Ube (pronounced oo-bay) is a species of yam native to the Philippines that is best characterized by its bright purple hue. Ube gets its color from anthocyanin pigments that are naturally found in the yam. Ube's flavor is earthy and lighly sweet, like a mix of pistachio and vanilla. Traditionally ube is boiled and mashed with sweetened condensed milk and butter to create sweet spread called Halaya, which can be used on practically anything. Ube is also used as base in all kind of foods and desserts thanks to its delightful flavor and rich texture.
Though ube isn't as common in the United States as it is in the Philippines, it is becoming a more popular ingredient in all kinds of Instagram-worthy desserts like cakes, pastries, and ice cream because of its desirable purple color. Even Trader Joe's is getting in on the ube game with their new ube ice cream. It is likely that you won't be able to find the purple yam at a typical grocery store, but you can usually find ube and ube-based products at Filipino restaurants or markets. You can also order ube powder and halaya online.
Ube often gets compared to taro root, which is a vegetable native to Southeast Asia. Though both ube and taro roots have sweet and nutty flavors, the key difference between the two is taro root grows from the taro plant and is not species of yam like ube is. Taro root also has a yellow-white flesh, while ube's flesh ranges from lavender to deep violet purple.
Not only is ube a beautiful and versatile food, it is also pretty healthy for you. One cup of ube only has 140 calories and is rich with carbs, potassium, vitamin C, and antioxidants. Additionally, anthocyanins, the antioxidant that give ube its vibrant purple hue, have been shown to help reduce blood pressure and inflammation as well as protect against cancer and type 2 diabetes.
Before you get too carried aways with putting ube in every dessert imaginable, keep in mind that just because ube is generally pretty good for you, it doesn't take away from all the sugar that makes dessert taste so good in the first place. Though eating purple ice cream is fun and delicious, make sure you keep a balanced diet by pairing your ube-based dessert with a healthy entrée.
Because of its sweetness, Ube is commonly used as a base in many Filipino desserts. Ube is starting to become trendy in the United States thanks to eateries like Manila Social Club and Soft Swerve incorporating the yam into their menus. If you want to try your hand at making ube-based dishes, check out these recipes!
If you're going to be making ube desserts, the first thing you'll need is halaya (sometimes called purple yam jam). Halaya is an ube-based spread that can used on pretty much anything and is often what is used to make vibrantly-colored ube-based desserts.
Halo halo is a traditional Filipino dessert made with mango and ube ice cream, sweet beans, young coconut, coconut gel, rice cereal, jackfruit, sugar palm, evaporated milk, and shaved ice. It's sweet and tropical and heavenly!
The only thing better than cheesecake is purple cheesecake! This ube cheesecake is made with a coconut cookie crust and coconut whipped cream, which makes for a tasty tropical treat.