Often, in the United States, orange-flesh sweet potatoes are labeled as yams, while the pale variety with light yellow skin and flesh is labeled as sweet potatoes. However, vegetables sold as yams in one market may be sold as sweet potatoes in another.
Here's a primer to clear up any confusion: All yams are sweet potatoes, but not all sweet potatoes are yams. True yams have a rougher skin and are related to grasses, while sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family. Still unsure of what you're stocking up on at the supermarket? Look for sweet potato somewhere on the produce label—the USDA requires it to be listed to specify if the seller is using "yam" as a synonym.
Fortunately, yams and sweet potatoes can be used interchangeably, and both are considered superfoods by nutrition experts.
Yams (that is, orange-flesh sweet potatoes) are available year-round, but their peak season is winter. When purchasing, look for small to medium yams that are smooth, firm, and free of soft spots. Store whole, unpeeled yams in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week. Do not refrigerate yams, as they can dry out.
Tip: One pound of yams equals about 2 medium yams or 2-3/4 cups cubed yam.
Yams can be used in many ways. For side dishes, they're often boiled or baked (peeled or unpeeled). They can be added to soups, stews, and braises. Sometimes boiled yams are mashed to serve as a side dish or for use as an ingredient in quick breads and pies.
Read on for instructions on how to cook yams in popular ways and for our favorite yam recipes.
The most common way to cook yams on the stove is to boil them.
How to Boil Yams
To boil yams, follow instructions for How to Boil Sweet Potatoes.
Wash and peel yams, then cut into bite-size cubes. Choose a saucepan or Dutch oven that will be large enough to hold the yams without crowding them. Fill the pot so it's half full (just enough water to cover the yams) and add a dash of salt. Bring to boiling. Add yams. Cover the pan and cook yams for 10 to 12 minutes or until just tender on the outside but resistant in the center when pierced with a knife. For soft, tender yams, cook for 25 to 30 minutes.
How to Mash Boiled Yams
Tip: In a pinch you can use canned sweet potatoes for recipes that call for boiled and mashed yams or sweet potatoes. For 2 cups mashed yams or sweet potatoes, drain one 17.2-ounce can whole sweet potatoes and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Mash with a potato masher or electric mixer on low speed. Measure the amount needed for the recipe.
Learning how to cook yams in the oven means you can make a simple and nutritious side dish for meat loaf, steaks, grilled chicken, fish, and more. Just follow our super-easy baked yams recipe:
Want a shortcut for cooking yams? Here's how to use your microwave to get your yams table- or recipe-ready in minutes.
This is it: Our classic candied yams recipe—the one with marshmallows. It's so easy but always a hit at family gatherings. This recipe serves four, so you might need to make a double batch!
1. Gather the Ingredients
2. Prepare the Yams
3. Bake the Yams
Tip: If you like, you can also sprinkle with 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped nuts. Walnuts and pecans work especially well.
Here's how to make yam fries in your oven for a more colorful, tasty, and nutritious alternative to regular french fries.
Tip: Cut each fry to an even thickness. Because yams contain more sugar than regular potatoes, they tend to burn easily and cook unevenly if cut too thin.
Like other root vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, yams can be added to pot roast during the cooking time to make hearty and warming one-dish meals. Here's how.
Cubed yams make a colorful, flavorful addition to soups and stews. Slice yams into 1-1/4-inch cubes and simmer in soup or stew during the last 20 to 25 minutes of cooking or until tender.
Craving a creamy yam casserole, or looking for a new recipe for this year's holiday yams? Look no further! No matter what your yam and sweet potato cravings are, we have plenty of recipes to satisfy, plus a few new treats for you to try.
Yam desserts? You better believe it! If you want to try a totally different take on cooking yams, scoop up a bowl of ube ice cream. Ube is a type of purple yam popular in the Philippines that can make gorgeous (and delicious!) desserts. But don't stop at yam recipes—you can also make sweet potato recipes for dessert by baking them into brownies, cupcakes, and cookies.