MANDIOCA FRITA 101: FRIED YUCCA ROOT

I suspect that many people have never tried it, and that those who saw manioc root for sale didn’t take it home, because it looks too strange and intimidating.   That’s  all quite sad, because it means they’re missing this: the Brazilian version of french fries.

For many Brazilians, “mandioca frita” (click here to listen to the correct pronunciation)  is even better than french fries.  I know, it sounds heretical, but trust me – once you try it you will be hooked.  Crunchy outside, creamy inside, with a flavor that can only be described as addictive.    I won’t lie to you, mandioca  frita takes some effort.  But  if you follow my instructions you won’t regret it.

Manioc, also known as cassava and yucca, is a major ingredient in many cuisines of the world.  You can read all about it here.

To cook the manioc, you first must peel it, a task that requires a good quality veggie peeler.  The root is often sold covered with a thin layer of paraffin, but don’t worry about it, just peel the brown skin to reveal the  white root underneath (Don’t even consider feeding the peel to your garbage disposal – you’ve been warned!).

Here’s a before and after shot…

Next, using a big, sharp knife and some caution cut it into pieces:  it’s a reasonably tough root….

… now you’re ready to begin cooking.  Fill a large pan with slightly salted water, and place the pieces of manioc inside.  Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and allow the pieces to cook until they’re tender, easily pierced with a fork  (the time is somewhat unpredictable,  anywhere from 25 to 50  minutes).  Some pieces might burst open;  just remove them from the water.   In this photo you can see what they look like when ready.

Cooking manioc is a labor of love.   Not all the pieces will be ready at the same time, and some pieces might never become tender.  In Brazil, “mandioca” is sold in street markets as well as grocery stores, and similar to what happens in France, once you establish a relationship with a particular seller in your neighborhood,  you’ll always have great quality mandioca;-)

Once you cook it, you’ll notice a tough “string” in the very center of the root:  remove it before frying.  It’s too tough to eat, although it won’t hurt you if you don’t remove it.

Here in the US I’ve found excellent manioc root in Asian markets, but as you can see from the next photo, in the same batch I had a mixture of varieties (white and yellow), something that never happens in Brazil, because they would be sold separately.   Their taste is almost identical, although in my family you might witness heated discussions defending the qualities of one kind over another.  To avoid taking sides,  I pledge endless love for both.

At this point you can fry them right away or save them for later.  I normally cook a large batch, fry as many as we want for dinner, and then freeze the rest.  If you have a vac-saver system, you can use it to store the  cooked manioc root.    When you want to fry them, simply remove from the freezer and let them sit for half an hour; no need to even completely defrost them,  although I wouldn’t go straight from frozen into the hot oil.

To fry the cooked pieces, add 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to a large skillet  and heat it until the manioc sizzles when it touches the oil.  Fry as many pieces as will fit without crowding, and allow the first side to brown before moving them around, or they’ll get a bit greasy.    When finished frying, put them on absorbent paper and add some salt to taste.

Now, close your eyes, and dream of a tropical beach, coconut trees, a hammock, and perhaps a refreshing “caipirinha” with your mandioca frita!

37 thoughts on “MANDIOCA FRITA 101: FRIED YUCCA ROOT

  1. Hi, Ines!

    I am sure you can find great mandioca in New York – when I moved to OK, it was very rare to see it for sale, but for some reason in the past 5 years I’ve been able to find it even at the “Evil Empire” sometimes (you know, Wal Mart… :-)

  2. Sally, I can say from cherished experience that your mandioca frita are FABULOUS!!! The creamy center, crispy outside, and fantastic flavor make them addicting. Thanks for putting these on your blog. Vickie

  3. Difícil explicar o que é mandioca frita…tão, tão maravilhosa! Adorei seu post! É uma delícia mesmo!!!!
    It´s hard to explain what it is…so wonderful! Loved the post! The flavor is great!

    Parabéns!

  4. Hi, Verena…

    acabo de passar uma semana em Sao Paulo e comi bastante mandioca frita, pastel (daqueles de feira…), e pao de queijo… estou devidamente saciada por uns tempos

    mas, de tudo patropiano, mandioca e’ o que mais me faz falta

  5. We get a version of this called ‘mogo’ at our local south indian vegetarian deli/diner. The chef cooks it with garlic and chili. They come out looking a very desirable golden red. We are getting addicted to it!

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  7. I like mandioca.
    for your information, mandioca can be turned into a delicious dessert.
    In New York, you could find this delicious home made dessert called: Cassablanca Cake in one of Asian supermarket in Queens, Top Line located at Broadway -Elmhurst, NY 11373.
    It is made from natural Products as following:
    - 450 grams Created (shredded) mandioca
    - 150 grams shredded coconut
    - 1 pc Egg
    - 25 grams sugar
    mix all ingredients and bake it at 350 about 45 to one hour until it turns to brown color.
    enjoy……..

    • Oh, that is too bad, Shabina! You know, it took me many years to find it where I live, but finally made it here!

      If you have a Brazilian type restaurant around (one of those barbecue places, maybe?) you might want to give them a call, maybe they know a source of mandioca? Apart from that, I can only think of Oriental markets, that’s where I usually buy mine in Oklahoma

  8. Are these okay to serve cold? I am going to make these for a project on food in South America. I will have to make them the night before they will be consumed. Are they okay to serve cold, or will a zap in the microwave do to heat them up?

    • Oh, Cassie…. I would not serve them cold, and zapping in the microwave they just won’t be the same…

      You could skip the frying, and serve them cooked (when they are tender, make sure no hard bits remain uncooked) – that is also a popular way to enjoy them back home, in some regions of Brazil that is a typical breakfast. In that case, you can cook them the day before, put in the fridge in a single layer. Next day, when you want to serve them, microwave them gently and serve with a little butter, not too cold, a bit on the softened side. As you serve them, spread with a little butter while they are still very hot, and sprinkle some salt on top. In that case they will be delicious next day too, but once you fry it, it’ s better to enjoy right away….

      Feel free to contact me by email if you want….

  9. I’m an American living in Brazil right now (teaching English for a year) and discovering these at restaurants on the beach was a dream come true! I’m so glad I have this recipe to make here and then take back with me when I return to the states. I also love making mashed mandioca, just like you would mashed potatoes but creamier and all around better! Obrigada, viu?

    • That’s wonderful! So nice to “meet” you! I hope you are having a great time in my home country, I heard this winter is a little harsh, but depending on where you are from, that doesn’t matter… :-)

      I am also a huge fan of mashed mandioca – or “croquetes de mandioca” – not easy to find, but my Mom makes amazing ones, I will ask her for the recipe and blog about it sometime…

      Thanks for stopping by….

  10. Thanks so much for posting this! I lived in Brasil for 19 months and loved mandioca! I finally found some at a store that has things from all over the world and was so excited and as soon as I got home I realized I had no idea how to cook it straight from the root! I appreciate your help!

    • So glad I could help you, Tara – If you need any other specific Brazilian recipes, please drop me a line! I might be able to find almost any ingredients here in Los Angeles, and would blog about it for you…

  11. Well this is also the same as we call it “mogo” this is available in most tropical countries. Most Indian Restaurants in UK have these if you refer to as “mogo” However there are several ways to make this mogo, we would prepare it the following ways. Firstly we would remove all the skin and then boil it, let it sit and cool down, take light oil with some salt, red chili pepper mix all and then roast it. This really would taste great with a beer.

  12. Jack, thanks for your comment, I am now craving mogo and I’d never even heard about it! :-)

    I will definitely search for some madioca root here in Los Angeles (I’ve seen it several times) and will be trying “mogo”. Stay tuned!

    thanks again…

  13. @Sallybr:
    Oi colega (vi que vc tb e bioquímica) ! Tenho uma planta enorme de mandioca no meu jardim e acho que já e pronta para a colheita ;-)

    Btw, for you guys living in the southern US, growing mandioca shouldn’t be very difficult as long as you can get your hands on a freshly CUT branch of the plant. Just stick it in the soil and it will grow and after about 1 year you will have tubers enough to feed you for another year.
    If you are a Spanish speaker, you might know mandioca as Yucca (but not the Yucca that looks like a palm tree)

    Mandioca is also strongly recommended for people with gluten sensitivity, because it’s gluten free.

    Ah and a word of caution: always ensure proper preparation of mandioca. Raw tubers are highly toxic.

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  15. I googled a recipe for mandioca frita and found yours – it’s currently in progress as I write. I’m a Canadian who used to live in Recife, and I couldn’t get enough of the “macaxeira” frita, as they call it there. So excited to see how this turns out!

    • Thanks so much for getting in touch! I remember having “macaxeira” early in the morning in Recife when I visited years ago – it was served for breakfast in THE most delicious preparation…. I had never had it that way, dreamy stuff!

      but, of course, nothing beats “macaxeira frita”, as you know… ;-)

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  18. I’m Braziliand and love mandioca. Recently, I found it at Walmart (frozen, brand Goya). To avoid frying, I just cook it and serve hot with a butter lemon sauce, cuban style. But today, I will try to fry. First cook and then, fry. Oh, I can’t wait for that.

    • Sonia, your comment made me smile! Guess what? I just found frozen mandioca last week, and will be making mandioca frita for a dinner for friends on Sunday… I’ll make moqueca de camarao and the mandioca frita will be just something to nibble before dinner… can hardly wait… I don’t have experience with the frozen, hope it will be good

  19. Thanks a lot! I’m from Brazil and I’ve been dreaming (literally) about mandioca frita. Now I’ve sent my girlfriend instructions in English, we will prepare it together, later tonight.

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