Not only are they great to eat but using the water used to boil sweet potatoes makes fantastic gravy!

    • MickiS profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for the comment Claudia. Yams are great, but they are harder to find in the US (the sweet potato is far more common), so I hope you have more luck in Mexico.

    • Claudia Tello profile image

      Claudia Tello 

      7 years ago from Mexico

      The fact that yams don't have starch makes me want to eat them! I don't know why, but I never pay attention to yams when I am grocery shopping. Next time I will.

      I love roasted sweet potatoes and have never tried them with nutmeg. It sounds nice in my mind so I'll try them with the additional condiment next time.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love sweet potatoes and yam, respectively called "kamote" and "ube" here in the Philippines. Sweet potatoes can be incorporated into savory dishes to add some thickness and sweetness aside from being made into snacks. Although the sweet potatoes we're used to eating are usually having a white interior.

      Yam is an amazing tuber. Here they are one of the ingredients for cakes, pastries, and ice cream. The "ube halaya" (or ube jam -- or you can call it "yam jam" just for the pun) is also a favorite. And I like its purple color. :)

      I have yet to see the orange-fleshed sweet potato though. :)

      Voted up and interesting, useful, awesome.

    • MickiS profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Brendl, thanks for the comments.

      They are both vegetables. I'm on your husband's side when it comes to not eating potatoes and sweet potatoes in the same meal! Sweet potatoes are potatoes are cousins, and they are both high in starch.

      Orange versus yellow is not an indicator of yam or sweet potato, by the way.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I forgot to ask. Are raw sweet potatoes or raw yams toxic? I have considered making coleslaw with raw sweet potatoes(orange flesh). I have heard that there is more carotene in sweet potatoes(orange flesh) than in carrots. Is this true?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love baked sweet potatoes including the skins. My husband will not eat a regular potato & a sweet potato in the same meal!!!!! They're both potatoes he says. Poor guy! Mind you he's inclined to be that way anyway. I do not & my hubby doesn't like yams (yellow fleshed) even though the grocery store calls them sweet potatoes. Aren't yams & sweet potatoes classed as a vegetable as compared to a regular white fleshed potato?

    • MickiS profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Yes, the nutritional data supplied above is for a raw yam, and among the different varieties of yams, this data varies very little.

      Sweet potatoes that are mistakenly labeled yams contain the nutrition data above for sweet potatoes. Like yams, the differences vary little between the varieties.

      The source for the nutritional information above is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      So, just to be clear, the nutritional information above is for a true yam, not the variety of sweet potato that is referred to as a yam, correct? If so, is the nutritional value for both varieties of sweet potato the same?

    • MickiS profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks for the comment, ytsenoh. You're very welcome.

    • ytsenoh profile image


      7 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      I always thought sweet potatoes and yams were the same thing. I also think that pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie taste very, very similar. I like it all. I do think and agree that sweet potatoes/yams are better for you than white potatoes. Thanks for your hub and recipe.

    • MickiS profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks. I, too, once thought that. Hence my research that inspired the Hub! LOL.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I thought sweet potatoes and yams were the same thing (hence your hub!). Good info, I liked the comparison chart, that was helpful.

    • MickiS profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from San Francisco

      KoffeeKlatch Gals, I know! I think I've never really eaten a yam before even though I had been buying a tuber named as such in the store! Thanks for the comment.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Hazelton 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      It's definitely sweet potatoes for me. I don't believe I've even actually eaten a yam.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      How interesting! I had kind of grouped sweet potatoes and yams in my head before reading this Hub. So far as I was concerned, they were all the same thing. I'm not much of a fan since I tend to dislike sweet things, but perhaps it's time I give yams another try. Thanks for the Hub!

    • MickiS profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from San Francisco

      As I researching it, rjsadowski, I realized the same thing!

    • rjsadowski profile image


      8 years ago

      An interesting comparison. From your description, I doubt that I have ever eaten a yam.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, delishably.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)