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What is Jicama?

Getty: Kae horng Mau

Meet jicama, the amazing root vegetable that no one's talking about. Packed with potent health perks, delicious crunch, and nutty flavor, this humble tuber deserves a round of applause. 

Jicama (HEE-kah-ma), sometimes referred to as yam bean, Mexican turnip, or Mexican potato, is an edible root vegetable native to Mexico. In the United States, it's less common, and can be intimidating to those who've never cooked with it. There's no need to fear this tasty, nutrient-dense tuber—jicama's mild flavor and satisfying crunch lends it to a myriad of culinary uses. In Central America, jicama is often sold by street vendors and commonly eaten raw, and seasoned with lemon or lime juice and chili powder.

The vines of the jicama plant can grow up to 20 feet in length, but the leaves and seeds are actually toxic. The root is the only edible portion of the entire plant—the tough brown skin that gives way to juicy, white flesh on the inside. The flavor is sweet and starchy—think of a cross between a water chestnut and an apple.

Is Jicama Healthy?

You bet—in fact, many consider jicama a superfood, equating it with kale, acai berries, and quinoa. Jicama, along with sunchokes, packs a prebiotic called inulin, a big contributor to a healthier gut. In addition, jicama is rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Lastly, jicama is naturally low in calories, making it a smart starchy substitute for those watching their weight.

See More: 6 Ways to Take Good Care of Your Microbiome

How to Buy Jicama:

Find jicama year-round in the produce section of most supermarkets and Latin American markets. Select firm, dry jicama roots. The skin should not appear shriveled, bruised, or blemished. Once purchased, keep jicama unpeeled in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

How to Cook with Jicama:

To prep jicama before cooking, remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, then cut the white flesh into cubes or strips with a sharp knife. No need to worry about oxidizing—jicama does not brown or become soggy after cutting. Slice raw jicama into batons for crudité platters, salads, and even sushi rolls. Quick-cooking methods such as grilling or stir-frying allow jicama to maintain its crispness—try tossing it in a wok full of veggies or mark it on the grill for char.

Now that you know how to use it, try these top recipes that showcase versatile jicama: