Do you look at unusual vegetables like taro in the grocery store and wish you knew how to cook with them? But what if you don’t like the taste of them?
Taro is an odd-looking purple-tinged root which many people haven’t tried because they don’t know if they will enjoy the taste.
So, what does taro taste like? Taro tastes like a cross between potato, parsnip, and sweet potato, but with a slightly stronger and nuttier flavor. Taro cannot be eaten raw as it is toxic, but when cooked in the right way both the root and the leaves have a delicious flavor as well as many health benefits.
We absolutely love taro, and we would like to convince you to give this versatile vegetable a try!
So, we’re going to take an in-depth look at these little purple roots and figure out how to make the most of their lovely flavor.
What Is Taro?
It may be that you’ve never heard of taro, as for a long time it was only found in Asian grocery stores.
Or maybe you’ve seen it in the shopping aisles or on a menu but bypassed it as you didn’t know what it was like or how to cook it.
However, taro has surged in popularity in recent years, as it offers great health benefits as well as incredible flavors.
People love taro for its versatility and ease of preparation, and it can be cooked using a range of different methods.
But what exactly is taro? Taro is a plant, native to Southeast Asia. It is widely eaten as part of the diet in Asia, Africa, China, Hawaii, and the Caribbean.
The plant itself consists of a large root, the taro root, topped with big green leaves. Both the root and the leaves are toxic in their raw form but can be consumed when cooked.
The appearance of taro root is not always that appetizing – a slightly knobbly root with rough brown skin.
However, this skin hides a delicious starchy white flesh that sometimes contains purple flecks.
It is believed that taro was one of the earliest plants which humans cultivated for food, and when you learn more about this incredible vegetable you will realize why!
How Is Taro Eaten?
If you imagine taro as a cross between a potato and a sweet potato, this should give you a clue as to how it is eaten.
Taro must always be cooked before consumption, as in its raw form it is toxic.
Taro can be boiled and mashed, or cubed and added to casseroles or curries. It can also be roasted, braised, or fried.
In the U.S, taro is most famously known as a common flavoring for bubble tea! Also known as boba tea, this caffeinated chilled drink is sweet and refreshing.
Is Taro Good For You?
Taro has some incredible health benefits, and most nutritionists agree that this root vegetable is very good for you.
Rich In Fiber And Other Nutrients
This versatile root is full of fiber, helping to satisfy hunger and keep cravings at bay.
Compared to other root vegetables such as potatoes, taro root contains three times the amount of fiber and is relatively low in calories.
Taro root also has high levels of nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E.
May Help To Control Blood Sugar
The type of carbohydrate contained in taro root – fiber and resistant starch – both help to slow digestion and reduce blood sugar spikes after meals.
This can be very helpful in regulating blood sugar levels, providing a slow release of energy, and avoiding sudden rises or crashes in blood sugar.
The same properties which help to control blood sugar can also help to lower cholesterol.
Studies have shown that lowering your cholesterol can help to reduce the risk of heart diseases.
Contains High Levels Of Antioxidants
Taro root contains antioxidants – these are compounds which it is thought can protect your body from oxidative stress.
Preliminary research has shown that antioxidants may reduce the risk of cancer, although more research is required in this area.
Maintains Good Digestive Health
The fiber and resistant starch in taro root are not digested in the stomach or small intestine.
Instead, they pass through to the colon where microbes ferment them to form short-chain fatty acids.
This promotes the growth of good bacteria in the large intestine and also may protect against inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
Aids In Weight Loss
Now we know there is no miracle cure for weight loss, but taro root can be very helpful if you are trying to eat a healthier diet!
Taro root will give you a full and satisfied feeling with fewer calories, leading to increased fat burning and potentially helping to reduce overall body fat.
Impressed with taro root so far? Well, with all these benefits we hope it tastes as good as it sounds!
Let’s take a look at what taro root actually tastes like.
What Does Taro Root Taste Like?
The flavor of taro root is best described as a cross between potato, parsnip, and sweet potato, but slightly nuttier than both of these.
It definitely packs a sweeter flavor than a normal white potato but is very similar in texture.
Taro is intense in flavor compared to many other root vegetables and is probably most comparable to parsnip in intensity.
The way taro is prepared and cooked can greatly affect the flavor.
If it is boiled or added to casseroles the flavor can be quite mild, whereas roasting or frying will intensify the flavors by caramelizing the sugars in the taro root.
Interestingly, taro root also has undertones of vanilla flavoring, which is why it is a popular ingredient in bubble tea.
This means that taro root can be used to create sweet dishes such as ice cream, where the sweet vanilla flavor will be more intense than the nutty, potato taste.
What Does Taro Root Taste Like When It Is Boiled?
If boiled in water, taro has a flavor remarkably similar to a boiled potato, although slightly stronger in flavor and with nutty undertones.
Some people say that boiled taro doesn’t really taste of anything, but this mild taste can work very well with subtle flavors such as fish and vegetables.
However, if taro is boiled in sauces or casseroles it springs into life!
This remarkable root vegetable works like a sponge, soaking up flavors whilst retaining its texture and consistency.
It is for this reason that you will find that most recipes for boiled or braised taro involve cooking the root vegetable in some sort of sauce.
What Does Taro Root Taste Like When It Is Roasted?
When taro is roasted it takes on a completely different flavor to boiled taro.
Roasted taro has a sweet flavor, as the carbohydrates in the taro have been caramelized and turned into sugar.
Roasted taro is very similar in flavor to roasted sweet potato, but the consistency is drier and chewier – more like a roasted parsnip.
This means it is best served with a sauce or something juicy, like a rich, meaty casserole.
What Does Taro Root Taste Like When It Is Fried?
Fried taro is simply delicious, and many cooks believe this is the best way to cook taro!
When fried, taro gets the same sweet taste that roasted taro develops, but it also soaks up other flavors along the way.
Fried taro also stays juicer and more succulent than roasted taro.
We think that if you’ve never tried taro, then frying is the way to go!
Try adding some grated or finely sliced taro to your next stir fry – we guarantee that you won’t be disappointed!
What Is The Texture Of Taro Root Like?
In its raw state, the texture of taro is very much like a potato or sweet potato.
For this reason, taro is often added to a dish to create texture, whether this is a smooth mash or a crispy taro fry.
However, something very odd happens to taro when it is steamed or boiled! The taro root will soften but retain its firm texture, almost like a thick custard.
This means it holds its shape well in casseroles and curries, whilst acting like a sponge to soak up the flavors.
What Does Taro Root Smell Like?
Now, this is a bit of an odd fact – the fragrance of taro is actually available from some fragrance companies!
Now you might be wondering why on earth anyone would want to smell like a root vegetable – as much as we love potato fries, none of us would spray ‘essence of fries’ on our bodies!
So why taro root fragrance?
It all goes back to the bubble tea! This delicious sweet drink has an irresistible fragrance that has made its way into the world of perfumes and scents.
You can even buy boba tea-scented candles and bath melts!
Taro will smell differently depending on how it has been cooked. Boba tea has a sweet, milky smell with overtones of vanilla.
Taro root which has been fried or roasted will smell very much like roasted sweet potato or parsnip, whereas boiled or mashed taro root will resemble potato prepared in the same way.
What Do Taro Leaves Taste Like?
When cooked, taro leaves taste very similar to spinach or chard, but with slightly nutty undertones.
Cooked taro leaves can be used in place of spinach in many recipes, such as pasta bakes and frittatas.
Because taro leaves are toxic when raw, they need to be thoroughly cooked before they are consumed.
Nutritionists recommend that they are boiled for 45 minutes before eating, so you may need to adjust your recipe accordingly.
Are you ready to try by taro, but still have a few more questions? No problem!
What Is The Best Way To Cook Taro?
Taro is an unusual ingredient that tastes amazing when cooked in the right way.
One of the most important things to note about taro is that it should be eaten as soon as it has been cooked, as the texture will change as it cools.
The cooked root vegetable will become dense, waxy, and gummy when cold – that does not sound at all appetizing!
There are many different ways to cook taro, and which is the best depends on what you want to serve it with.
Here are the best ways to cook taro, along with some interesting and delicious serving suggestions:
Peel your taro and cut it into chunks. Place in a pan of cold water and bring to a boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife.
Serving suggestion: Boiled taro root works really well with freshly steamed fish and vegetables, particularly with a light sauce or butter dressing.
Prepare the taro as for boiling, but parboil for just 10 minutes until tender. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and roast the parboiled taro for 10 minutes until caramelized and golden.
Serving suggestion: Roast taro is an unusual and delicious side dish that will complement a roast dinner or braised belly pork.
Stir Fried Taro
Taro can be very thinly sliced or grated. Prepared in this way it will cook quickly when stir-fried.
Serving suggestion: Team your taro root with ginger, noodles, and shrimp for a delicious, fresh stir fry.
Other Great Ways To Eat Taro
- Fries – Taro fries are made as you would sweet potato fries. Absolutely delicious!
- Pancakes – Taro can be grated into pancakes to add a sweet, nutty flavor and interesting texture.
- Casserole – Taro works perfectly in a casserole in place of potato or parsnip. It will thicken the sauce as well as soak up the flavor. Try taro root in your next pot roast, you won’t be disappointed!
- Spinach swap – Taro leaves are often overlooked but can be used just like spinach. Remember that they must be cooked in boiling water for at least 45 minutes, as they are toxic when raw.
- Potato alternative – Taro root can be baked in the same way as potato but can be slightly dry in texture. If prepared in this way the taro should be served with something juicy, such as a buttery sauce or oily meat.
What Is Taro Root Similar To?
It can be hard to find exotic vegetables like taro in some grocery stores, as they are often only stocked in Asian markets and stores.
This can be a big disappointment if you’ve got a recipe that requires taro. But don’t give up, we can always find a substitution!
If your recipe calls for taro but you don’t have any, what can you use instead?
The closest alternative to taro is probably the sweet potato. They are very similar in taste, especially when roasted or fried. However, sweet potato will be slightly juicier than taro.
Although this may seem unusual to some, parsnip can make a great taro substitute! This root vegetable has a lot in common with taro, both in flavor and texture.
Parsnip also soaks up flavors well, although the parsnip taste can be slightly stronger and more overpowering than taro root.
Yucca root is also very similar to taro root and can be fried and mashed in the same way.
Is Taro Toxic?
The taro plant is most definitely toxic, with all parts considered to be toxic if eaten raw.
The good news is that when taro is cooked, both the roots and leaves are edible, transforming this vegetable from a toxic threat to a delicious and healthy addition to your diet.
The reason for taro’s toxicity is that it contains high levels of calcium oxalate. This is toxic and can lead to kidney stones, as well as causing irritation, burning, itching, or numbness to the mouth.
During the cooking process, the calcium oxalate is destroyed, making the taro root and leaves safe and nutritious to eat.
Another concern with taro root is the outer coating – this is thick, hairy, and the juices can irritate the skin.
It is advisable to wear thick rubber gloves when peeling off this outer skin and to hold the vegetable under running water.