Yuca, also known as manioc or cassava, is a starchy tuber, similar to a potato, native to Central and South America. Cooking this root transforms its fibrous interior to a creamy and divine food. But the magic really happens when you make them into fries and surround that creaminess with a crunchy exterior.
I grew up eating Mandioca Frita (yuca root fries in portuguese) and have now made oven roasted yuca one of my go-to side dishes. Roasting the yuca makes the process so much easier than frying: less work and less mess. But most importantly they are just as tasty as the fried version (well – close enough for the dinner table).
How to Buy Yuca
Most of the yuca in the US is imported from Costa Rica. They usually come with a wax coating to prevent spoiling, but you still need to check them well for any soft spots as they still mold easily. And always buy more than you think you need because more often than not you’ll get some bad ones. They should be white when you cut into them, any discolored striping or browning is not good.
How to Peel Yuca
Most people complain about how hard it is to peel, but it’s really not a big deal. You cut off the thin ends and discard, cut the yuca in the middle or into 3 sections crosswise. Place it vertically on your cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut the peel off in vertical strips (similar to how you would cut off corn kernels from the cob, or the spiny peel of a pineapple).
But you can also find frozen peeled yuca in latin markets (if you live in LA, check out El Camaguey on Venice Blvd). The biggest advantage of the frozen yuca is that you know you’re not getting any moldy or spoiled yuca. The frozen versions can go straight into boiling water just like the fresh.
Once you have your yuca boiled, you can store it in the fridge for up to one week so you can easily prepare these yuca ahead of time before roasting. I’ve been using palm oil to roast the yuca in, but coconut oil, or rendered duck/beef fat would also work.
These are slightly addictive, if you’ve never made them before I suggest you place this on the top of your to-do list, but make them when you have someone to share them with so you don’t end up eating them all on your own (or if you have the willpower, any leftovers can be easily re-heated on the stovetop).
Oven Roasted Yuca Fries
Make as much or as little as you like, just make sure the yuca is coated completely with your preferred fat before roasting or it will get too dry.
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Preheat your oven to 400F.
2. Cut the yuca into 2 or 3 sections and peel.
3. Add to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium and cook the yuca for 15-30 minutes until tender. Test with a fork after 15 minutes. (Time can vary depending on if you’re using frozen, or how thick the yuca is).
4. Drain the cooked yuca into a colander. Cut the yuca into wedges making sure to remove the fibrous stalk in the middle of the yuca.
5. Place cut yuca on roasting pan and coat evenly with the oil.
6. Sprinkle sea salt over the yuca (and any other desired spices) and place the pan in the oven. Roast for 30-45 minutes, flipping them once halfway.
Note: For those that need to eat a nightshade-free diet (no potatoes, tomatoes, or peppers), yuca will become your new best friend!