The American Sweet Potato

This delicious root vegetable is having an identity crisis!  Some people want to call him a Yam, which he isn’t.  Some people like calling him a potato, which he isn’t.  So, who is he? 

 He prefers growing in the heat, southern US and the Carolinas.  Unlike his friend (who he has no relationship to), the potato loves cooler weather.  What about this guy, the Yam?  Once again not a relative, the Yam is grown in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean.  They are all root vegetables from different flowering perennials.  Sweet Potatoes are from the Morning Glory Family, Yams are from the Lily Family and Potatoes are from the Nightshade Family.

 They don’t even look like they’re related.  The Sweet Potato has an elongated shape with narrow ends.  His skin is copper orange in color and usually has an orange flesh.  There are some relatives with white and purple skin and some even have white flesh.  His texture is moist with a sweet flavor.  The Yam, however, is circular in shape and has dark rough skin with a white flesh which is starchier and drier.   As for the potato, there is nothing sweet about him!

 So how did this happen to our dearly beloved sweet potato?  To the best of my knowledge we just started calling it a sweet potato because it was similar in shape to a potato and it was sweet.  And, the Yam thing, that was all marketing at its best.  Back in the slave era of the south, Louisiana wanted to distinguish their sweet potatoes from sweet potatoes coming from other areas.  They decided to market their sweet potatoes as Yams.  Yam coming from the African word “Nyami” which means to eat.

 Yams are difficult to find and are prepared in a totally different manner based on their dryness and starch levels.  So, should you be lucky enough to find a real Yam, don’t be substituting him in Aunt Ethel’s Candied Yams or Grandma’s Yam Casserole with Marshmallows.  They’ve been cooking with Sweet Potatoes this whole time!

 I didn’t want to take anything away from Aunt Ethel’s and Grandma’s traditional recipes so I came up with a completely different recipe for our delectable Sweet Potatoes – Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Pecans.  Enjoy!


Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

I love twice baked potatoes. They take the whippy loveliness of mashed potatoes and the oven roasted flavor of baked potatoes to create a perfect side dish. So, in this recipe, I took the same concept. It’s a marriage of whipped sweet potatoes with the toasty flavor of roasted sweet potatoes. The maple syrup adds depth and the ginger & orange juice adds a spark. Finished off with roasted pecans brings out toasted flavors. Enjoy!
Course Side Dishes
Servings 4 people



  • 2 1/2 - 3 lbs Sweet Potatoes 3 potatoes
  • Canola Oil & Kosher Salt


  • 2 tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 2 tablespoons Heavy Cream
  • 3 tablespoons Pecans chopped & toasted
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ginger zested
  • 2 tablespoons Fresh Orange Juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pumpkin Seasoning or Cinnamon
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  • 2 tablespoons Pecans
  • Orange Zest


  • COOKING THE POTATOES Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub sweet potatoes under cold water. Dry. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Prick the potatoes with a fork. Rub with canola oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook for 50-60 minutes (or until potatoes are tender when pricked with a fork). Cool potatoes for 10 minutes or until the cool enough to handle but not cold. *Do not turn your oven off.
  • Using a towel to handle the potatoes, cut in half horizontally. Scoop the potatoes into a mixing bowl, leaving the skins in tack. You’ll have to leave a little potato on the edges to keep the skins from tearing.
  • Put the potato skins back into the 400 degree oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes. This will help create a crisper potato skin.


  • Add the maple syrup, heavy cream, ginger, fresh orange juice and cinnamon. Season with salt & pepper, to taste. With a hand mixer, whip the potatoes. Fold the 3 tablespoons of pecans into the potatoes.


  • Scoop the whipped potatoes into four of the potato skins, discarding the remaining 2 potato skins. Sprinkle additional pecans and orange zest on top of each potato.


  • You can make these potatoes up to a day ahead of time. Bring the potatoes to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the potatoes for 20 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees.


*Toasting the pecans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake for 5 minutes.