Merced County Cooperative Extension
Merced County Cooperative Extension
Merced County Cooperative Extension
University of California
Merced County Cooperative Extension

What’s the difference between yams and sweetpotatoes?

Do you know the difference between a yam and a sweetpotato?

“A true yam is not grown in the U.S., it's found in South America,” says Jason Tucker, vice president of the California Sweetpotato Council. Real yams have dry, dark flesh and are not the same plant species as sweetpotatoes, he explained.

“A yam is a sweetpotato, at least for those grown in the U.S.”, says Scott Stoddard, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in Merced County. “The rest of country has predominately just one type of sweetpotato, with tan skin and orange flesh, but in California, we have four marketing classes.”

The four kinds of California sweetpotatoes are

  • Jewell, with tan skin and orange flesh
  • Jersey, with light yellow skin and white flesh
  • Oriental, with purple skin and white flesh
  • Garnet, with red skin and deep orange flesh

The red-skinned sweetpotatoes are what many people in the United States call yams.

The California Sweetpotato Council spells sweetpotato as one word because it isn't a potato, it is a different plant species.

Sweetpotato classes, from left, are Jewell, Oriental, Jersey and Garnet. Photo courtesy of the California Sweetpotato Council.
Posted on Friday, November 21, 2014 at 8:26 AM
Tags: Scott Stoddard (4), sweetpotato (1), yam (1)


I believe your article, but with so many people calling sweet potatoes yams, how can I know that you are right and that they are wrong?

Posted by Bill Brown on April 13, 2020 at 7:28 PM

We base the terminology on science. Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a different plant species than yam, which is in the genus Dioscorea. But language evolves so if a large number of people decide to call sweet potatoes yams, they may be right.

Reply by Pamela Kan-Rice on April 13, 2020 at 11:12 PM

what is the vitamin A content per serving per each type

Posted by ann L stoebner on November 23, 2020 at 4:27 PM

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