The Difference Between Ube And Kamote

Sweet potatoes are not yams.

Yams are not sweet potatoes and sweet potatoes are not yams. Scientifically, the sweet potato is in a different family from yams and actually looks quite different from each other. So, while you may think that purple sweet potato or kamote looks, tastes, and even feels like ube (purple yam), it isn't. 

Still confused? Here are the differences between ube (purple yam) and purple kamote (sweet potatoes) you need to know to determine if the tuber you have is ube or not: 

The rough bark-like skin of the ube and other yams.
Photo by Roselle Miranda

1 Ube has rough, almost bark-like skin. Kamote has smooth skin.

Outward appearances should immediately tell you that what you think is ube isn't an ube. That's because ube looks like an uprooted tree root and has the appearance of bark. It's rough to the touch and even after brushing and washing off the mud and dirt, the skin is dark and actually very thin. 

The kamote on the other hand has smooth skin that when brushed and washed off of the dirt, reveals a dark purple-red skin. It's this color that many mistakenly assume is the purple of the ube.  

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The purple kamote or sweet potato has purple-red skin.
Photo by Shutterstock

2 Ube stains. Kamote does not. 

Just like some fruits and vegetables that turn brown or oxidizes once sliced open, so does the ube. Before it's sliced open, it's a lighter color than the vibrant purple we associate with ube. Right underneath the skin is where the pigment is at its darkest. Once cut, it looks white with purple strains and becomes more and more purple as it oxidizes or comes into contact with the air. 

This pigment also stains, so it's best to wear gloves when handling and preparing ube. Once cooked, the purple color is set, much like how some textile dyes are set in boiled water. 

Kamote do not leech its color. Purple kamote stays purple when sliced open and will not stain your chopping board, your fingers, or the bowl that you placed it in. 

Fresh cubed ube starts as white and purple and gradually turns a darker shade of purple throughout as the pigment is exposed to air.
Photo by Roselle Miranda

3 Ube is actually tasteless. Kamote tastes sweet.  

Did you know that the ube doesn't actually have a lot of flavor? That earthy taste is from the soil that it was grown in. Since ube should be only lightly peeled since the color is at its most vibrant near the skin of the tuber, the taste of the earth basically infuses the flesh of the ube, giving it that distinct earthy taste. The addition of the condensed milk, butter, and other ingredients which actually complement this earthy taste is what makes ube so unique and delicious apart from its gorgeous color.   

Meanwhile, the kamote is sweet when cooked. In fact, purple kamote is sweeter than the orange kamote kind. When cooked, the purple sweet potatoes are also a gorgeous purple color which is the main reason why many confuse this for ube.    


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