Ube (Purple Yam) Ice Cream

A quintessential Filipino ice cream made with purple yam.

ube ice cream

Rezel Kealoha

Why It Works

  • Using coconut cream and corn syrup adds a creamy texture.
  • Adding ube halaya (purple yam jam) lowers the water content and results in a less icy ice cream.
  • A small amount of vodka makes the ice cream softer and easier to scoop.

In the Philippines, ice cream is better known as sorbetes or “dirty ice cream,” largely because it’s peddled by street vendors and the conditions of their wooden carts can be deemed unsanitary (although, to be fair, I think calling it “dirty” was how my older relatives attempted to dissuade me from buying it). I remember patiently waiting for the tinkling of the cart’s bell to echo down my street on a daily basis. 

The sorbetero, or ice cream man, usually carries a rotation of three flavors, such as cheese, chocolate, strawberry, avocado, or ube (purple yam), which are housed in individual metal canisters, surrounded by crushed ice, sprinkled with salt, and covered with rice husks to help keep the sorbetes frozen in the sweltering heat. The sorbetero scoops the ice cream into cups, cones, or bread buns like pandesal or monay (a dense bread).

Vibrantly purple ube—which features a smooth, creamy texture and sweet, earthy flavor with subtle notes of vanilla—is one of the country’s well-loved flavors of ice cream. While it can be enjoyed as a standalone flavor, it is equally popular in other combinations, like ube macapuno (ube plus coconut) and ube and cheese (a match-made in heaven due to its balance of savory and sweet flavors).

For my version of ube ice cream, I set out to develop a recipe that honors the flavors of home by using a combination of coconut cream and milk, which complements the ube’s earthy sweetness and coincidentally results in a vegan ice cream. During my testing, I discovered that incorporating homemade ube halaya, or purple yam jam, produced a less icy ice cream and tasted superior to a version using store-bought halaya, a product that can contain artificial coloring and preservatives (if you do choose to use store-bought halaya, look for ones with ube and sugar as the primary ingredients). The addition of corn syrup and a small amount of vodka yields a soft, scoopable ice cream with a plush texture that’s akin to a full-dairy version. Once churned and frozen, I highly recommend enjoying ube ice cream on its own, scooped into pandesal, or as a topping for halo-halo.

Recipe Facts

Prep: 4 hrs 10 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Freezing Time: 5 hrs
Total: 9 hrs 20 mins
Makes: 1 quart

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups (355ml) coconut cream 
  • 3/4 cup (175ml) full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 3/4 ounces turbinado sugar (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons; 75g)
  • 2 ounces light corn syrup (3 tablespoons; 60g)
  • 2 1/4 cups (610g) ube halaya (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) coconut or unflavored vodka 
  • 3/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
  • 3/4 teaspoon ube extract (see note)

Directions

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan, whisk together coconut cream, coconut milk, sugar, corn syrup, and ube halaya. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in vodka, salt, and ube extract.

    cooking ube ice cream mixture

    Rezel Kealoha

  2. Transfer mixture to a blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds (alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée mixture directly in saucepan). Strain mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large heatproof bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until no warmer than 40°F (4°C), about 4 hours.

    cooling ube ice cream mixture

    Rezel Kealoha

  3. Churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions, until thick and fluffy (about 10 minutes, but the timing will vary depending on the type of machine).

    churning ube ice cream

    Rezel Kealoha

  4. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ice cream is firm enough to scoop, about 5 hours.

    finished ube ice cream

    Rezel Kealoha

Special equipment

2-quart saucepan, ice cream maker, immersion blender, or countertop blender

Notes

Store-bought ube halaya is available at Filipino and Asian specialty markets and online. Choose one that has no more than two or three ingredients and is primarily made from ube and sugar, with minimal preservatives.

Ube extract, a great source for adding or increasing ube flavor, is available at Asian specialty markets and online. For a deeper ube flavor and color, you can add an additional 3/4 teaspoon ube extract to the ice cream mixture.

Make-ahead and Storage

Ube ice cream can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.