Or are they whipped sweet potatoes? That sweet, orange fleshed root vegetable we often find labeled a yam at the grocers is actually a sweet potato. And that rough brown skinned vegetable with white inner flesh next to it, often labeled a sweet potato is actually a yam. The difference between the two has yielded some confusion and debate. Why the difference and why does it matter?

True yams are grown in earth’s mild climate latitudes such as Latin America, West Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. They can grow quite large and are dry, starchy, mildly sweet and earthy in flavor. A very different species altogether is the sweet potato which is a New World root vegetable. It was developed into a creamier variety and cultivated in the 1930’s in the southern United States where the Louisiana sweet potato growers opted to use the term yam. These “yams” became an instant success on grocery shelves and at fresh food markets with a moist, tender, orange flesh, and sweet flavor. Today, commercial growers in California are working to drop the word yam, and indeed the USDA requires the term yam to be accompanied by sweet potato in official descriptions.

Whatever you choose to call them, our recipe uses the succulent orange fleshed vegetable which has nutritional attributes of protein, calcium, iron, sodium, vitamin A, and beta-carotene. Our Whipped Yam side dish is a must at the Thanksgiving table!


  •  24-26 ounces yam, peeled and cut
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or less
  • ¼ teaspoon curry powder
  • pinch cinnamon


  1.  Cover yams with cold water in saucepan
  2. Bring to a boil
  3. Turn heat to a lazy boil and cook until tender
  4. Strain potatoes and return to pan
  5. On low heat, add all other ingredients and mash by hand until smooth
  6. Keep warm for serving