Yuca is a carb-o-licious versatile root vegetable used in all sorts of comfort food recipes worldwide. Let’s dive on in!
When I went to the Dominican Republic a few months ago, I was blown away by the cuisine. Aside from the wide range of saucy slow-cooked meats (my favorite!), there was an abundance of fresh salads and stewed vegetables. I became hooked on cassava (more commonly called, “yuca,” in the U.S.) and couldn’t stop eating the stuff. I was determined to incorporate it into my own cooking as soon as I got home, but then something happened: I couldn’t find yuca root anywhere.
I had all but given up my search for yuca, when I finally spied a pile of it in my grocery store, right next to the turnips. Being as it is root vegetable season, yuca is now easier to find. And perfect timing, because the super carby and cozy veggie is perfect for incorporating into your fall and winter stews and side dishes.
Yuca root is very dense and starchy and is used just like a potato in many delicious dishes worldwide. It has a mild flavor, which makes it versatile for incorporating into numerous types of recipes. The root is native to Central and South America, and you’ll commonly see it incorporated in to a variety of dishes in Latin American countries, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean Islands. Most roots can be consumed raw, but yuca is one of the few roots that must be cooked, as the peel contains cyanide. Another fun fact: yuca is where tapioca pearls and tapioca flour come from!
Although the root is very tough to peel, once you break through the outer layer, it can be made into fries, added to soups, stewed on its own with butter, salt, and spices, or even pureed and made into custard-like desserts and cakes. This versatile root is the third largest source for carbohydrates in the tropics. Full of Vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber, yuca doesn’t boast the same high-octane antioxidant properties as other roots such as beets, but still does its part in boosting your immune system and keeping your digestive system regular.
Let’s learn how to prepare yuca!
1. Chop the tip and tail off of the yuca root.
2. Using a sharp knife, carefully slice down the full length of the yuca root. Be sure to cut through both the brown peel and the thick white layer.
3. Start at the thicker end of the root (if one side is thicker) and work your thumbs under one side of the cut. Be sure to get underneath the first white layer, too as it will help you peel the skin off in large chunks. Once you’re underneath the peel, you can work your thumbs down the length of the root, peeling the skin off like a jacket.
4. Once the root is peeled, chop it into chunks.
[Alternative method: Slice the tip and tail off the yucca roots, then chop them into quarters. Stand each chunk of root up on a cutting board, and slice off the peel using a knife. You need to be careful not to cut yourself using this method, and you will also lose a good portion of the root itself. ]
5. Fill a medium-sized pot with water and bring it to a full boil. Place the hunks of peeled yuca root in the boiling water, and allow them to cook Peel steam for 15 minutes, or until the root is very soft when poked with a fork.
And that’s it! Stay tuned for recipes using yuca root, or try these out:
- Bibingka (Cassava Custard) from Saveur
- Coconut Cassava Bars from Blahnik Baker
- Paleo Egg Rolls from Predominantly Paleo
- Sancocho Stew from The Noshery
- Baked Yucca Fries with Grilled Banana Ketchup from Spoon Fork Bacon
- Crispy Baked Yuca Fries from The Healthy Maven
Yuca. Make it your new russet potato.