Ube Donuts: The Infamous Purple Donuts

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For many, the thought of a purple donut is probably odd. Ube donuts (also ube doughnuts) have gained prominence as international flavors became more sought after and gourmet doughnuts have become more mainstream.  With their vibrant purple hues, these donuts easily stand out from the crowd.  But it’s not just their looks that get people’s attention. Their sweet and subtle nutty flavors combined with a creamy mouthfeel make for many a return customer. 

Fried dough has taken many forms in different cuisines, from Mexican churros to Italian zeppole. However, the classic round doughnut is one of the most popular forms of fried dough throughout the world. Due to this expansive demand for doughnuts (more commonly spelled “donuts” in America), a wider spectrum of flavors has arisen, particularly in the 2010s as the rainbow colored food trend took off.

To appease broadening palates, many gourmet donut shops have expanded their flavor offerings to include more flavors from different countries and their cuisines. Ube donuts, among other desserts containing the sweet purple yam, are some of the largest beneficiaries of this global culinary movement. In this guide, we will take a closer look at these unique donuts.

How Do Ube Donuts Get That Purple Color?

These donuts have a unique purple hue because they are infused with (surprise) ube, purple yams or tubers originally grown in the Philippines. The color of purple yams (which come from the natural pigment anthocyanin) can range from a light lavender to a deep purple. 

These purple yam donuts are not to be confused with ube-filled bunwelos (or buñuelos), which are similar to large donut holes filled with ube jam and are the typical deep-fried golden-brown color on the outside.

Where Can I Get Ube Donuts?

Ube donuts can usually be found in gourmet donut shops that specialize in international flavors and styles. Mochi donuts often come in ube or taro (which is different from ube). 

What Is An Ube Donut Made Of?

Donuts have always been a reliable treat. It is found almost everywhere and never disappoints. But if you want to take your donut game to the next level you have to try these Ultimate Ube Donuts. As mentioned, Ube is a purple yam that is used in the Philippines for cooking and baking. 

It has a vibrant purple color, which is why it is such a popular baking ingredient and has a mild, nutty, creamy flavor. It is most often used for making desserts and baked goods.

Don’t get intimidated by a novel ingredient. I used ube extract, which can be found online, or if you are lucky your local Asian supermarket will have actual ube yams. It is basically flavoring your donut with ube and then using the same special ingredient to glaze it. Don’t worry, you can choose from a variety of other glazes and toppings if you so prefer. Otherwise, it is a super simple and straightforward process. 

What is even better is that it is baked. So, no extra calories, grease, or mess.

You can store the Ultimate Ube Donuts in the fridge in an airtight container for about a week. If you are not using the glaze or cream filling of any sort, they do not need to be refrigerated. 

Generally, you can store the donuts in an airtight container at normal room temperature. If you are planning to freeze the donuts ahead of time, don’t glaze them. Bake the donuts and freeze them in an airtight container or Ziplock bag. They will last for up to 2 months. To heat them, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and warm them for about 10 to 15 minutes. While they are warming, you can make the glaze. Let the donuts cool down before you dip them.

ube donut


What Does Ube Taste Like?

While ube is technically a purple yam, found commonly in the Philippines, it has a nutty, creamy flavor. Many people mistake it for sweet potato, while it is starchy, it is not a sweet potato. It is most often used in baking and baked goods

Can Ube Donuts Only Be Baked?

Can be fried in the air fryer. Yes, air-fried ube donuts! Use packaged biscuit dough instead of flour and baking powder. Preheat the air fryer, spray the plate or basket and place the biscuits (you can cut out holes in the center to make them more donut-like) on it. Fry for about 3 minutes. Flip it and fry for another 2-3 mins. Take it out of the air fryer and let it cool. While it is cooling, make the glaze and glaze the donuts.

Do I Only Have To Use Ube Extract?

If you do find purple ube yams, you can make yourself a batch of the Ultimate Ube Donuts. Boil the ube yams. Peel them and then mash them nicely or blend them till they are smooth. You can use frozen ube yams or fresh yams if you find them. You need about 1 ¼ cups of mashed or blended ube, so you will need about 5 ounces of ube yams. 

Follow these guidelines:

  • Ube extract: You can use purple ube yams, frozen or fresh
  • All-purpose flour: You can use any store-bought cake flour. You can also use premade biscuit dough.
  • Buttermilk: Almond milk is an acceptable substitute. You can also always just use a combination of milk and vinegar or milk and lemon juice.
  • Heavy Cream: For a lighter option without losing out on taste, half-and-half along with butter is a good substitute. Coconut cream is another great alternative as is cream cheese. We use the heavy cream only for the glaze, so we need something that gives it creaminess, and all these options work.
  • Glaze: This Ultimate Ube Donut is pretty straightforward. But you can make things interesting by changing the glaze or the topping. I love the bright purple of the ube glaze, but you can simplify it, using a traditional chocolate or vanilla glaze. If you want to glam it up further, add some colorful sprinkles, coconut shavings, a dusting of sugar, or just a drizzle of chocolate-caramel syrup. 

And mochi is a very popular ube donut flavor, you can mix it in with the batter or the glaze. And how can I forget Nutella? If you have yourself a batch of the Ultimate Ube Donuts and don’t feel like making the glaze, a hearty dollop of Nutella is the way to go. There are so many ways to sweeten up your donut, go crazy with your toppings.

Ube Potatoes Explained

The ube is essentially a tuber-like the everyday potato but has a less savory flavor. This food author describes the taste of the paleo-friendly purple yam as an amalgamation of vanilla with the nuttiness of pistachio. But don’t expect an intense flavor.

Some authors also likened the taste of ube to an orange – only with the added brightness. There are various ways you can prepare the tubers before turning them into fun ingredients for your home kitchen.

One way is to roast them. First wrap the yams in an aluminum foil and poke holes in the tubers. Roast them in the oven for 90 minutes to two hours, or until they feel soft when poked with a fork. Another way is to simmer the yam (with skins on), in a pot of boiling water for four minutes. Again test their readiness with a fork. 

Or if you have time, you can cut them into tiny pieces before roasting them till they are cooked, and freeze them for storage if needed.

An easy recipe to follow is to make purple yam chips out of it, but they may be sweeter than your typical orange coloured sweet potato fries.  Or try another Filipino treat – purple yam jam or halayang ube. Eaten with bread or by itself, make this topping by adding butter, evaporated milk, a little vanilla extract and sweetened condensed milk for a decadent experience. 

Ube is vegan friendly too, so it’s a perfect ingredient if you’re looking for a filling dish in sweet pies.  Make it with gluten-free crusts too if there are allergies. Dessert bars are just as easy by using cashew butter, coconut oil, coconut milk as a blend for a vegan buttercream. Make a healthy crust out of pecans, dates, cinnamon and you can build your dessert bar layers with your cube-cut purple yam.

Is Ube From The Philippines?

Dioscorea alata, the plant’s scientific name that bears ube, is indigenous to Asia, specifically grown in the Philippines. While most foreign people think that food color plays a role in its physical appearance, they’re often surprised to find out the process involved in preparing the purple yam.

Since the plant’s tubers are already vividly violet in color (hence, its name), all you need to do is add a few ingredients to turn the ube into a creamy dessert called ube jalea (ube jam) – the most common and simplest way to consume ube. However, no one knows how it became a constant, familiar dessert staple among Filipino families.

“There is no written documentation as to when Filipinos started using ube as a dessert,” says Felice Prudente Sta. Maria, a Filipino food historian who has been gathering histories and information about Filipino cuisine since the 1970s. 

According to Sta. Maria, the first Tagalog and Spanish dictionary published in 1613 mentioned ube (or uvi) as a type of camote (sweet potato) that belonged to the Convolvulaceae family. But later on, it was classified a yam, meaning it is of the Dioscorea family.

While there is no known history as to when the Filipinos started transforming ube into ube jalea, it has been part of the childhood of most Filipinos – being served at town fiestas, birthdays, during Christmas, and other celebrations. Although everyone’s eating it like any other dessert, its simplicity and purple color stood out.

“By the 1960s, my uncle made ube jalea (or jalea de ube) in a huge kawa. He added condensed milk and butter instead of coconut milk. One had to stir and fold the mixture vigilantly so the sugar from the condensed milk would not burn,” Sta. Maria explains.

And once the mixture is thickened, you can finally transfer the mixture to a container and cool down to room temperature. Of course, it’s best served when chilled. Whatever ube jalea is paired with, it will surely please your palate.

Into the 1960s, there have been variations on how ube jalea has been presented. For instance, Sta. Maria says it was shaped into a hill on top of a bandejado (oval-shaped serving plate). Then, roses and other flowers with leaves scultep from the jalea were added atop – thus, making the dessert buffet “very lovely,” as Sta Maria describes.


What Does Ube Taste Like?

Unlike most sweet potatoes and yams, which are traditionally served in savory dishes, ube is most popular in desserts). Nicole Ponseca, the owner of two Filipino restaurants in New York City, describes the taste of ube in an interview with Mic as “an amalgamation of vanilla with the nuttiness of pistachio. But the flavor is quite gentle and not too intense.” This lends it to be well-suited in popular Filipino desserts including halo-halo, cakes, ice creams, and candies. 

Ube tastes mildly sweet and earthy. It has lovely gentle vanilla and nutty flavor with hints of pistachio. Ube also tastes a bit like white chocolate and coconut. It is much sweeter than taro and sweet potato.

Ube is much sweeter than taro and sweet potato. It has a similar texture to taro and sweet potato, but it is creamier. Ube has a similar earthy and starchy flavor to taro but also has a lovely nutty flavor similar to pistachios. Ube also tastes like vanilla with some hints of white chocolate and coconut.

The taste of ube can be quite jarring at first for some, but the earthy aftertaste when combined with sweetness makes for a very unique and health conscious donut in a wide field of donut types.