Jicama (HEE-kah-ma) is a nutritious and versatile root vegetable that is gaining popularity for its many health benefits and culinary uses. Also known as Mexican potato, Chinese turnip, yam bean or Mexican water chestnut, jicama has a sweet, nutty flavor and crunchy flesh that makes it a tasty addition to salads, slaws, stir-fries and more.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about jicama, from what it is and where it comes from to how to eat it and incorporate it into delicious recipes.
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What is Jicama?
Jicama is a bulbous root vegetable that originated in Mexico and Central America. The jicama plant produces vines, leaves and pods similar to beans but it’s cultivated for its edible root. Resembling a turnip or potato, jicama roots have light brown, papery skin and crisp, juicy white flesh. When sliced, jicama has a characteristic star shape pattern due to its vascular bundles.
Other common names for jicama include Mexican yam bean, a-huevo, saa got, Chinese potato and Chinese turnip. However, jicama is not actually related to yams, turnips or beans. It’s a species of bean in the fabaceae botanical family.
Jicama has been an important part of traditional Mexican diets for thousands of years. Today, it’s still commonly eaten raw with lime juice and chili powder. Jicama is also popular in Central American and Asian cuisines. As its popularity spreads, jicama is now readily available in most grocery stores across North America and Europe.
What Does Jicama Taste Like?
Raw jicama has a crisp, juicy texture akin to apples or raw potatoes. When eaten fresh, jicama has a mildly sweet, nutty and starchy flavor reminiscent of pear or potato. The taste is subtle, making it an incredibly versatile ingredient.
Jicama’s sweetness intensifes when roasted or sautéed. Cooking softens jicama’s crunchy texture into something more tender and buttery. The skin of the jicama root is not toxic but it’s unpalatable so it’s always peeled before eating.
Health Benefits of Jicama
Not only is jicama delicious, it’s also packed with nutrients and health benefits:
High in fiber – One cup of jicama contains over 6 grams of dietary fiber. The soluble fiber called inulin acts as a prebiotic that feeds the good bacteria in your gut.
Low in calories – With only 46 calories per cup, jicama is a volume-dense food that helps fill you up. It’s ideal for weight loss or maintenance.
Rich in antioxidants – Jicama contains the antioxidant vitamins C and E to boost your immune system and support healthy skin.
Anti-inflammatory – Nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E and oligofructose inulin have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation.
Regulates blood sugar – The fiber in jicama helps slow digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. The inulin may enhance insulin sensitivity as well.
Supports heart health – The fiber, antioxidants and nutrients in jicama can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Prebiotic – Jicama is a great source of prebiotics like inulin and oligofructose to feed the probiotics in your gut and support digestive health.
With this impressive nutritional profile, adding jicama into your diet can benefit your overall health in many ways. It’s an especially smart choice for anyone looking to lose weight or those with diabetes.
How to Choose and Store Jicama
When shopping for jicama, look for roots that feel heavy for their size with unblemished skin. Avoid jicama with moist, shriveled or cracked skin. The lighter brown and thinner the skin, the better. Thicker, rough skin denotes an older root with woody, fibrous flesh.
Store uncut jicama roots in a cool, dark place like the refrigerator produce drawer for 2-3 weeks. You can also keep jicama in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 5 weeks. Once peeled and cut, jicama should be eaten within a few days.
If you find the remaining jicama flesh is becoming dry, simply sprinkle it with water before storing in an airtight container.
How to Prepare and Cook Jicama
Jicama can be enjoyed raw or cooked. Raw jicama is often sliced into sticks or spears and served as a nutritious snack. It also makes a crunchy addition to fresh salads.
Before eating raw, the jicama’s brown skin should be thoroughly peeled off with a vegetable peeler or knife. Cut off the top and bottom ends, then stand the jicama on its widest stable side and slice downward to follow the shape. The off-white interior can then be sliced or chopped as desired.
When cooking jicama, peel first then cut into 1⁄2 inch cubes, slices or sticks. You can:
Roast – Toss cubed jicama with olive oil, salt and pepper then roast at 400°F for 25-30 minutes until browned and tender.
Sauté – Cook jicama sticks or slices in olive oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Season with spices.
Steam or boil – Add jicama chunks to boiling water or steam for 10-15 minutes until just tender.
Air fry – Coat chopped jicama in oil then cook in an air fryer at 400°F for 15 minutes, shaking halfway.
Stir fry – Add sliced or cubed jicama during the last 3-5 minutes of stir frying.
Jicama’s sweet flavor pairs well with seasonings like lime, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, garlic, ginger and sesame oil. It can be used as a lower-carb substitute for water chestnuts.
Delicious Jicama Recipes You Must Try
This versatile veggie is delicious eaten raw but it can also be cooked in endless ways. Here are a few tasty jicama recipes to add more of its crunchy goodness into your diet:
Thinly slice jicama and toss with oil, salt and chili powder. Bake at 425°F until crispy to make flavorful oven-baked fries. Serve with salsa and guacamole.
Shred jicama and red cabbage. Toss with lime juice, cilantro and a chili-seasoned yogurt dressing for a refreshing summer side.
Combine chopped jicama, mango, avocado, bell pepper and red onion. Top with lime vinaigrette for a sweet and savory salad.
Jicama Sticks with Garlic Lime Dip
Cut jicama into sticks and serve with a creamy dip made with sour cream, lime juice, garlic, cumin and cayenne.
Jicama and Fruit Salad
Mix diced jicama with your favorite fruits like pineapple, berries, orange and mint. Sweeten with a drizzle of honey.
Roasted Beet and Jicama Salad
Toss roasted beets with diced jicama, arugula, goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.
Jicama “Rice” Stir Fry
Use diced jicama instead of rice in your favorite stir fry recipe for a low-carb, veggie-packed meal.
With its crisp texture and versatility, jicama can be used in place of apples, water chestnuts or potatoes in any recipe. It’s delicious raw but also holds its shape well when roasted or sautéed.
Jicama is a nutritious and delicious root vegetable that should not be overlooked. This Mexican and Central American staple food offers an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as gut-healthy prebiotics.
With its juicy crunch, mild flavor and versatility in salads, slaws, stir fries and more, jicama is a smart addition to any healthy diet. Roasted or raw, jicama turns any dish into a fresh, nutritious treat.
So next time you’re browsing the produce aisles or local farmer’s market, be sure to grab a jicama root. Your body and tastebuds will thank you.