Learning how to cook yuca root, also known as cassava, will bring delicious recipes from cultures around the world to your kitchen. This guide will show you the vast variety of preparations you can use to experiment with yuca at home.
Once I started cooking with yuca (don’t confuse it with yucca, which is an ornamental plant), it was pretty obvious right away why it’s such a well-loved international ingredient. While it’s eaten for practical reasons in much of the world due to its calorie-dense nutritional value, it also happens to taste really great!
It led me to learning exactly what yuca is (also called cassava or manioc) and why it’s so popular everywhere. I’ve since been inspired to try out cultural dishes from different countries, as well as adapt it to many of my favorite cooking techniques.
In this guide, you’ll quickly be inspired too. You’ll see how easy it is to pick, prepare, and cook cassava at home, and why you should.
How to Pick the Perfect Root
Picking a good yuca starts with knowing what to look for. They’re most often found in the produce section and will look like long, bark-covered brown potatoes. In many places, they’re sold coated in wax to preserve them and make sure they don’t mildew.
They should feel firm to the touch with no soft spots, cracks, or discoloration. If possible, also check the flesh for color. It should be all white or creamy, with no black veins or spotting.
How to Peel Yuca
The outer skin is inedible and will need to be removed before cooking. You can do this by using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife.
First, trim off the yuca ends and slice it into 2-3-inch pieces to make it easier to peel.
Now there are two ways you can proceed. The first one is to make a slit in the skin from top to bottom. Then, insert a knife under the skin and slightly twist it to loosen it. After that, simply run your fingers underneath it and peel it away.
Alternatively, you can set each piece side up and cut the skin off using a knife. What’s most important is that all the brown and the pinkish layer beneath it has to be removed. Also, if there are any dark areas, cut them off. You only want the white flesh.
If after peeling you see the discoloration that runs throughout the whole root, it may have gone bad and you have to discard it.
Yuca also has a fibrous core that you’ll want to take out. Set each piece side up and cut in half lengthwise. Next, cut in half once again so the root is now quartered and the core is exposed. Cut it off from each piece. Alternatively, you can first cook yuca and then remove the core.
How to Prepare Yuca
Once peeled, prepare cassava in any way you like. Large chunks are ideal for boiling, mashing, and ricing, or you can slice them into fry shapes for roasting.
They can even be thinly sliced on a mandoline to make chips or layer into a casserole like a gratin.
Once chopped it’s important to know that yuca is always at least par-boiled first. It’s a high-starch root that takes a long time to cook, and it absolutely must be cooked because consuming it raw can be toxic. Boiling tenderizes it more quickly so it will roast, bake, or fry properly.
When deciding how to cook yuca, just imagine potatoes, and swap them in! They can be used in just as many ways. For most of the preparations I’m sharing below, I’ve either added a recipe at the bottom or linked to a fabulous suggestion for you to try.
Boiling is one of the most common ways to enjoy yuca. It’s very easy to do, just add it to boiling water and it will soften to tender perfection.
Starting with a flavorful liquid like stock or seasoned water is a great idea. But, many cultures also love to toss sauces over it when it’s done. Yuca con mojo is one really delicious citrus-garlic Cuban preparation, but you can be as imaginative as you like!
Yuca root can be enjoyed as a savory bake like chips or casseroles. But, in Asia they do a lot of sweet baking with the fresh root too. Tasty desserts like cassava cake is just one example of how wonderfully diverse this root can be.
But the most popular way is as cassava, or tapioca, flour. It’s gluten-free, but functions very similarly to wheat flour in most baking.
I can’t mention fried yuca and not tell you how tasty yuca fries are. They’re absolutely delicious, and can be prepared traditionally in oil, baked, or made in your air fryer.
But that’s not the only way to enjoy it fried. Latin American countries also enjoy bolitas de yuca (balls of yuca), which consist of boiled yuca mixed with gooey cheese and coated with bread crumbs before frying them to crispy, golden perfection.
For a super simple way to enjoy boiled yuca, mashing it is the way to go. You can enjoy a traditionally inspired cream and butter yuca mash, or play with flavors by infusing the boiling liquid and adding spices.
I’ve never met a root that doesn’t roast well and cassava is no exception. Simply oiled and seasoned roasted yuca is delightful, simple, and highlights the natural nutty, sweet flavors inherent in the root.
A Note on Using Frozen Yuca
If you can’t find fresh yuca you can often find it sold in frozen chunks too.
In most cases, you can swap it in for the fresh stuff with no issue. However, like all frozen vegetables, the water content is higher, and I don’t recommend using it for frying.
How to Store Yuca
Fresh yuca root should be kept in a dark, cool place and wrapped in a loose paper bag for up to one week. Materials like plastic will cause moisture build up and mildew. Once boiled, it can be stored in the fridge for a week as well. Feel free to prep a large batch, and use it all week.
Cassava flour has a great shelf life. As long as you use it within one year, it can be stored at room temperature in the cupboard.
With the techniques I’ve shared here, I hope you’re inspired to cook with yuca or cassava flour soon. I’m positive that you’ll enjoy the fresh, lightly sweet and floral flavor of the root. There are tons of yuca recipes out there for inspiration if you need it, but I also hope you have fun experimenting!
How to Cook Yuca
- 1 lb. (450g) fresh yuca
- salt and black pepper , to taste
- vegetable or canola oil , for frying
- olive oil , for baking
- 1 lb. (450g) fresh or frozen yuca
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (rosemary, cilantro, parsley, thyme)
- salt and black pepper , to taste
- lime juice , for serving
- Trim off the ends and peel the yuca root (both the waxy layer and the pinkish layer underneath). Cut it lengthwise into 3-4 inch (8-10cm) rounds.
- Bring the salted water to a boil in a saucepan or a pot. Add the yuca rounds and cook for about 20 minutes. It should be fork tender but not mushy. When done, remove and drain well. Let cool.
- Cut the yuca pieces in half and remove the core in the center. Cut into fries.
- TO FRY.
- Add about 3 inches of the oil to a heavy pot and heat it to 360°F (180°C). Fry the yuca fries in small batches, turning once or twice, until golden brown.
- Using a slotted spoon remove the fries and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with a sauce.
- TO BAKE.
- Drizzle the fries with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet without overcrowding. Bake 30 minutes at 425°F (220°C), turning over halfway through.
- AIR FRYER.
- Air fry on 380 degrees for 12-15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). If your yuca is fresh, peel it and cut into pieces.
- Cook yuca pieces in a large pot of salted water for 15 minutes. Drain.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, spices,and fresh herbs. Add yuca pieces and toss to coat.
- Arrange in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast 30-40 minutes, until yuca is tender. Toss with lime juice and serve.