One of the joys of shopping at the co-op is discovering unique foods to try. If you’ve ever been browsing in produce and spied what looks like a small club a cave man might use to go hunting — that’s yuca!
What is it: Yuca, pronounced YOO-ka, is the root of the cassava plant. Its name can be confusing because of its similarity to the southeastern United States desert plant native called the yucca (pronounced YUHK-a). The two are unrelated, though the spelling is often used interchangeably. We even had to check our shelves to make sure we had it right!
The large tapered yuca roots are similar in size and shape to a sweet potato and can be anywhere from one to several pounds in size. At the co-op, you can find yuca roots in the produce aisle. They look very much like its close cousins the yam and potato, with a rough, bark-like skin that must be removed by grating or peeling.
Yuca, or cassava, is a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. It is one of the most drought-tolerant crops, capable of growing on marginal soils. Here in the US, the name “tapioca” most often refers to the starch made from the yuca root.
What it tastes like: The starchy flesh of the yuca root is a light white or cream color with a grainy texture similar to potatoes. The meaty flesh is often described as having a mild, sweet, somewhat nutty taste.
Health Benefits: Yuca is high in carbohydrates and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It is a good source of manganese and vitamin C. Here’s detailed nutritional information on yuca.
How to eat it: You can prepare it in the same way you would a baked potato, though it’s important to remove the skin first. Yuca have a high starch content which make them rather dry, so including a sauce helps. A common way to prepare a yuca is to make oven-baked yuca fries or chunks. We’ve included tasty recipes featuring yuca below. We also have gluten-free cassava flour (made from yuca) at the co-op.
Links to recipes:
Easy: How to Bake a Yuca: This recipe also provides some background information on yuca and important preparation tips.
Yuca Fries with chipotle mayonnaise: this recipe requires cooking the fries in oil.
For a lighter alternative, you can bake the fries using this recipe: Crispy Baked Yuca Fries
Yuca con Mojo: In Cuba, this dish is often served along with rice and beans and roast pork.