What Is Taro?
Are you curious about the root vegetable commonly used to make poi, a staple in Hawaiian cuisine? Taro root has a sweet and nutty flavor that makes it a natural in baked goods, like cookies and cakes. When you cook or mash taro root, it has a texture like a potato. So it's not surprising that chefs and home cooks use this ingredient as a thickener for soups and stews.
Of course, you should always know what's in the food you eat. If you're trying to cut back on caffeine or avoid it entirely, you might wonder: Does taro root have caffeine?
Does Taro Root Have Caffeine?
The question of whether taro root contains caffeine comes up often because it's an ingredient in bubble tea. Taro root, a starchy tuber with a mild flavor, has a chewy texture and mild taste making it an ideal base for bubble tea's sweet and creamy flavors.
Taro root does not naturally have caffeine, making it an acceptable ingredient if caffeine makes you nervous or you must avoid it for health reasons.
While natural taro root doesn't have caffeine, bubble tea typically contains it if you buy it at a tea shop. For example, a Thai iced tea made with black tea has caffeine. So, be aware that bubble tea made with taro root contains caffeine since tea shops make it with black tea, but taro root alone does not.
Health and Nutritional Benefits of Taro Root
Beyond not containing caffeine, taro root contains other nutrients. Although high in carbohydrates, the carbohydrates are balanced by fiber. This root is also a good source of vitamins B6, C, and E, as well as potassium, copper, magnesium, and manganese.
How to Enjoy Caffeine-Free Taro Root
The most common way to eat taro root is in desserts like poi (a Hawaiian dish made from mashed cooked taro). While you can prepare it like other root vegetables. such as potatoes and carrots, it has a unique texture that's firm yet squishy at the same time. This makes it quite different from other tubers like yams and potatoes, which tend to be drier and starchier.
You can also add taro root to other dishes such as soups or stews. Always cook this root, as it naturally contains oxalates, compounds that increase the risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones, and avoid the leaves.
The leaves of taro contain such large quantities of calcium oxalate that they can be harmful to even a healthy person. Although soaking and boiling the leaves reduces their oxalate content, it’s best to toss the leaves.
Also, wear gloves when you cut taro. The root can be irritating to your hands, due to the oxalic acid crystals it contains, and cause a skin rash.
A Good Potato Substitute
You can also use taro root as a substitute for potatoes in recipes and it bakes, boils, and mashes well. The starch content of this root is high enough that it requires pre-boiling before you bake it or add it to other dishes where you want the finished product to have a creamy texture.
What About Taro Root Smoothies and Desserts?
It’s not uncommon for people to use taro root in desserts and even smoothies. You can also turn this root into a paste and use it in cookies, pastries, or bread.
Some people even blend taro root with water, coconut milk, and ice cubes and make a tasty substitute for dairy-based ice cream. You’ll discover lots of ways to enjoy this root once you start exploring.
You can also use the root to create a caffeine-free version of bubble tea at home using decaffeinated black tea. But be aware that commercial bubble tea almost always contains caffeine.
The Bottom Line
Does taro root have caffeine? In its natural state, it does not, but be aware that if you buy commercial taro root, it could contain added caffeine. It also pairs well with many different foods, so there are lots of ways to incorporate this tasty root into your diet.
Next time you see some at the grocery store or farmers market, grab some and try it out! But read the package carefully if it’s a commercial product.
- "7 Surprising Benefits of Taro Root - Healthline." 09 Nov. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/taro-root-benefits.
- "Taro Leaves: Nutrition, Benefits, and Uses - Healthline." 18 Mar. 2020, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/taro-leaves.
- Savage GP, Dubois M. The effect of soaking and cooking on the oxalate content of taro leaves. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2006 Aug-Sep;57(5-6):376-81. doi: 10.1080/09637480600855239. PMID: 17135028.
- Du Thanh H, Phan Vu H, Vu Van H, Le Duc N, Le Minh T, Savage G. Oxalate Content of Taro Leaves Grown in Central Vietnam. Foods. 2017 Jan 1;6(1):2. doi: 10.3390/foods6010002. PMID: 28231080; PMCID: PMC5296671.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.