Around this time every year, we start to think about the beloved sweet potato, and why not? Typically, sweet potatoes make an appearance around the holiday table, oven-roasted and possibly topped with marshmallow: But you aren’t one-note and neither are they. In fact, there are more than 6,500 types of sweet potatoes across the globe. Varying in color, moisture content and flavor, depending on your recipe, it can be daunting to choose the right type. Each has its own charming characteristic that can shine in numerous dishes.

I’ve developed five creative recipes that will get you playing around with sweet potatoes this holiday season – do these superior spuds justice and experiment.

Know Your Sweet Potato

Distinguishing between the sweet potato and the yam can be tricky. The easiest way to tell the two apart is by the texture of their skin: Yams typically have a more tree bark-like exterior and sweet potatoes have a redder, sometimes purple, hue. The flesh of true yams has a completely different texture, as well, and is often starchier and less sweet than sweet potatoes. Certain types of sweet potatoes – mostly Garnet and Jewel – have been referred to as yams to differentiate them from the O’Henry sweet potato, but they are quite different from a real yam. When trying a new sweet potato variety, take notes on its individual flavor profile and play around to find your favorite type.

Beauregard  Reddish-brown skin, orange flesh, sweet, the most versatile

Garnet  Reddish-brown skin, orange flesh, texture of pumpkin, perfect for pie

Jewel  Reddish-brown skin, orange flesh, moist, tender and sweet, a go-to for baking and casseroles

Korean Purple – Purple skin, yellow flesh, nutty chestnut flavor, great in stuffing or sautéed with your favorite greens

O’Henry – Tan skin, yellow flesh, sweet and creamy texture, a perfect baker

Okinawan  White skin, purple flesh full of anthocyanins, roundish, sweet and smooth, good for multiple applications

Willowleaf  Orange-red skin, orange flesh, nutty flavor, extremely rare heirloom variety native to Missouri

Spanish tortilla is one of my favorite dishes to have on hand at any time of the year, but during the height of sweet potato season, I love to combine sweet potatoes with the traditional Yukon Gold for a different flavor.

Ideal for a chilly day, the warmth of the poblano and cumin are a perfect complement to the subtle sweetness of the sweet potato in this soup.

These rolls are made from an enriched dough, featuring sweet potato and butter, so they are deliciously moist and perfect for soaking up every bit of sauce at the table.

Amanda Elliott is the chef at Peachtree Catering in Columbia, Missouri, and authors the website, where she shares recipes centered on the idea of the communal table and embracing the heritage of food through travel.

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