Sweet potatoes are so versatile. They lend themselves to many sweet and savory dishes as the main course, a side dish, or an appetizer. These Mexican Sweet Potato Skins work great as a starter and are filling enough to be the main attraction.

Choosing Sweet Potatoes

Most people don’t know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, and even more people may not realize that there are a wide variety of sweet potatoes.

Yams vs Sweet Potatoes

In the U.S., you will rarely see true yams. Even if they are labeled as yams at the grocer, they are probably still sweet potatoes. This is because copper-skinned sweet potatoes are frequently mistaken for yams.

A true yam belongs to the Dioscoreaceae family and are related to lilies and grasses.  Most of the world’s yams come from Africa and Asia, and they are actually quite hard to find in the US. Yams have a cylindrical shape with bark-like skin and white, purple, or reddish flesh. Their flesh is starchier and drier than sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes belong to the Convolvulaceae family. These are what you typically find in the grocery store, even if the label says yam. Sweet potato skins vary from white, yellow, red, purple, or brown, while the flesh may be white, yellow, or orange.

Yams and sweet potatoes also differ in their nutritional value. Sweet potatoes provide an excellent source of vitamin A, as well as a healthy dose of vitamin C and various B vitamins. Yams also serve up some B and C vitamins, but they lack the hefty dose of vitamin A found in sweet potatoes.

Types of Sweet Potatoes

As I mentioned, there are numerous varieties of sweet potatoes readily available at specialty grocers and farmer’s markets. Some of the most common varieties are hannah, garnet, purple, and jewel.

Hannah sweet potatoes have cream-colored skins and flesh. Compared to other varieties, their flesh is firm and slightly dry.

Garnet sweet potatoes have reddish to dark orange skin and orange flesh. The flesh is sweet, tender, and moist when cooked.

Purple sweet potatoes are more elongated in shape with purplish skin and flesh. They are far less sweet than other varieties and can be on the dry side as well. Unlike other varieties, purple sweet potatoes do provide a good source of vitamin A.

Jewel sweet potatoes have coppery-orange skin, very similar to the garnet variety. Their flesh is deep orange, mildly sweet, and fairly firm.

Sweet potato varieties: Hannah, Garnet, Purple, and Jewel

How to Choose the Right Tuber for Your Recipe

The best way to decide which sweet potato suits your particular recipe is typically to try them out. Because I enjoy all the varieties, I used a combination for this recipe. The result is that each potato skin has a unique flavor profile and everyone can choose their favorite. If your grocer offers several varieties of sweet potatoes, don’t be afraid to mix it up!

Let’s Get Cooking!

Gather all your ingredients before you get started. This makes the cooking process faster and I tend to get distracted less often.

Baked sweet potatoes look good enough to eat as is, but they are about to be dressed to perfection!

Carefully scoop out the potato flesh in order to keep the fragile skins intact.

Load up the toppings! There are no rules here.

Make it a Meal

These Mexican Sweet Potato Skins are the perfect compliment to my BBQ Jackfruit Sandwiches! Try these crowd pleasers at your next tailgate or other gathering!