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Homemade sweet taro paste made with fresh taro and coconut cream. Use it to make taro bubble tea, taro mochi or taro steamed buns. Can also be eaten on its own as a light dessert.
Taro has become increasingly popular in Western countries in the past few years, despite being one of the most ancient crops in Asia.
You’ve probably heard of taro bubble tea, but have you ever wondered what the secret ingredient is? Taro paste is the base for taro bubble tea and many more delicious Asian desserts.
This creamy paste is very easy to make and can be enjoyed even on its own as a healthier treat. Taro paste is sweet, with a nutty flavour and similar to soft mashed potatoes in texture.
What is taro root?
Taro is a tropical root vegetable widely cultivated in South Asian countries. This root plant can also be found in African and Oceanic countries. Although only recently used in Western countries, taro is believed to be one of the most ancient crops.
Taro looks similar to most yams, with its rough, brown skin. This vegetable is toxic if consumed raw, so it always needs to be cooked before consuming. Once cooked, both the leaves and corm (or root) are fully edible.
Before consuming, taro root is usually steamed, boiled, or baked. There are many gorgeous dishes made with this root vegetable, but its most common application is in desserts. This is because taro is naturally sweet, with a subtle nutty flavour.
Fun fact: taro is great as baby food since the starch is easily digested.
When raw, the inside of taro appears white with speckles of reddish purple. The magic happens once taro is cooked, as the inside turns a pale purple. This is entirely natural and gives taro desserts a beautiful purple hue.
Lastly, taro is also considered to be healthy, as it is rich in fibre and nutrients. The easily digestible starch coupled with its rich fibres also makes taro good for your gut.
Caution: taro cannot be eaten raw, as it is toxic. Always cook taro before consuming!
Are taro and ube the same?
No, taro and ube are different vegetables. These two roots tend to be mixed up due to their similar appearance. However, there are differences between them.
Ube is usually much darker in colour and has a deep purple skin (similar to a purple potato). By contrast, taro skin is brown in colour, with stripes across its diameter. Inside, ube and taro are different too. Ube is a vibrant purple, whereas taro is white with reddish purple specks.
In terms of flavour, the two are also different. Taro has a nutty and mildly sweet flavour, whereas ube has a vanilla flavour and is much sweeter.
When it comes to uses, taro can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, whereas ube is used exclusively for desserts.
- Brown skin, with stripes cross diameter
- Flesh is white with reddish purple specks
- Nutty, earthy flavour
- Mild sweetness
- Used for both sweet and savoury dishes
- Deep purple skin (similar to purple potato
- Vibrant purple skin
- Vanilla flavour
- Much sweeter
- Used mostly for desserts
What does taro paste taste like?
On its own, taro tastes starchy like a potato, but with a mild vanilla sweetness. Once steamed, the root vegetable has a nutty, earthy flavour. Usually, taro is turned into a paste, which is then used in many different desserts.
Depending on how its cooked, the texture of taro can be either very smooth or a bit grainier. The texture of taro paste is a personal preference, and it depends on the use. If used in bubble tea, the texture needs to be extra smooth, whereas in steamed buns or mochi you might want a grainier texture.
What can taro paste be used for?
Taro paste is used in a wide range of desserts, some of the most notable originating in South Asia. Some of my favourites include:
- Taro milk / Taro bubble tea (Taiwan)
- Taro mochi (Japan)
- Taro steamed buns or mantou (China)
- Taro mooncake (China)
Homemade taro paste can basically be used in any dessert recipe as a substitute for red bean paste.
The best part is that you can get very creative with taro and make your own desserts. Taro can be turned into ice cream, smoothies, buttercream, cupcakes and much more!
Note: taro paste is a pale purple in colour, so if you’re looking for a natural vibrant purple colour in a dessert, go for ube instead. Alternatively, use a few drops of food colouring.
Making homemade taro paste only requires three or four ingredients. Apart from taro root, the other ingredients can be found in most pantries. Let’s have a look at what we need.
Taro – raw, peeled and cubed into smaller pieces. Cannot be replaced with anything else in this recipe.
Sugar – plain granulated sugar is enough, or you can use brown sugar for a more caramelised flavour
Coconut cream – used to make the mashed taro silkier and creamier. I like to use cream because it has a thicker texture. You can also use coconut milk, heavy (double) cream or condensed milk. If using condensed milk, reduce the amount of sugar added.
Coconut oil – although optional, it’s recommended. Oil makes the paste much smoother and keeps it from clumping up. You can replace coconut oil with any other odourless oil (sunflower or canola / rapeseed).
Where to buy taro, you ask? Most specialty Asian supermarkets will stock taro, especially Thai or Chinese shops. I should mention that fresh taro root is not exactly cheap in Western countries and can cost up to £12 per kilogram ($16 per 2 pounds). Still, I would argue it’s definitely worth the price for its distinct flavour and health benefits!
How to cook taro
The easiest way of cooking taro is by steaming it. There are multiple ways to steam taro.
- Using a traditional bamboo steamer – yields the best flavour in my opinion. This type of steamer is also great for making taro steamed buns.
- Electric steamer or multi-cooker – the kind you’d use for any vegetables.
- Improvise with a pot and a metal steamer or sieve. For this method simply place the metal steamer over a pot with boiling water. Ensure the steamer is not directly touching the water, then cover with a lid and steam.
Whichever method you use, steaming taro takes roughly 25-30 minutes. If you’re making larger quantities, you might want to do them in batches to ensure the taro is cooked throughout.
Pro tip: always peel, wash and cube taro before steaming. This way the cooking process is much faster.
How to make homemade taro paste
I love making taro paste because it’s just so simple. The only ingredient that needs preparation is the taro root. Let’s begin:
- Peel, wash and cube the taro root. Place in a steamer and cook until soft.
- Mash the steamed taro with a fork or potato masher.
- Add in the coconut cream, sugar, and oil. Combine everything into a paste.
- Cook over low heat until the texture firms up.
Yes, it’s actually THAT simple to make taro paste! If you want a smoother texture, you may need to use a food processor or blender. Similarly, if you want a thinner paste (for bubble tea for example), add a little bit more coconut cream
How to store
Homemade taro paste will stay fresh in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. To store, place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
For longer storage, you can freeze taro paste for up to 2 months. Simply place the paste in an airtight container and freeze. To thaw, leave the paste in the fridge overnight.
Frequently asked questions
No, authentic taro paste can only be made with real, raw taro. Taro powder should mostly be used as a flavouring agent or in bubble tea.
Can I freeze taro paste?
Yes, taro paste can be frozen for up to 2 months. Place in an airtight container and freeze.
Taro paste is used in making taro bubble tea, taro mochi, steamed buns or mooncakes. It can also be eaten on its own as a dessert. See post for more ideas!
No, taro paste is not toxic as it is made with cooked taro. If prepared as indicated, this recipe is 100% edible.
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Taro Paste Recipe
- Bamboo or electric steamer
- 600 grams taro root, peeled (21 oz. or 5 cups)
- 150 grams sugar * (¾ cup)
- 100 grams coconut cream (½ cup)
- 20 grams coconut oil * (1 ½ tablespoons)
- Peel and wash the taro root, then cut into small cubes.
- Place in a steamer and cook until soft, for about 25-30 minutes. Use a fork to check if the taro is soft.
- Once cooked, transfer the cubes into a pot or saucepan. Use a masher or fork to mash the cubes into a puree or smooth paste.
- Pour in the coconut milk, sugar, and coconut oil, mixing well to combine. Cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until the mixture is a firmer, creamy consistency.
- Remove from the heat and let the paste cool down completely before using.
- I recommend using a kitchen scale in grams for more accuracy. The cups used for the conversion are standard US customary cups (1 cup flour = 136g). There are many different types of cups across the globe, which is why I strongly recommend using grams instead.
- Weigh taro after peeling it for better accuracy.
- Sugar can be adjusted according to personal preference.
- Coconut oil can be replaced with sunflower or canola (rapeseed) oil.
- Nutritional value is estimative and is calculated per serving (this recipe makes 12 servings).