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The yuca plant is a staple food in many parts of the developing world. It has been cultivated for hundreds of years, and it can be made into a huge range of delicious dishes.
But before we get into that, you’re probably wondering — what does yuca taste like?
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Are Yuca and Yucca the Same?
If you’ve seen the words “yuca” and “yucca” floating around on the internet, you may have thought they were two spelling for the same plant.
However, “yuca” and “yucca” are two separate plants that are not related. Yuca is another name for the cassava plant. Yuca root (sometimes called cassava root) is considered to be a root vegetable.
Yuca roots provide a reliable source of carbohydrates for many people living in the tropics. And it’s a serious staple across the world — more than 800 million people eat yuca as their main dietary staple.
This starchy root vegetable grows well in dry, poor soils, so it is commonly grown in dry parts of the world as well.
The yuca plant is very versatile — it also can be used for animal feed. And if you’ve ever had tapioca pudding, you’ve probably tried yuca. The starch from the yuca root is commonly used to make tapioca.
So what is yucca? “Yucca” refers to a genus of mostly ornamental flowering plants with long, spear-shaped leaves. The yucca plant is in the asparagus family, and its blooms grow on tall stalks at the center of the plant.
Even more confusingly, the yucca root can be eaten, too! However, these roots often have at least a few sharp spines.
What Does Yuca Taste Like?
Before you run out and buy yuca, you probably want to know what it tastes like. There are two flavor profiles to choose from: white yuca and yellow yuca.
White yuca — White yuca is the most common of the two types of yuca root. It has a meaty interior, but it has a nutty, earthy taste that is slightly sweet. Since it grows in many places in Colombia, it’s commonly used to make fried yuca and other dishes there.
Yellow yuca — Yellow yuca has a flavor profile that leans more savory than sweet. It goes especially well with garlic or garlic sauce. Yellow yuca also has a chewy texture that makes it a great choice for frying.
This variety does a better job of retaining its flavor throughout the cooking process. So if you find that you prefer the taste of yuca over that of other starches, you might want to stick with the yellow version.
Essentially, as another starchy root vegetable, the yuca taste is similar to that of potatoes. However, it’s slightly lighter, sweeter, and nuttier.
How to Eat Yuca
Just like potatoes, this versatile root plant is right at home among different cuisines. If you’re ready to branch out from potatoes and try some other starches, here are a few of the many ways you can prepare and eat yuca.
Though you can use the root of the cassava plant to make exciting dishes (more on that in a moment), you also can eat them plain just like baked potatoes.
To do this, take a potato peeler or a vegetable peeler and remove all skin from the yuca. Cut it into slices or chunks and bake them with olive oil or coconut oil until they seem to have a soft enough texture.
Since yuca is a starchy vegetable like a potato, you could try dipping these yuca pieces into ketchup (or anything else you might put on a baked potato).
Lots of Colombian dishes use white yuca. And fried yuca is one of the most loved snacks in South America.
Creating yuca fries isn’t too hard. You just cut fairly large chunks of the root portion of the plant, cook them, and deep fry them. Once they’ve been deep-fried until they are golden brown, the yuca fries are ready to eat.
Like fries made from potatoes, fries made from the cassava root taste great when dipped in ketchup. They also go very well with aji sauce.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, aji sauce is a spicy green sauce used in some Colombian dishes and other parts of South American cuisine. It usually includes hot chili peppers, but you could always make a version with mild chili peppers if you prefer.
Fried yuca can also be served as a part of a dish called chicken yuquitas. Chicken yuquitas involves serving the fried yuca along with a rotisserie chicken and garlic sauce.
The fried yuca taste is simply unparalleled. When the yuca pieces are deep-fried long enough, their outsides become crispy. But a you bite into them, you reach the rich, almost creamy center that has a texture like that of mashed potatoes. It’s something you need to experience to believe!
Of course, different places fry this root vegetable in different ways. This video shows you the process of creating yuca fries the Cuban way.
More Ways to Eat Yuca
If you’ve ever tried some of the best fried yuca, you know why this root vegetable is often deep-fried. But there are plenty of other ways to prepare it, some of which let you experience the real yuca taste.
To really get a sense of the nutty flavor of this root plant, try boiling it. Even some salt and pepper with a drizzle of olive oil can make yuca taste like a high-end dish.
If you want to be somewhat more adventurous, you can try making mashed potatoes with mashed yuca instead.
To add just a touch of yuca taste, you can grate part (or all!) of the boiled yuca into a salad. Though you might not often think “salad topping” when you think of a starchy root vegetable. But as a topping, yuca adds a pleasant burst of nutty flavor.
You might be surprised to hear that grated yuca tastes good in dessert, too. Especially in the Philippines, it can be used to make cassava cake. This sweet, delicate dessert is also made with coconut, custard, and condensed milk.
Are There Any Precautions You Need to Take?
Though you might want to bite into the crunchy texture, make sure you don’t eat this root vegetable raw! That’s because yuca naturally produces small amounts of cyanide. Some varieties produce much more than others. To be safe, make sure you remove the skin with a vegetable peeler and make sure your yuca is cooked properly!
Though it’s not as much of a concern as cyanide, it’s worth noting that while this plant is often touted as a substitute for the potato, yuca has more carbs and more total calories.
If you compare the nutrition facts for potatoes and yuca, you’ll see that a 100-gram serving of potatoes has 17 grams of carbohydrates. A 100-gram serving of yuca contains 38 grams of carbs.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you’re an athlete who needs some extra carbs from a nutritious source, cassava is a great option. On the other hand, if you need to strictly limit your carb intake, you might want to choose something that’s lower in carbohydrates.
There’s one more thing to watch out for. Similar to a pineapple, a yuca root has a thick, stem-like fiber running straight down the middle of each root.
You might technically be able to chew on this tough stem and eat it. But it’s probably not a great idea to. Instead, take your finger or a fork and pull the stem out after cutting the root in half (from end to end).
Does Yuca Have Any Health Benefits?
There’s more to the cassava plant than a potato-like aesthetic and an earthy taste. Like many other starches, yuca has benefits for your digestive system and beyond:
It’s a resistant starch — A resistant starch works similarly to soluble fiber; it feeds healthy gut bacteria and helps keep digestive functioning smooth and stable.
It’s an excellent source of vitamin C — Vitamin C plays a crucial role in your general health. It boosts your immune system and aids in the healing of injuries. Just a single serving of cassava delivers 1/3 of the recommended daily value for vitamin C!
It’s a great source of choline — If you’ve ever taken a look at the label of a brain health supplement, you probably aw that it contains choline. Choline is critical when it comes to brain functioning and the functioning of the central nervous system as a whole. And because it supports cell health, choline is necessary if you want to make sure that your metabolism is functioning optimally.
It’s packed with potassium — Potassium is an electrolyte that performs lots of vital functions. Potassium helps to regulate your heartbeat and muscle contractions. It also is instrumental when it comes to kidney function.
It’s high in beta-carotene — You might already know that beta-carotene is the pigment responsible for the orange coloration in sweet potatoes and some other vegetables. Beta-carotene is an antioidant, meaning it helps to combat cell damage that can sometimes lead to cancer.
It’s a great source of magnesium — Even though magnesium is one of the most important micronutrients, a lot of people are deficient in it. Magnesium is essential for proper nervous system function, and it’s also needed for proper none strength and muscle strength.
It may help regulate blood sugar — Some research indicates that eating resistant starch like the starch found in cassava can help to reduce the spike in insulin you get after eating. If you are someone who needs to try to keep your blood sugar stable, eating even a small amount of yuca per day can help.
Where Do You Buy Yuca?
If you’re sold on the value of yellow or white yuca, you might be eager to grab some at the grocery store next time you’re out. But where can you find it?
Depending on where you live, you might not be able to get this root in any store. Your best bet is to check a Latin grocery or a store specializing in international foods.
Don’t despair if you can’t find it! The great thing about these roots is that, much like potatoes, they are dry and easy to ship. Check online — some online grocers will ship yuca right to your door.
Adding in Yuca
Now that you have an answer to “what does yuca taste like?” we hope that you’ll be inspired. Whether you want to set out to make the best fried yuca ever or create an interesting alternative to mashed potatoes, we hope you’ll try out some yellow or white yuca soon!
Still have some questions? Here are some answers:
What does yuca do to your body?
Yuca offers your body incredible health benefits. It’s rich in potassium, beta-carotene, gut-healthy resistant starch, and several vitamins and minerals.
Is yuca better than potatoes?
Both yuca root and potatoes can be healthy dietary choices. Yuca contains more carbohydrates and more overall calories — this is a benefit for some and a drawback for others.