Are Canned Yams & Sweet Potatoes The Same

Are Canned Yams & Sweet Potatoes the Same? Food Facts

Last Updated on May 19, 2024 by Shari Mason

Ever found yourself mystified while gazing at cans of yams and sweet potatoes at the supermarket? I can totally empathize with that sensation!

Many of us need clarification. So are canned yams and sweet potatoes the same?

Let’s dive in and uncover the tasty truth behind these two canned goodies. Ready? Let’s go!

Are Canned Sweet Potatoes & Canned Yams The Same?

Close Up Image of Sweet Potato

Canned yams and sweet potatoes can be confusing, but they’re not exactly the same.

Often, what’s labeled as “canned yams” is actually sweet potatoes. True yams are different and less common. Canned sweet potatoes are usually what we find on store shelves.

“My dream is to become a farmer. Just a Bohemian guy pulling up his own sweet potatoes for dinner.”

– Lenny Kravitz, American Singer-Songwriter

They taste similar, but real yams are starchier and have a different flavor. So, while canned yams and sweet potatoes are close cousins, they’re not identical.

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What Are Yams?

Yams [1] are tuberous vegetables that grow underground, similar to potatoes. They have rough, bark-like skin and can vary in color from white to yellow to purple on the inside. 

While often confused with sweet potatoes, yams are typically starchier and less sweet. They’re commonly grown in Africa and Asia and can grow quite large, sometimes up to five feet long.

What Are Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes [2] are delicious root vegetables with smooth skin that can be white, yellow, red, or purple.

Their inside flesh can be white, orange, or even purple. As their name suggests, they taste sweet and are often used in savory and dessert dishes. 

Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins like vitamin A. They’re popular in many cultures worldwide and are often enjoyed baked, mashed, or even as fries.

Why Are They Canned Differently?

Cans of Sweet Potatoes

The process of canning yams and sweet potatoes is broadly similar, but they might appear different in cans due to marketing and consumer expectations. 

Many canned “yams” are sweet potatoes, and they’re often packed in a sweet syrup or juice to give them a rich, dessert-like flavor that many people associate with holiday dishes. 

Sweet potatoes naturally have a sweeter taste and softer texture when cooked, making them a favorite for candying. The name “yam” just became famous for marketing these canned products, even if it’s not technically accurate. 

“In the world of cans, yams may masquerade as sweet potatoes, but each holds its own tale beneath the lid.”

– Eat Pallet Restaurant & Food Advice

Real yams, less common in American grocery stores, have a more starchy and less sweet flavor, and they wouldn’t produce the same sweet, soft result when canned. 

So, the differences in canning mainly revolve around taste preferences and marketing choices rather than any significant difference in the canning process itself.

Which One Should I Buy?

Which one to buy – yams or sweet potatoes – depends on your preference and the dish you plan to make.

If you’re after a classic sweet, buttery, and soft dish, often enjoyed during the holidays, then the canned “yams” (usually sweet potatoes in syrup) will be the way to go. 

They are pre-sweetened and have a texture that’s perfect for candied yams. On the other hand, fresh sweet potatoes are your best bet if you’re looking for a versatile vegetable that can be roasted, mashed, fried, or even used in pies. 

They offer natural sweetness and can be adapted to savory and sweet dishes.

If you ever come across true yams that are starchy and less sweet, they’re best for dishes with a more neutral, potato-like flavor. Always consider your recipe and taste preference when making a choice.


u003cstrongu003eCan I substitute canned yams for canned sweet potatoes?u003c/strongu003e

Yes, you can substitute canned yams for canned sweet potatoes. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eThey have a similar taste and texture, especially since many canned u0022yamsu0022 are sweet potatoes. Just be mindful of any added syrups or flavorings.

u003cstrongu003eAre canned yams healthy?u003c/strongu003e

Yes, canned yams are nutritious, offering vitamins and minerals. u003cbru003eu003cbru003eHowever, they might have added sugars or syrups, so it’s best to check the label and choose varieties with fewer additives for maximum health benefits.

Final Thoughts

A common question emerges in the intricate world of tubers: Are canned yams and sweet potatoes the same? Upon close examination, yams and sweet potatoes are distinct in origin and characteristics. 

Yams are native to Africa and Asia, having a rough, bark-like skin and starchy taste. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, hail from the Americas, boasting smoother skin and a sweeter, creamier flavor. 

However, in the U.S., the terms’ yam’ and ‘sweet potato’ have become almost interchangeable, particularly in commercial contexts. 

This mix-up can be traced back to marketing strategies where orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were branded as ‘yams’ to differentiate them from their white-fleshed counterparts.

Consequently, when you pick up a can labeled ‘yams’ in the U.S., you are most likely getting sweet potatoes, so while biologically and botanically distinct, commercial labeling has blurred the lines between these two tubers for many consumers. 

Knowing the difference when shopping or cooking is crucial, especially if the recipe demands a specific texture or flavor. It’s not just about names but about understanding the rich history and unique tastes each brings.


Shari Mason

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