ube purple yams ice cream donuts

What is ube? 

Ube is a naturally purple-colored tuberous root also known as the purple yam.  It is pronounced “OOO-beh,” not “OOO-bae” nor “YOU-bae” since there are no long vowel sounds in Tagalog.  Native to the Philippines, ube is a popular food ingredient in many Filipino desserts and pastries. It is also growing in popularity in other countries as well thanks to its striking purple hue and sweet, nutty flavor.

Ube vs. Taro

Don’t confuse this purple food with taro.  Many people assume that the Philippine purple yam is the same as taro because they are both found in purple desserts. However, they are two completely separate types of vegetables. Although both are also tuberous root vegetables, taro is more white in color and kind of resembles a small coconut. 

The flavor of both of these vegetables include a bit of sweetness and nuttiness. The difference is that ube is distinctly sweeter than taro and its overall taste is also richer than taro.

Ube vs. Okinawan purple sweet potato

Okinawan sweet potatoes (a.k.a. bene-imo, Hawaiian sweet potato and uala) are the only sweet potatoes of the bunch.  They are slightly more similar to taro on the outside due to their chalky white skin and look slightly more like Philippine purple yams on the inside due to its purple interior.

These purple sweet potatoes are closer to ube in sweetness than taro, but they have a very dry starchy texture.

ube purple yam vs taro vs okinawa sweet potato
(left to right: ube a.k.a. purple yam, taro, Okinawa sweet potato)

Ube has been deeply rooted (yes, we went there) in traditional Filipino food culture.  It’s commonly used in Filipino desserts like ube halaya (a purple sticky pudding), cakes, pastries, ice cream, and halo-halo.

However, due to it’s visually appealing color and high “Instagramability,” it reached fever pitch in the mid-2010s becoming the “it” flavor of many trendy treats like: cronuts, macarons, rolled ice creamshaved snowbubble waffles, boba milk teas, and milkshakes and lattes.

Where can I get it?

You can find traditional ube-based foods in most specialty Filipino dessert shops or Filipino restaurants that serve traditional desserts.  If you’re looking for something a little more trendy, check out some places on Glutto right here.

How can I make it?  

There are many different desserts and dishes you can make with the Philippine purple yam.  The absolute easiest way is to mix in some pre-made ube halaya into whatever you are making.  But, if you want a more authentic recipe, here is how to make traditional ube halaya at home.

halayang ube halaya

Ube Halaya

Ube halaya is a thick sweet pudding or jam made of purple yams. It is the most traditional ube dessert of the Philippines.
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Filipino
Servings 2 people

Equipment

  • Large Mixer (Optional)
  • Large Pot
  • Container or Mold (to set in refrigerator)

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs Filipino purple yam
  • 14 oz condensed milk
  • 12 fl oz evaporated milk
  • 1/2 lbs butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5-10 drops drops purple food coloring

Instructions
 

  • First, boil the purple yams until soft. Then blend or mash thoroughly and evenly.
  • Put the butter, sugar, condensed milk and evaporated milk together in a pot and heat until the butter is completely melted. Mix the ingredients completely.
  • Add the mashed purple yams and mix everything together in a thick paste. Add drops of food coloring until desired color is reached.
  • Put the mix into a container or mold and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  • Serve with butter. Enjoy!

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