If you’ve gone to a bubble tea shop and seen Taro Milk Tea on the menu, you may have wondered…what is taro root? And what does taro milk tea taste like?
Real taro and taro milk tea have different flavors. This article will dive into what taro is, what taro tastes like, and how to use it!
TLDR: Real taro has a very mild yet unique flavor with the closest descriptors being nutty, potato-like, and starchy. Keep reading to learn more or click here to go to a summary!
What is Taro?
The taro plant is thought to be native to southeast Asia. This tropical plant has large, green elephant ear-like leaves and brown husky corms (stems that grow into the ground, although they’re often referred to as roots). It’s a starchy root vegetable similar to a potato.
Researchers believe that taro was one of the very first plants to be cultivated. The leaves and corms are a food staple of the Pacific Island and the Caribbean. It’s the core ingredient in Polynesian poi, as well as many other dishes from puddings to breads.
📌 IMPORTANT TIP: Taro should never be consumed raw. The raw corm (or ‘root’) contains calcium oxalate, a toxic substance that can cause kidney stones and mouth irritation. You must boil, steam, roast, or bake the taro to remove the calcium oxalate.
- The taro root (corm) has a rough, husky brown skin similar in texture to a coconut.
- When peeled, the root has a white or grey flesh, dotted with small purple spots or pink marks.
- When boiled, the root becomes slimy in texture, similar to okra.
Taro Root Taste
Taro root is relatively bland and flavorless which makes it so versatile for sweet or savory applications.
On its own, it’s flavor is mild but has the slightest hint of sweetness and a slightly nutty taste.
We can try to compare it to other root vegetables or squash, but taro has a unique texture and flavor.
Does taro taste like sweet potatoes?
- The root is closest to the texture and appearance of a Japanese Sweet Potato, with a soft, white flesh.
- However, taro tends to be drier than Japanese Sweet potatoes.
- Taro is not as sweet or as flavorful as orange sweet potatoes.
Does taro taste like ube?
- Taro doesn’t taste the same as ube, purple sweet potatoes, or purple yams.
- It isn’t nearly as sweet, nor does it have the bright purple flesh of ube.
Does taro taste like potatoes?
- Taro is mild in flavor like a potato.
- It’s similar to potatoes in that it’s a carrier of flavor– it can take on other ingredients well, whether they’re sweet or savory.
Does taro taste like a parsnip?
- No, taro does not taste similar to a parsnip.
- Parsnips have a slightly spicy taste which is not present in taro.
Does taro taste like arrowroot or yucca?
- Yucca is also mild with a slight nutty flavor.
- Similar to taro, yucca absorbs the flavors that it is seasoned with.
Taro root smell
- Taro that has been just peeled and cut has a fresh, earthy smell.
- When boiled, its smell is very mild, similar to its taste.
Where to find taro root
Some local grocery stores carry baby taro root in the section with the tropical fruits (next to the coconut and tamarind pods).
If your grocery store doesn’t carry taro, most local Asian markets do. They should have both baby taro root and larger, normal taro.
Taro Powder Taste
Taro root powder has a flavor that is stronger and sweeter than the root. The sweet taste is from added sugar. This purple powder has artificial or natural coloring.
Taro Milk Tea Taste
The flavor of taro milk tea depends on the bubble tea shop making it. The milk tea can have different flavors added to it that affect the taste, like:
- how much sweetener is added: sweetened condensed milk is sometimes added to the tea which affects the taro flavor
- the type of milk used: dairy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and oat milk all have different tastes
- the tea: black tea (like oolong or earl grey) or green tea (like Jasmine tea) have different flavors
- The boba syrup used: boba pearls are flavored with brown sugar syrups or other sweeteners
➤ Overall, taro milk tea has a sweet flavor and is a creamy drink. Anecdotally, people have described taro tea as having a:
- Creamy vanilla flavor
- Cookie-like taste or the flavor of cereal milk after you finish cereal
- Mild or subtle buttered popcorn taste
Why is taro milk tea purple?
Bubble tea shops sell taro milk tea that’s usually made with taro powder, which has a vibrant purple color from the artificial dye. Real taro root is white with a grayish color when cooked.
How is taro bubble tea made?
Boba tea shops usually use taro powder to make milk tea. They mix the powder with milk and tea, and pour the mixture over boba and ice.
If you’d like to make taro tea at home, you can try out this taro milk tea recipe that uses real taro root.
How to Make Taro Tea
How to Use Taro
Taro is a very versatile vegetable and is used in both sweet or savory dishes. Below are a few common ways that taro is used:
Ways to Cook Taro
You can prepare taro in a few different ways. Similar to potatoes, it can be made by:
- Roasting or Baking
- Air Frying
How to prepare taro paste for milk tea
STEP 1: Peel and cube the taro root. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves when touching the raw flesh to prevent irritation. When you cube the taro, keep in mind smaller chunks will cook faster.
STEP 2: Add the cubed taro to 4 cups of water. Then, bring it to a boil.
STEP 3: Boil the taro for about 20 minutes or until fork tender. It should fall off a fork easily when done.
STEP 4: Strain the cooked taro. Then, place it in a medium sized bowl.
STEP 5: Add 2-3 teaspoons of sugar and mash into a smooth paste with a fork or potato masher. There should be no lumps.
You can store un-peeled and uncooked taro root at room temperature in a cool, dark place. Taro sprouts quickly, so it can also be stored in the freezer to help it last longer.
You can store cooked taro or taro paste in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5-7 days.
📌 TIP: Taro easily absorbs other flavors, so make sure that you seal the cooked taro well or it will take on the other flavors in your fridge.
How to tell if taro has gone bad
When taro is fresh it should have a firm texture, no visible mold on the brown skin, and the flesh on the inside should be white, greyish or pink. If the taro has any of the characteristics below, it most likely has gone bad.
|Characteristic||Appearance||Has Taro Gone Bad?|
|Texture||Soft or squishy||Yes|
|Inside||Bruises or brown spots||Yes|
Taro milk tea is usually sweet. The sweetness level depends on the boba shop serving the drink and how much sweetener they add to it.
In boba or taro ice cream, taro has a vanilla-like taste. But the root itself is mild and quite bland.
Taro has a very mild nutty taste. When mixed with sugar it is sweet and it has an earthy, starchy texture. Raw taro, when peeled, is a bit slimy like okra because of the starches.
Taro, like other root vegetables, has many health benefits and is full of nutrients. Taro contains manganese, which helps with bone health and blood clotting.
Taro root also has twice as much fiber as many other root vegetables like potatoes. The root has many good carbohydrates which studies has shown can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Real taro root, taro powder and taro milk tea have different flavors. Below is a summary of what each tastes like.
|Type of Taro||Taste|
|Fresh Taro Root||Mild, nutty flavor that easily absorbs the flavors that you season it with|
|Taro Milk Tea||Creamy vanilla or sweet cookie-like flavor|
|Taro Powder||Stronger and sweeter than the root. The sweet taste is from added sugar|
- Masterclass; ‘What is Taro?’
- Britannica; ‘Taro’