Savannah Valley District

Yams vs Sweet Potatoes

Christine Patrick, Senior County EFNEP Agent

The New World gave Europeans more than a way to expand geographically. It gave them new foods to expand their culinary horizons. Take batatas, for example. That’s the New World name for sweet potatoes. No, not yams. Sweet potatoes and yams are two different things. Those canned “yams” at the grocery store are really sweet potatoes. The true yam is a tropical tuber grown mostly in Africa. It is very starchy, not very sweet, and can grow as large as 100 pounds.  It is found only in specialty markets in the United States. The orange-fleshed sweet potato, on the other hand, is easy to come by and is a wise addition to the family dinner table. The orange color signals the presence of lots of beta-carotene, which sweet potatoes a good source of vitamin A.

A medium sweet potato provides about 30 mg. of vitamin C, and they’re low in calories – about 100 per 3.5 oz. serving. They also contribute potassium, iron, and fiber to the diet. They are flavorful enough to be used in low-sodium diets since they can be seasoned effectively without salt. Fruit juices or fruits such as oranges, apples, and pears are natural flavor combinations for sweet potato purees. Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, clove, ginger, and honey are just a few of the ways to replace salt.

YamsSweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are versatile. They can be cooked simply and quickly in their skins in the microwave for 4 to 6 minutes. Just pierce the skin in several places first to let the steam out. They can also be baked in a regular oven at 400°F for 40 to 50 minutes or boiled whole for 35 to 45 minutes. They can be cut raw into skinny strips for a good dipping vegetable or for frying just like white potatoes. They can be pureed for pies and soufflés or for adding to breads and cakes. Try drizzling fresh orange juice or maple syrup over baked sweet potatoes and garnish with chopped pecans.

Baked sweet potatoes can be stuffed. Just scoop out the cooked flesh, mash with butter or margarine, and then combine with either shredded cheddar cheese, sautéed mushroom, shredded coconut, or diced fresh pineapple. Then, stuff the mixture back in the shells. You can add cubed sweet potatoes to stews. How about sautéing shredded raw sweet potatoes until they are lightly browned?  Cooked sweet potatoes freeze well. To prevent darkening, add 2 tablespoons of orange, lemon, or lime juice to each quart of mashed sweet potatoes. Selection of good quality sweet potatoes is important. Look for firm, well-shaped tubers with clean, smooth skins. Avoid any with soft spots or bruises. Don’t refrigerate them. Cold temperatures will spoil the quality.

For more information, visit the Home & Garden Information Center website at


2 eggs

2 cups sweet potato puree

1 cup nonfat dry milk powder

2/3 cup brown or white sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ cup whole wheat or enriched all-purpose flour

1 cup water

Mix all ingredients except water in a large bowl. Stir in water gradually until well mixed. Pour into a greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350°F for 45 to 55 minutes or until a knife inserted one inch from the center comes out clean.

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