What’s Cooking Now… Ube Halaya!

First off, I have to clearly acknowledge that it is in fact very possible to make a ube halaya that is truly purple in color, WITHOUT any food coloring whatsoever. I had written a post several years ago about ube halaya and wondered whether or not the good folks at Good Shepherd might be coloring their ube jam, only to receive word directly from the nuns or sisters up in Baguio that they did NOT, in fact, use any food coloring in their ube halaya. And here, in the photo above, a batch of all-natural ube halaya we made the other day…

So what’s the big deal? Turns out there are several types of ube, a tuber native to this part of the world. The ube or “kinampay” from Bohol, where my mother was from, is apparently lighter in color, hence my childhood memories of all our ube halaya being lavender in tint. It tasted wonderful, and was fragrant, more fragrant than northern examples, but pale in color. So the shock of seeing some ube halaya from Luzon that was shockingly purple in color inevitably led to the erroneous conclusion that everyone must be using food color to enhance their jam. Many folks DO use food coloring. But not all. The key to the naturally purple product requires a few steps. First, the underlying ube variety must be the deep purple one. Second, the tubers are boiled WHOLE, without cuts into the tuber, which encourages the color and some flavor to leach into the water. Once cooked, and slightly cooled, only the thinnest outer layer of skin should be peeled away, for most of the purple pigment appears to be in the first 1/4th inch of meat just below the skin. This sometimes results in a few “eyes” or harder masses included in your jam, but with the color is stunning… :) Pass the peeled ube through a food mill and while still hot/warm, mix with your milk (the more the milk, the lighter the color) of choice and sugar in and stir over a medium flame until you reach the desired consistency. I just ate a humongous spoon full of ube halaya, straight out of the fridge, and it is wonderful. For a few seconds, I thought I was 10 years old again. (Sisters in the U.S., this was just like mom’s, only more colorful. How odd that I thought to make this on All Saint’s Day!) :)


35 Responses

  1. We never used food colour too and our homemade ube was deep purple. I agree it has to be boiled skin-on and your fingers get paso while peeling still steaming hot. We grated them mano-mano and you just don’t grate the parts with nubs. As I recall our ingredients were just sugar, evap milk, cooked ube and butter. Then more butter to make a mound on the bandehado. I cannot remember exact proportions because it was tantsa method! There is a new Tagaytay ube haleya vendor, tastes better than the nuns’ ube. I cannot recall the brand, but it is a woman’s first name.

  2. Love ube but I prefer the chunkier consistency of Tantamco’s rather than the smoother Good Shepherd brand. I could finish a jar in one sitting. Yum! :D
    Haven’t seen any ube tubers here in oz but they do have purple potatoes.

  3. Yes Foodjunkie, Tantamco’s halaya is much better than the nuns’ (in my opinion anyway)! We tried to make our own ages ago but the constant stirring was too tiring…besides, we got worried that our right arms may become more muscled and toned than the left so we ‘settled’ for Tantamco’s…

  4. Oh no! Ube halaya sig nifies the start of the christmas season! We also do not use any food color but i recall, the ube we use have deep dark purple colors than those you’ve got MM. We also use margarine instead of butter. Pampatangkad!

  5. i Like… make it super Like…
    By husband is from BohoL, too. and I sure asked him about the “kinampay” =)
    whatever is the name – the weLL-/homemade haLaya is yummy!

  6. Sometimes, Hen Long gets purple ube…just don’t know where the ube is from. I also do not boil them but rather BAKE THEM WHOLE with skin on kaya I choose the smallest ones I can find for it takes quite a bit of time. But this way, it isn’t watery at all and when done, is it ever so fluffy once it is passed thru the food mill and added bonus of really purple-y! I just made some Suman with UBE and LANGKA yesterday….maaaaasarrrap!

  7. my mom never used food coloring in her ube, and very often the haleya turned out a deep purple. there are some really pale ubes though, especially the ones that grow aboveground. we once had an ube vine that grew all the way up the durian tree, and was quite a sight with potato-like thingies hanging from the durian branches!

    but kinampay is something else – it smells faintly of pandan. some people add a bit of boiled and mashed gabi (taro) to the haleya to give it a chewier consistency (makunat).

    that is a nice-looking haleya, MM. how many hours of stirring did it take? i love haleya best topped with a spoonful of sweetened macapuno balls (instead of strings).my mom swears by the “tacho” (copper wok) as the best pan in which to cook ube and jams.

  8. APA…you must be close by!

    Millet… will reply really soon! My nephew just came back from holidays so I am able to ask him only now if he could make a side trip to Cebu and FEDEX the package from there. I think he will be able for he wouldn’t miss his chance of eating ZUBUCHON now that he met MM here.

    Millet…I use double boiler for I can turn my back for hours and it will not be scorched, stirring every now and then…I only transfer to a pot when it gets starts getting thick so my kili kili gets a workout only for less than half an hour instead of hours stirring!

    AHA…MM this must be a prelude for the survey you took a few weeks ago!

  9. UBE! The one that my mom makes has a darker color but I love “helping” her make it since by the time it’s cooked, me and my siblings are also full from all our taste tests! Also, most of he commercial ube sold here in Manila have fillers, you can usually taste if it’s not pure ube.

  10. Hi MM, I just created an ube halaya a few weeks ago. We dont have a food mill at home so we just mashed the ube while slowly cooking it in a medium fire. We added condensed milk, butter and half teaspoon of salt to two kilos of ube. I was advised that the salt would balanced the sweetness of the condensed milk. Make sure to continously mash/mix the ube through out the cooking process or some of it will stick at the bottom of the pan. I prefer this one since it’s chunky unlike the one being sold in Baguio that has the same textture as a regular peanut butter.

  11. Allen…salt enhances the flavour of anything…a pinch of it does wonders. I add a pinch of salt when I make Suman or Tibok-Tibok or even Kutsinta….just a few grains.

  12. Betty Q, have you used a powdered ube? Its hard to find a real ube here in brisbane.

  13. Making halayang ube was part of growing up for me. As a kid, I used to watch the process from boiling and grating the tubers, mixing the milk (evap and condensed) and sugar, grinding up mix using the old fashioned hand cranked grinders to cooking/evaporating the mix until it turned into a paste-like consistency (with Star Margarine). I participated in the grinding process as a kid (an extra hand in cranking). Eventually I took the role of “taga-halo” (during the cooking process) during my teens/young adult years. We made big batches of halaya on a big “kawa” and this was shared between relatives. I remember using firewood 2 decades back (recently we have used LPG). There was also one time we grew our own ube for the halaya. The halaya we used to make is lavender in color.
    There are definitely differences in color (i.e. levels of anthocyanin) of the ube based on variety/cultivar. The ones I grew up on in the Philippines are lighter colored varieties. Here in Hawaii, I came across tubers sold by the Vietnamese that are deep purple in color. I have made a deeper shade of halaya just by using these.

  14. Pinksalmonlady: Maybe use what you have available. Places where they might be available are Vietnamese or Thai grocery stores…frozen section. Now, if they are all cut up, best to oven bake them so the color doesn’t bleed any further. Put everything in a pan, cover with foil and bake them. If the flavour is not too ube-y for you, try adding UBE ICE CREAM when you make haleya using powdered ube or those pale looking frozen ube chunks.

    And yes, I have used powdered ube. An SIL’s aunt’s friend has a home business selling ube haleya and they use powdered ube.

  15. I’ve always used powdered ube in my haleya as the purple tubers are hard to find here in the bay area. You just have to re-hydrate them first with evaporated milk and store in fridge for a couple of hours before cooking them.


  17. I know it’s not pure ube, but I loved the fish shaped haleya that relatives shared with us during the holidays. Come to think of it, I can almost taste the milk. I liked it better than the softer ones in jars from the monastery.

    BTW I get frozen ube (tropical) brand here in the Bay Area.

    On another note, I went back and the comments from the archives and can’t help but be amazed at how the MM community has grown, I specifically loved the time when MM was out of pocket and Betty Q just took over and responded to questions on tips and recipes.

    BTW to the Batangenyos in the group, there is a tuber that I can’t recall, it is white, high fiber, almost like potatoes. My grandma would give it to us as an afternoon snack boiled and dipped in sugar and margarine sometimes. Not camote, ube, or gabi..help me remember, please. Tks.


  18. penoybalut, perhaps you mean kamoteng kahoy or cassava? It is cream to pale cream in color, a bit fibrous, and the key ingredient to cassava cake…

  19. ube halaya is one of my favorites…just like puto bumbong i don’t get to eat it often because it is not available here…so i am taking matters into my own hands…there is plenty of ube here in bkk (i hope i can still find in the market when the flood is affecting almost 1/3 of the land)…so this much i can remember with the post and comments >>> boil the ube whole, peel off the ube, mash them without the food mill, mix with butter, milk, sugar and pinch of salt >>> now how to cook, please? with a steamer or directly on top of an open fire? thanks!

  20. Ube jam brings back memories of new year’s eve in bohol where it would be one of our desserts for media noche. We used kinampay but i do remember them being deep purple when made into jam or halaya and we would put grated cheese over and the contrast of the yellow and purple is just very tempting. This deep purple color on our ube jam could have been attributed to the kind of kinampay we used, or the way it was prepared as you said.

    I see a lot of purple yams here in brunei and i am itching to make ube jam. I would have to convince my husband to do the stirring..haha

  21. terrey, on top of an open fire, preferably in an enamel coated heavy pan, like a Le Creuset… Just watch that it doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom of the pan…

  22. Tantamco’s is the best, too! But yes, tedious to make at home. But very possible. The lovely ube deserves a seat in the presidential table of Pinoy delicacies!

  23. Terrey: you are so close to the ‘Pins (as Silly Lolo wold say). If you can get someone to bring you a puto bumbong steamer, you can make puto bumbong anytime. I have done it soooo many times here….Yes, Rowena, I will bring it to our kainan in December at La Emp’s house….anyway, going back to puto bumbong, I am sure you have access to galapong there and Black rice, you are all set to go!

    Now, I have seen homemade contraption of puto bumbong on the net…for instance, they used empty can of cooking oil, cleaned of course throughly, with just 1 hole and the bamboo tubes, bottom wrapped in torn t-shirt I would assume…that’s it!

    OH, NIna…tell your hubby…set aside a little of the jam and konti pang halo to the point of being makunat…add macapuno and chopped langka and then form them into balls and roll in sugar and wrap in cellophane….or even just put them in those petit fours paper thingies!…call it HALO-HALO BALLS! If Silly LOLO saw this , I am sure he would have something to say!

  24. Thanks Betty Q. Have not tried cooking ube halaya with Ube ice cream. Just thinking about it now makes me salivate. LOL.

  25. Penoybalut, the tuber could have been tugi. Tugi is white and sweet but is more glutinous than gabi. It used to be readily available in Central Luzon but is now difficult to find.

  26. I remember the halayang ube from my mother’s hometown (Pateros) that was traditionally served at fiesta time was deep purple & made without food coloring too. Instead of milk, coconut milk was used and the ube was cooked until very thick. It was stirred continuously until the oil from the coconut milk came out making the mixture a bit glossy. The oil also prevented the mixture from sticking to the pot at this point. Then the ube was formed into various shapes (a popular shape was that of a fish ~ not sure why but I guess it was part of the tradition) on a serving platter then it was decorated using a writing tip with white icing following the shape & details of the fish…scales, eyes etc. To serve, it was sliced instead of scooped with a spoon. The image and taste of this halayang ube was unforgettable. It will always be a part of my fond memories of those happy fiesta days. I’m glad that you wrote about ube halaya as it gave me a chance to share this ube variation with you & your readers. Thanks!

  27. We also use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk when making ube halaya at home, and brown sugar as well instead of white, a pinch of sea salt, and no butter. And as Laura says, the natural oil from the coconut comes out and prevents it from sticking and giving it a glossier appearance. The taste is even richer and the aroma more enticing.

    Unfortunately fresh ube roots are hard to find in Austria (and in other European countries as well – with the exception of London, GB, where I found some at ridiculous prices), so I use the powdered ube ones when making ‘haleya’, and homemade ube ice cream. They’re also manufactured in the Philippines somewhere in Silang, Cavite.

  28. Sigh. My Mom makes an awesome halayang ube and I used to help her grate and mix them whenever we have the village fiesta when I was young decades ago. I find it’s more delicious than Good Shepherd and other commercial brands because I saw how my Mom worked hard to make them. Labour of love is still the best ingredient in any dish on my book.

  29. i also made halaya over the long weekend…whew, my arm ached with all the stirring, 1.5 kg of fresh ube was quite a task for my un-exercised arm…

  30. There are actually lots of varieties of ube. The fragrant, rounded ones have paler, lighter colors. Then there is what is called “tuwiran” , which is purple and then there is what is called “diking” which is really deep violet. There are also white colored ube. You can add chinese gabi to make it more fragrant.

    The recipe of tantamco is actually 5 cans condensed, 1 can evap to 6 kilos ube. You have to boil them with skin on and peel and slice them then grate them – use a processor for smoother ube or a hand grater fora chunkier ube. Then you use Anchor butter 1 stick to 1 kilogram. Stir, stir, stir.

    During the rainy season, ube jam sold is actually camote or cassava with food coloring added.



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