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April 14 2009

The Low-Carb Wonders of Jicama

By Mark Sisson
51 Comments

Jicama is that white, crispy tuberous root that the fruit cart guys always douse in chile power and lime and serve on a stick. The naturally-occurring oligofructose inulin lends it a slightly sweet flavor. It’s tasty, refreshing, and seemingly innocuous – but is it loaded with carbs? It seems a little carby, and I’ve mostly avoided it (a difficult task in Southern California where fruit carts beckon from every other street corner) for that very reason, but a couple reader comments have prompted an investigation.

If my informed, Primal readership was supporting jicama consumption, surely there was more to it.

A FitDay analysis reveals that a cup of jicama contains a relatively paltry 11.5 g carbohydrates (with 6.4 g being fiber), about equal to a carrot. For comparison’s sake, a cup of white potato contains 31.2 g of carbs. The other stats (49 calories, 0.12 g fat, 0.94 g protein) are inconsequential, and, except for vitamin C (44% of the daily allotment in a cup of jicama), it has only trace amounts of vitamins.

While it may not be a wealth of nutritional content, at least it’s not a source of cheap, simple carbs that will unleash a torrent of insulin to undermine your progress. Instead, it’s a simple, enjoyable foodstuff that can be used as a vehicle for dips, a crunchy addition to salads, or a substitute for traditional starches. It may not help provide nutrients, but it certainly won’t hurt you.

One reader, marci, suggested we use jicama as a “grain substitute: just chop it up, put it in yr food processor for a minute. Then put it into a colander and press down to extract excess water & voila – jicama ‘rice’!” while damaged justice suggests “slicing it thin, drizzling with olive oil and baking until brown and crispy around the edges.”

I can vouch for both of these recipes, with a few slight modifications. For the rice, I used a food dehydrator after pressing it in the colander. Just using the colander, I couldn’t seem to get enough water out. An hour in the dehydrator did the trick. If you’re in desperate need of “rice,” try Marci’s jicama rice – it’s tasty stuff. Went well with the coconut chicken curry I made the other day.

Damaged justice’s thinly sliced, oven roasted jicama was delicious, but I added a bit of salt and pepper in addition to the olive oil (although I bet he did too, I just wanted to mention it). The same slices also fried up nicely in a pan with butter. Try that method if you don’t have time to wait for the oven to heat up.

Jicama Hashed Browns

One of the foods I missed (and still do, to some extent) since going Primal years ago were hashed browns. Anything crispy, salty, and cooked in fat triggers the taste receptors, so even till this day I’ll occasionally steal a bite or two from a plate of hashed browns. Of course, eating them simply isn’t sustainable, but shredding some jicama, frying it up in fat, and salting it, I’ve found, is a pretty decent approximation of good hashed browns.

1 cup shredded jicama
2 tablespoons high heat fat (like bacon fat, tallow, or duck fat)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Slice your jicama and soak it in hot water overnight to soften. In the morning, remove the skins and shred the jicama in a food processor. Use the pulse function – you don’t want to pulverize it. Dry the shredded jicama (either using a colander or dehydrator) and heat your fat in a pan over medium heat. Form patties and pan fry. After about ten minutes, flip them and cook for another five. When they’re golden brown and crispy, they’re ready. Salt and pepper to taste. Delicious with bacon and eggs (fry the bacon first and use the fat for the browns). Jicama patties won’t stay together like potatoes, but don’t worry if they fall apart. Just add a few eggs and some cut up sausage and make it a scramble.

FitDay says the whole serving is:

297 calories
11.5g carbs (6.4g fiber)
1g protein
28g fat

Yet another low-carb addition to the Primal pantheon of culinary diversity, jicama is proving to be an interesting little root. Anyone else got any good jicama recipes?

Further Reading:

Alternatives to Grains? What About Quinoa?

Primal Pie Recipes – That’s Right. Pie.

Processed Soy and Meat Alternatives

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51 thoughts on “The Low-Carb Wonders of Jicama”

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  1. Sorry, Mark! I looked over my recipe last nite & saw that I forgot to add the dehydrating part. Duh! I’m glad you were on the ball. The “rice” is also nice with toasted pine nuts. Thanks for the above recipes, will try them soon. They sound like a good alterative when the starch-cravings strike.

  2. The wife and I make Jicima Hashbrowns ever now and then. Only problem with them is that no matter how I soak it, they always end up too sweet for my liking.

    The SoG

    p.s. that jicima in the picture looks like a loaf of bread lol.

  3. I’ve never tried jicama, but I’m thinkin I’m gonna pick some up on the way home from work today!

  4. I’ve got a confession to make: I still have hash-brown potatoes every Sunday morning. (Hey, at least the potato is diluted with a ton of bell pepper and onion, and with a buffalo burger plopped on top.)

    The jicama hash browns sound intriguing; I’ve got to give those a try. It never occurred to me that jicama could be cooked.

    On another subject, I’ve really gotten hooked on those coconut flour pancakes, although I’m using them more as a tortilla substitute than as pancakes.

  5. Honestly, I never heard of Jicima! I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in Germany and my dictionary doesn’t even have an entry for this.
    Gonna look up the wikipedia article about it now.

  6. mmmm, jicama slaws… also mixed with beets in a salad I had in Mexico. I have yet to dupilcate it at home however. There is a local tacqueria that has two different jicama slaws on their salsa bar. Just julienne and add cabbages, carrots, etc and “dress” however you like. You “primals” are soooo creative!

  7. Another quick and easy way to use it is in stiry fries. Try this: mix 1 clove of garlic, 1/4 pound jicama (peeled and sliced) and 2 tablespoons chopped red bell peppers. Add jicama mixture to 2 teaspoons olive oil in a skillet. Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon paprika, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper on top. Sautee for 5 minutes. You can make many of variations of this too!

  8. hi Mark, I have a question.

    I went to a reform house in search for the coconut oil, but I found something called “the coconut fat” also. The sales told me it’s just the same with the coconut oil in a jar, except for it’s more solid. Well it’s cheaper, it came out to be a little big more than 2 euros and it looks like a huge bar of white chocolate..
    are there differences?
    I noticed the “palm fat” (packaged like butter) wasn’t red, in fact it looks clear. I bought the oil in jar instead…

    since it’s a “reform house”, I assume they are all organic…

    btw I totally thought u wrote jamica …haha..but it looks like something that might have a similar crunchy taste like kohl rabbi

    1. I think “Kokosfett” is coconut oil. I’ve been using it as such, anyway.

      Reformhaus = health food store (Am.)

  9. @riceball
    Since you said “reform house”, I assume your German (I don’t know if it’s called like that anywhere else). If yes, wäre das ja mal ganz nett 😉

    I’m still struggling to find a store in my region that actually sells coconut oil. Haven’t looked for coconut fat yet, though, so this is kinda interesting to know for me aswell.

  10. MadMUHHH,
    I live in California and I’d never heard of jicama before today. Then again, before I went Primal I’d never heard of kale, quinoa, or bok choy either. In fact, the first time I bought bok choy, I accidentally bought rhubarb instead. I didn’t know I’d made rhubarb stir fry until someone else tried some.

  11. @Barry: Nice! 😀

    But it’s true, going primal definetly has increased my knowledge about all the different kind of fruit and especially vegetables by a lot.
    I have tried a lot of new things I never tried before and actually liked most of them. Except for celery, which I’m not a great fan of. I just ate it raw until now though.

  12. Mark – I know jicama as the Mexican potato. I used to take jicama strips as a snack when I did dialysis. [I received a kidney transplant in 1997]
    So, I have been off dialysis for 12 years.
    I love & still eat jicama.

  13. @ madMUHHH:
    as matter of fact, I AM in Germany! tho not German. =P

    I’m sure u could find coconut oil in most bio store or “reformhaus”. only that..instead of “kokonuss oil”, they are called “kokosoel’ ..which I found funny.

    oh..I found that “cocosfett” at the refrigerated area where butter and cheese are shelved. But the coconut oil in jars are on regular shelves along with other types of oil.

    good luck finding them =)

  14. I dishes I used to eat over rice or broccoli rice casseroles, I’ve used spaghetti squash that I cut up with scissors to make it shorter. It is still different from rice but it seems to work in place of it.

  15. Best cookware choices are definitely stainless steel and cast iron. I swear by my cast iron dutch oven and frying pans. Once a cast iron frying pan is properly seasoned (saute onions once or twice and you are done) they are better than teflon or any non-stick. Just do not wash with soap! Water and elbow grease only or you wash away the proper seasoning. Just dry the pans by heating them on the stove.

  16. I make home-fries(diced)with turnips and rutabegas. Never tried them “hash-browned” but I would like to.

  17. Very cool. Living in So. Cal too- just never seen jicama on a sidewalk cart. Must not live in the cool part of S. Cal! I will try vegetable roasted with olive oil. Love to trick my kids into telling them it’s french fries. Ha. They never complain.

  18. WOW, I’ve never seen or heard of Jicama.
    It sounds like something i’d really go for!

  19. Thanks for the info, I had been wondering what jicama was like. I guess I could have looked it up, but it was one of those things where I’d see it in the store and wonder, then forget about ten seconds later. Now I know what to do with it!

  20. Well I was introduced to Jicima this past weekend at a salad bar it was so refreshing and delightfull to eat I am diabetic and am looking for ways to play games with my brain so it will think I am eating what I am not supposed to,I will try the hashbrown method this weekend. Can anyone tell me if this is a starchy food?

  21. My wife makes a really great salad with Jicama and orange. She also puts some spices into the salad. She got this Egyptian spice blend called “Dukkah” from an online store called Juliet Mae Spices. The stuff is so good I sometimes eat it right from the package.

  22. wm1: I’ve never heard of dukkah before, so I googled it and found this recipe:

    Dukkah Recipe
    Selected headnotes: Egyptian street vendors sell small paper cones with the unique dukkah blend, along with strips of pita bread. Customers then dip the bread into the vendor’s bowl of olive oil and then their dukkah.

    1/2 cup hazelnuts
    1/4 cup coriander seeds
    3 tablespoons sesame seeds
    2 tablespoons cumin seeds
    1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    1 teaspoon fennel seeds
    1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
    1 teaspoon salt

    Heat a heavy skillet over high heat, add the hazelnuts, and dry-toast until slightly browned and fragrant, being careful that they don’t burn. Remove from the heat and cool completely. Repeat the procedure with each of the seeds and the peppercorns. Allow each of them to cool completely.

    Place the nuts and seeds, along with the mint and salt, into a mortar and pound until the mixture is crushed. Or pulse in a food processor to a coarse consistency; do not allow the mixture to become a paste.

    Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 month.
    *****
    I won’t be dipping any bread, of course, but this sounds like a great mix to experiment with on salads, soups, meat, etc. Thanks!

    1. What fun. I found Dukkah through Huf Post. Article about “Not eating out in NY”. She used Dukkah on a salad. It looked so good. I think she bought it from an online Juliet Mae Spices. Also the Australians have several recipes for dukkah too.

  23. I checked out the Juliet Mae Spices website. Everything looks good, but wow is it expensive! The dukkah is $15 for a 4-oz jar. That’s $60 a pound!

    The most expensive ingredient in the recipe is hazelnut, which I can buy for about $7 a pound.

    I already dry roast and grind up cumin seeds for other recipes, and it’s not difficult, so I’m definitely going to try this.

    If you google dukkah, you’ll come up with a bunch of different variations on the recipe, but this one looked typical.

  24. Yes the Juliet Mae Spices are expensive. I contacted the people about the cost and they were really nice about it. Can you really get organic hazelnuts for seven dollars a pound? Anyway, they hand make everything in small batches and were like “come watch the spices being made, then tell me its too expensive”. They are OK with being expensive and did not seem interested in compromising their quality. Also larger sizes are less expensive. Still, I am going to test their Indian style curry against some competitors for myself. I’ll let you know the results.

  25. Kohlrabi hash brown are far superior to jicama hash browns… just sayin’

  26. I love jicama hashbrowns, I’ve been making them for years…the recipe posted here is what I use most often. You can also mix in an egg, some chopped green onions and red pepper flakes and make a great jicama latke!

  27. I was introduced to jicama a couple years ago when a friend who eats raw food brought it as part of party veggie dip platter (her dip was made with almond butter and it was delightful). I’ve since eaten it fairly regularly by dipping it in nut butters. Today I made jicama hash browns for the first time. I didn’t do any soaking or drying, so they were a bit mushier than regular hash brown. And I added chopped onions to the mix, frying it in coconut oil (to find that stuff go to a health food store or your local organic market). I ate the hash browns with some fried eggs and WOW, it was so delicious!!

  28. As always, thanks for the wealth of knowledge, Mark! We recently bought your cookbook and have been enjoying your recipes.

  29. I’ve used raw jicama slices in place of chips and crackers for dips like salsa and guacamole for years. Discovered it in Mexico back in the 80’s when it was often served as a salad sliced and drizzled with lime juice.

    And, despite few people having heard of it, it’s available in ordinary supermarkets everywhere — betterways.

  30. I LOVE raw jicama dipped In guacamole and salsa. It’s mild enough, and it has the crunch I miss, but it’s lower carb than tortilla chips and also lacking all those nasty vegetable oils.

  31. I like jicama coz this is crunchy, I snack it like a carrot,is this good in our health, thanks let me know.

  32. I had some pickled jicama at a restaurant that served it in a salad and it was excellent. It wasn’t fully sour and had a nice spicy flavor. I thought it was an interesting take on jicama; which retained the same crunch as raw jicama yet had the added fermented flavor boost. I’m not sure what they fermented it in, but gave it a shot tonight and made a batch with celeriac skin, fennel stalks & greens, black cardamom, pink & black peppercorns, and coriander seeds (using saltwater fermentation, with some smoked sea salt added as well).

  33. We made nachos out of one and it was AWESOME. We were really light on the cheese, and heavy on the goodies. It was awesome

  34. mandolin-sliced jicama soaked in chili water makes for an excellent taco shell substitute as well.

  35. I also do a variation of Jicama hash browns, I shred the jicama, then boil it a salted water for about 10 min, drain really well…mix in a bowl with sour cream, shredded cheese, salt pepper and diced cooked bacon…Then spread into a casserole dish, top with more cheese and bake! Yum….

  36. I like to cut the jimica into match-stick size and add a bunch of chopped cilantro, a bit of garlic salt and then a small drizzle of honey and a big splash of lime juice. Nice by itself or as a topper for grilled Mahi Mahi.
    I just added it, diced small, to my latest batch of Pico de Giallo ( spelling?! ) gave it a great crunch!

  37. We just tried Jicama for the first time earlier this month. We slice it as thin as possible with a chef’s knife. if thin enough it can be bent like a taco shell (thicker is fine too as a tostada-type shell)–so our primal taco night now has a vehicle for the taco meat and toppings to ride upon (as opposed to our Chipotle-style salads)

  38. I slice jicama thin and fry in oil, then dust with either a barbecue dry rub or a mix of salt, garlic powder, cayenne, cumin, etc. Makes a damned good chip. I really miss that crunch. Carrots don’t have the same feel as a salty fried crispy chip!

  39. Question for Mark or any one else:

    Doesn’t heating the jicama raise the glycemic load from the conversion of
    starches to sugars?

    I love raw jicama stix and eat them at work several times a week, but have avoided eating roasted or cooked Jicama for this reason.

    I know raw carrots more than double their glycemic load after being cooked.

    Thoughts?

  40. HI Mark

    I love raw jicama, bringing jicama stix to work several times a week.
    However, never have eaten if cooked. Doesn’t the starches covert to
    sugars while cooking it, just like potatoes, plantains and carrots?

    Carrots’ glycemic load more than doubles when cooking.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks in Advance!!

  41. Mmmmm, I love jicama. My favorite way to eat it is to cut it in strips and dip it in raw zucchini hummus. Any time I do a crudite and dip, jicama features prominently on the platter. My only issue is that I sometimes have a hard time stopping at a low-carb serving.