Fried Yuca Strips are the Latin American french fry. Yuca is popular in Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean. These fried goodies make the perfect appetizer for your cocktail party or a side dish. So delicious, you'll forget about potatoes for a minute.
It's the third largest source of carbohydrates after corn. According to archaeologists, yuca made its first appearance in the Americas long before the arrival of Columbus. It is thought to have been a staple of Pre-Columbian people since it is often found represented in indigenous art.
What is yuca?
Yuca is club-like in appearance (yes, think caveman club), brown in color with a slightly scaly looking skin, closely resembling the bark of a tree. The inside is a creamy white.
The yuca plant is drought tolerant, a saving grace in times of bad harvests. Yuca also grows well in poor soil. Given this valuable botanical attribute, it is not surprising that yuca occupies a sacred place in Latin American folklore.
Legend has it that once during a terrible harvest, a woman lost her baby to starvation. She was so distraught that she buried the child under the dirt floor of her hut. In the middle of the night a good spirit, took pity on the woman's sorrow, sneaked into her hut and transformed the lifeless body of the baby into a root that eventually grew into a yuca tree. From then on the tree fed the village and that's how it became a staple in the diet of the indigenous peoples.
Yuca is not only enjoyed in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also in Africa and Southeast Asia with Thailand being one of the top exporters. Although it is rich in carbohydrates, it lacks protein.
How to cook yuca
Cooking yuca is a bit of a challenge since you first have to peel the tough outer bark and then boil it for about 30 minutes. After it is boiled and cools down, you can cut it into strips (like French Fries, but thicker) and then fry it (my favorite). They can be enjoyed with a multitude of sauces/dips, from the lowly ketchup to the more sophisticated aioli (my personal preference). You can also enjoy it boiled and seasoned with salt and garlic for those who prefer a simpler taste. Yuca is one of the main ingredients in Sancocho-a typical Latin American soup.
Another delicious way to enjoy yuca is Carimañolas - Fried Yuca Fritters stuffed with spiced meat.
I like to buy it frozen because it's peeled. (You got it, I don't like peeling). Goya makes a consistently good product. Serve with aioli if you want, or feel free to experiment with your favorite dip!
If you love the flavors of Latin America I have a lot to recommend for you on my blog.
Easy Shrimp Mofongo - Fried and mashed plantains served in a tomato stew with buttery sautéed shrimp. Can you really go wrong with this comfort dish?
Ropa Vieja - It literally translates to "old clothes" but this stewed beef is absolutely delicious over rice or in tacos.
Tostones with Avocado Cream Sauce - These twice fried plantains are usually served with ketchup but I wanted to upgrade so I made a tangy, creamy avocado sauce. You'll love it.
Latin Meal - Black beans and rice with pork chops is a quintessential meal in Panama. I have so many memories of this comfort food growing up.
Yuca Fries Recipe
Here is a favorite recipe from my childhood. Fried Yuca strips or cassava fries with a garlic aioli. These are very similar to potato french fries but have a creamier and sweeter flavor. You will love these!
- 1 lb frozen yuca (I like Goya brand frozen yuca)
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 qts water
Oil for frying - I like canola or peanut oil
- In a 4 qt. pot add water (about ¾ of the way up) and add the salt. Bring to a boil and add the yuca. Boil for about 20-30 minutes.
- Drain and allow to cool.
- Cut yuca lengthwise into strips.
- Fry in hot oil a few at a time until golden brown.
- Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with a little salt
- Serve with aioli or your favorite dip