Ube (purple yam) Ice Cream & What the Heck is the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes?

Hey friends! I hope all of you in the USA had a wonderful Memorial Day.

This past weekend, I took a fun little getaway up to NYC. During my trip, I was lucky to dine with two lovely ladies I had been hoping to meet for some time: Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw and Lisa Pitman of Vegan Culinary Crusade. We ate at the newest location of Cafe Blossom and talked and laughed the night away. These two gals are even more fabulous in real life than they are online. Both Gena and Lisa are smart as whips, ambitious as hell, and make for some amazing company. If you’re not familiar with them or their blogs, then be prepared for a pleasant surprise. Gena wrote a lovely recap of the evening on her blog, if you’d like some more juicy details about our time together.

Aside from my jaunt up to the big city, I also did some picnicking in the park with my family, a bit of urban gardening, and worked on one of my latest projects–a follow up to my first book (tentatively titled) Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats Gone Global. I’m thrilled to say that it’s also being published by Fair Winds Press. The fully illustrated cookbook with over 100 internationally inspired recipes is due to hit shelves next June (2013!). I’m having such a great time working on this one–I get to eat all kinds of delicious foods, shoot fun photos, plus it gives me a good excuse to hit up Asian, Indian, and African groceries quite often (one of my favorite ways to spend a day!). I’ll be sure to share more details on this book soon…

Right now, let’s talk about yams.

Yams have been on my mind a lot with the writing and research of this globally themed cookbook. But, interestingly enough, I’ve also been receiving quite a few questions about yams vs. sweet potatoes from readers, so I thought maybe this short post might help clarify a bit.

Yams are different than what we call “sweet potatoes” and what are occasionally referred to as “yams” here in the States–those bulbous often orange or white root veggies are not actually even related to real yams. In fact, the USDA has made it a requirement that the label on a “yam” also say “sweet potato” when sold at grocery stores, so that consumers realize they are in fact purchasing sweet potatoes, not yams… unless they are shopping in an Asian or African market, that is.

Confused yet?

Sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family and originate from tropical countries such as Peru and Ecuador, while yams are actually tuberous vines that are closely related to lilies–some of which can grown up to 4.5 feet long!– that originate in various parts of Asia and Africa. Yams have a slightly starchier taste than the red or white sweet potatoes, a thicker skin, and there are over 200 varieties available. Yams aren’t usually sold in Western chain supermarkets but instead found in groceries that cater to Asian or African cuisine.

If you usually source your “yams” from the chain markets found throughout the cities in the USA, then more likely than not, you were eating a sweet potato. Even those beautiful guys we call “garnet yams” aren’t actually yams at all. But that’s not to say that they both aren’t worthy of praise for their tastes and textures–they’re just different from one another is all. I am quite fond of each, but as a Westerner,  I’m much more acquainted with sweet potatoes. Now that I frequent Asian markets, I am very happy to have yams in my life as well.

I’m an especially big fan of one type of yam in particular, the purple yam, also known as ube (pronounced: ooh-beh) in the Philippines and ubi in Indonesia (often confused with Okinawan sweet potato–which tastes similar, has a similar texture and is also used for desserts because of its brilliant purple hue). Ube or Purple Yam is a delightfully violet hued tuber that is used as a base for many dishes in Filipino cuisine. It’s made into cakes, cookies and other sweet treats where its purple hue and sweetness blend beautifully. You can usually pick these up whole (along with other yams and sweet potatoes) or frozen in chunks in Asian groceries. The whole yams have a reddish brown rough skin and a beautiful purple interior. Once cooked, they become a very interesting base for a deliciously unique ice cream.



Ube (purple yam) Ice Cream

  •  2 cups (550 g ) boiled peeled ube or purple yam (I find it easiest to peel, cube into 1 inch chunks, and then boil until fork tender, about 20 minutes)
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 can (about 1 1/2 cups) full fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon sea salt

Blend all ingredients into a food processor or high powered blender until completely smooth. Transfer to refrigerator and chill until cold.

Place mixture into ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in airtight flexible container in your freezer. This ice cream is best after chilling several hours once it has finished processing.






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52 Responses to Ube (purple yam) Ice Cream & What the Heck is the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes?

  1. Jaen Marc says:

    This is the most gorgeous ube ice cream I ever saw. Perfectly purple.

  2. Nekomata says:

    I realize this is an older post and all, so I’m unsure if you’ll ever see this, but I felt compelled to leave a comment. I was browsing through your recipes (all of which look gorgeous and delicious) and saw this interesting ice cream. This has got to be one of the most if not THE most beautiful ice cream I have ever seen, and being somewhat of a food porn addict, I’ve seen and tried a lot of different kinds of ice cream (both vegan/dairy-free and regular) and I don’t think I’ve ever came across a simple, one-flavor type as decadent and saturated in color as this one. Seriously beautiful stuff! Your blog is all around fantastic and I can’t wait to try and recreate some of your recipes! ^_^

  3. Kirt says:

    It looks really good. I may have to try making it substituting something else for the coconut milk. I want to avoid all that saturated fat.

  4. Ann says:

    I’m so happy that you had created a recipe. Ube is definitely something that I miss from my childhood and I never thought I would be able to find a vegan recipe. I will definitely try this soon. Thanks heaps x

  5. I have a question for you. How does using confectioners sugar differ from using regular sugar in an ice cream? Does it effect the texture or flavor?

    • allyson says:

      Hi Katrina!
      Good question. Both–but also it’s a matter of not having to cook the sugar when using confectioner’s… with regular granular sugar, you need to heat the sugar mixture just until the crystals dissolve (think simple syrup) so the ice cream will come out smooth rather than gritty. Flavor-wise, the taste of the confectioner’s is quite neutral and it seems to make the ice cream’s texture a little more fluffy.

  6. Lindsay says:

    I simply cannot believe this is the natural colour — how gorgeous! Love love love it!

  7. Zadel says:

    I love love anything with ube. I grow my own ube plant and I still have some plant for sale/trade. If interested pls email me at palengke97@gmail.com. Thanks

  8. Gwen says:

    This is delicious… we made it today… so creamy and tasty.

  9. Debbie says:

    Loved this! My husband is Filipino and introduced me to the wonders of ube ice cream when we started dating. I was so excited to be able to make him a vegan version of it. Coconut and ube is a classic combination in the Philippines, and my husband said this ice cream was as good as any he had growing up.

  10. Thank you for the recipe! Does anyone tried this recipe by replacing the sugar with honey/agave nectar? Thank you so much once again…

  11. I love the photos! The color is amazing and it sounds wonderful. I’m really excited about trying this recipe.

  12. Nicole says:

    I used to have “purple ice cream” when I was younger and could have dairy. I lived in Hong Kong when I was little so when I moved back to the US I couldn’t find this amazing dessert. Then I found out I was allergic to dairy and gave up trying to find it. So happy to try this! Can’t wait! Thank you soooooo much

  13. Donna Baker says:

    just found you blog from Kathy @ Healthy Happy Life. read your vegan/celiac story, you have been through so much and have become stronger for it. kudos to you for fighting!! I personally LOVE UBE and this ice cream *by Magnolia* is my favorite! one time my husband made me some UBE cake for my birthday. it was interesting, mostly like a pudding but good nonetheless.

  14. […] Ube (Purple Yam) Ice Cream – this has to be the most beautiful ice cream I have ever seen in my life! […]

  15. Little Sis says:

    Wow! That is SO beautiful and I now know I’ve never seen a real yam. I’ll have to check them out (in addition to trying the ice cream which looks fab). I’m pretty sure my daughter would give anything that color at least one good try. Thanks!

  16. Stephanie says:

    I love purple sweet potatoes!! In fact I have few in my fridge right now! I don’t like ice creams, but I think a warm mash with those ingredients would also be great!

  17. How the heck did I miss this recipe?? I’m making sure I’m subscribing now. Anyway, thanks so much for featuring ube/purple yam. Not many people know about them especially their ice cream version, which are sooo good!

  18. i’ve heard so much about the ube yam! i love the korean or japanese yam – it has a white flesh to it – caramelizes real nice in the oven. so goood!! hope you get to try it. it

  19. Mihl says:

    That looks spectacular! Thanks for the exlanations. I think we can only get sweet potatoes here and I’d love to try a yam one day.

  20. I was going to stop and pick up some yams on my way home to make one of your recipes tonight, but now I’m just confused, ha ha. Thanks for the explanation, I was always perplexed by the differences of yams and sweet potatoes as most places I went used them interchangeable. Now purple yams, that’s something new to me, I can’t get over the colour! It appears I need to make another trip to Chinatown :)

  21. Leanne says:

    Looks so good! I do not have an icecream maker…do you think freezing is ok?….Any suggestions? New to your blog…I will be doing alot of reading!!

    • allyson says:

      Hi Leanne!

      Yes, I think if you freeze it in a metal bowl and stir it well every twenty minutes or so to break up any ice crystals, it should work okay. Luckily, this ice cream has a thick base and should yield itself to that method easily. :)

  22. veganlinda says:

    My purple loving daughter would love this ice cream. I must find purple yams.

  23. Gena says:

    This looks out of control amazing. And it was so wonderful to sit down with you, my long lost twin, finally. Till soon!

  24. Josiane says:

    Hooray for being able to announce the theme of your upcoming book! And it’s such a fabulous theme, as well – I bet it won’t be hard to find inspiration for the recipes! I’ve just received your first book, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this upcoming one…

    Now, I really hope I can find ube around here, because I desperately want to give this recipe a try. It looks amazing and I’m sure it tastes just as great. Actually, since I’ve never had that specific variety of yam, I’m incredibly curious to find out what it tastes like – and what better way to try it than in ice cream form? You’re a genius, Allyson!

    • allyson says:

      thanks so much, Josiane! <3

      I really hope you can find Ube too--they're a lot like geodes: bumpy and rough on the outside and a beautiful smooth purple beauty on the inside. But of course, they make fabulous ice cream--unlike rocks ;)

  25. Vegyogini says:

    Sigh, I wish I had been hanging out with the 3 of you fabulous ladies!

    The ice cream looks incredible!

  26. Vegan says:

    That ice cream sure looks good and yummy! Have you tried making Ube Jam?

  27. Skylor says:

    Do you think this would have a similar consistency if made with coconut milk? The canned kind?

    • allyson says:

      actually, that’s what I used with this one. I’ll clarify that to read “full fat canned” :) thanks! you could use it in place of the soymilk as well, although you may want to water it down slightly, as the ice cream can get pretty thick!

  28. bitt says:

    wow I thought it was blueberry at first. fooled me. i found some purple sweet potatoes that turned brown when cooked. i am guessing this is a different variety. i’ll keep an eye out for them. excited for your new book!

    • allyson says:

      Thank you, Bitt!! <3 <3 It does look like blueberry, huh? Which is now making me want blueberry ice cream. ;)

  29. veganlisa says:

    My life seems so full of kismet these days. Our dinner was exactly what I needed this weekend. It left me feeling energized and inspired. Allyson Kramer you are one special lady. xo

    And tonight, as I read this I’m just putting away the leftover purple yams I steamed for dinner. I think I know how to put them to good use :)

    Thank you for creating so much sweetness in my week. xo

    • allyson says:

      wow! that’s so cool, Lisa! I am so glad i have the fortune of knowing you… and thank you for a lovely evening! :)

  30. shannon says:

    This looks phenomenal! Asian markets are definitely on of my favorite places to pick up neat foods to try.

  31. that is GORGEOUS “ice cream!” what a color! I didn’t know that about sweet potatoes and yams! thanks for sharing!!

  32. SO happy to hear you’re working on cookbook #2!

    This ice cream is too lovely. Purple is my favorite color. ;)

  33. Laurel says:

    That is absolutely the most GORGEOUS color I’ve ever seen. Now you’re making me wish (again) I didn’t live out in the middle of nowhere. Boo. The new book sounds perfect. My favorite Vegan cookbook to date has got to be Vegan Fire & Spice, even though I generally triple the spice. Every single page in that book is marked. It looks like a porcupine. Yours, being GF and with that Allyson flair will no doubt be the best cookbook ever published. xo

    • allyson says:

      <3 awwwwww, thanks, Laurel! Fire and Spice is an amazing book. I hope you like this next one of mine--there are quite a few over the top spicy dishes. just the way i like it! :)

  34. Ricki says:

    That is one seriously PURPLE ice cream!! Looks amazing. I love using sweet potato (which I used to call yam!) in my ice creams. . . I find it adds such a great texture and sweetness. I am going to look for the ube next time I’m shopping in downtown Toronto at the Asian markets! :)

    • allyson says:

      What a great idea, Ricki! I bet sweet potatoes would make a glorious Autumn ice cream—spiked with some maple and spices. Now that I type that out, why wait for Autumn?! I could go for some right now. :)

      I hope you have good luck locating ube! It sure is a delicious treat to have around the kitchen!

    • che says:

      Purple Yam from Philippines is really great tasting ,love it as ube dessert just mix milk, sugar ,vanilla, butter really yummy. Not sure of the puple yam in T&T , if it is the same in texture of the Philippine ourple yam , will try soon.