From plums to eggplants to purple carrots, purple foods are always a nice surprise. But if you’re not familiar with something, it might also make you wonder what exactly you’re looking at. Enter taro, an ancient food that feels like a brand-new option popping up everywhere.
Here’s the deal. Taro is slightly sweet and nutty in flavor, and it’s the root of the taro plant, which grows in tropical and semitropical climates all over the world. Taro has actually been a food staple in many Southeast Asian, South Indian, African and Pacific Island cultures for centuries. Registered Dietitian and Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Alissa Rumsey describes taro as “a starchy vegetable similar to a potato but with twice the fiber.” Sounds good to us! She also says that the root is “an excellent source of vitamin B-6, as well as a good source of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C.” Taro also contains other B vitamins, including b1, b2, b3, b5 and folate, all of which are involved in energy, metabolism, and red blood cell production.
“Taro also contains minerals like copper and zinc,” adds registered dietician Isabel Smith. “These are key for thyroid health. Meanwhile, manganese is part of an antioxidant pathway in the body, and there’s also potassium for your heart health.”
With all these promising nutrients, we bet you’re wondering how you should consume the lavender speckled root? We’ve got your back. Check out our advice below, and then don’t miss these 30 Best-Ever Fat-Burning Foods to add to your diet!
8 Ways to Eat Taro
Taro is basically inedible when raw, reportedly causing irritation and itchiness. Yikes! But when properly cooked, it can be eaten in a number of ways, and it’s actually very versatile! In addition to being eaten in all the ways that a potato might be, taro’s mild and slightly sweet flavor allows it to seamlessly transform into a variety of dishes. Some ideas follow.
We didn’t think that fries could get any better—until we saw these purple speckled shoestrings! Impress your dinner guests by slicing the root into fries and popping them in the oven with a touch of your favorite oil for a fiber-packed and aesthetically-pleasing side dish! Pro tip: these fries pair great with any sriracha-spiked sauce.
Taro’s nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness has made it a hit among bubble tea lovers. The once-in-awhile treat is made with taro root powder and blended with milk before being topped off with the famous tapioca pearls. Not only does it taste great, but it’s the prettiest of all the options too. (Just look at that light violet hue!) Wanna find out more about this trendy dessert drink? Check out these 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Bubble Tea!
In Southern India—where Taro is very common—the root is often curried, giving the root an entirely different spicy flare. Next time you visit an Indian restaurant, keep an eye out for “Arvi Curry” on the menu!
Sliced thinly and then baked, taro also makes a great alternative to your average potato chips. With more fiber and far fewer calories than whatever you’d get in a bag, taro chips are a great choice for a snack that the whole family will love. The brand Terra has already caught on and have their own variety of taro chips.
Poi or Mashed Taro Root
This traditional Hawaiian dish is as simple as eating taro gets—simply peel and steam the root and then mash it, gradually adding water until it’s smooth and sticky. “It’s a great alternative to potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams, and lends a pretty purple hue to your plate,” says Rumsey.
Ice Cream or Frozen Yogurt
Although it might be strange to think of a potato-like vegetable as an ice cream flavor, we promise it actually tastes pretty good! The milky, sweet, and nutty combination is a fun and different alternative to your average vanilla scoop. The flavor is growing in popularity, popping up at froyo and ice cream shops across the country.
In Baked Goods
The same taro powder used to make bubble tea can actually be bought and used to flavor–and add color to–a wide range of baked goods. You can also use taro flour–which is gluten free!–instead of regular flour. And we can’t think of anything kids would love more than a big slice of purple cake!
Poi (see #1) can be easily incorporated into pancake batter to create fluffy hot cakes. You can also find taro in the form of flour or pancake mix at specialty stores for a more convenient option. And while we’re talkin’ breakfast, make sure you avoid these 20 Worst Breakfast Habits for Your Waistline.