Here's What You Can Substitute For Taro Root

Taro root comes from the taro plant and is a starchy root vegetable. Its outer skin is brown and the fleshy inside is speckled with purple flecks. It is often touted as a good source of fiber and other nutrients that might help with blood sugar management. Its taste, when cooked, is described as subtly sweet with a texture similar to a potato (via Healthline).

There is a common misconception that taro root is native to Hawaii because it is used to make the Hawaiian staple, poi, which is basically a mashed side dish eaten with meat. However, this is not the case. Taro root is believed to have originated in India before finding its way to China. It was brought to Hawaii by the Polynesians who planted it near rivers and streams. The Hawaiian word for taro is kalo, and according to Hawaiian mythology, the taro root is connected with a story of fertility. The sky father was known as Wakea and the goddess whose name translates to "the heavenly one who made the stars" wanted to have a child. Their first attempt resulted in a stillborn child that was buried near their home. From this burial spot grew a taro plant (via Hawaiian Ocean Project).

Try these taro root alternatives

Today, taro root is used to make soups, stews, fries, and poi. It can be cooked and glazed, or fried to make taro chips. In India it is cubed and used in curries, and in the U.S., taro root, because of its sweet undertones, has gained popularity for its use in bubble tea. Both the green leafy leaves and the root of the taro plant can be eaten — however, they both must be cooked, as raw taro root and leaves are toxic (via The Kitchn).

But what if you can't find this root vegetable at the super market? There are a few substitutes for taro root that will help produce similar flavors. These include the yucca root, the parsnip, and the sweet potato (via The Gourmet Sleuth).

Perhaps the most obvious alternative is the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes have a similar taste to cooked taro root in that both have a sweet flavor. One Green Planet notes that Japanese sweet potatoes with their rich and nutty flavor are quite similar to taro root. Additionally, the yucca root, which is also a starchy staple, can be fried and mashed just like taro and has a very similar sweet taste (via Hillah Cooking). 

The parsnip might be the most surprising suggestion as some people find them to have a spicy flavor. However, as Fifteen Spatulas points out, the parsnip has a nutty, earthy flavor and it is these characteristics that make it a good substitute for taro root.