What is the Difference Between Purple Sweet Potato and Ube? (2024)

What is the Difference Between Purple Sweet Potato and Ube? (1)

Is Ube the same thing as a purple Okinawan sweet potato?

It can be easy to confuse Okinawan sweet potatoes and ube – a type of yam – because of their rich purple color, but make no mistake, they are two different ingredients.

Here are some of the major taste, nutrition, and biological differences and similarities between these two crops. Even with their differences, substituting purple sweet potatoes for ube works great in a pinch. Only a true connoisseur will taste the subtle difference.

What is the Difference Between Purple Sweet Potato and Ube? (2)

Okinawan Sweet Potato

ʻUala, or sweet potatoes, were brought to Hawaiʻi by Polynesian voyagers. Before European contact there were over 200 varieties of ʻuala in Hawaiʻi.

The Okinawan sweet potato variety originated in South America and was brought to Japan in the 1600’s, with the first plantings in Okinawa. These purple tubers were brought to Hawai‘i with Japanese sugar plantation workers in the early 1900s and have since become a local favorite.


Ube is Tagalog – the national language of the Philippines – for the purple yam native to Southeast Asia that has since been naturalized in South America, Africa, Australia, and the southeastern United States. It is also known as the “winged” or “water” yam in English.

Uhi – a Hawaiian yam – is a canoe crop of the same species as ube (Dioscorea alata). Very popular in the Philippines, ube is used in many traditional dishes and modern desserts, such as ice cream and cake. While ‘uala is an important staple crop in Hawai’i, uhi never achieved this status.

Interested in growing ube? Check out HIP Agriculture’s informative planting video to learn about growing your own ube!

Taste and Texture

  • Both ube and Okinawan sweet potato have a similar sweet, earthy flavor, with ube carrying hints of pistachio and vanilla.
  • Sweet potatoes have a drier texture while ube is more moist; some have even likened ube to an Irish potato!
  • In Hawaiʻi, one traditional differentiator is that ʻuala can be made into poi by adding water, while uhi is not sticky enough and too mealy to create poi.


  • Why are ube and Okinawan sweet potatoes both so purple? Their purple coloring actually comes from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants which help to guard against cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Okinawan sweet potato has a lower Glycemic Index than ube does (54vs79), meaning it is less likely to cause large increases in blood sugar levels and may support weight loss and prevent chronic diseases related to obesity – such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Plant Biology

  • The skin of Okinawan sweet potato is thin, like an Irish potato, and can be eaten. Ube has a thick, bark-like skin, which allows the crop to store for longer, but is unpleasant to eat.
  • Okinawan sweet potatoes are in the morning glory family and completely unrelated to yams, such as ube.
  • Yams, such as ube and uhi, take a full year’s cycle to grow a crop while purple sweet potatoes mature quickly, in just about 3 to 7 months.

While ube may be hard to find, boosting your diet with nutritious bright purple colors is easy with oursteamed and frozen ʻuala. Check out ourFarm-to-Table Sweet Potato Gnocchihome recipe for a rich dish packed with antioxidants that is simple to make!

What is the Difference Between Purple Sweet Potato and Ube? (2024)


What is the Difference Between Purple Sweet Potato and Ube? ›

Ube vs Purple Sweet Potato

Is ube the same as purple sweet potato? ›

The purple sweet potato traces its origins to Central America and is a part of the morning glory family of plants, while ube is a true yam native to Southeast Asia and has been a part of Polynesian cuisine for thousands of years.

What is another name for purple sweet potatoes? ›

alata is referred to by many different names in these regions. In English alone, aside from purple yam, other common names include ten-months yam, water yam, white yam, winged yam, violet yam, Guyana arrowroot, or simply yam.

Do purple sweet potatoes taste different? ›

What Do They Taste Like? It depends on the variety, but in general, purple sweet potatoes are mildly sweet and almost wine-like in taste. They tend to be much drier and starchier than traditional sweet potatoes. For this reason, purple sweet potatoes are often cooked for longer than traditional sweet potatoes.

Are purple sweet potato and taro the same thing? ›

Purple yams and taro root look similar, hence the confusion between the two. Nonetheless, when stripped of their skins, they are different colors. Taro is grown from the tropical taro plant and is not one of the nearly 600 types of yams.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Edwin Metz

Last Updated:

Views: 6601

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Edwin Metz

Birthday: 1997-04-16

Address: 51593 Leanne Light, Kuphalmouth, DE 50012-5183

Phone: +639107620957

Job: Corporate Banking Technician

Hobby: Reading, scrapbook, role-playing games, Fishing, Fishing, Scuba diving, Beekeeping

Introduction: My name is Edwin Metz, I am a fair, energetic, helpful, brave, outstanding, nice, helpful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.