Asian ingredients like taro, red bean, matcha and black sesame have all had their culinary moment. And now it’s ube’s turn. Ube (pronounced oo-bae) is a purple yam commonly found in Filipino and Asian dishes. Like all delicious ingredients, though, the subtly sweet starch is making its way into everything from donuts and cakes to fancy cocktails and lattes. Treats aside, you’ll also find the lilac potato pop up in many healthy Paleo– and vegan-friendly dishes. Here’s what you need to know about the chewy, melt-in-your-mouth tuber, plus four ways to cook it to perfection.
Ube: A Purple Powerhouse
Ube belongs in the same starchy vegetables family as sweet potatoes, taro and yucca. But the violet vegetable is slightly less starchy than sweet potato with 37 grams of carbohydrates per one-cup serving versus 41 grams of carbohydrates in one cup of sweet potato. (To their credit, sweet potatoes are slightly higher in fiber, with 6.6 grams to ube’s five grams per cup.)
“Like yams, [ube] is rich in potassium, and its vibrant purple color is an indication that it’s loaded with anthocyanins, a type of polyphenol that is promising for helping reverse age-related declines in cognitive and motor function,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family.
A cup of ube provides 20 percent of your daily needs for potassium, essential mineral for getting better sleep and stabilizing blood pressure levels. One serving of the starch also delivers roughly 20 percent of your daily recommended vitamin A and vitamin C.
Fun fact: Anthocyanin, the phytochemical responsible for ube’s royal purple pigment, is also found in the skin of red grapes (which is used to make wine), blueberries and blackberries, cherries, eggplant and black rice. The flavonoids have also been shown to help improve cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure and prevent certain cancers.
Ube for an Uber-Healthy Diet
Just like any yam or other starchy vegetable, it’s important to exercise portion control with ube (stick to a one-cup serving), as it can be calorie-dense. To be exact, 160 calories per cup, Largeman-Roth says. Also, be sure to use the actual tuber — not the powders, jams and other processed products that you commonly find in Asian markets. Those can be packed with added sugars and preservatives.
“You can cook ube like yams by boiling or baking them. Then you can mix the cooked vegetable into various dishes, either savory or sweet,” Largeman-Roth says.
Paleo and vegan devotees are preparing ube as filling side dishes, spreads and desserts. In fact, it’s starting to be introduced by many Paleo food bloggers. “Paleo-style would be to puree it into a sauce and serve it with grilled fish,” Largeman-Roth says. You can also dice it, boil it and use it in a salad with lentils for a vegan dish. Or, enjoy it as mashed potato or a soup puree, fold it into a breakfast muffin mixture or julienne it into baked fries. Raw foodists can even turn ube into energy bars or protein balls mixed with nuts and oats for a pre- or post-workout snack.
For more inspiration, here are four healthy recipes that will inspire you to use this purple tuber.
4 Paleo-Friendly Ube Recipes to Try at Home
1. Paleo Ube Ice Cream
Unlike store-bought ube ice cream, which is loaded with added sugars and other processed ingredients, this refreshing dessert is made with raw honey, organic heavy whipping cream and coconut milk. The coconut milk enhances the natural sweetness of ube. Photo and recipe: Marla Sarris / Paleo Porn
2. Vegan Purple Sweet Potato Pie With Coconut Almond Crust
Impress your dinner guests by preparing this delectable take on the Southern classic. Here, you’ll use almond meal and shredded coconut to create a gluten-free crust. For the pie filling, this recipe combines ube mash with canned coconut milk and add ground cinnamon, ginger, allspice and cloves to infuse flavor. Make your own whipped cream with additive-free coconut milk. Photo and recipe: Kristen Stevens / The Endless Meal
3. Mashed Paleo Purple Sweet Potatoes with Lime and Coconut
This colorful side dish is sure to become a new favorite. Fresh lime juice and coconut flakes infuse this mash with a nutty and zesty flavor. If you want to save time on whipping the potatoes, set a food processor or standing mixer on low until the mixture comes out fairly smooth with no lumps. Photo and recipe: Natasha / The Artisan Life
4. Baked Purple Sweet Potato With Mushrooms and Garlic
Enjoy all the homestyle flavors you love in this classic recipe. Fresh rosemary sprigs and minced garlic infuse a savory flavor that complements ube’s sweetness. Adding cremini mushrooms ups the nutrition factor with a dose of vitamin D, and lightly coating ube with olive oil ensures comes out with a nice roasted crunch. Photo and recipe: Erin Williams / Kitchen of Eatin’