How to Cook with Yacon

Sharon Palmer

Learn how to cook with yacon, an exotic, healthy root vegetables from the Andes in South America.

I recently got to try yacon for the first time, and I couldn’t wait to get experimenting with this exotic vegetable. This vegetable traditionally comes from the Andes region of South America, where it has been cultivated more than a thousand years. While there are many varieties in South America—yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple flesh with unique flavors—in North America, we have white fleshed varieties. A tuberous root, yacon looks like a sweet potato, yet the vegetable beneath that rugged brown skin is sweet, moist, and crunchy—like jicama or water chestnuts.

Yacon, sliced open to reveal creamy yellow flesh.

Yacon is a close relative of the sunflower or sunchoke. Its name, a derivation of the Inca’s original language, means water root, referring to the high water content of this tuber. When crushed, yacon can make a subtly sweet juice, which is said to have quenched the thirst of ancient Incan travelers. High in fiber and low calorie, yacon also contains special natural sugars that act as prebiotics. These sugars, called inulin, aren’t easily broken down in the body, aiding digestion and promoting growth of good bacteria in the gut.

Relatively new to the global market, yacon is becoming more available and it is increasingly gaining status as a functional food due to its many powerful plant compounds in its leaves and root. These compounds are being studied for their anti-cancer, antioxidative, antidiabetic, anti-obesity, and weight management properties. In a 2019 review of studies published in the journal Nutrients, researchers report that yacon roots have been proven to have antidiabetic effects and have been shown to be effective in the reduction of body weight, fat, and waist circumference.  

Growing in popularity, there are now yacon products, including herbal tea, powder, and syrup. It may not be easy to find yacon—or yacon products—in the U.S., but if you do, give it a try!

Yacon, up close and personal.

There are not a lot of recipes available for yacon, but that’s what makes it so interesting and fun! Although I have seen some uses for yacon in curry and stew type dishes, my research led me to note that the vegetable is most commonly enjoyed raw. It’s really easy to prepare yacon—just peel off the brown skin with a paring knife or vegetable peeler and shred it or chop it into dishes, such as salads and slaws. It’s also delicious in a crudité platter, like you would serve jicama. Yacon quickly discolors when exposed to air, so a squeeze of lemon or other citrus can slow the process.

Yacon Kale Citrus Salad

I spent some time thinking about what flavors suited the mildly sweet, juicy yacon, as well as ingredients found in its native land, before settling upon my recipe creation, which is easy and healthy, too. Flavors of citrus, mint, fennel, pumpkin seeds, and cumin blend into this crunchy salad.

 

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Yacon Kale Citrus Salad (Vegan, Gluten-Free)


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  • Author: The Plant-Powered Dietitian
  • Prep Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 12 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x

Description

Learn how to cook with yacon, this exotic, healthy root vegetable from the Andes.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 yacon, peeled, sliced into matchstick strips
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup baby kale leaves
  • 3 mandarin oranges, segmented (may substitute with 1 cup canned, drained)
  • 3 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh fennel fronds
  • ¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place sliced yacon in a medium salad bowl.
  2. Immediately drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and toss together to prevent from browning.
  3. Add kale, oranges, mint, fennel fronds, pumpkin seeds, garlic, cumin, black pepper and sea salt (optional). Toss together well.
  4. Chill until serving time.

  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: South American

Keywords: vegan salad, yacon salad, yacon

For other How-To Cooking Guides, check out:

How to Cook with Stinging Nettles
How to Make Homemade Seitan
How to Cook with Fresh Cranberries

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