These baked yuca fries are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The creamy cilantro sauce is tangy, herbaceous, and ridiculously addictive! (This recipe has been updated from its original November 2018 version).
I first discovered yuca fries – and yuca in general – at one of my favorite restaurants here in NYC. They serve all the greatest hits of Cuban cuisine, make a mean mojito, and sometimes feature a live salsa band, too. In a nutshell, this place is just the freakin’ greatest.
Yuca (a.k.a. cassava or manioc) is a mild-tasting, starchy root vegetable native to South America as well as parts of Asia and Africa. It presents as a large, somewhat irregularly-shaped brown stalk with bark-line skin. Underneath, yuca has a hard white flesh that’s not unlike a potato or parsnip’s. When cooked, yuca becomes creamy and absolutely delicious – again, like a potato.
Yuca (pronounced YOO-kah) happens to make the most delicious fries (yuca frita in Spanish), which are commonly served in Cuban restaurants as a side dish and appetizer, alongside a garlicky cilantro dipping sauce. This is my homestyle – and slightly healthier! – version of the dish, where I bake the fries instead of deep-frying.
A Few Notes on Ingredients…
- Yuca Look for firm, evenly-colored yuca without dark spots or mold on the ends. Yuca is available at many supermarkets, as well as in Asian or South American markets. You may also find it in the frozen vegetables aisle! Frozen yuca will work just as well here.
- Cooking Oil Use any neutral-flavored cooking oil you have on-hand. My favorites are avocado, organic canola, and refined coconut oils.
- Mayonnaise You can use conventional or vegan mayo for this sauce. For a healthier alternative, substitute the mayo with vegan yogurt!
- Cilantro Cilantro gives this sauce an unmistakably vibrant, green, grassy flavor that I can’t get enough of. If you’re a cilantro-hater, substitute with basil, dill, mint, and/or parsley.
- Lime Feel free to substitute with lemon.
How to Peel Yuca
Yuca is much firmer than a potato. You’ll definitely need a sharp chef’s knife – plus patience and plenty of elbow grease – to get the job done.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the yuca stalk into 2 or 3 pieces. (When you cut into it, the flesh should be white; if you see brown spots or detect an unpleasant acidic aroma, the yuca has gone bad and should be thrown away.)
- Working with 1 piece at a time, stand the piece upright on a flat side, and carefully slice off the skin, turning the piece as you go. Repeat with each piece.
- Cut the peeled pieces lengthwise into 4 batons to reveal a woody core (you may not see it, but it is there). Slice away a thin piece of the core and discard it.
- Cut each resulting baton into French fry shapes.
How to Make Baked Yuca Fries
You’ll start these fries by putting the cut-up yuca in a pot with water and bringing them to a boil. The yuca needs to simmer for about 5 minutes, just until it’s cooked about halfway through.
Next, you’ll drain the yuca and let it stand to dry out for a few minutes. When the yuca no longer looks wet, you’ll toss it with a bit of oil and salt.
Finally, you’ll arrange the yuca on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until the fries are golden brown and crisp, 20 to 30 minutes. It’s super important to bake these in a single layer so each fry has a chance to crisp up; if they’re too crowded, the fries will steam and become mushy instead.
A note on safety: yuca should never be eaten raw. The yuca sold here in the US contains small amounts of natural cyanide that’s safely neutralized when yuca is cooked until tender.
How to Make the Cilantro Dipping Sauce
While the yuca is in the oven, make the sauce. This tangy cilantro-lime dip is super simple to make: you just combine mayo, cilantro, garlic, and lime juice in a blender (or Vitamix, Nutribullet) and blend until smooth!
If you can’t find yuca but are still intrigued by this technique, just use potatoes! I’d skip peeling them, though, and roast them for a bit less time than yuca.
If you like these yuca fries, you should also check out…
- Pan-Fried Plantains with Cilantro-Lime Cashew Cream
- Enoki Mushroom “Carnitas” Tacos
- Black Bean Burritos with Mango Salsa and Guacamole
- Creamy Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce
These baked yuca fries are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The creamy cilantro sauce is tangy, herbaceous, and ridiculously addictive!
For the Yuca Fries
- 2 large stalks yuca (about 3 1/2 pounds)
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- About 3 tablespoons neutral-tasting oil, like avocado, canola, or refined coconut
For the Dip
- 1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
- 3/4 cup vegan or conventional mayo
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1 medium garlic clove
- Fine sea salt, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Prep the yuca. Using a sharp knife, cut each stalk into 2 or 3 pieces. (See Note 1) Working with 1 piece at a time, stand the piece upright on a flat side, and carefully slice off the skin, turning the piece as you go. Repeat with each piece. Cut the peeled pieces lengthwise into 4 batons to reveal a woody core (you may not see it, but it is there). Slice away a thin piece of the core and discard it. Cut each resulting baton into French fry shapes.
- Place the yuca in a pot with 1 teaspoon salt and add enough water to cover by about 2 inches. Cover tightly with a lid, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer with the lid ajar until the yuca is just starting to cook through but is not yet soft, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and let the yuca stand for 5 minutes to dry.
- Place the yuca back in the pot where you boiled it and drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of oil and season with a generous pinch of salt. Toss to coat evenly and arrange on a large baking sheet in a single layer. (See Note 2) Roast until the fries are golden brown, about 25 minutes, flipping the fries once halfway through baking.
- Meanwhile, make the dip. In a blender, combine 1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems (See Note 3), 3/4 cup mayo, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1 medium garlic clove, and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Chill until ready to serve.
- Serve the fries immediately with the dip.
1. When you cut into it, the flesh should be white; if you see brown spots or detect an unpleasant acidic aroma, the yuca has gone bad and should be thrown away.
2. If all the fries don’t fit on one baking sheet, divide them among 2 sheets and rotate the sheets halfway through cooking.
3. If you don’t like cilantro, substitute with basil, dill, mint, and/or parsley.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of the recipe
- Calories: 311
Keywords: yuca, baked fries, cilantro dip