Purple Yam Ice Cream

Two years ago, my brother studied abroad in Japan. I remember quite clearly waking up one morning during that time and pawing through my fruit bowl for a breakfast banana. After finding exactly ZERO bananas, and brimming with agitation that the day was already steeped in ruin, I slumped down on the couch with my laptop. In all likelihood I was about to google “how to use sorcery to make breakfast appear,” but saw something on my home screen, something I couldn’t ignore. It was a photo on my brother’s blog of an ice cream cone with the caption: Purple Sweet Potato Ice Cream in Kamakura! Sweet potato f*cking ice cream?!

I was torn. My mind was blown that my favorite food (sweet potato) existed somewhere in the world in the form of my second favorite food (ice cream.) But I was also devastated to know that 5,400 miles remained between that ice cream and me. I shot an email off to my brother. “As If!” I assumed he knew well enough to interpret that as “I can’t believe you’re eating that insanely exotic and coveted frozen treat. I’m super jealous and never want to talk to you again… except that I need to hear more about the ice cream.”

As the title of this post suggests, this ice cream is not made with regular American sweet potatoes, but purple yams. I found mine at a market in Koreatown. If you find yourself without access to these particular tubers, you might try regular sweet potatoes, but since the recipe for this ice cream is eggless, it relies on the heavy starch content of the purple yam to give the ice cream texture and cohesion. A friend tipped me off to this ice cream recipe which replaces eggs with cornstarch and cream cheese. Since the yam is super starchy, I omitted the cornstarch but kept the cream cheese. Result? Outstanding!

Oops! I topped my ice cream with candied peanuts. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe. You probably should too.

As for my brother, he’s no longer in Japan. I expect an email from him any minute. It will probably say, “As if!”

Purple Yam Ice Cream


2 Large Purple Yams

2 C Whole Milk

½ C Granulated Sugar

¼ tsp Almond Extract

4 oz Cream Cheese

¼ C Heavy Cream

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash yams and pierce several times with a fork. Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake until tender, approx 1 hour or slightly longer if the potatoes are extra large. Set potatoes aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Once potatoes have cooled, cut them open lengthwise and scoop out meat. Place potato, warmed milk, almond extract, cream cheese and heavy cream in a blender. Purée until smooth. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled then freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

5 thoughts on “Purple Yam Ice Cream

  1. Purple yam (or ube as we call it in the Philippines) is actually my favorite ice cream flavor. It is something that I really miss. 😉

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