Move over pumpkin, this vibrant ube pie pleases a crowd

I have deep affection for ube, the mild, sweet purple yam that colors pandesal, Filipino breakfast bread, and shows up in the pastry section in Hawaiian grocery stores and lends its hue to the outrageous pastries at Benji’s Bakery. This Thanksgiving, I wanted to bring it to my family in pie form. This recipe is a rich, vibrant “move-over pumpkin pie” for the holiday dessert lineup. Every person I served it to was eating it for the first time. Every one of them said it was delicious. If you like pumpkin or sweet potato pie, this pie is for you.

A few notes. You can use any unbaked pie crust. I used my own salted butter crust but I changed up the method a little to get way more flake. Using the same ingredients, I pulsed the food processor instead of letting it run, and I left the chunks of butter bigger than a pea, some of them even as big as two peas. I added the liquid to the crust, pulsed once, and then dumped it on parchment paper when it was still crumbly. Then, I pressed it together and rolled it out into a rectangle about the size of a novel, then I folded it in half and rolled it back into the same-size rectangle. I folded it again, rounded out the edges so it made a disc, and tossed it in the fridge for a couple minutes. This method kind of laminates the dough, a little like a croissant, and you’ll notice the difference.

This recipe calls for butter and cream. If you’re trying to lighten it up a little, you can use milk with no problem. If you’re going dairy-free, you might try oat milk and vegan butter. You can also reduce the sweetener by a quarter cup. There’s also the treasure hunt for ube, which is a purple yam. You can sometimes find it at New Sagaya Midtown or other Asian markets in the produce section or grated, in the freezer section. You can also use purple sweet potato or Okinawan sweet potato for this recipe, which are both pretty frequently at Fred Meyer and sometimes at Safeway in the sweet potato bin. If you use frozen grated ube, cook by covering it with water in a microwave-safe bowl and then cooking on high for 3 to 4 minutes, so it becomes soft. Don’t forget to drain. About 1 1/2 cups cream, whipped with three tablespoons of powdered sugar and a little vanilla, will give you enough for a healthy dollop of cream on each piece.

Ube pie

Serves 10


1 pound, skin-on ube/purple yam or purple sweet potato

1 stick salted butter, softened

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/2 cup cream

2 eggs

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

Whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg to serve.

Method: Put sweet potatoes/ube in a pot and cover with water, boil over medium heat for about 45-50 minutes, until very tender. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove from the potatoes heat, drain, allow to cool enough to be handled. Peel them or scoop out soft meat. You should have roughly 2 cups of potato/yam.

In a blender or with a mixer, combine potato/yam, soft butter, sweeteners, cream, egg, spice, vanilla and salt. Mix until smooth. Pour into an unbaked pie crust. Bake for 55 minutes, or until set in the middle. It will rise and then fall a bit. Allow to cool completely before dressing with whipped cream. Sprinkle it with freshly grated nutmeg.