What You Need to Know About Ube, the Purple Yam Lighting Up Philly Dessert Menus

Bright purple, earthy and sweet, ube is powering some of the most delicious sweets on the scene right now.

Beautifully purple ube desserts, like this brioche doughnut from Mexipino Philly, are hot right now in Philadelphia. Photo courtesy of Mexipino Philly

Ube, the violet yam native to Southeast Asia, has been making its purple presence known in bakeries and on dessert menus throughout Philly. Though there are many varieties of ube (pronounced “ou-beh”), don’t confuse the tuber, known for its distinctive color, with taro or purple sweet potato. Most bakers here start with raw tubers, which can be found in certain Asian grocery stores, and make them into a jam base by processing them with milk, sugar and ube extracts. Now that you’ve received your ube primer, go track down the great ube-flavored sweets filling bellies and Instagram feeds in the region.

Ube conchamadas. Photo courtesy Mexipino Philly

Ube Conchamadas at Mexipino Philly

Roxxanne Delle Site-Jeronimo is baking some of the best ube desserts in the city, having honed her craft in several kitchens here, most recently at Suraya. During the pandemic, she created Mexipino, a heartfelt endeavor bridging Mexican and Filipino baking techniques, in her South Philly kitchen. Order the ube conchamadas, a hybrid of the Mexican concha and the Filipino ensaymada. Delle Site-Jeronimo hits all the ube notes in both the crunchy topping and the ube jam embedded in the sweet bread. You can place pre-orders on Instagram every two weeks; depending on her workload, she arranges pickups at Ground Up Coffee Shop on East Passyunk or delivery. Mexipino Philly, South Philly.

Ube coconut doughnuts. Photo courtesy of Okie Dokie Donuts

Gluten-Free Ube Coconut Doughnuts at Okie Dokie Donuts

Carol Ha and Bill Kelly’s doughnut flavors rotate monthly, with a special appearance of an ube cream and coconut variety in February. Their doughnut base is rooted in rice and tapioca, making it gluten-free. Imbued with ube and covered with a coconut cream icing, the treat offers a flavor pairing that hits home for many fans. Stay tuned to their Instagram for ube specials. Their cute “kitchen shop” along Snyder Avenue in South Philly is worth a trip. Okie Dokie Donuts, South Philly.

Ube macarons from Tambayan Philly. Photo by Neal Santos

Ube Macarons and Ube Cake at Tambayan Philly

Reading Terminal Market is home to one of the most exciting Filipino eateries in the city. Consider pulling up to the counter at Tambayan Philly and enjoying one of the daily specials, like pancit and Filipino spaghetti. Many of the savory dishes contain ube, notably the pandesal and ube fries. But it’s an extra-special treat when Kathy Mirano’s desserts can seal the deal: Her ube macarons and ube cake roll are both made in-house, fresh, and packed with purple yam goodness. Tambayan Philly, Center City.


Halo-halo at Reytas Filipino. Photo by Neal Santos

Halo-Halo at Reytas Filipino 

If you’ve never had halo-halo, venture out to Cherry Hill’s Reytas Filipino right away. In Tagalog, halo-halo translates as “mix-mix.” This classic shaved-ice dessert is a copious concoction of evaporated milk, sweetened legumes, young coconut strips, Jello, fruit, creamy flan and crispy puffed rice. Generous scoops of ube ice cream and ube jam bring it all home. Halo-halo newbies may find it a bit disorienting — all those ingredients! — but the joy comes when the ice melts and the ingredients “halo-halo” together. If you were the type of kid who especially looked forward to drinking the milk after eating sugary cereal, this is the dessert for you. Reytas Filipino, Cherry Hill.

Purple yam mille crepe cake from Prince Tea House. Photo by Neal Santos

Purple Yam Mille Crepe Cake at Prince Tea House

Layer upon layer of delicate ube crepe sandwiched between fluffy whipped coconut cream and flecks of young coconut flesh give this dessert that rich, yammy earthiness. It’s not too sweet, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to the many hot teas of this popular New York chain. Prince Tea House, Chinatown.