Yucca and cassava—it seems like there is a hot debate rising regarding the differences and similarities between these two ingredients. In fact, there is even a debate about whether they are different ingredients at all!
Luckily, that’s where we come in. We have spent hours researching exactly what these ingredients are and whether or not they are different.
So, are yucca and cassava the same ingredient? In short, they are not. Yucca is often confused with another name for cassava, “yuca”. Note the difference in spelling. Yucca is an almost completely inedible plant, with only some species having edible flours. Cassava on the other hand is a very versatile ingredient that can be processed as a fresh ingredient or as a powder. It has a multitude of uses and even functions in cooking.
In today’s jam-packed article, we will be having an in-depth look at exactly what yucca and cassava are. Then, we will explore their similarities, differences, and whether or not they are interchangeable.
And, as an added bonus, we have included some ways you can prepare and use these ingredients.
What Is Cassava?
Let’s start with the better known of these two, cassava. Cassava is also known as “yuca”.
But, this shouldn’t be confused with “yucca” which we are discussing today.
Because these names are so similar, it causes a ton of confusion amongst users and is precisely why cassava isn’t labeled as “yuca” at all.
Cassava belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family. The cassava root is what people are after when cultivating this plant. This root is relatively long and tapered.
It measured between roughly 2 to 4-inches in diameter and up to 12-inches in length (and this is only commercial cultivars). Its white flesh is very firm and it is surrounded by thick fibrous skin.
There are two main varieties of cassava root that you can find worldwide. This includes sweet cassava root and bitter cassava root.
Naturally, the sweet variety is much easier to find and what you will most likely come across at your farmers market or even grocery store.
The flavor of cassava root is mainly determined by the preparation and cooking methods used. Sweet cassava root has a naturally nutty flavor that does come through when using simple cooking techniques, like steaming the root.
Bitter cassava is almost always processed into a fine powder called cassava flour. This flour is also more commonly referred to as cassava starch or tapioca flour.
So, you mainly get fresh cassava roots and cassava flour (aka tapioca flour). Both of these forms have very different characteristics and are used in completely different ways.
Cassava root is used in very similar ways as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and other tuber-like root vegetables.
The main difference between cassava root and most other commercial ones is that the skin isn’t edible. It has to be removed completely.
Then, the root can be further processed. It can be roasted, boiled, simmer, or grilled. You can also deep-fry this vegetable or pickle it if you’d like. Whatever you can do with a potato, you can do with cassava root.
Now, tapioca flour and starch (different products) are very interesting cassava-based products. Cassava flour is made from dried bitter cassava roots. Tapioca starch is made from the dried root but only consists of the extracted starch.
Tapioca flour is a fantastic gluten-free flour alternative and can be used in similar ways. The starch can also be used in various ways. It can be used as a thickening agent, just like cornflour.
Furthermore, tapioca flour is used to produce loads of other products such as pearl tapioca balls and boba balls.
These roots are extremely high in lots of vitamins and minerals, making them a staple ingredient in many South American countries.
It also contains large amounts of carbohydrates, making it a popular staple like maize, potatoes, and rice.
A very important note! Cassava has to be cooked and cannot be eaten raw. This root contains high levels of cyanogenic glucosides and is poisonous if consumed raw.
The heat (from being cooked) helps break down and destroy the toxins.
But, when cooked it is a very nutritious ingredient. It is low in protein, fat, and fiber, but contains large amounts of carbs.
Oh, and did we mention it is completely gluten and grain-free? This makes it an excellent alternative to gluten products, especially the flour-form.
It is also extremely high in vitamin C, copper, thiamine, folate, and other minerals. Its extremely high vitamin C content helps promote loads of antioxidants and supports collagen production and boosts your immune system.
Preparation And Uses
This root vegetable has to be peeled before being used. The skin is completely inedible. However, once peeled, the root can be cut or grated and cooked in any way that you’d like.
You can choose from a wide variety of cooking methods including roasting, grilling, steaming, boiling, frying, or simmering—yes, that’s basically any cooking method you can think of!
You can even marinate the cassava root before cooking it to help add more flavor.
When it comes to using tapioca flour, you can use it like any other flour. Tapioca starch (the starchy version) can be used as a thickening agent. You can use it exactly like you would corn flour.
Simply make a slurry using the starch and liquid. This, slowly add your liquid base to it while whisking. Make sure to bring the mixture to a simmer before removing it from the heat. This will help cook out the starchy flavor.
What Is Yucca?
Yucca is very similar to cassava, but it comes from the Asparagaceae family.
The plant itself looks extremely similar to the Cassava plant.
The main difference being the Yucca plants it mostly inedible.
Only some species have edible flowers, fruits, and seeds.
Many people confuse yucca roots with cassava roots (yuca roots). For this reason, confusion about the edibility of these roots has arisen.
We won’t really be discussing the unused parts of the yucca plant, including the roots. First, the entire yucca plant has sword-like leaves and panicles of white waxy flowers.
These flower petals are often used as garnishes for dishes in Central America.
Then, the spiky leaves are often dried and used to start fires. The root of soaptree yucca (a species) is often used as a shampoo in Native American rituals.
Forms And Nutrition
Because virtually only the flowers of some yucca species are edible, it’s the only version of this plant you can use.
When it comes to the nutritional value of yucca flowers, there isn’t much scientifically proven information on them.
They are possibly high in carbohydrates and vitamins like vitamin B and C. It is also said that they are rich in iron and calcium.
When it comes to eating the flowers, you have to prepare them first. Only the petals are edible, so you shouldn’t eat the “core” or stem of the flower. Make sure to pick the petals first and wash them properly.
Yucca petals are very flavorful, but older flowers develop a bitter taste. They are firm and slightly crunchy. Their taste is very similar to green beans and the inner leaves of an artichoke.
These petals can then be used as a garnish or added to dishes like omelets, scrambled eggs, stews, and soups. You can also coat the petals in a tempura batter and deep-fry them. This way they will also add an interesting crispy texture.
What’s The Difference Between Yucca And Cassava?
First and foremost, these are entirely different plants. The cassava plant belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family while the yucca plant belongs to the Asparagaceae family.
While both these plants look similar, they still have differences, especially when it comes to the edible parts.
Cassava root is edible whereas yucca flowers (of some species) are the only edible part. Naturally, roots are much more versatile in use than flowers.
So, cassava can produce fresh vegetables (the roots), cassava flour, and other tapioca products (like tapioca pearls and boba balls).
And, being different plants and even different parts of a plant, they have different flavors. Cassava roots and flour have a slightly nutty flavor. Yucca flowers have a more earthy flavor that resembles green beans and asparagus leaves.
Furthermore, cassava roots and products have scientifically-backed nutritional data and health benefits.
This includes containing high amounts of starch, vitamin C, and folate. Yucca flowers (again, the only edible part) don’t have proven nutritional benefits.
These two edible ingredients are also prepared in very different ways. Cassava root has to be peeled and cooked to be consumed. Yucca flowers have to be washed, but can be eaten raw or cooked.
But again, cassava has more variety in preparation and cooking methods as compared to the flowers, which are mostly used as garnishes.
What Are The Similarities Between Yucca And Cassava?
There are virtually no similarities between yucca and cassava, especially when it comes to the edible parts of these plants. Remember, people confuse yucca with “yuca”, the alternative name for cassava.
So, you will find many articles stating they “they both are roots” and “both are gluten-free”, but again, this is due to the confusion regarding the name.
And, because yucca has virtually no similar edible parts as the cassava plant, there are no similarities.
Are Yucca And Cassava Interchangeable?
The edible parts of these plants aren’t interchangeable. This is because the fresh edible form of cassava is a root while the fresh edible form of yucca is a flower.
And, the processed form of cassava is a powder (flour or starch). Yucca flowers don’t have a powder form and therefore cannot be used as a substitute.
How To Use Cassava Root In Cooking
Cassava root is very versatile, even in its fresh form. Remember, you have to peel the tough outer skin because of the toxins the skin contains.
To peel this root vegetable, you will have to use a knife (this one’s our favorite for peeling cassava). Most peelers are too flimsy and small to easily remove the brown fibrous skin of the root.
First, slice the root in half and remove both ends. Then, turn the root as you slice the skin off using a sharp chef’s knife or even a paring knife.
Once peeled, many people recommend soaking the root (sliced or whole) in cold water to help remove the toxins. There isn’t any scientific proof that this step is needed or helps at all. What is known however is that the root has to be cooked.
The cassava root can also first be marinated to help add flavor to it and make it more tender. A garlic and olive oil dressing works great and helps keep the slight nuttiness this vegetable has.
You can boil these roots and make a delicious mash. Or, you can steam them to keep their nutrients as much as possible. You can also use an en papillote technique and steam the vegetables with aromatics to add more flavor.
Here’s a quick handy video covering how to cook en papillote!
Furthermore, these roots can be added to stews and soups to simmer and cook in that way. Their nutty flavor is often lost to the other ingredients in these dishes. But, their nutrients remain.
You can also slice them and either make roasted fries or deep-fried ones. You can even make fried cassava root rounds.
How To Use Cassava Flour And Tapioca Starch
Cassava flour (tapioca flour) is very commonly used to make unleavened flatbreads. In Venezuela, an ancient flatbread is still made by its indigenous people called casaba.
You can also use tapioca starch to make this flatbread. These ingredients are used in combination with freshly pulped roots.
In Western parts of the world, both tapioca flour and tapioca starch are used as gluten-free alternatives to wheat products. The flour shouldn’t be used as a one-to-one substitution.
Because of the high amounts of starch tapioca flour contains (even if it isn’t pure starch), it will create dense products.
Now that we’ve gone over the key differences between yucca and cassava, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
What is a good cassava substitute?
You can use any other root vegetable as a substitute for cassava root. These vegetables have similar characteristics and will cook in the same ways, only their cooking times will differ slightly.
For cassava flour, you can choose virtually any other gluten-free flour with a similar texture (fine powder).
This can include arrowroot flour, coconut flour, chickpea flour, or even rice flour. Just make sure how to substitute these ingredients with each other.
What is a yucca flower substitute?
There isn’t one specific substitute for yucca flowers. You can use virtually any type of edible flour you can find.
However, if you are looking for something to deep-fry as well, zucchini flowers work well and so do squash flowers.
Is yacon the same as yuca (cassava)?
Yacon is also a tuber but doesn’t come from the same plant. It is a very popular ingredient that is commonly processed into flour, syrup, jam, beverage, chips, and juice.
It is arguably a lot more versatile than yuca (cassava) as it can also be eaten raw and cooked.
Is jam the same ingredient as cassava (yuca)?
Jam is yet another root vegetable, but again, it isn’t related to the cassava plant. Just by looks, jams have a more purple-like pink color with a much smoother skin.
It also has different nutrients and can be used in a wider variety of ways than cassava root can.