Experimenting with Yucca

by in Healthy Recipes, June 5, 2009

Mashed, baked, sautéed or fried — yucca is as versatile as potatoes. I decided to give this cool tuber a try after it popped up on a few Food Network shows and in my local grocery store. Find out how you can satisfy your starchy cravings with a side of yucca-fied fries.

What Is Yucca?
Yucca (a.k.a. cassava) is a long, cylindrical root with tough brown skin and rock-hard white flesh. It’s harvested in winter months and stores very well in a cool, dark place. Yucca typically comes from southern parts of North America and Central and South America, and it’s common in regional dishes. It’s been around for awhile; some say farmers cultivated it as early as 2500 B.C.!

Nutrition Info
Like potatoes and other tubers, yucca is full of starch and contains vitamin C (about 70% of your daily needs in a cup), B vitamins, thiamin and folate. One cup of raw yucca has 330 calories, 1 gram of fat, 4 grams of fiber and 78 grams of carbohydrates. Despite being rich in nutrients, this veggie actually has a very mild flavor. One big warning: You have to peel and cook this tuber before eating it — it contains toxic substances when raw.

What To Do with Yucca
You can cook with yucca just like you would with potatoes. When peeling and cutting, use a sharp knife and a sturdy surface – these babies are hard! Once boiled, you can then grill, sauté, mash, fry or puree the pieces. Yucca chips, which are made by thinly slicing and frying, have a sweeter flavor than potato chips. But keep in mind that they’re fried — eat only a handful. Try pairing up your yucca with lime, onion, cilantro or oregano for extra flavor without extra fat.

In my yucca “experiment,” I made baked yucca fries. You just slice raw yucca into thin strips, season with oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 425-degree oven until golden and tender. They were delicious, but definitely starchy – a few fries is all you need. Lighten your cooking load by using bags of frozen yucca from your local grocery store. They’re already peeled, chopped and blanched, which makes them the perfect time-saving option when cooking for a crowd.

You might see tapioca flour at the market sometimes. This powdered starch, a common thickening agent used in soups, stews and pie filling, comes from its root.

Oh and I was just browsing the TV listings. Yucca is one of the secret ingredients on Food Network’s Chopped on June 6 (airs at 3pm). I’m curious to see what they do with it.

TELL US: Have you tried yucca? What’s your favorite way to eat it?

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