Why Jicama is the Versatile Veggie You Need to Be Eating Right Now

2019_Jicama

When it comes to shopping for vegetables, it can be tough to think outside the grocery cart (whether it’s a physical one or online). We mindlessly drop the same ones in—kale, carrots, tomatoes, zucchini—and repeat next week. While these are certainly nutritional all-stars, there’s a whole world of lesser known but equally tasty and healthful veggies out there. 

Enter: jicama, a versatile root vegetable that’s full of flavor and fiber. We dug up the best ways to buy, prep and cook it:

What is jicama? 

Pronounced HEE-kah-ma, jicama is a root vegetable (more specifically, a tuber) that’s native to Mexico, says Freshly nutritionist Emily Navarro, RDN. It’s tough, bark-like skin gives way to a softer white flesh on the inside that’s surprisingly crisp and juicy. “If an apple and a potato could have a baby, it would taste like jicama,” says Navarro. Others describe it as a cross between an apple and a water-chestnut. 

What are the health benefits of jicama?

Jicama is loaded with fiber, specifically inulin, a prebiotic fiber that helps feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, says Navarro. Just one cup of jicama packs 6 grams of fiber and only 50 calories. Jicama is also a good source of vitamin C with one cup providing 40 percent of the vitamin C you need each day (similar to what you’d get from the same amount of tomatoes). 

Where can you buy jicama? 

You can find jicama in the produce section of most well-stocked supermarkets and at specialty stores (especially Latin American markets). Choose a firm jicama that’s free of blemishes.

How do you eat jicama? 

Jicama can be eaten raw and cooked, says Navarro. You can slice it into matchsticks for a cool, crunchy snack, or dice it up to throw into salsas and salads. You can also add it to stir-fries (like you would any other veg), or bake it into jicama chips or fries (jicama has less than half the calories and carbs as potatoes, making it a smart swap!). 

Be sure to remove the tough, brown skin before eating. “A vegetable peeler may not be sturdy enough to do the job, so grab your chef’s knife and cut off the top and bottom to form a flat surface,” says Navarro. “With the jicama sitting upright, follow the rounded edge with the knife to remove the skin.”

How can you use jicama to make healthy meals? 

One of Navarro’s favorite ways is to turn it into fries or chips. For fries: cut jicama into ¼” strips, toss with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper (plus any other spices you love like chili powder), bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, flipping after 30 minutes. To make jicama chips, use the same technique, but use thinly sliced jicama and bake for 30 minutes, or until crisp. Here are a few other tasty ideas:

  • Eat it like they do in Mexico or Central America: Give raw slices a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and sprinkle with chile powder for a crunchy, spicy snack.
  • Turn it into crudite: Slice jicama sticks on Sunday and eat them all week as a grab-n-go snack. Dunk them in guacamole instead of tortilla chips for a fraction of the calories (and more nutrients, too!)
  • Make jicama tacos: Ditch the tortilla and turn jicama into a grain-free taco shell. Use a mandolin to thinly slice, brush lightly with oil, and cook in a skillet for about 1 minute per side or until soft. 
  • Serve up a slaw: Shred jicama and cabbage to make a crunchy, colorful slaw and serve it with fish like we do in our Baja Mahi Mahi meal. Or, mix jicama with shredded apples and red onion, and dress it with lime juice and a touch of honey to serve alongside a savory roast turkey breast.