There’s been quite a rise in popularity with the stunning purple root vegetable ube. Thanks to the plant-based movement and its photographic nature, ube has been popping up left and right on social media and restaurant menus. Ube, a purple yam, has origins in Southeast Asia, but it is most commonly used in Filipino cuisine. The word ‘ube’ comes from the yam’s name in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. While the ube has long been a staple in Filipino cuisine, it’s only made its way into the U.S. culinary scene within the last few years.
Ube tastes slightly sweet, nutty and earthly. It also has a bit of a vanilla flavor along with pistachio. Its texture is soft, creamy and, when cooked, custard-like. The larger the ube, the sweeter it is. The skin of ube is a creamy, off-white color, while the flesh of raw ube is a light purple that becomes dark purple when cooked. Ube is like a cross between a sweet potato and taro and, similar to many other kinds of yams and sweet potatoes, ube is a highly nutritious tuber that is high in healthy carbs, vitamins and fiber.
Fresh ube is often prepared and cooked like a potato—heated until it is soft. It can be prepared in a variety of ways: boiled, baked, mashed or fried. While ube can be cooked with savory spices, its mild, sweet vanilla flavor, and its coconut-like aroma have made it a popular ingredient in traditional Filipino sweets. Chefs are using ube to give color and character to everything from ube cocktails to ube cakes and even ube hamburger buns. Often boiled and then mashed with condensed milk, ube is mostly used for desserts and is popular in ice cream, boba tea, jam and baked goods such as brownies and macarons.
Ube is a versatile root vegetable that is inspiring chefs to come up with creative ways to incorporate it into their treats. No matter how ube is used, you can trust that its mellow, complex and divinely creamy taste will please the palate.