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Help! Husband bought Sweet Potatoes instead of Yams

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Hi all,

I was planning on making a traditional "sweet potato" casserole (yams, technically, I guess) for a crowd tomorrow - but my husband picked up REAL sweet potatoes instead. Now I have a pile of those yellow, waxy things and I've never cooked with them before. Any tips? How can I substitute and still make a sweet side dish?


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  1. There are so many varieties of sweet potato and yam that it gets confusing. Most of the time, they are interchangeable. Just use the sweet potatoes in your casserole as is.

    1. I've never ever had any reason to choose one over the other! Use them like PBSF said, they'll be fine. Happy Thanksgiving to your crowd.. !

      1. I am under the impression that "yam" is a marketing misnomer. It refers to "garnet" sweet potatoes, and other dark colored ones perhaps. A real "yam" is somethng altogether different, and I don't believe "they" are allowed to call sweet potatoes "yams" anymore.

        1. Yams are huge and are seldom sold in grocery stores, her husband apparently didn't pick up sweet potatoes but instead picked up another variety of potato, which may not work for the sweetness she is looking for

          1. You rarely find real "yams" in the US; in fact, they are HUGE and you probably wouldn't recognize them unless you already used them before...sweet potatoes come in different shades of color. You probably have sweet potatoes; you can use them but if you're worried about whether they are sweet enough, you can wrap one in plastic wrap, poke a few holes to allow steam to escape, then microwave it for about 6-8 minutes then taste it. If it's not sweet enough, increase the sugar (or other sweetener) in your dish.

            1. Oh dear! Here's my recommended course of action. Hope it helps!!

              - Yams are almost never sold in grocery stores in the US. I have never seen a true yam in a grocery store, ever. Even if something is labeled "yam" here, it is actually a sweet potato. So what you want is a sweet potato, not a yam.

              - Sweet potatoes are not interchangeable with the potatoes we use for baking, boiling, fries, etc. Sweet potatoes are usually orange but can be yellow or red, have thin, peeling brownish-orange skin, and tapered, almost pointed ends. The flesh tends to be very, very hard when raw, and slightly fibrous when you cook it, particularly near the skin. They have more in common (with regard to flavor and use) with carrots, pumpkin and butternut squash than with potatoes. In other words, "sweet potato" is not just a variety of "potato" but another species entirely.

              - If you have yellow, waxy things with brown skin and rounded (or undistinguishable) ends, what you have are probably yukon gold potatoes or a similar variety. These are delicious for mashed potatoes and other savory dishes, but will not work for a traditional sweet potato casserole.

              - If you have yellow-fleshed things with darker skin that seem to otherwise match the description in #2 (fibrous flesh, tapered/pointed ends), you probably have a yellow-fleshed sweet potato, which will work fine in sweet potato casserole.

              Good luck! Hope you don't have to make another grocery run! :)

              1. In reading your post, I'm not exactly sure if you mean he bought the sweet potatoes out of the produce section of the store instead of the canned stuff, or something else. If this is the case, then just prick the potatoes with a fork and put in a 425 oven for an hour or so.....just like baking a regular potato. When it's fork tender, you can slice, mash, or do whatever you need for your particular recipe.

                1. LilZ, please tell us what happened.
                  My grocery (friendly but not foodie) sells "yams" --they are mauve skinned, orange inside. Also sells "sweet potatoes" -- tan skinned, yellow inside. Both are definitely sweet, not the French fries/hash browns/baked potato kind. Average size is approximately the size of a big Idaho "baker", but tapered, not blunt-ended.
                  (Ooshk! When I think I know something here I'm so often wrong / incomplete answer!)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: blue room

                    Asian stores sell an even tastier Japanese sweet potato - dark skin, but pale flesh.