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Three Easy Ways to Cook and Serve Yams

Yam roots

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A yam and a sweet potato are not the same vegetables, but they can be substituted for one another in most recipes.

The yam has more natural sugar and is, therefore, sweeter than the sweet potato and its flesh is moister than the sweet potato.

Yam roots
Yam roots

Yams–depending upon variety—can have a flesh that is white, yellow, purple, or pink and a skin that is off-white to dark brown. The sweet potato usually has bright orange flesh and thick, dark orange skin.

Yams and sweet potatoes are most often confused simply because canned sweet potatoes—especially in the United States–are often labeled yams.

Yams and sweet potatoes

  • The yam is an African native of the Dioscorea family.
  • The sweet potato is a native of the Americas and comes from the Convolvulaceae family.

How to choose yams

  • Select yams that are unblemished with tight skins.

Yams serving suggestions

  • Cook small yams in their skins. Large yams can be washed, peeled, and blanched for 10-20 minutes in boiling salted water. Then use them just as you would a potato or sweet potato.
Colocasia--yam plant
Colocasia–yam plant

How to bake yams

  1. Wash and trim the yams. Dry well.
  2. Arrange the yams on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes at 400°F.
  4. Reduce the temperature to 375°F and bake an additional 45 minutes for medium-sized yams, and 60 minutes more for large ones.

How to roast yams

  1. Cut yams into crosswise slices 1/2-inch thick and place them in a 1-quart casserole dish coated with a thin layer of olive oil or butter.
  2. Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, and a pinch of salt and mix well, then pour over the yams.
  3. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. 4 medium-sized yams will serve 4 people.

How to make candied yams

  • Gather ingredients: 4 medium yams, cooked and peeled; 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind; 1/2 cup light corn syrup; 1 tablespoon lemon juice; 3 tablespoons melted butter.
  • Cut yams into crosswise slices 1/2 inch thick; place in greased a 1-quart casserole dish.
  • Combine remaining ingredients; mix well and pour over yams.
  • Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes.
  • Serves four.

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Seven Ways to Cook and Serve Sweet Potatoes

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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