Ube Shortbread : Cookies with Purple Yam

Do you know of any vegetable that can be used as a dessert? Look no further.The UBE is a vegetable that makes the most awesome desserts. The ube, or purple yam is a tuber that grows on a vine, above ground. In the Philippines, it is a major vegetable crop and an important source of food. It is more abundant in the last months of the year. And this is why during the Christmas holidays, a lot of desserts and snacks in the Philippines are made of UBE (purple yam).


Commonly grown in Asia, South America, Africa, the purple yam is a tuber that can be cooked in many ways. At first sight, it looks like any old potato with a brown outer skin that is dull and rough. Once sliced, the heavy tuber looks pretty with a light purple color and a juicy inner texture.

A favorite way to cook ube is to make “ube halaya” (ube jam). The tuber is boiled, then mashed, mixed and cooked with milk, sugar and butter. Some recipes call for mixing it with coconut cream or grated coconut meat. In all these ways ube is utterly delectable.

My sons grew up in America so when they first tasted ube jam from the Philippines, they were delirious with delight, and described it as having a dairy-like, sweet fruity taste, though quite rich. So true. Open the jar, and the sight of the dark purple, thick jam of mashed-potato-consistency, with its swirly mass invites you to stick a spoon and just dig into the dark sweetness.



The purple yam is also grown in neighboring Asian countries of the Philippines, like India and Vietnam, where it is used as a soup ingredient. Purple yam grows in Hawaii,too and used as an ingredient for many dishes.

With ube, you can bake cakes, make jam, and cook candy. Each time I do, the sweet dairy flavors and lovely dark purple texture never fails to elicit excitement at our family gatherings.  Ube does not grow  where I live here in the USA. But that does not stop me from making desserts with it. Nowadays, you can buy ube flour, packaged in boxes,sold in Asian groceries. It gives a certain heaviness to some desserts, but if you are precise and careful with measurements, the ube desserts are delightful.



 After using the ube flour for years, I discovered the liquid ube flavoring.  I  used the ube flavoring on shortbread and it was sublime.  A few teaspoons of the liquid ube flavoring and the sweet scent of this tuber was all over the kitchen. Once I took the first batch  of UBE SHORTBREAD COOKIES out of the oven, there was that light, delicate  aroma. It was sweet, butter-like, slightly fruity. As I dipped my spoon in the cookie batter, I smelled the ube shortbread cookies from the oven….and I just knew it. UBE scents were in the air. Christmas was here. Who knew a vegetable could have such an effect like this?




*Adapted from the Shortbread recipe in “The Cookiepedia” by S. Adimando

Recipe makes 2 dozen or more

1 and ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup rice flour (available in Asian groceries)*

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons McCormick Ube Flavoring (from Asian groceries)


  1. Whisk both flours together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and ube flavorings on medium speed till light and fluffy.
  3. Remove from mixer and stir in the flours by hand with a wooden spoon.
  4. Turn out the dough on a clean surface. Use your hands to quickly make a solid ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and flatten the dough on top of it, shaped like a thick, large rectangle.
  5. Double wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours or more till firm. This can stay good refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.
  6. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Take out dough from refrigerator and place on a floured board. Roll into ¾ inch thick sheet.
  7. Cut the dough with cookie cutters. Place the cookies on the sheets, 1 inch apart. Prick the centers with a fork.
  8. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, at 325 F degrees, until edges are slightly golden. Cool cookies on wire racks.

 COOK’S COMMENTS: If rice flour is not available, use regular all purpose flour.


December is #cookielove month! And this is a BlogHop…
Please join in on the #cookielove fun by linking up any cookie recipe from the month of December 2011. Don’t forget to link back to this post, so that your readers know to come stop by the #cookielove event! The Twitter hashtag is #cookielove .




Tags Posted under Appetizers and Sides, Breakfast, Cooking, Desserts and Sweets, Dinner, Events Holidays, Featured, Fruit, Lunch, Vegetables by

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