Difference Between Sweet Potato And Yam
By Laura Lee - October 29, 2021

The terms “sweet potato” and “yam” are constantly (and mistakenly) used interchangeably in the United States. The confusion started back in the 1930s when Louisiana sweet potato farmers began marketing their orange-fleshed sweet potatoes as “yams” to distinguish their produce from other states’ vegetables.

Table Summary

Sweet PotatoYam
Thin, reddish skinRough, brown skin
Orange, white or purple fleshPale flesh
Originated in South or Central AmericaOriginated in Africa
Sweet flavorNeutral flavor


Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and their flavor is enhanced through cooking. While the most common type of sweet potato is the copper-colored one, there are three major types of the vegetable in most American supermarkets: orange, white and purple.

Yams, on the other hand, are not even potatoes. Native to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, yams have dry starchy flesh. While their flesh is usually pale, their skin is brown-colored. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams have an earthy, neutral taste.

Sweet Potato VS Yam

Many people use the terms “sweet potato” and “yam” as if they were interchangeable. Even though some stores do sell orange-fleshed sweet potatoes as yams, these two are actually two different vegetables. Real yams are more like yucca when it comes to texture and flavor, and they have starchy flesh, not sweet.