We all love fries as a side dish, but have you ever tried yuca (also known as cassava) fries? If not, this is your chance! Skip those boring sweet or Idaho potatoes this week and swap them for yuca root instead. When fried at the ideal temperature and for a precise duration, they are crisp crisp crispy on the outside, and perfectly creamy on the inside!
Yuca originated on the Southern border of the Amazon basin. So, neighboring countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Columbia, Bolivia, the nearby Dominican Republic, and Cuba (among others) have adopted this hearty filling vegetable root as a staple in their diets. Yuca fries are a standard preparation in these parts.
Working with these roots for many generations, these Southern American and Caribbean countries have mastered their craft. We have spent some time researching and cooking with generations of Latin American cooks to get these just right!
So, let’s get frying!
Table of Contents
What you Need to Know About Yuca Fries
What is Yuca and How Does it Taste?
Yuca (pronounced “yoo-kah”) is a tuberous root vegetable common in Central and South America and the Caribbean. It has a starchy, potato-like texture and a slightly sweeter taste than potatoes. Yuca can be boiled, mashed, fried, or grilled.
Yuca vs. Yucca: Very Different Plants
Yuca and yucca (the latter pronounced “yuh-ka”) may sound similar, but these two plants are actually quite different. Yuca is a root vegetable that is popular in Latin American cuisine, while yucca is typically used as an ornamental plant and, to a lesser degree, for medicinal purposes. Both plants are native to the Americas, but yuca is more widely cultivated in tropical regions while yucca is more common in arid regions.
How to Select Yuca at the Market
When selecting yuca root, look for tubers that are firm (not soft), smooth, and free of blemishes. Avoid any tubers that have dark spots or mold.
How to Cut and Peel the Yuca
- Cut off both ends of each yuca root.
- Cut each root into approximately three equal-sized pieces 4 to 5 inches in length.
- Slice a slit lengthwise into the bark of the yuca root using a knife.
- Move the blade back and forth under the skin to separate the brown bark from the root’s flesh.
- Lift the skin from the root’s flesh until the yuca is peeled.
Still unsure how to peel and cut the yuca root? Check out 0 seconds to 1:12 seconds of this video to help guide you through the steps.
How to Tell if the Yuca Root is Spoiled
One way to tell if the yuca is spoiled is to check for black spots on the root’s surface. If there are black dots on the flesh, remove them. However, if they appear throughout the root, discard the yuca altogether. Alternatively, you can cut into a piece of the yuca to inspect it for mold. If the yuca has a sour smell, it is likely spoiled.
How Not to Over-Boil the Yuca
When boiling the yuca in water, when it splits in the center, after approximately 20 minutes of boiling, remove the yuca from the hot water. When they split in the center, they will be tender throughout. If you wait until they soften, they may become too soft to cut into fries and fry in the hot oil.
Remove the Inner Root from the Cooked Yuca Halves
Remove the inner root of the yuca after the boiling process because it is poisonous to eat. To remove the inner root, follow these steps:
- Cut each yuca round in half lengthwise.
- Use your fingers to lift and discard the inner root from the center of the halved yuca. Otherwise, you may also use a knife to cut out the center of the halved yuca to remove the inner root.
It resembles a piece of yarn. Refer to the photo below for a closer look.
Fry the Fries in Batches
Heat the oil in a sufficiently deep frying pan to make yuca fries. We use grapeseed oil for our recipe, which can be safely heated to 420 degrees Fahrenheit (216 degrees Celsius). Ensure 2-3 inches of the frying pan is filled with oil. Turn the stovetop to medium-high heat to ensure the oil does not heat too quickly. Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature.
As soon as the temperature reaches 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius), reduce the temperature on the stovetop to medium heat to hold the temperature steady.
Fry the yuca fries in batches. Do not crowd them in the pan. Cook them for exactly 3 minutes each. Note that overcooking your fries may make the exterior crispier, but the interior will become tough and dry instead of creamy. Additionally, the yuca flavor gets lost as the crispy exterior thickens. So, it’s important not to overcook those fries!
How to Tell When the Yuca Fries Are Done
When the yuca fries are done, they will be a light golden color and should be crispy on the outside. You can also test one fry to see if it is soft and creamy on the inside. If it is, then all of the fries are likely cooked through.
Consuming Raw Yuca can be Poisonous
If consumed raw or ill-prepared, one of its chemical components will be attacked by your digestive enzymes, giving off a potentially lethal amount of cyanide. I know, scary! So, keep that in mind when you’re cooking this vegetable and resist the urge to sneak a taste before it is fully cooked… 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees Celsius), to be exact.
However, when yuca root is peeled, cooked until tender, and slightly yellow in color, you can ensure they are no longer poisonous.
How to Store and Reheat Yuca Fries
If you have any leftover yuca fries, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. You can also freeze them for up to 2 months. Simply place the fries on a baking sheet and freeze for a few hours until they are solid. Then, transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container. Reheat refrigerated fries for 5 to 10 minutes in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (218 degrees Celsius). Extend the cooking time to 15 minutes to reheat frozen fries.
Sauces to Pair with Yuca Fries
- 2 lbs. yuca (cassava) blanca approximately 2 roots
- 3 cups grapeseed oil or other high-heat oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 6-8 cups water
1. Cut and Peel the Yuca
- Cut off both ends of each yuca root. Then, cut each root into approximately three equal-sized pieces (4 to 5 inches long).
- Cut a slit lengthwise into the bark of each root using a knife. Move the blade back and forth under the skin to remove the bark from the root's flesh. Lift the skin from the root's flesh.
- Wash the peeled yuca.
2. Boil the Yuca
- Add the yuca to a medium to a large saucepan.
- Fill the saucepan with approximately 6 to 8 cups of water (or until the yuca is submerged).
- Add 1 tbsp salt.
- Boil the yuca for 20-25 minutes or until they begin to split slightly down the center of the yuca lengthwise and are fork-tender. Don't puncture the yuca completely if you use a fork, as it may fall apart.
3. Allow Yuca to Cool and Remove the Inner Root
- Using cooking tongs, remove the yuca from the hot water and place them onto a cutting board.
- Allow the yuca to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Cut each yuca round in half lengthwise.
- Remove the fibrous inner root with your fingers in the center of each halved yuca piece. It looks like a string of yarn.
4. Cut Yuca into Fries and Prepare the Oil
- Cut each halved yuca piece lengthwise into fries that are approximately 1/2-inch thick.
- Add 2-3 inches of grapeseed oil to a pot or Dutch oven.
- Place the pot or Dutch oven onto the stovetop at medium heat.
- Slowly heat the oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius).
5. Fry those Fries
- Working in batches, fry the yuca fries for 3 minutes or until just browned.
- Remove the fries from the hot oil using a slotted spoon and place them onto a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Allow them to cool for 10 minutes.
- Season with salt to taste.