Yucca (Manihot esculenta), also called cassava or manioc, is a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae family native to South America that is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. Throughout Latin America there is not a super market, Grocery store or vegetable stand that does not offer Yucca. Usually it is offered raw as roots, sometimes you can find it peeled, cut and frozen in logs. Once peeled and cut it keeps well in a freezer. It is very easy to grow in loose sandy soil by planting cuttings from woody branches. It is extensively used in Latin America as an ingredient, side dish, main dish when used with protein and as ingredient for desserts. Indians in the tropical regions of Latin America cultivated and consumed Yucca, they even developed products as Casabe, which are still produced and sold in local markets. People in Latin America cannot think of grilling meat without having yucca on the side, along with cold beer it is the other constant ingredient in any BBQ party.

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Manihot esculenta


LOCAL NAMES: Yuca, Manioc, mandioca, Aipim, Macaxeira (Brazil), Kassav (Haiti), Mandi'o (Paraguay)

NUTRIENTS: The saponin in Yucca is a precursor of natural cortisone normally produced by the adrenal glands. This makes it a popular remedy for all kinds of inflammation, such as arthritis, rheumatism, bursitis, colitis, and other inflammatory conditions.
Yucca is high in fiber, vitamins A, B, and C, and contains potassium, calcium, phosphorus, iron, manganese and copper which make it very soothing to the intestinal tract. The plant provides nutritional support to the structural system (bones, joints, muscles).

1) Take one root, cut both tips and discard them.
2) Cut the root in logs about the length of your middle finger. Discard any section that is stained.
3) Cut the skin with a knife and push under the skin with the knife turning the log until all the skin is off.
4) Cut the logs in half lengthwise for faster cooking.
5) Repeat for all logs and cook in salt water or steam until Yucca feels tender when pierced.

STORING: Once cut and peeled it can be frozen raw for later cooking or cooked for reheating in boiling water, steam or microwave oven.

YUCA AL MOJO: a very simple side dish, cook 1.5 Kg (3 Lbs.) of yucca until tender, prepare a sauce (mojo) by blending 1 cup of packed cilantro, 1 small clove of garlic,
1/2 cup of vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, to serve spray the sauce over the yucca. This is a great side dish for any grilled meat. Others herbs such as parsley or basil may substitute cilantro.

CARIMAÑOLAS: this is a very typical street food in Colombia and Panama, very easy to make at home to eat as a first course or main dish. For 24 pieces you will need to boil in salt water 1.5 Kg (3 Lbs) of yucca for 15-20 minutes, the yucca should not be too tender, then grate the yucca through a fine vegetables grater and knead to form dough. Wet your hands and divide dough into 24 balls and reserve. For the filling heat 4 tablespoons of oil and lightly brown 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic and 2 finely chopped sweet chilies (aji dulce) without seeds, then add 0.5 Kg (1 Lb) of ground beef and brown; add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin powder, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste mix well and remove from heat; add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste and mix well. To form the carimañolas wet your hand flatten a ball of yucca dough in the palm of your hand and extend it, place some filling in it without overfilling, wrap the filling in the dough and roll it in your hands to form a cylindrical shape, deep fry in hot oil, dry with absorbent paper and serve warm, they are delicious with hot pepper sauce.

BUÑUELOS: These are similar to beignets but made with Yucca dough. This is a very typical dessert in the tropical regions of Latin America. You will need 1.5 Kg (3 Lbs) of Yucca, boil it in water for about 15-20 minutes, it should be tender enough to grate but not too tender. To the grated Yucca add 1 egg, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of Anise seeds. Knead well to mix all ingredients and let rest. Meanwhile make a syrup with 3 cups of dark brown sugar, in Latin America we would use raspadura or panela the local version of dark sugar, 1 cup of water and 7 cloves; boil until sugar dissolves and mixture turns syrupy. Wet your hand and make 1 inch balls with the yucca dough, fry them in hot oil until golden, about 2 minutes, serve warm and covered with the syrup.


  1. Hi ...
    You might be interested in my 10 or so blogs ...

    Good luck and nice job ...


  2. Great idea, and you're off to a good start. I can't wait to read more.
    I want to know about all the roots, guandu, the strange fruits. there's so much to eat, so little time.....

  3. Chef Juan,

    Great job! You are a good food writer and I hope you will continue. I'm inspired to make both of your yucca recipes.
    I eat Typico lunch almost every day, and have just started to try to cook my own.
    I had to learn from some kids working for me that the Guandule are cooked WITH the rice.

    keep writing


  4. Thanks for your comments, you can guide me as to what ingredients I should write on first. My next blog is on Plantains and thanks to you after that I will write on Guandu. Chef Juan

  5. Chef Juan,

    Good job. Very informative and needed for us. Keep it up.

    Looking forward to the next blog.

  6. Great post, and I look forward to more! Did you know it's very common for people to have Yucca as house plants in the U.S.? We actually just got one in our apartment in Zurich too. I think it's because they are big, green, leafy, and pretty hard to kill.

  7. There are many plants under the name Yucca, the ornamental ones are not the same as the edible ones, they look somewhat similar but are different especies. The edible ones have a root system that will not fit in a pot and are not as pretty as the ornamentals. In Lat Am people also keep ornamental Yuccas as house plants because they are pretty and easy to keep. Regards Chef Juan

  8. miss your posts.....

  9. I have been traveling and cooking a lot, I will resume my writing inmediately, I appreciate the interest. Regards Chef Juan