This is a completely revised, expanded, and updated version of my original article “Jicama 101 – The Basics.” If you’re looking for some specific information about jicama, this should help!
Jicama 101 – The Basics (UPDATE)
A jicama (pronounced “hee-cah-mah” or “hick-uh-mah”) is a Mexican root vegetable that looks like a big brown turnip. Jicamas may also be referred to as the yam bean, Mexican yam, Mexican/Chinese potato, Mexican turnip, or sweet turnip (in Singapore). They are native to central and South America, where they have been used for thousands of years as food and medicine. Jicamas are now also grown in the Philippines, China, and other parts of Southeast Asia, and are popular in the cuisines of those areas.
Jicamas have a brown, somewhat papery skin, with a tough, woody layer just beneath the skin, and crispy, juicy flesh underneath. Their size is generally from 1 to 5 pounds, but they can grow as large as 50 pounds. The flesh is crisp, slightly sweet, and somewhat juicy. The flavor, especially in the smaller ones, is like a cross between a water chestnut and an apple. They are most commonly eaten raw, but may also be added to soups and stir-fries.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Jicamas are high in fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, folate, Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, potassium, magnesium, manganese, riboflavin (Vitamin B2), copper, choline, and iron. They are low in calories with only 50 calories per cup of raw jicama. They are also known to have a number of health benefits.
Improved Digestion. Jicama is high in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble. This has a two-fold benefit for our health. The insoluble fiber increases bulk in the digestive tract, helping to move the contents forward preventing constipation. The soluble fiber does not break down into simple sugars, so it helps to stabilize blood sugar after a meal. Jicama provides a safe food for diabetics wanting a touch of sweetness in a meal that won’t raise their blood sugar.
Gastrointestinal Disease Protection. The high fiber found in jicama appears to offer protection against colon cancer, gastroesophageal reflux disease, duodenal ulcers, and some other gastrointestinal diseases, as reported in a 2014 study published in the journal Acta Scientiarum Polonorum, Technologia Alimentaria. In addition to the fiber found in jicama, the high level of Vitamin C is effective in neutralizing free radicals, harmful molecules that can cause a lot of damage in the body. This, in turn, lowers the risk of assorted types of cancer, as well as heart disease.
Immunity Boost. Jicama is very high in Vitamin C, with 3/4 of a cup of diced jicama providing about 40% of our recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. This vitamin is an important antioxidant in the body, known for supporting healthy immune function by stimulating white blood cells, our first line of defense against illness. Vitamin C helps in fighting bacterial, viral, fungal, and other pathogenic organisms. In a 2014 study published in the journal Cytotechnology, researchers concluded that the fiber and carbohydrates found in jicama could have positive effects on the human immune system.
Other Potential Benefits. The combination of nutrients in jicama can also help to provide other health benefits. The potassium can help to manage blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Jicamas are high in copper and iron, which are important in helping to maintain the health of our red blood cells and circulatory system.
Jicama has significant amounts of Vitamin B6, which is linked with preserving brain health and cognitive function.
The minerals found in jicama are known to help preserve bone health, by being used in building and repairing bones. They can also help to ward off osteoporosis.
Jicamas are low in calories, with 1 cup of raw jicama having only about 50 calories. Including such foods in the diet on a regular basis can help with weight loss and management.
How to Select Jicama
Choose jicamas that are firm and heavy for their size. They should have smooth skin with few blemishes and show no signs of shriveling. Avoid ones with soft or wet spots.
Smaller jicama will be sweeter, more flavorful, and juicier, whereas larger ones will be woody, somewhat dry, and less sweet.
How to Store Jicama
Store your uncut jicama unwashed and uncovered in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight. The ideal storage temperature is 55-59°F. At that temperature, they can keep for up to 4 months. Most homes are warmer than that, so at typical room temperature, they should stay fresh for 1 to 2 weeks.
If you plan to keep your jicamas for a while, place them in an open area in the refrigerator. They should not be placed where they will pick up moisture, as that will invite mold. They should last for 2 to 3 weeks uncut in the refrigerator.
Once a jicama is cut, it should be wrapped well and stored in the refrigerator. Cut jicama will not keep well if it is moist with water, so it’s best to be sure it is dry before wrapping and storing it. Use cut jicama within one week.
How to Tell When a Jicama is Old or Spoiled
There are specific signs you can look for that will indicate your jicama has gone bad.
Appearance. When a jicama starts to go bad, it will develop blemishes all over it. A couple of dark spots here and there are usually OK. However, when it is covered with dark spots, it’s old. Also, look for mold growing on the skin. If you see a lot of dark spots along with mold growing on the skin, it’s best to throw it out.
When cut, the flesh should be a very pale yellow, crisp and somewhat juicy. If the flesh is browning and has soft spots, the jicama is old and should be discarded.
Smell. When a jicama goes bad, it will smell rotten. If it has a bad odor to it, don’t eat it! Throw it away.
Here is a video that can help you determine if your jicama is old or spoiled. Some of these tips can also help you out when you are selecting one at the market…
How to Prepare Jicama
First, scrub the jicama under cool water. The skin is not edible, so it needs to be removed. The skin can be tough, so peeling it with a sharp knife is easier than using a vegetable peeler, but you can use a vegetable peeler, if preferred. It is helpful to first cut a small slice off the top and bottom end so it can stand up firmly, if preferred. Be sure to remove the white fibrous layer just under the skin. Rinse your jicama again, then slice, dice, shred, or julienne it as needed.
Jicamas can be enjoyed raw, steamed, baked, boiled, fried, or blanched. They can be added to salads, soups, stir-fries, and even mashed like a potato. They can be sliced thinly and added to sandwiches, or julienned or diced and added to wraps.
Quick Ideas and Tips for Using Jicama
* When adding jicama to soups or stews, add it toward the end of cooking to retain its crispness.
* Add jicama to stir-fries in place of water chestnuts.
* Jicama does not oxidize fast like an apple or potato, but if you need to cut your jicama early, you could place it in a bowl of water with a little lemon (or other citrus) juice to help it maintain its pale color.
* Add some shredded jicama to a green salad for a little extra crunch and sweetness.
* Try some easy jicama chips. Peel and thinly slice a jicama. Spread the slices out on a plate and drizzle with the juice of ½ of a lime. Lightly sprinkle with salt, sugar and chili powder. Chill it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, then serve.
* Add shredded or julienned jicama to your favorite coleslaw.
* Try jicama sticks with your favorite dip or hummus.
* Try a stir-fry with jicama, broccoli, garlic, ginger, and scallions, topped with toasted sesame seeds or cashews.
* Smaller jicamas will be sweeter than large ones.
* Try an easy jicama salad by combining diced jicama, cucumber and orange sections. Sprinkle with chili powder and a little salt. Drizzle with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice, and mix well.
* Add diced or shredded jicama to your favorite seafood or poultry salad for some added crunch.
* Enjoy slices of jicama with a little lime juice and a sprinkle of chili powder.
* Try a refreshing salad with chopped jicama, mango, and pear, drizzled with a little lemon juice and garnished with chopped mint.
* Here’s another easy jicama salad. Combine chopped strawberries, jicama, and mango. Add some chopped cilantro and drizzle with fresh lime juice.
* When cooked briefly, like in a stir-fry, jicama will usually stay crisp. It can also be cooked like potatoes, and boiled, baked and mashed.
* Try sautéed jicama with carrots and/or green beans.
* One pound of jicama yields about 4 cups shredded.
* Although the flavors will be different, if a recipe calls for jicama and you don’t have any, you could substitute water chestnuts or turnips in place of the jicama.
Herbs and Spices That Go Well with Jicama
Basil, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, chili powder, cilantro, mint, mustard, paprika, pepper, salt
Foods That Go Well with Jicama
Proteins, Legumes, Nuts, Seeds: Beans (in general, esp. black beans), beef, chicken, chickpeas, eggs, fish, green beans, ham, peanuts, pecans, poultry, pumpkin seeds, sausage, sesame seeds, shrimp
Vegetables: Arugula, beets, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, chayote squash, chiles, cucumbers, garlic, ginger, horseradish, lettuce (in general), mushrooms, onions, potatoes, radishes, scallions, spinach, sunflower sprouts, tomatoes, watercress, zucchini
Fruits: Apples, avocado, blackberries, fruit (in general), grapefruit, kumquats, lemon, lime, mangoes, melon, olives, oranges, papaya, pears, pineapple, tangerines, watermelon
Grains and Grain Products: Corn, millet, noodles, quinoa, rice, wheat berries
Dairy and Non-Dairy: Cheese (in general, esp. cream, cheddar, fontina, goat, mozzarella, pepper jack)
Other Foods: Oil (esp. grapeseed, olive, peanut, sesame), soy sauce, sugar, vinaigrette, vinegar (i.e., balsamic, rice, white wine)
Jicamas have been used in the following cuisines and dishes…
Central American cuisines, crudités, guacamole, Malaysian cuisine, Mexican cuisine, relishes, salads (i.e., fruit, green), salsas, slaws, South American cuisine, tacos
Suggested Food and Flavor Combos Using Jicama
Add jicama to any of the following combinations…
Apples + Zucchini
Arugula + Horseradish + Mustard + Red Onions
Avocado + Cilantro + Citrus (i.e., grapefruit, orange)
Avocado + Citrus (i.e., orange, grapefruit) + Radishes
Black Beans + Cucumbers + Mint + Rice Wine Vinegar
Cayenne + Cilantro + Lime + Onions + Orange + Papaya
Cayenne + Greens + Lemon + Lime + Papaya
Chili Pepper Flakes + Lime + Peanuts
Chili Powder + Lime Juice + Salt
Cilantro + Orange
Cucumbers + Lime
Grapefruit + Pecans + Red Cabbage [in salads]
Orange Jicama Salad with Lemon Ginger Dressing https://producemadesimple.ca/orange-jicama-salad-with-lemon-ginger-dressing/
Jicama, Black Bean, and Tomato Salad https://producemadesimple.ca/jicama-black-bean-and-tomato-salad-2/
5 Vegetable Fries That Don’t Make Me Feel Like I’m Eating Cardboard https://www.thekitchn.com/oven-baked-veggie-fries-5-ways-227615
Jicama Shrimp Salad https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-jicama-shrimp-salad-227043
Cilantro-Jalapeno Jicama Slaw https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-cilantro-jalapeno-jicama-slaw-225566
7 Unexpected Ways to Use Jicama https://www.chowhound.com/food-news/195221/7-unexpected-ways-to-use-jicama/
Summer Cucumber Jicama Salad https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/238655/summer-cucumber-jicama-salad/
Miki’s Jicama (Pico de Gallo Salsa) https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/222166/mikis-jicama-pico-de-gallo-salsa/
Shrimp, Jicama, and Chile Vinegar Salad https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/220669/shrimp-jicama-and-chile-vinegar-salad/
Jicama Mango Salad with Cilantro and Lime https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/233495/jicama-mango-salad-with-cilantro-and-lime/
Apple Jicama Coleslaw https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/221137/apple-jicama-coleslaw/
Jicama Salad with Mango, Cucumber, Lime and Aleppo https://www.feastingathome.com/jicama-salad/#tasty-recipes-22447
Triple Cheese Jicama Fries https://melindastrauss.com/2016/01/20/triple-cheese-jicama-fries/
Keto Air Fryer Jicama Fries https://www.wholesomeyum.com/keto-air-fryer-jicama-fries-recipe/
Jicama Breakfast Casserole https://www.workingagainstgravity.com/articles/jicama-breakfast-casserole
Grilled Beef, Apple, and Jicama Salad https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/grilled-beef-jicama-and-apple-salad-51182800
Blueberry, Strawberry, Jicama Salsa https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/blueberry-strawberry-jicama-salsa/?epik=dj0yJnU9ZTd4aDA1blM0dUpxSFVHTUZIT0xUeUtvb1ZiclNoU28mcD0wJm49cnQyUFo2dDVZRERZVldrV1lkVFhKQSZ0PUFBQUFBR0FVSXI0#wprm-recipe-container-41736
Joachim, David. (2010) The Food Substitutions Bible. 2nd Edition. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Robert Rose, Inc.
Page, Karen. (2014) The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Julia W. Klee (Judi) began her journey enjoying “all things food” in elementary school when she started preparing meals for her family. That love of food blossomed into a quest to learn more and more about health and wellness as related to nutrition. She went on to earn a BS Degree in Food and Nutrition, then an MS Degree in Nutrition. She has taught nutrition and related courses at the college level to pre-nursing and exercise science students. Her hunger to learn didn’t stop upon graduation from college. She continues to research on a regular basis about nutrition as it relates to health. Her hope is to help as many people as possible to enjoy foods that promote health and wellness.