Yuca (cassava) and potatoes are fantastic root vegetables. What could be better than crispy and flaky yuca fries, thinly sliced and crunchy potato chips, or a fresh batch of french fries? These vegetables are also used in traditional dishes like Cuban yuca en mojo sauce or a rich Colombian sancocho.
While cassava and potatoes are similar, raw cassava is less widely available than potatoes. Cassava root is a tropical climate starch mostly consumed in South America.
However, things are changing. I’ve noticed an increasing number of supermarkets, including Whole Foods, stocking cassava chips in the snack aisle.
Cassava is a great gluten-free option with many health benefits, so slowly but surely, cassava is gaining popularity, even as a snack food.
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What Is Cassava (Yuca)?
Cassava or cassava root, also called yuca and not to be confused with yucca (totally different, we’ll get into that soon), is a starchy root vegetable incredibly popular in tropical regions. Like potato, yuca is a starchy tuber and gluten-free, perfect for those with gluten sensitivity seeking gluten-free alternatives.
It’s important to highlight that it’s essential to cook it well. Raw yuca contains cyanogenic glycosides, a naturl compound that can release cyanide.
Acute cyanide poisoning can lead to dizziness, vomiting, and headaches, and perhaps even worse. This is a natural protection against wild predators, so peeling, soaking, and cooking yuca properly is critical.
Different cassava varieties, including bitter varieties of cassava, have a higher concentration of cyanogenic glycosides than sweet cassava.
Potato: The Global Staple
There’s perhaps a much smaller number of people unfamiliar with potatoes, be it french fries, mashed potatoes, or baked potatoes; potato is a wildly delicious and versatile staple food. It’s great for people with celiac disease or on a gluten-free diet because it’s gluten-free.
Cassava vs Potato – Are They Similar or Different?
At first glance, you might think that yuca and potatoes are the same. Let’s highlight their differences and similarities below.
Starchy and Carby
Both are carby and starchy tubers. However, cassava, the edible starchy root, has potatoes beat. Cassava is denser and higher in carbs. Of course, when looking at potatoes, there are so many different potatoes that this will vary from potato to potato.
But overall, 100g of uncooked cassava has 38g of carbs, red potatoes have 15g, and white potatoes have roughly 17g of carbs. Carbs are important for energy production, so it’s common to see these starchy root vegetables consumed for long-term energy.
For example, a russet potato has a different nutritional value than a red potato. But all in all, potatoes have more water content than cassava, which contributes to their high starch content.
This needs to take into account the preparation method. Once cooked or fried, the nutritional value changes.
Potatoes are widely available in local supermarkets, including as a packaged food item made by popular brands. But cassava is less popular than potato chips and is rarely available in the snack aisle.
If you’re looking for cassava, it can be found in Latin or International supermarkets, the international freezer aisle, and specialty stores.
Both Are Gluten-Free
Both are gluten-free and are included in many gluten-free flours. Cassava is turned into a fine powder, then into cassava flour, and mixed with other gluten-free flour, like tapioca starch, to achieve a similar texture as white or whole wheat flour.
Fun fact: according to nutritional data, potatoes and cassava root are an excellent source of vitamin C . I’ve laid out a nutritional comparison chart below, which outlines the difference in nutrition profile between cassava, red potatoes, and white potatoes, based on 100g, uncooked.
Both potatoes and cassava are also good sources of resistant starch, which is highly valuable for digestive health and a healthy gut.
What is Yucca? And How is it Different From Yuca (Cassava)?
Yucca is a perennial shrub and ornamental. It’s not consumed. Yuca, on the other hand, comes from a tropical tree and is consumed.
Buy frozen yuca, and allow it to soak in water, then boil before frying.
Sauces To Serve With Yuca Fries and Potatoes
Does cassava taste like potatoes?
Cassava has a much more neutral flavor than potatoes. Cassava is also denser and starchier than potatoes, with a lighter texture. Yuca (cassava) also has a tough core that’s stringy and inedible.