Yams, sometimes mistakenly called sweet potatoes, are vegetables that are members of the starchy tuber family. They typically range in color from white to yellow, an orange-pink shade, and purple. Some yams can grow to more than 150 pounds and five feet in length. The best way to tell the difference between a yam and a sweet potato is by the color of its skin. Sweet potatoes have a reddish skin, while the skin of the yam is usually brown, but can appear more like the orange-pink or purple skin of is flesh. The two vegetables can be used interchangeably in most recipes.
Yams are very healthy and are a low-sugar, high-fiber food. They are delicious in both savory and sweet dishes, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Many health-conscious diners have begun swapping yams for white potatoes in an effort to increase the vitamin and mineral content of certain dishes. It is very common in the Western world to see French fried yams as an alternative to traditional French fries.
How to Cook Yams
In addition to French fries, there are a variety of ways to cook yams. The vegetable can be baked, smoked, boiled, grilled, fried, roasted, or grated and added to baked dishes. Three of the most common cooking methods for yams include baking, roasting, and boiling.
To bake a yam, heat your oven to 375 degrees. Scrub the skin of the yam with water and a coarse brush. Stick fork tines partially into the flesh of the yam to allow steam to escape while baking and then wrap the yam in aluminum foil. Place the foil-wrapped yam onto the oven rack and back for at least an hour, depending on its size. You will know when the yam is done because it will produce sweet brown syrup. Let the baked yam cook for a few minutes in the foil, cut the yam length-wise, and eat. Both the flesh and skin can be consumed. You can top the open yam with butter, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, molasses, marshmallows, chives, or sour cream, or you can eat it plain.
How to Roast Yams
Roasting yams is a quicker method for preparing the vegetable and I is a healthy alternative to frying. Heat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut the yam into slices or wedges and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle the yam pieces with olive oil and mix with your hands until the pieces are entirely covered. You can season the pieces as you choose with salt, pepper, cinnamon, thyme, turmeric, or other spices. Roast the yam pieces for 20 minutes, remove from the oven and flip, and then roast for at least another 20 minutes. You will know when the yam is finished roasting because the flesh will begin to brown. Some people cover the yam slices in corn starch before drizzling with oil for a crispier end result.
How to Boil Yams
Boiling yams is one of the easiest ways to prepare the vegetable and is ideal if you want to mash the yams once they are cooked. Peel and chop as many yams as needed for your final recipe. The size of the chopped cubes affects cooking time, so chop as small as possible, taking into account your final dish. Fill a pot with enough water to cover the yams you want to cook. Place the yams in the pot and boil the water. The yams should cook in the boiling water for at least 20 minutes, based on their size. Yams are finished boiling when you can easily insert a fork and break apart the flesh. Boiled yams are also great in potato salads, though the skin is typically not peeled before boiling for most salad recipes.
Yams are nutritious and taste great. If you want to liven up your usual potato dishes or you are looking for a vegetable kids will love, add yams to your grocery shopping list.