Filling and flavorful—these are just two of the seemingly countless reasons to love sweet potatoes.
Regardless of your skill level in the kitchen, incorporating these sweet spuds into a myriad of recipes is easy, too.
With the many varieties they come in, how do you know which types of sweet potatoes to use in your dish?
Well, that’s what we’re here to help you out.
Below, we list the different sweet potato varieties you can play around with in your kitchen.
What Are Sweet Potatoes?
You’ve probably had them as a satisfying side before, but are you sure you know what sweet potatoes are?
Though similar in name to potatoes and close to appearance to yam, these three are not closely related.
Classified as a dicotyledonous plant or a vine species, sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae.
Its roots, which are tube-like, starchy, and sweet, are the vibrant-colored root vegetable we all know and love.
Rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, these roots boast anti-oxidant properties.
They help support healthy vision, boost the immune system, and even fight off cancer-causing toxins.
What’s even more impressive is that they come in many varieties that each offers fantastic benefits.
Different Types of Sweet Potatoes
Been experimenting in the kitchen lately?
You might have noticed that sweet potatoes come in a range of flavors, textures, and colors.
Here are the most common varieties you might come across at your local produce market:
This variety is probably what comes to mind when you think of a sweet potato.
Its skin has that familiar copper/light-orange hue, and the flesh is a deep orange color.
Because of its firm and mildly sweet flesh, it’s often used in casseroles as well as for boiling and baking.
The jewel variety packs in moisture, too, so they can get watery when you don’t cook it properly.
Willowleaf sweet potatoes are an old cultivar native to Missouri.
For this reason, you might have a hard time finding them in your local produce store.
Its skin is a mix of orange and red, while the flesh is orange in color.
When baked, it gives off a nutty taste that you won’t find in other varieties.
This variety is the most akin to regular white potatoes, as seen on its tan, sometimes cream-colored, smooth skin.
Cutting into it, you’ll find that it has a pale, almost-white flesh that is dense and creamy.
When cooked, its flesh takes on a yellowish color and becomes rather dry and firm.
It’s a good variety to mash, turn into fries, or roasted in chunks.
Garnet or Red Garnet
Aptly named, garnet sweet potatoes have a slightly red/deep orange skin unlike most varieties.
Its orange flesh retains its bright color even after cooking, which is why it’s a good ingredient to use to add color to a dish.
Moist and mildly sweet, it’s often used for making sweet potato pies and other sweet treats because of its almost pumpkin-like texture.
For roasting or glazing, you’re better off using nugget sweet potatoes.
You can easily distinguish this variety for its rather rosy skin, oblong shape, and light-orange flesh.
What makes it stand out is that its dense flesh holds its shape even after cooking.
This variety is a hybrid developed from Beauregard sweet potatoes.
It is well-loved for its dense cream-colored flesh and mildly sweet taste.
You’ll love growing this sweet potato variety, as it matures in three months and produces high yields.
The South’s favorite sweet potato variety is the Covington.
Its rose-colored skin and orange flesh are what sets it apart from other cultivars.
More than anything, it is often used for desserts or as a side dish because of its sweet, malty flavor.
Do you like frying or boiling sweet potatoes?
Get the Creamsicle variety and take advantage of its firm flesh.
You can distinguish it from other cultivars easily for its pale, white skin and bright orange flesh.
Go into any American grocery store, and the Beauregard is the sweet potato variety you’ll find.
Along with jewels, this cultivar is among the most common kinds of sweet potatoes grown and sold in the US.
Its flesh has a deep orange color covered by a purplish-red exterior.
You’ll love using it for desserts and baked goods because of its juicy and sweet taste.
Amish Bush Porto Rico
For lush and buttery sweet potatoes, toss a couple of Amish Bush Porto Rico’s in the oven.
You’ll notice that this type of sweet potato has a light-red skin and copper-colored exterior.
Pick this variety if you’re planning on growing some in your backyard, as the roots grow in bushy clusters.
Ever seen sweet potatoes with light-brown skin and purple flesh? Those are undoubtedly Okinawa sweet potatoes.
This variety is both sweet and nutritious, making it a favorite stir-fry or baking ingredient.
The best part? It doesn’t lose its pretty purple hue even after cooking.
Also called the oriental sweet potato, this almost round variety has a pinkish-purple exterior and pale-colored interior.
When cooked, the white flesh turns golden and gives off a sweet and nutty flavor.
This variety is perfect for steaming, baking, and even grilling.
Purple sweet potatoes have a distinct deep purple flesh and skin.
Unlike most other varieties, these come out dry and not too sweet when cooked.
As such, we don’t advise eating them by themselves.
As the name suggests, this sweet potato variety hails from Asia.
Its flesh is white-colored, while the exterior is speckled and purple.
It has almost like a chestnut flavor to it, which is why you would want to boil or bake it before eating.
Not to be mistaken with Korean purple sweet potatoes, this variety has a speckled magenta exterior.
You can expect it to taste a bit nutty and will remain firm regardless if you boil or fry it.
Another purple variety, this sweet potato’s skin and flesh are purple all the way through.
It can be too dry and fibrous, so remember to them slow and low.
What Type of Sweet Potato Is the Healthiest?
When it comes to high levels of anthocyanins, the best sweet potato varieties are those with purple flesh.
These are also believed to have anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, and anti-diabetic effects.
Moreover, they contain a good amount of soluble dietary fiber and anti-oxidants.
On the other hand, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes boast a rich amount of beta-carotene.
What Kind of Sweet Potatoes Are the Sweetest?
If you’re after sweetness more than anything else, choose sweet potato varieties that are either orange or red skinned and have deep orange flesh.
These include jewel and garnet sweet potatoes.
Cooked properly, the flesh will end up sweet and moist, making it perfect for desserts and side dishes.
What Is the Best Variety of Sweet Potato?
The answer to this depends on the recipe you’re trying to cook up.
For baking, you’d want the high amylase content of orange or red skinned sweet potatoes.
This enzyme breaks down starches into sugars, giving you a moist end-result.
In comparison, purple-skinned and brown sweet potatoes can be rather dry when cooked.
The many varieties of sweet potatoes available ensure you have more than enough options to play around with in the kitchen.
The key is knowing which kinds of sweet potatoes to use for different recipes.
In the end, it’s very important to remember to still watch your portion sizes.
Though generally healthier than regular white potatoes, sweet potatoes have a high glycemic index and elevated glycemic load.
This means they can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.