Learn what the difference is between the different types of sweet potatoes or yams that you can find in the grocery store.
What are some different varieties of sweet potatoes? Names you will see at the store include: Beauregard, Garnett, Jewel, Stokes Purple, Japanese, Hannah, Jersey, Murasaki, Red, and White. They vary in sweetness, color (both inside and out), and flavor.
Just as much as mashed potatoes are part of Thanksgiving, so is serving sweet potatoes in some form. If you are looking for the best selection of sweets, you got to head to your local Whole Foods Market. Most places just offer one type, they have at least 6 to offer around the holidays. They even label each variety, so you know exactly what they are. If you are going to buy them there or anywhere else, then you will need to know more about what kind of sweet potato you're looking for.
🍠 Sweet Potato vs. Yam
But before we get into all of that, we have to discuss the sweet potato vs. yam debate. This is hotly contested. I have been surprised how strong people's opinions have been. Don't tell someone that this yam is actually just a sweet potato.
People are convinced there is a difference between the two. And they are right, sort of. Yams are a large starchy tuber grown mostly in tropical climates, and not in the United States. It's very difficult to find any exported to the U.S. I have never seen an African Yam ever.
True yams are not part of the Morning Glory family as sweet potatoes (scentific name - ipomoea batatas) do. The name "Yam" is what some people called sweet potatoes upon finding them in the United States, particularly in the south.
Some grocery stores will put both names on the sign. In the photo just above a share a sign at a Sprouts store that says "Orange Yams-Sweet Potatoes".
📋 Varieties of Sweet Potatoes
Now that we got that out of the way, even if you still disagree with me - I have had conversations with people who I told the same thing to and they refused to believe me - let's look at the varieties of sweet potatoes out there. You will see each type listed by skin color and flesh color.
|Variety Name||Skin Color||Flesh Color|
Sometimes you will find grocery stores labeling sweet potatoes as just red sweet potato or white sweet potato. I can't say for such what exact variety these are but the red sweet is most likely a Garnett and the white sweet is most likely a Hannah.
Wondering how early you can buy sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving? Read our post to learn more.
Developed at LSU in 1987, this is the most widely grown variety and what most people think of when they think "sweet potato". Most sweet potatoes just labeled as sweet potatoes are Beauregard. Good for roasting/baking or anything where you are looking for a moist end product.
Very similar to the Beauregard, can be hard to tell apart in both appearance and flavor. They were developed by North Carolina State University,
These may be referred to as red sweet potato. The skin and flesh has a darker color. These are a favorite for baking. I know a lot of people prefer them over Jewel or Beauregard. They were popular with the customers at Whole Foods Market when I use to work there. Use these for a sweet potato pie.
A newer variety, developed in North Carolina, now also grown in California, this potato is purple inside and out. What's really neat about this sweetie is that the purple color actually intensifies when cooked. These have an unique flavor and are drier their orange/red cousins.
This is a white sweet potato. It's good for those that don't really like sweet potato as it is more similar to a traditional white potato. They are only slightly sweet. They make for an excellent mashed sweet potato, especially with some fresh sage and chopped shallots!
Often this variety will be listed as a Japanese Yam, but just like mentioned above it's not a true yam. The skin on the outside is purple-red while the inside is completely white. Also a good one for mashing. It's a tad sweeter than the Hannah, but not as much as the orange fleshed ones. Some say it has a chestnut like flavor.
Trader Joe's has made the Murasaki Sweet Potato popular. They have them every Thanksgiving in bags. Are they different than the Japanese? They look the same and as you can see in the photo above Trader Joe's carries both. I don't feel there is a significant difference between the two and I would have no issues with using them interchangeably.
Besides Murasaki Sweet Potatoes read about some other foods you will want to buy for Thanksgiving at Trader Joe's.
This sweet potato has a dull yellow or light brown skin. The inferior is white. It's a drier sweet potato that holds shape well when cooked which makes it a good choice for just baking in the oven.
🥧 When to Use Which Sweet Potato
How do you decide which sweet potato to pick? Here are the varieties I recommend for each use:
- For baking or roasting, I would go with the orange/red varieties : Jewel, Beauregard, or Garnet.
- For making a hash or sweet potato fries, I would go with Stokes Purple, Japanese, Murasaki or Hannah.
- For mashed, Hannah was by far my favorite.
- For sweet potato casserole, Jewel, Jersey, or Beauregard
- For a pie, go with Garnet or for a breathtaking presentation, try Stokes Purple.
Do you own an immersion circulator / sous vide machine? Then check out my recipe for Sous Vide Sweet Potatoes. It will make you want to get one if you don't already own one.