Yuca & Pumpkin Tacos

Boy, am I glad to be back! Yes it was wonderful to see my sister get married, but man, what a week.  Lot’s, and lots of running around.  The weather was just beautiful.  Crisp fresh air, nice afternoons and chilly nights. It was great to take a break from the usual and visit our local food spots .

I sure do miss that food, got a few dishes I wanna try to recreate here. Maybe I’ll have my sister bring me some yummy treats if she comes for Thanksgiving. So now that I’m back, let me share with you what I have been saving.  I made these tacos on a whim two Saturdays ago. And, I’ve been thinking about these tacos since I made them.  They were so delicious, filling, and refreshing. I can become a vegetarian with meals like this.

Now, what’s Yuca (you-ca) ??? It’s a white starchy root vegetable, native to South America and the Caribbean.  It’s fibrous, yet tender, kind of like a potato. Although when you peel them it’s a tough root, sort of like peeling a pumpkin.  Now once you boil them, they become soft.  If you mash and add some butter it’s like fibrous mashed potatoes.  I promise you that you may be able to pass them off for potatoes, my friend used to do that with her daughter when she was small.  She would only eat mashed potatoes and chicken.

One time, she was at my house and all I had was yuca.  We boiled it, added butter and served it to her daughter.  Convinced her it was potatoes, she was 5 at the time.  Although, she kept asking if she was eating potatoes, but after a few minutes of convincing she bought it .

Since I’m hispanic, I’ve been eating yuca since I was small.  As much as I love it just boiled in some salt water, and served next to a fried egg.  Combining yuca with pumpkin and mexican spices was just divine. Seriously,  I you get two textures that work well together. Darn good tacos .

Yuca & Pumpkin Tacos

  • 1 large yuca root (or a packet of frozen yuca)
  • 1 packet of small tortillas
  • 1/2 lb fresh uncooked pumpkin
  • (12 0z) queso fresco
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 jar pickled jalapeños sliced
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • olive oil

*serves about 2 or 3 depending how hungry you are
Let me show you how to peel that yuca.  You need a sharp small knife, you can use a large chopping knife but you have to be very careful.  You will be peeling the yuca towards you, so any mishap will slice off a finger.  You first need to chop off the ends of the yuca, usually just an inch or two. Once that’s chopped, grab the yuca firmly at the end with one hand as it rests on the chopping board. Using the knife, hold the yuca as you place one swift chop on the center of the yuca.  This should chop the yuca root in half. If it’s still slightly together, to avoid using the knife, just hold the yuca with both hands and hit it against your knee.

Now, that it’s in half, using your knife you will peel it. Hold the yuca with one hand and slowly slide the knife against the meat of the yuca and the skin.

remove a few strips of the skin, until you can place the knife against the meat and just push the skin off.  The easy thing about yuca is that you once you remove a few strips of the skin, it is removed easily as you push against it.

As you see in the photo above, I’ve pushed back some of the skin.  The skin is 3 layers: Rough brown waxed bark like skin, then comes pink skin (small piece on the yuca seen here), and then a layer of white skin.

You have peeled it correctly when you see the white layer of skin on the peel.  If you see any pink after it’s peeled, run the knife across it to remove. Now some parts of the yuca maybe “bad”. These parts will usually look gray in color and you would see a lot “veins” (see 2 veins in the picture) grouped together. Only when it’s a bunch of “veins” and the meat is gray then it’s best to cut that piece off the yuca. If you cook it, it will be bitter.

Once it’s all peeled, half the yuca once more with the knife down the stem. And cut into small pieces.  Set a pot to boil, and boil the yuca until tender to the pierce of a fork.  Remove the water when the yuca is cooked (or it will make the yuca mushy) and set aside.  Once it’s cool, you need to search for the “stems” in the cubes of yuca.  The stem will be a “yellow” color and stick like. See picture below, you can easily remove with your hand.

I know it’s a lot of work, but this is what you are chopping for. Trust me it’s worth the fresh ingredients.

Now cut & peel the pumpkin. See instructions here. Once it’s peeled, boil it until tender when pierced with a fork. Strain the water.

Let’s make the corn & bean salsa:

  1. Drain the can of beans and rinse the beans a few times. Until the thick juice of the bean is removed. Place in a large bowl.
  2. Drain the corn, place in the bowl with the beans.
  3. Add 2 tbs of the vinegar from the pickled jalapeños.
  4.  Chop tomatoes and add to the bowl.
  5. Add some salt to taste.

You may add some sliced jalapeños if you want more spice. 

Cook them tacos!

  1. Grab a large skillet and add coat with olive oil. Heat the skillet on medium-high heat. Add equal parts of yuca and pumpkin, add a few dashes of the paprika and cayenne. Toss till coated.
  2. Warm the tortillas in the microwave. Place them in a microwavable plate covered with paper towels.
  3. Place a spoon of the pumpkin & yuca mixture in the center of each tortilla.
  4. Add some of the corn & bean salsa.
  5. Freshly chopped cilantro and crumble some of the queso fresco.
  6. Some Cholula hot sauce would be nice