What Are White Sweet Potatoes And Why Aren’t They Orange?

updated Jul 22, 2022
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inside of japanese and american sweet potatoes
Credit: Patty Lee

If you’ve ever cut into a sweet potato and the flesh was white, you’re in for a treat. The flesh of sweet potatoes come in different colored hues including orange, purple, yellow or white.

The term white sweet potato is used to describe any variety of sweet potato that has white flesh. The two most common white-fleshed sweet potatoes are Boniato, also called batata, or Cuban sweet potato, and the Japanese sweet potato, also called the satsuma-imo.

The big difference between the two is the skin color: Japanese sweet potatoes have a pinkish brown skin and the outer skin of a boniato is light tan.

What are White Sweet Potatoes?

White sweet potatoes are related to the orange sweet potato, but with some noticeable differences — mostly in texture and taste.

  • Orange sweet potatoes have more moisture, are orange-fleshed, and very sweet.
  • White sweet potatoes are dryer, white-fleshed, mild in flavor, and slightly nutty.

White sweet potatoes (like all potatoes) are considered tubers. They are grown throughout subtropical and tropical regions. Sweet potatoes are considered the world’s second-most valuable root crop, according to an article in Science Daily that also places the origin of the sweet potato in Asia.

Although they share the same color flesh, white sweet potatoes are not related to the other familiar white-fleshed potato: the russet. Instead, white sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family.

What do White Sweet Potatoes Taste Like?

A cooked white sweet potato is drier than an orange one but still creamy with a little butter mixed in. It has a mild flavor, a dry crumbly texture, is less starchy than a russet potato and not as sweet as its orange cousin.

To explore the difference in textures and flavor we roasted one in the oven. Then split it in half. We topped one side with butter, salt, and brown sugar and left the other side plain so we could do an objective taste test.

How to Cook with White Sweet Potatoes

The skin is bumpy and a little difficult to maneuver with a potato peeler (though there is really no need to peel the potato as the skin is perfectly edible) so it might work better to use a small pairing knife if you prefer your potatoes sans the peel.

White sweet potatoes can be boiled, mashed, baked, roasted, fried or used in soups and stews. They can also be used in desserts but don’t consider them a good one for one swap in American Sweet Potato Pie.

Try them in any of these recipes:

Why Aren’t White Sweet Potatoes Orange?

Orange sweet potatoes are positively packed with beta-carotene ,which is responsible for the orange flesh. White sweet potatoes only have 6 micrograms of beta-carotene compared to an orange sweet potato’s load of more than 8,500 micrograms.