Ripe purple yam on a plate on a wooden table

Ube vs. taro: Which should you get?

Comparing ube and taro based on cooking time, taste, and more

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Key Facts

  • Ube is a root vegetable that originated in the Philippines. It is characterized by its brown or purple skin, purple flesh, sweet taste, and starchy and smooth texture.
  • Taro is an herbaceous plant that is also native to Southeast Asia. This sweet and nutty plant has a brown exterior, and its flesh ranges from light purple and cream to red and yellow.

Is taro ube? Perhaps this is the first thing you thought of when you first encountered these plants. This is because both are staples in Southeast Asian cuisine but not so much in American cooking.

Culinary enthusiasts may find it challenging to distinguish between ube vs. taro due to their similarity in appearance. That being the case, this article serves as a guide to help you figure out how they differ.

What is ube?

ube vs taro - fresh ube on a plate

Ube, or Dioscorea alata, is the Tagalog word for a root vegetable or tuber originally found in the Philippines and other places in Southeast Asia. Pronounced oo-beh, this starchy plant is related to various types of purple yams, such as the Okinawa sweet potato.

One of its prominent traits is its vibrantly purple flesh and skin, although some varieties have more muted tones. This type of yam, often confused with the purple sweet potato, has been extensively used by Filipinos as an ingredient in desserts and entrees for decades.

What is taro?

ube vs taro - fresh taro on a chopping board

Taro, or Colocasia esculenta, is also believed to have come from Southeast Asia. The tropical taro plant has a corm that is harvested and used as a component in different types of sweet and savory dishes.

Also called taro root, it can be identified by its rough brown skin and white flesh with light purple specks. Some varieties of taro have corms in shades of green, yellow, and red.

Taro vs. ube: Which is better for your needs?

In this section, learn some ways to differentiate taro from ube.

In terms of cost

ube vs taro: ube for sale in a public market

In the US, the price of four pounds of taro usually falls between $14 and $28. Meanwhile, the cost of ube is significantly higher, at around $40 for the same weight. The reason for this is that the purple root vegetable is not as available across the country compared to taro and may have to be imported to become accessible in the local market.

Recommendation: If cost is not your main concern, don’t let the slightly higher price of ube stop you from trying it.

In terms of cooking time

There is no significant difference in the length of time it takes purple yam vs. taro to prep and cook. Both would require a few minutes of peeling and slicing and then 10 to 15 minutes of boiling or steaming to become tender. But depending on how complicated the recipe you chose is, meal prep and cooking time may be considerably longer, whether you’re dealing with taro or ube.

In terms of taste

ube vs taro - mashed ube in a bowl

What does ube taste like? The ube taste is characterized by sweetness and nuttiness, with a flavor profile reminiscent of vanilla and white chocolate. Taro is also sweet and nutty, but less so. Moreover, it is starchier than ube and tastes like sweet potato when cooked.

Recommendation: If your palate is not a fan of sweet food, you may want to go with taro, which has just the right hint of sweetness.

In terms of nutritional value

In addition to taro vs. ube flavor, nutritional value is a factor to consider when choosing between the two. Both can help regulate one’s blood sugar due to their low glycemic index. They can also reduce blood pressure and promote gut health.

However, ube is a better source of vitamin C and iron, although it has more calories. Meanwhile, taro contains more zinc and fat.

In terms of versatility

ube vs taro - two bowls of ube ice cream

There are differences in ube vs. taro taste, among other factors. However, both are almost on the same level when it comes to versatility as a food ingredient, with the latter just slightly more so.

Ube is mostly used in sweet dishes. These can range from Filipino desserts (such as ube ice cream and ube halaya or purple yam jam) to baked goods (like ube-cheese pandesal and ube-flavored piaya). Ube can also be the star of various confections, including cheesecake and brownies.

Meanwhile, taro can be applied to both savory and sweet recipes, including desserts, soups, entrees, and bread. It can even be made into fries, chips, and pancakes. But perhaps one of its most popular uses is as a major component in bubble tea.

Recommendation: Pick taro if you want to add a root crop to both sweet and savory meals.

In terms of availability

Ube has been gaining popularity in the US in recent years. However, it’s still not easy to find in local grocery stores and markets. If one wants to try this purple yam, buying online or visiting an Asian supermarket might be the best way to do so. On the other hand, taro is more available because it is grown locally.

Recommendation: Go with ube if you ever spot it in your local market or store since it’s not as regularly available as taro.

In terms of growth difficulty

ube vs taro - freshly harvested taro in a basket

Both ube and taro can be purchased for you to grow and harvest. They are not very high-maintenance—they usually just need sunlight and lots of water. Within the country, the areas where they will thrive most are the tropical regions. After planting them during springtime, expect a harvest date within at least nine months.

Enjoy vegetable delivery services with Airtasker

Airtasker has vegetable delivery service providers who may be able to help you find ube or taro. They can also purchase and deliver various fruits, organic food, and other fresh produce for you.

All you need to do is post a task on the Airtasker website, with details such as your budget, location, and grocery list.

Ube vs. taro

Ube Taro
Slightly more expensive
More affordable by a few dollars
Cooking Time
Around 10 to 15 minutes
Also 10 to 15 minutes
Sweeter and nuttier, a bit similar to white chocolate and vanilla
Less sweet and nutty, starchier, similar to sweet potato
Nutritional Value
Higher vitamin C, iron, and calorie content
Better source of zinc and fat
Versatile but more utilized in sweet dishes
More versatile, typically used in both sweet and savory recipes
Can be difficult to find
More accessible
Growth Difficulty
Takes at least nine months to mature
Takes the same amount of time for harvesting

FAQs on ube and taro

It depends. Generally, they are not interchangeable because their tastes have distinct qualities. Nevertheless, there are recipes where using either works just fine. For instance, you can use both as ingredients in bubble tea and cookies.

Both ube and taro are vegan and gluten-free. However, it’s better to double-check the label if you’re purchasing preserved vegetables since they might have been processed with animal-derived substances.

You can eat ube raw after it has been washed and cleaned. However, taro contains calcium oxalate, which makes it toxic when not cooked.

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