Meet Ube, the Trendy Yam You're Seeing Everywhere
Veggies would be a lot more appetizing if they tasted like chocolate, right? Well, if you have a sweet tooth, you’re going to love ube.
What Is Ube?
Ube (pronounced OOO-BAY) is a bright purple yam with a sweet, subtle flavor that fans say is a cross between vanilla, chocolate, and hazelnut. It’s long been served at potluck dinners in the Philippines, where it’s often infused into jams, jellies, and sweets.
Now ube is fast becoming an “it” food here — it’s showing up in decadent desserts and pastries across the country. You can find it in waffles in New York City, cheesecake in Seattle, and ice cream in L.A. There’s even a $100 donut in Miami Beach made with ube mousse, Cristal icing, and 24K edible gold.
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But does it pack enough of a nutritional punch to earn a place in your daily diet? You might be surprised.
The Health Benefits of Ube
Like other root vegetables — sweet potatoes, taro, and yucca to name a few — yams are a great source of fiber and potassium. A cup of cooked yam cubes clocks in at 158 calories and 37 g of carbohydrates, but it packs 5 g of fiber and contains more than twice the potassium of a medium banana.
That same serving of the purple yam also provides nearly 20 percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for vitamins A and C, two key antioxidants that, combined, can help reduce inflammation and support your immune system, vision, and skin health.
Where Can I Buy Ube?
Here’s the one big bummer about ube: It’s not widely available in the U.S. yet, so you probably won’t see it at your local supermarket. You might be able to find it at an Asian food market or international specialty grocer, or you can use ube flour — which can be ordered online — in place of the fresh stuff in recipes. (Just make sure it’s not loaded with added sugars.)
In a pinch, you can also substitute Okinawa sweet potatoes in place of ube. While yams and sweet potatoes are technically very different foods, these two tubers are still pretty similar in hue, flavor, and health benefits.
How Can I Add Ube to My Diet?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to drop a rent payment on gold-encrusted donuts to enjoy the benefits of ube. Filipino blogger Jun Belen shares a variety of recipes you can make at home, ranging from pies to empanadas to ice cream.
And while ube’s bright purple hue is perfect for Instagram-worthy desserts, that’s not the only way you can work it into your diet. Despite its unique flavor and fun color, ube is still a yam, so you can prepare it any way you’d normally prepare yams or sweet potatoes. Mash it, cut it into fries, or work it into a savory (and easy-to-prepare) side dish. And it can even get a little saucy when you puree it and pour it over meats that can use an extra kick, like fish and chicken.
Just remember: Like sweet potatoes, ube is a calorie-dense food, so you should eat it in moderation.