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Canned Sweet Potatoes vs Canned Yams (Which Is Better)

If you’re like me, it can be confusing when people talk about sweet potatoes and yams. Often these two vegetables are used interchangeably in conversations and in recipes. But are sweet potatoes and yams the same?

I want to examine these two vegetables and see if they really are the same. Is one better than the other? Can they really be used interchangeably in recipes? Let’s start this comparison off by seeing what the difference is between sweet potatoes and yams.

Canned Sweet Potatoes vs Canned Yams

What are Canned Sweet Potatoes?

Canned sweet potatoes are fairly common in just about every grocery store but what are canned sweet potatoes?

Canned sweet potatoes are sweet potatoes that have been peeled and cooked. You can find a variety of canned sweet potatoes; mashed, sliced, cubed, stored in syrup, or stored without syrup.

Sweet potatoes are short and stubby vegetables with tapered ends. There are actually two types of sweet potatoes: firm and soft. Firm sweet potatoes have pale skin, are drier, and are less sweet.

Soft sweet potatoes have a darker skin color and are sweeter and moister. This type of sweet potato is what is commonly found in grocery stores as a raw vegetable or canned. This sweet potato is also mistaken for yams.

The beauty of canned sweet potatoes is that they are not altered when they are cooked and canned. Because they retain their flavor and are not stored in excess liquid, you can use canned sweet potatoes anytime you need sweet potatoes but don’t have the time to cook fresh sweet potatoes.

What are Canned Yams?

Yams and sweet potatoes are often used synonymously but are they the same? What are canned yams?

Generally speaking, canned yams are sweet potatoes. Canned yams are often labeled as candied yams or cut sweet potatoes in syrup. You can also read in the ingredient list that the first ingredient is sweet potatoes.

Despite the fact that canned yams and canned sweet potatoes are used interchangeably, they are actually two very different types of vegetables. Sweet potatoes are orange in color and have thin skin. Yams are dark brown with very rough skin.

The taste of yams and sweet potatoes also differs. Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet but yams are more starchy, much like a regular potato. Sweet potatoes can be eaten raw but true yams must be cooked before they can be eaten safely.

So how did yams start getting confused with sweet potatoes? There are two theories behind the name.

One theory is that it all started in the 1930s when southern farmers needed a way to distinguish sweet potatoes from regular potatoes. The word yam is an African verb nyam, which means “to eat” or “to taste”.

The second theory is that enslaved Africans used the word to describe the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes closely resembled a root vegetable they had in their home country and since sweet potatoes were now a large part of their diet, they would call sweet potatoes nyam.

Regardless of how sweet potatoes began to be called yams, one thing is certain: canned sweet potatoes and canned yams are the same. It is possible to buy fresh yams, but you can usually only find yams at specialty markets or international markets. They are often sold in raw or frozen form.

Chopped Yams

Nutritional Comparison

Since we now know that canned sweet potatoes and canned yams are the same, there isn’t much to compare so instead I will be looking at the nutritional value of canned sweet potatoes or canned yams, whichever version you buy.

Sizes for canned sweet potatoes or canned yams will vary so I am going to do a more accurate review based on weight. The information listed below is based on 100 grams of canned sweet potatoes or yams.

A basic overview of the nutritional value of canned sweet potatoes or canned yams reveals that it is high in calories and carbohydrates but it is very low in fat. There is a moderately high amount of sodium but this can be mitigated by purchasing canned sweet potatoes or yams that do not have added sodium or at least contain a lower amount.

Nutrition Type

Canned Sweet Potatoes


101 kcal


0.2 g


1.98 g


5.45 g


23.2 g


1.7 g


75 mg

It’s also important to look at the vitamins and minerals of canned sweet potatoes or canned yams. Even though sweet potatoes are cooked before being canned, they still retain a lot of their vitamins and minerals, as you can see from the chart below.

Canned sweet potatoes, or canned yams, are high in iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and carotene.

Nutrition Type

Canned Sweet Potatoes or Canned Yams (100g)


1.33 mg


24 mg


30 mg


52 mg


210 mg

Vitamin C

5.2 mg


11 mcg

Vitamin A

8700 IU


5220 mcg

Uses Comparison

We have seen the nutritional value of canned sweet potatoes or canned yams but what can you do with canned sweet potatoes or canned yams?

Canned sweet potatoes or canned yams can be used in any recipe that calls for fresh sweet potatoes that do not require the skin. The biggest advantage to using canned sweet potatoes is that it saves you the time involved in peeling and cooking fresh sweet potatoes.

Be sure to check for any added ingredients when using canned sweet potatoes or yams. Any addition in sodium/salt, sugar, or even spices, could adversely affect the taste of your recipe and even the way your food bakes, particularly if you are baking bread or muffins.

Storage and Availability

The greatest advantage of using canned sweet potatoes or yams is that it is readily available at any food store and it has a long shelf life. You can stock your pantry with this item, knowing that you always have something sweet and nutritious on hand any time of year.

Here are a few suggestions for using canned sweet potatoes or canned yams:

  • Sweet potato pie
  • Mashed sweet potatoes. This is a sweet dish of canned sweet potatoes that are made with cinnamon and topped with marshmallows.
  • You can make a delicious and healthy soup with sweet potatoes and vegetable broth. Partner it with a rustic bread that is buttered and you’ll thank me.
  • Sweet potato dip. Open a can of sweet potatoes, mix it with Greek yogurt, adding cinnamon to taste. Serve with sliced apples or carrots. Kids love it with graham crackers.
  • Candied yams. Put canned yams in a baking dish. Top with slices of butter and then sprinkle cinnamon, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Bake until bubbly.

Canned sweet potatoes or yams are also a healthy option to have as part of your emergency food kit. You don’t have to worry about cooking or cooling canned sweet potatoes or yams. You can eat it straight out of the can.

Which do you prefer?

Flavor/Texture Comparison

Canned sweet potatoes or yams are cooked before they are canned. This gives the sweet potatoes or yams their soft texture. The texture is similar to mashed potatoes but with a wetter consistency.

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet but depending on which type of canned sweet potatoes or yams you buy you can find canned sweet potatoes or yams with extra sweetener and spices. Using canned sweet potatoes or yams are ideal for sweet treats such as pies and bread since they can come pre-sweetened and spiced.

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