Difference Between Sweet Potatoes And Yams

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Sweet potatoes and yams are often confused for the other especially in the United States and Canada. Some people think that some types of sweet potatoes are yams because of their unusual colour and appearance. Sweet potatoes and yams are however different, they are different in the following ways:

Plant family

Sweet potatoes belong to a different plant family from that of yams. The plant family of sweet potatoes is referred to as convolvulaceae while that of yams is referred to as dioscoreaceae.

Convolvulaceae are herbaceous plants which have flowers whose petals are shaped like a funnel. They are mostly vines but there are also shrubs and trees which belong to this plant family. Convolvulaceae are also known as bindweed or morning glory.

Dioscoreaceae on the other hand are herbaceous vines which are grown for their starchy root tubers. They are perennial plants.

Type of cotyledon

Cotyledon refers to the embryonic seed leaf in plants. Cotyledons often form the first leaves in a germinating seedling. Sweet potatoes and yams have different types of cotyledons from the other. Sweet potatoes are dicots while yams are monocots. Dicots are plants with two embryonic seed leaves while monocots are plants with only one embryonic seed leaf.


Sweet potatoes and yams differ from each other in appearance.

Sweet potatoes usually have a pink skin with a white interior. The interior may also be yellow or orange depending on the type of sweet potatoes. Some sweet potatoes which are cultivated in some parts of Africa have light brown or whitish skin. The skin of a sweet potato is usually thin and easily peels off when the potato has been boiled. It is also smooth.

Yams on their part usually have a thick and rough brown exterior which is hard to peel. Their interior is mostly white but can also be purple or yellow or even pink in some cases. Yams have a starchy interior.

Apart from color, sweet potatoes and yams are also different in terms of size and shape. Sweet potatoes are short and take the form of a block with tapered ends. Yams on the other hand are long and have a cylindrical shape. Yams can be up to 4.9 feet in length. Yams are also larger in comparison to sweet potatoes. They can weigh up to 120 pounds.

Place of origin

Sweet potatoes and yams originated from different places. Sweet potatoes originated from South and Central America while yams have their origin in West Africa and Asia. Yams are staple food in West Africa. They form a key part of people’s diet in places like Nigeria and Ghana. Nigeria is the largest producer of yams in the world. Yams are not only important components of Nigerian cuisines but they also have cultural significance in this West African nation.

Taste and feel inside the mouth

Sweet potatoes and yams taste differently. From their name, sweet potatoes have a sweet taste. They have a sugary taste which becomes even stronger after they have been cooked. Yams on the other hand have a starchy taste. Their taste is also altered by cooking but they do not have a sweet taste.

The feel inside the mouth is also different for sweet potatoes and yams. Sweet potatoes leave a moist feel in the mouth while yams leave a dry feel in the mouth.

Nutritional value

In terms of nutritional components, sweet potatoes contain more sugar, Vitamin A, beta carotene, magnesium, and protein than yams. Yams however contain more fats, carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, and B vitamins than sweet potatoes.

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