Japanese Purple Sweet potato Ice Cream Recipe

sweet potato ice cream

Have you ever tried purple sweet potato ice cream before? If you haven’t yet, you’re really missing out.

So, make sure you check out this delicious and healthy Japanese treat.

We’ll get to the easy purple sweet potato ice cream recipe further down below, but first let’s get to know a little bit more about this exotic purple vegetable and it’s health benefits.

What Exactly Is Purple Sweet Potato?

There are different varieties of sweet potatoes grown in Japan. Murasaki Imo (in Japanese murasaki means purple and imo potato) is a type of sweet potato which is very popular in Okinawa, because its color is beautifully deep purple and adds quite an impact to your dishes.

Purple sweet potatoes are often consumed in autumn and winter for their creamy consistency, sugary taste and earthy feel they bring to your taste buds.

This purple sweet potato ice cream is traditionally sold in almost every grocery store in Japan in individual small boxes for 250 yen (about $3), which is the normal price for economical ice cream there.

sweet potato ice cream
Beautiful beach in Okinawa, Japan


It is Impossible to ignore its presence in Okinawa: beni imo is the island’s main celebrity: various desserts and the purple sweet potato ice cream can be found on almost every corner of the prefecture’s capital city, Naha.

The small Yomitan village is where the beni imo originally comes from. It’s even often called Yomitan’s sweet potato. Its deep purple flesh makes it a quite unusual food and an excellent culinary souvenir of the Okinawan island!

Anyway, what’s for sure is that the purple sweet potato also called Beni imo is a real “superfood” by today’s standards.

What’s So Special About It?

Well, in addition to having this exceptional purple color – which comes from the same molecule giving the blueish-purple color to blueberries and red cabbage – the Okinawa purple sweet potato is officially recognized as a”superfood” nowadays . First, it is very rich in natural fibers. Also, a single potato contains four times the daily dose of vitamin A needed by an adult, and half the vitamin C requirement per day.

Be careful though, don’t confuse Beni imo, which is a purple sweet potato – with taro (Sato imo in Japanese), which is a different type of tuber. Both are found in Okinawa and they can have a similar appearance… but taro is much whiter than beni imo, does not have the same texture at all and most importantly, does not have the same taste.

Beni imo is extremely sweet(for a potato), which is why it is used mainly as a dessert ingredient.

It’s impossible to visit Okinawa without trying the famous sweet potato (beni-imo), which literally means “purple potato”. The beni-imo, is originally from China and was introduced to Japan in the 17th century via the Okinawa island where it has become one of the essential culinary specialties even to this day.

This sweet potato with a bright velvety hue is prepared and eaten in almost all forms you can imagine: you can make purple french fries, pie, cheesecake, cake, ice cream, cookies, you name it…Basically what you can make with potatoes you can make with purple sweet potatoes too.

I also discovered that there are several varieties of sweet potatoes with equally bright colors (pink, orange and yellow) but these are understandably less popular than the purple beni imo.

Purple Yam vs Purple Sweet Potato

The purple sweet potato is very similar to purple yam, but they are not the same thing. So, lets look at both in order to understand the difference.


sweet potato ice cream
purple yam has brownish rough skin and more intense deep violet purple color of the flesh

Purple yam (Dioscorea alata): also called greater yam and ube or violet yam, winter yam, white yam, water yam or just yam is a purple colored tuber native to South Asian countries. It is a species of plant in the Dioscorea family Dioscoreaceae. It is a lianescent plant traditionally grown from India to Southeast Asia via Madagascar and Reunion Island. It has been cultivated for its edible tubers throughout the tropics.

The color of the  edible tuber ranges from white, yellow to cream or purple violet flesh depending on the variety; its size and shape are also very variable.

Yam, also known as wild yam, is a well-known medicinal plant on the American continent. Several thousand years ago, the Aztecs already used it to treat many ailments. Today, it’s known that the underground parts of yam contain diosgenin. It is a precursor of steroid hormones that is used as a hormonal phytomodulator, especially to relieve the symptoms of menopause.

Origin, habitat and culture of yam

Yam or wild yam, is a plant whose underground part is traditionally used in Central America. Originally, the Aztecs used it to relieve many health conditions including rheumatism, sciatica, skin problems, pre-menstrual syndrome and ovarian pain.

The yam enjoyed great success in the 40s and 50s. The researchers were able to identify the presence of diosgenin within its rhizomes. This substance was well known at that time.

It was first identified by Japanese research teams in the 1930s.

As we mentioned Diosgenin is a plant based precursor of steroid hormones. It allows the synthesis of progesterone and estrogen, two hormones that play an essential role in women.

Yam has thus become a reference plant to combat hormonal imbalances, especially those intervening in menopause.

In the pharmaceutical industry, diosgenin is extracted for use in the formulation of hormonal treatments. In herbal medicine, the underground parts of the yam are transformed into a dry powdered flour that can then be used to make dietary supplements.

It should be noted that the name wild yam can refer to hundreds of different species. All belong to the Botanical genus Dioscorea, but not all have the same benefits. In herbal medicine, the most used species is Dioscorea villosa.

However, studies have revealed similar characteristics within other species including Dioscorea composita, Dioscorea barbasco and Dioscorea mexicana

Anyway, all these species share similar growing conditions. They grow mainly in humid and wooded areas with a tropical climate. They are found in Central America and Asia.

Appearance, composition and format

Yam is a perennial and climbing plant that has the appearance of a Liana. It reaches up to 6 meters in height. This plant has wide heart-shaped leaves and small flowers. The underground part of the yam consists of rhizomes. Resembling tubers, the latter carry many rootlets.

The rhizomes of the yam are usually between 7 and 8 cm long and between 5 and 10 mm in diameter. They have a white or gray color on the outside, and white flesh on the inside.

It is the yam rhizomes that are harvested for use in herbal medicine. They are washed, crushed and then dried. The goal is to obtain a yam flour that can be used as is or packaged as dietary supplements.

Today, yam is mainly known for its diosgenin content. The rest of its composition is not thoroughly researched. The latest research has identified sterols, tannins and starch. Further scientific data is needed and research work is underway to better understand the composition of yam.

Properties And Effects Of The Purple Yam

Hormonal phytomodulator

Yam is often presented as a hormonal phytomodulator, because it’s able to induce hormonal changes. First of all, this plant can stimulate the production of steroid hormones like progesterone and estrogen.

It also stimulates certain progesterone receptors. So, it seems that yam could fight against certain hormonal imbalances and disorders.

Benefits against menopause disorders

Hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, decreased libido … these menopausal issues are related to the decrease in the secretion of sex hormones. Yam contains diosgenin, a plant precursor of steroid hormones. This plant can thus help relieve the effects of menopause.

Strong pain relief effect

In Central America, yam is traditionally used to relieve different types of pain. It is attributed specifically to the anti-inflammatory activity of the plant and its effectiveness in combating sciatica and rheumatic pain such as arthritis.

Muscle relaxant

In traditional medicines, yam is used as a natural pain reliever and muscle relaxant. It is therefore recommended to relieve cramps, especially those occurring in the digestive tract.

Other benefits under study

Many traditional uses of yam are still being studied: anti-fatigue, Anti-cellulite, Anti-edematous, choleretic (stimulating bile secretion), diuretic or cardioprotective effects. So, stay tuned 😉

Yam recommended daily dosages

There are no specific recommendations regarding the daily dosages. Currently, what’s suggested seems to vary between 300 mg and 2 g per day. This dosage increases according to the needs of each person and the type of the extract that’s used, as not all types of yam extracts have the same diosgenin content.

In general, it is advisable to refer to the indications mentioned on the package and seek medical advice at the slightest doubt.

Possible Contraindications: few studies have focused on the contraindications of the purple yam. As a precautionary measure, this plant could be contraindicated to:

  • children;
  • pregnant and lactating women;
  • people undergoing hormone therapy.

Given the lack of scientific data on the subject, if you fall in any of these groups or have health issues it is advisable to consume yam only under medical supervision.

Side effects: to date, no major side effects have been seen when taking yam in any form. Only rare and transient cases of digestive disorders have been found. It could pitentially induse vomiting. If in doubt, it is advisable to consult with a health professional.

Purple Sweet Potato (Ipomoea Batatas Cv. Ayamurasaki)

sweet potato ice cream
the purple sweet potato has smoother skin which looks more like potato than yam and the flesh is often brighter purple in color

Sometimes called Okinawa sweet potato, it’s a variety of sweet potato you might not have heard about yet! It’s purple and quite different from the traditional sweet potato. Just like the “classic” sweet potato, it’s purple and biologically has nothing to do with potatoes. It is a tuber belonging to the bindweed family, usually grown in Japan, Polynesia and the Philippines. The plant needs warm climate to thrive.

Purple sweet potato is quite different from its orange sidekick. The purple colored potato is its little cousin, which justifies its color by the fact that it contains anthocyanins and powerful antioxidants that gives it its vibrant color.

In Philippines, where it is extremely popular, it’s mostly used for making desserts. Especially ice creams, donuts or cakes.

It has a very attractive color, which darkens when cooked. You can cook it easily, for both savory and sweet recipes.

As it’s low in calories, it is often considered a superfood and is rich in essential micronutrients, such as vitamins A, E and C. It helps with weight loss because it can effectively reduce insulin spikes and blood sugar. The fibers content provides a lasting effect of satiety in your tummy.

The purple sweet potato root has, according to studies, anti-inflammatory properties and helps to strengthen the body’s antibacterial defenses.

It has a lot of protein for a potato (about 2 grams) and carbohydrates (15.5 grams). It’s low in fats (0.145 grams) and is a great source of vitamin B6, copper, magnesium and potassium.

The purple potato stimulates the immune response of the body and helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A great source of antioxidants, which can help in the prevention of certain cancers too.

Are There Any Benefits Of The Purple Sweet Potato?

Sweet potato is known to be a natural food with multiple and diverse benefits, it’s a healthier variant than classic potatoes. When we think of sweet potatoes, we immediately imagine their orange flesh and sweet taste, nevertheless there is a kind of sweet potato with purple flesh. This variety is sometimes wrongly called Purple Yam (look above for the difference), but has incredible benefits that will amaze you.

Sweet potato is valued as a healthy alternative to classic potatoes, so is purple sweet potato. As it’s rich in various beneficial nutrients, it can effectively improve your health in so many ways. Zoom on in this wonderful vegetable, which was until recently quite unknown to the public (mainly in western countries).

It’s coming straight from Asia

First of all, it should be noted that biologically the orange sweet potato and purple sweet potato have no biological connection with conventional potatoes. The purple sweet potato, along with purple yam, is mainly grown in Asia and in Japan, the Philippines and Polynesia.

The bright and attractive vibrant color comes mostly from the anthocyanins and antioxidants it contains.

It is a little sweeter in taste, very fragrant and slightly less starchy in texture than its orange-fleshed cousin and is not that crunchy.

The purple sweet potato is a very popular ingredient in the Asian countries where it is traditionally grown and is mainly used to prepare delicious desserts, capturing the senses with its wonderful colors.

The Benefits Of Purple Sweet Potato

Here are 10 reasons to be exited about the purple sweet potato and include it in your diet:

1. It helps you in your weight loss

Despite its sweet and delicious taste, purple sweet potato has proven itself as an ally in weight loss. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal food demonstrates the anti-obesity properties of this tuber, which are due to its antilipogenic, anti-inflammatory and lipolytic effects on fat cells.

2. It improves the health of your liver

The liver is one of the most important organs in your body, so it’s really important to take a good care of it. Recent study shows that sweet potato can effectively protect, improve your liver health and prevent chronic liver diseases.

3. It helps against gout

Gout is a chronic disorder related to high level of uric acid in the blood. This uric acid crystallizes into the joints and can cause the sharp pain typical for gout. According to researchers, purple sweet potato would help the body get rid of uric acid, thus preventing gout.

4. Purple sweet potato helps control diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterized by abnormal blood sugar levels. Purple sweet potato is a food that helps lower blood glucose, and therefore can be added in the diet of a person with diabetes. In a study of diabetic rats, the flavonoids of the purple sweet potato, drastically decreased their blood glucose and fat levels.

5. It helps preserve your cognitive functions

The brain is the main operating center of the human body. It needs various and healthy nutrients to maintain its good condition. A recent in vivo study have shown that purple sweet potato would have a really strong beneficial effect on our brain.

6. could improve visual functions

Anthocyanin is the molecule responsible for the purple color of this sweet potato. It is also a nutrient that would have beneficial effects on your visual functions according to a recent study.

7. It has antioxidant effects

As mentioned above purple sweet potato contains antioxidants like flavonoids that would help you get rid of free radicals and toxins, which effectively detoxifies the your body.

8. Strong antibacterial action

Many diseases are caused by bacteria harmful to our body. The anthocyanin contained in purple sweet potato has antibacterial properties that would help your body fight external harmful bacteria and pathogens. This would prevent microbial infections, which is really essential nowadays.

9. Protection for your kidneys

The kidneys are responsible for filtering our blood. This is a paramount role for the entire body. According to a recent study, consuming purple sweet potato would help protect and preserve the health of your kidneys.

10. boosts your memory

Anthocyanin in purple sweet potato could also help boost your memory functions according to this research. Also, its strong antioxidant properties can lead to substantial memory improvement.

Homemade Japanese Purple Sweet Potato Ice Cream Recipe

This purple ice cream recipe shows the sweet potato from a completely different side and color 🙂

Heavenly delicious, and Vegan.

Japanese Sweet Potato Ice Cream Recipe
Serves: 8 portions
  • 450g purple sweet potatoes
  • 350ml coconut milk
  • 200ml soy milk
  • 100ml rice syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50g icing sugar
  1. As a first step, the purple sweet potatoes have to be peeled, then cut them into smaller pieces and cook in a pot with water until it gets soft enough to be mashed (like regular potatoes).
  2. In the meantime, put all the remaining ingredients in a bowl or blender and blend everything until you have a creamy, fine mixture.
  3. When the sweet potatoes are well cooked and soft, strain the water and mash them well either by hand or with a chopper, blender or whatever kitchen tool you have.
  4. Now the purple sweet potato mash should cool down a little before you continue. This will be faster if you put it in the refrigerator for 5 or 10 minutes.
  5. When the sweet potato puree is well cooled down add it to the other mixture you made earlier and blend everything again for a few minutes, to a homogeneous mass.
  6. Now the base mix for the ice cream is ready and can be put into the ice cream maker.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the mix into a container and put it in the freezer for a few hours. Take it out and stir/crush well to a smooth cream. Then put it back in the freezer and keep it there for 6-7 hours until it gets hard enough, but not rock hard which isn’t really good for an ice cream.


You can decorate the ice cream with some blueberries, vanilla bean and fresh mint leaves.

Tip: If you don’t have much time, you can prepare the mashed purple sweet potatoes the day before, so that they can cool down well in the fridge overnight and then they will be ready for further processing the next day.

This process creates finer crystals compared to just leaving the mixture to freeze without re-stirring 1 or 2 times. An ice cream maker will do that automatically by constantly stirring while the ice cream mixture freezes, but as noted you can do this manually. It will just take some more efforts and time.


delicious purple sweet potato in a bowl with vanilla bean

If you want to add a little color to your day make sure you try making this purple sweet potato ice cream at home. It will surely make your friends and family put a smile on their face 😉