Types of Sweet Potatoes: Japanese, Hannah, Jersey and More

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Sweet potatoes are a type of root vegetable that look and taste different from regular potatoes. Varieties of sweet potato such as Beauregard and Jewel are very popular in many countries. However, there are hundreds of different types of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes varieties have white flesh or orange flesh, and, there are even some varieties with purple flesh.

Various types of sweet potatoes are very versatile when it comes to cooking. You can roast sweet potatoes, use them in casseroles, or bake with them. In some countries, purple sweet potatoes are used to color toppings on baked goods. Whatever your taste, trying different kinds of sweet potatoes can be a delicious culinary experience.

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In this article, you will find descriptions of the most popular kinds of sweet potatoes. You will learn about the color of their skin, flesh, and how they taste.

What are Sweet Potatoes?

Ipomoea batatas’ is the botanical name for all varieties of sweet potato. These tuberous starchy roots belong to the family Convolvulaceae (morning glory) in the order Solanales.

Sweet potatoes are native to tropical countries in Central and South America. In most Spanish speaking countries, sweet potatoes are known simply as batatas. Sweet potatoes have now been domesticated in many countries around the world that have a hot and humid climate.

Sweet potatoes are a popular vegetable in North America where they are also called yams. Many other countries around the world such as Australia, Asia, islands of the Pacific, and Europe now grow sweet potatoes. In these countries, the orange and white flesh varieties are the most popular.

The edible part of sweet potatoes is their large tubers with an oblong or oval shape that tapers to a point. Sweet potato skins can be in a range of colors such as pink, red, orange, creamy white, copper, and light tan. Their skin color is not an indication of the flesh color. For example, the Okinawa purple sweet potato variety from Japan has beige skin and dark purple flesh. The popular Hannah batata (sweet potato) has light tan skin and yellow flesh.

Yams or sweet potatoes – what’s the difference?

It may surprise you to learn that the tubers many refer to as yams are actually varieties of sweet potato. True yams are tuberous roots in the genus Dioscorea belonging to the family Dioscoreaceae. So, sweet potatoes (family Convolvulaceae) are completely unrelated to yams.

Yams and sweet potatoes may look similar when it comes to shape, skin color, and flesh color. If you see pictures of yams and sweet potatoes together, it may be hard to tell them apart. However, true yams contain more starch and less moisture than sweet potato varieties. Also, sweet potatoes are native to the Americas, whereas yams come from Asia and Africa.

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Even though your local store may have tubers named ‘yams,’ chances are that they are one of the many kinds of sweet potato. In fact, in the U.S., it is very rare to find true yams for sale in the store.

It seems that it became popular to call sweet potatoes ‘yams’ in the US during the late 1800s.

Is a sweet potato a true potato?

There is also some confusion if sweet potatoes are a type of true potato.

Traditional potatoes – the kinds used to make fries, potato mash, and roast potatoes – are from the nightshade family Solanaceae. Sometimes, potatoes are called ‘white potatoes’ or ‘Irish potatoes’ to distinguish them from batatas, or sweet potatoes.

So, sweet potatoes are a completely different type of vegetable from potatoes.

Types of Sweet Potatoes With Pictures and Names

Let’s look at some of the many types of sweet potato, starting with some of the most popular and widely consumed varieties.

Garnet Sweet Potato

Type of sweet potato - garnet yams

Garnet sweet potatoes are a popular variety due to their mildly sweet taste and moist texture. Garnets are oblong tubers that have dark-orange to red skin with deep orange-colored flesh. Sometimes, this sweet potato cultivar is sold as ‘garnet yams’ in the U.S.

There is also a type of sweet potato called Red Garnet which has reddish-purple skin and orange flesh.

Jewel Sweet Potato

Type of sweet potato - jewel yams

Very similar in appearance to garnets, Jewel sweet potatoes also have deep orange, sweet-tasting flesh. One of the slight differences between jewels and garnets is that jewel sweet potatoes have copper colored skin, slightly lighter than garnets.

Jewel potatoes are one of the most popular orange varieties of sweet potato used for baking and making casseroles.

Hannah Sweet Potato

Hannah Sweet Potato

Sometimes called the Yellow Hannah or Sweet Hannah, this variety of sweet potato has lightly colored tan skin. Peeling off the skin reveals creamy white-colored flesh that has a mildly sweet flavor. When cooked, Hannah sweet potatoes have a light yellow color.

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Due to the smooth texture of the flesh, many chefs recommend using Hannah sweet potatoes to make sweet mash.

Beauregard Sweet Potato

Type of sweet potato - Beauregard yam

One of the most popular varieties of sweet potatoes that is grown in the US is the Beauregard variety. These plump tuberous vegetables have rose to red-colored skin with succulent orange flesh. The reason Beauregards are so popular is due to their very sweet taste and vibrant orange color.

Many people rate Beauregard sweet potatoes as the most versatile to cook with. Their moist flesh is good for baking, mashing, or frying.

Covington Sweet Potato

Type of sweet potato - Covington yams

Another of the most popular varieties of sweet potato is the delicious Covington cultivar. This versatile starchy root vegetable is identified by its rose-colored skin and intense orange flesh. The moist orange flesh is perfect for baking and using in desserts.

Many people regard the flavor of Covingtons as the best among all the sweet potato varieties available. Their starchy flesh takes on a sweet and malty flavor when cooked.

Jersey Sweet Potato

Jersey Sweet Potato

Looking at pictures of the Jersey sweet potato you can see that it is similar in color to regular potatoes. They have light tan to creamy-colored skins with white flesh. Although Jerseys are sweeter than regular potatoes, they aren’t as sweet as many of the orange varieties of sweet potatoes.

Allgold Sweet Potato

Allgold is a variety of sweet potato that was developed in Oklahoma. This sweet tuber has tan-colored skin and mildly sweet yellow-orange flesh.

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Carolina Ruby

Types of sweet potato - Carolina ruby yams

The Carolina Ruby sweet potato is a cultivar that was developed using Beauregards. The identifying feature of the Carolina Ruby is the deep reddish-purple smooth skin that covers bright orange flesh. This sweet potato variety gets its name from the ruby-colored skin that develops when cooked.

The taste of ‘Carolina Ruby’s is described as mildly sweet with delicious moist flesh.

Diane Sweet Potato

diane sweet potato

Diane sweet potatoes are one of the varieties that is often confused with yams. The dark-red skinned tubers have a long oblong shape similar to yams. The cooked sweet potato skin peels off to reveal dark sweet orange flesh.

White Delight

One type of sweet potato popular in the southern states in the U.S. is the ‘White Delight’ variety. These sweet starchy root vegetables have light purple, sometimes red skin, and white flesh. As with all varieties of sweet potato, these are rich in fiber and vitamin C.

Creamsicle

Creamsicle sweet potatoes get their name from the cream-colored skins and extremely sweet flesh. These long wiry root vegetables have an orange flesh that stays relatively firm while cooking. This makes Creamsicles a good choice in the kitchen to make fries, boil, or use in stews and casseroles.

O’Henry

O'henry yams

Another type of sweet potato not to be confused with regular potatoes is the O’Henry cultivar. This variety of sweet potato was developed using Beauregard’s and has a distinct oblong shape and tapered ends. The skin is a light tan color and the flesh is creamy-white.

The reason why these white-fleshed O’Henry sweet potatoes are so popular is that they are almost as sweet as the orange varieties. When baked, boiled, or fried, the smooth flesh has a sweet nutty taste.

Puerto Rico (Porto Rico) Sweet Potato

Porto Rico yams

Bush Porto Rico sweet potatoes are a popular type of sweet root vegetable that is also used to create many cultivars. These orange sweet potatoes have a deliciously sweet taste and a rosy-pink skin. The flesh of these tubers is very smooth and baked Porto Rican sweet potatoes make a tasty buttery mash.

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Carolina Nugget

An orange variety of sweet potato similar to Puerto Ricans is the Carolina Nugget. This oblong-shaped potato has rosy skin and medium orange flesh. The dense flesh holds up well during cooking and its sweet orange flesh makes delicious sweet potato wedges.

Hernandez Sweet Potatoes

Hernandez sweet potatoes have red skin, an oval to oblong shape that tapers at one end, and moist orange flesh. If you are looking for one of the sweetest types of potato, then this Hernandez variety is one of the best. According to some studies, Hernandez’s sweet potatoes have more sugar content than Beauregard’s, Covington’s, and Diane’s. (1)

Brinkley White

Brinkley White sweet potatoes have creamy white skin and white potato flesh. Although their color is similar to regular starchy potatoes, they have an oblong shape that tapers at either end.

Envy (Heirloom Sweet Potato)

Heirloom sweet potatoes refer to varieties of root vegetables that are old cultivars or heritage varieties. These are often grown in lesser quantities and popular with home gardeners.

One popular type of heirloom sweet potato is ‘Envy.’ This heritage sweet potato variety has light orange skin and flesh of a similar color. When cooked, Envy sweet potatoes have a mildly sweet taste and moist flesh. This is a good choice of vegetable to add to stews or you can roast the sweet potatoes in the oven.

Cordner Sweet Potatoes

There are a few varieties of sweet potatoes that are sold as Cordner cultivars. There is the Texan Cordner variety with copper-colored skin and medium orange flesh. The other cultivar is from Oklahoma and is called the Cordner’s Red. This has reddish-purple skin and vibrant orange sweet flesh.

Korean Sweet Potatoes

Many types of sweet potato from Asia have dark-colored skin and white flesh. Korean sweet potatoes are some of the best examples of these Asian vegetables. These varieties have light purple or reddish skins and sweet white flesh.

One of the ways that Korean sweet potatoes differ from American varieties is that their flesh is denser and they taste sweeter. Traditionally, Korean sweet potatoes are roasted or steamed and served as a snack.

Murasaki Japanese Sweet Potato

One of the most interesting varieties of sweet potatoes from Asia is the Murasaki sweet potato from Japan. This is identified by its elongated shape, deep purple skin, and soft white flesh. Unlike most other sweet potatoes, this Japanese variety has drier flesh. However, it still has a sweet nutty taste that is common to all types of sweet potato.

Types of Purple Sweet Potato

Purple sweet potatoes are some of the most interesting and colorful vegetables you can cook. Eating purple sweet potatoes is also extremely good for you. The purple color comes from pigments called anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants. (2)

Here are some of the most popular purple sweet potatoes that you can buy.

Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

Stokes purple sweet potatoes are one of the most popular purple cultivars. Due to its intense purple skin and deep purple flesh, you could be mistaken for thinking that this long plump root is a beet. The purple root vegetable has purple skin and purple fibrous flesh that has an earthy and slightly sweet taste.

Due to its dense flesh and low moisture content, it is best to bake these types of purple potatoes at a low temperature and longer than orange or white sweet potatoes.

Japanese Purple Sweet Potato

Also called Murasaki Imo, these purple potatoes from Japan have a long slender oblong shape. Their skin can be shades of dark red, purple, or dark brown. The flesh is vibrant purple that has a dry starchy texture. When cooked, Japanese purple sweet potatoes become deliciously sweet and creamy with nutty overtones.

Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato

Hawaiian sweet potato

Another type of purple sweet potato from the family Convolvulaceae is the Okinawan cultivar. Also known as the Hawaiian sweet potato or the Uala, this purple tuber has light brown skin and purple flesh. In its raw state, the potato flesh has a faint white marbling effect. However, this changes to an intense violet-purple, almost deep blue color when cooked.

These Hawaiian sweet potatoes have a delicate sweet taste and smooth texture.

Ube Purple Yam

Sometimes referred to as the Ube sweet potato, this tuberous root is actually a type of purple yam. Ube yams (Dioscorea alata) shouldn’t be confused with sweet potatoes because they are from the family Dioscoreaceae.

This is the only true yam on our list and it has thicker skin than sweet potatoes. The fresh purple yam flesh is pale purple with white specks through it. This color usually intensifies after cooking.

Ube purple yams are a staple food in Asian countries and their sweet nutty taste goes well with desserts. You can also buy Ube yam powder, extract, purple Ube jam, or grated frozen roots.

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