How to Cut and Cook Cassava Root

Yuca al ajo
Foto © elboricua.com
  • 01 of 06

    Get to Know Cassava Root

    Cassava root isn't as common as a culinary ingredient in the United State as it is in some other countries, but you might know it better in its dried extract form as tapioca. The root is gluten-, grain-, and nut-free, making it a potential food substitute for people with allergies. Because Americans aren't used to seeing the whole root, which is also known as yuca, it's not surprising that you might not know how to select, cut, and prepare the root for cooking. 

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  • 02 of 06

    Yuca Selection

    Yuca
    VOISIN/Getty Images

    When you find yuca roots, select those that are firm and free from blemishes or soft spots. The roots should have a clean fresh scent and snowy white center when cut open. 

    The best way to check if the root is still good is to break off the end of the yuca. If the flesh has black specks, lines, or any discoloration, it should be discarded. Rotten or decaying roots have brown soft spots and a putrid smell.

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  • 03 of 06

    Peeling Yuca

    Cutting off the bark-like peel from a yuca root.
    Hector Rodriguez

    Cut off the ends of the tuber, slice it into 2- to 3-inch segments, and then stand the root up on its end. Using a sharp knife, slice vertically down the edges of the root until the skin has been completely peeled off. Stand the root pieces on end. 

    A vegetable peeler is not recommended for peeling yuca because the peel is very thick and usually covered with a protective wax coating. You'll end up hurting your hands and getting pretty frustrated with the whole process. 

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  • 04 of 06

    Slice It Up

    Cut the peeled yuca root (cassava) in half.
    Hector Rodriguez

    Cut the peeled yuca root in half lengthwise to expose the woody core. Next, cut the yuca halves lengthwise in half again, so that the root is now quartered into long sticks with the core exposed.

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  • 05 of 06

    Remove the Woody Core

    Coring a Yuca Root (Cassava)
    Hector Rodriguez

    Cut off the inner corner of each yuca wedge to remove the woody core and discard it. The yuca root (cassava) is now ready to cook in a recipe or store for future use.

    Although you can cook the yuca first, then remove the core, it is recommended to remove the core before cooking. Truthfully, you don't have to remove the core — but then you will have to eat around it because it's not tasty. 

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  • 06 of 06

    Storing and Cooking with Yuca

    Typical brazilian food - manioc (cassava)
    Antonello/Moment/Getty Images

    Cassava roots have a nutty, earthy flavor that's well-suited in cuisines that hail from where the tuber originates, including various Caribbean islands, South America, Africa, and parts of Asia. Peeled cassava (yuca) can be stored in the refrigerator covered with water for up to four days or you can freeze it for several months.

    The starchy tuber can be used in the same way that you might prepare potatoes — steamed, baked, fried, mashed, boiled, or roasted. 

    However, it's important to note that Cassava should never be eaten raw. The roots, peels, and leaves contain cyanogenic glucosides that are toxic, with bitter-tasting yucas producing up to a gram of cyanide per kilogram of fresh roots. That type of cassava root must be soaked and cooking for hours before it's safe to eat. Sweet cassava is the variety typically sold for home cooking in the U.S., and its cyanide content is removed by peeling and cooking the tuber.