Is a yam a potato?
Or, what’s the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?
Candied yams vs. sweet potatoes
Starting with the basics, there’s a distinct color difference between yams and sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes have a smooth, reddish skin color compared to yams’ dark brown tree-like skin.
What do Africans call sweet potatoes?
Yams are a vegetable similar to sweet potatoes but come from the motherland in Africa.
We get the word ‘yam’ because Africans call yams’ nyami.’
Why are sweet potatoes called yams?
Enslaved African Americans began calling the softer than a yam sweet potatoes in North America “yams” because they resembled the motherland African vegetable they knew. Thus, many African Americans today still call soft, cooked sweet potatoes “yams.”
True to Black folks’ nature, they took something from nothing and elevated yams to the soul food delicacy many people love and crave today. Black folks’ Southern candied yams!
Netflix’s soul food docu-series High on The Hog illustrates how enslaved Africans recognized sweet potatoes in the Southern US as similar to West African yams.
Are yams and sweet potatoes the same?
Asked another way, “What is the difference between a sweet potato and a Southern yam?” Or, “Are candied yams and candied sweet potatoes the same thing?”
One of the most significant differences between sweet potatoes and yams is their appearance. Yams are typically larger, while sweet potatoes come in smaller sizes.
Sweet potato roots are tapered at one end, whereas yam roots are more circular. Furthermore, yams are starchier and tougher than sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are Southern vegetables that grow in the ground and are smaller than yams. They’re closely related to the potato but have a smooth, reddish skin, softer flesh when cooked, and a much sweeter flavor than yams.
On the other hand, yams are starchy vegetables with a more rigid texture, often compared to tree bark, and their flesh is drier and more starchy than sweet potatoes.
Do yams and sweet potatoes taste the same?
While both are root vegetables, here are a few reasons why sweet potatoes and yams do not taste the same:
- Sweet potatoes have below-ground root tubers.
- Yams have stem tubers.
- Sweet potatoes are smaller and rounder in shape.
- Yams tend to be more cylindrical in shape and larger.
- Sweet potatoes have a smoother outer skin with softer inner flesh.
- Yams have a tougher outer skin similar in appearance to tree bark with a more rigid inner flesh.
Can you substitute yams for sweet potatoes?
Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same.
So different that Taste Of Home explicitly describes the difference between the two as, “They (sweet potatoes and yams) don’t even belong to the same plant family, and they originate and grow on different continents!”
So sweet potatoes and yams should not be substituted in recipes for one another.
What do sweet potatoes and yams have in common?
By now, the case is made that sweet potatoes are not a type of yam, and yams are not a type of sweet potato.
However, one thing they have in common is that they’re both tuberous root vegetables. Still, they’re not related. As apparent by the list of things they don’t have in common.
Which is better, a sweet potato or a yam?
Both sweet potatoes and yams are good to eat as a part of a healthy diet.
Neither is better compared to the other or nutritiously superior.
So, in conclusion, what’s the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?
While most people confuse the two, sweet potatoes and yams have many differences:
- Sweet potato skin is smoother than that of yams.
- Sweet potato flesh is softer (when cooked) than yams.
- Sweet potatoes have a sweeter taste than yams.
- Sweet potatoes are rounder and tapered at the ends vs. the elongated, cylindrical yam.
Southern soul food sweet potato recipes
With a sweeter taste, softer texture, and native to North America, sweet potatoes are the main ingredient for many iconic Southern soul food recipes:
Did you enjoy this soul food guide about the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?
Have you had it?
Would you make it?
Comment below and lemme know.