Why It Works
- Cooking ube slowly brings out its floral, earthy sweetness.
- Coconut milk and butter add a smooth, rich creaminess.
Ube halaya, or purple yam jam (try saying that three times in a row!), is a sweetened spread made from ube, butter, sugar, and a combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, or coconut milk. It's vividly dark purple, thick and creamy, and mildly nutty, and it's a versatile ingredient in the Filipino kitchen. It can be spread onto toast, swirled into a cake, added to ice cream, mixed into halo-halo, topped with shredded cheese or latik (crisp coconut curds), or enjoyed on its own.
Ube is a purple yam that’s commonly used in desserts and sweet breads in the Philippines. It shouldn't be confused with Okinawan sweet potatoes or taro, which have different flavors and textures. Although available fresh, ube is much easier to find frozen or as a powder in the US. This recipe calls for frozen, grated ube, which is especially convenient since it’s ready to use (in comparison, powder can be trickier to work with since it must be reconstituted with liquid, first, and textures can vary between brands). However, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on fresh ube, feel free to use it in place of the frozen ube and see our note below for handling it.
This ube halaya uses all coconut milk since its tropical flavor pairs well with the earthy ube. The cooking process is relatively straightforward and only uses one pot: You cook ube, sugar, and coconut milk low and slow until the halaya resembles a jam. Once that happens, toss in a knob of butter and a pinch of salt and cook the mixture until it becomes thick and viscous. That’s it! Ube halaya is best served cold, which allows its vanilla and pistachio-like flavor to truly shine.
- One 16-ounce (454g) pack frozen, grated ube (purple yam), thawed (see note)
- 5 1/2 ounces granulated sugar (3/4 cup; 155g)
- One 13.5-ounce (400ml) can coconut milk
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons; 60g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (see note)
- 1/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
In a 4-quart saucepan, heat ube over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until ube has started to deepen in color and any excess water has been cooked off, about 3 minutes.
Add sugar and coconut milk and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring and scraping frequently to prevent the ube from sticking to the saucepan, until the mixture has thickened to a jammy consistency, about 30 minutes.
Add butter and salt and continue to cook until mixture is dark purple in color and has reduced to a viscous, paste-like consistency, about 15 minutes.
Transfer to a heatproof medium bowl and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until cold.
To thaw frozen ube, defrost in the refrigerator overnight. To use fresh ube, first wash it thoroughly, then cover with water and boil until tender, between 30 to 40 minutes. Peel off skin and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (make sure you have 16 ounces; 454g). In Step 2, use a potato masher or immersion blender to smooth it out when you’re cooking it. Fresh boiled ube can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months; defrost before using.
Substituting vegan unsalted butter for unsalted butter by weight will make this vegan.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Ube halaya can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.