We think you'll fall in love with this versatile, crunchy tuber once you realize how easy it is to prep and that it can be used raw or cooked.

It's a crunchy, juicy root vegetable that's an important food in its native tropical America, from Mexico through Central America and northern South America. Jicama is also a staple food in Asia (the colonial Spanish introduced it to the Philippines the 16th century) where it features in regional cuisines from India through Malaysia and Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and up into China and Japan. This rich history is excellent news—and source material—for curious cooks who are still unfamiliar with this versatile vegetable but who want to learn how to use jicama at home.

The plant that produces jicama is a substantial twining vine in the legume family. It's known botanically as Pachyrhizus erosus, and while a couple of other species are also cultivated, this is the one that's best-known in the United States. The squat, turnip-shaped tuber's English names include sweet yam, yam bean, Mexican potato, and sweet turnip. Like many other legumes, parts of the vine are poisonous (the seeds contain the toxin rotenone), but the crisp tuber is a nutritious exception. Not only does jicama contain high levels of potassium and vitamin C, but it also contains inulin—the desirable dietary fiber and prebiotic that makes the carbohydrates in jicama highly digestible (and more keto-friendly than the potato, as well as appealing to anyone who is diabetic).

fresh cut jicama on wooden board
Credit: Lamaip / Getty Images

How to Use Jicama

Beneath its rind-like and pale brown skin, jicama is white inside, exceptionally juicy, with a delicately sweet flavor and a refreshingly crisp texture. Try it raw: peeled and sliced thinly or cut into chunks or cubes, and sprinkled with lime juice and salt or chile powder, or served with a dip of fish sauce, or a topping of raw onion, depending on the culinary tradition being drawn upon. In Mexico you might enjoy a botana (snack) of cubed jicama macerated with orange, lime juice, and powdered chile piquín.

Some of our favorite recipes for jicama include a vibrant jicama-citrus salad, a julienne of jicama with beets and roasted peanuts, a cooling slaw of jicama with lime juice and cilantro, a crisp and creamy jicama dip with avocado, and healthy fish tacos with shredded cabbage and matchsticks of jicama.

Jicama tubers can also be steamed, boiled, or baked like potatoes. Grated or shredded, they are very good stir-fried or pan-sautéed (think rösti, minus that high-carb potato). Make them the base of a warming vegan winter stew, or roast them like oven chips.

What You Need to Know About Inulin

A word of warning about inulin: Some people are sensitive to inulin, which can cause painful gas or bloating as it's digested. To reduce this uncomfortable side effect, soak the peeled and sliced tubers in water for an hour before eating it raw, or before cooking. Boiling will also reduce the inulin content of jicama.

Choosing and Prepping Jicama

When shopping for jicama, bigger is not better; large tubers can be spongy in texture. They should be firm with no cracks or moldy spots in their thick skin. Jicama will keep almost indefinitely when wrapped and stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. When you are ready to prepare them, slice the skin off with a sharp knife, and then cut into batons, shave on a mandoline, or shred on the coarse side of a grater depending on how you want to serve them. (Soak the pieces in water for an hour or less if you are inulin-sensitive.)

Now shop, chop, dip, and bite. We think you will fall in love with this healthy and delicious vegetable.


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