In recent years, the paleo diet has become increasingly popular. Touted for its numerous health benefits, including weight loss, it incorporates nutritional guidelines inspired by the supposed diets of our paleolithic ancestors. This means that many modern favorites, like mashed potatoes, are off limits. Luckily, there is a delicious mashed potato alternative that is also paleo friendly: creamy mashed yuca.
What is the Paleo Diet?
Also called the Caveman Diet, the Paleolithic diet was promoted in the early 2000s by Dr. Loren Cordain. Cordain published several works suggesting that modern health woes stem from the fact that we are eating foods we are not genetically designed to digest. In other words, our digestive system has not changed since the Stone Age, but the foods we eat have.
Cordain’s solution is to revert to foods our paleolithic ancestors would have eaten. As hunter gatherers, these populations subsisted largely on meat, fish, nuts, and seeds. Cultivated foods, like grains and starchy vegetables, had not been developed yet.
The paleo diet, therefore, excludes quite a long list of cultivated and processed foods, including staples like dairy, rice, beans, and processed sugar. Strict followers even omit seasonings like salt and pepper.
Cordain’s research proposes that humans function best on a diet that is high in protein and healthy fats, and low in carbohydrates. Such a diet, he says, will regulate blood sugar levels and avoid dangerous spikes.
Why Aren’t Potatoes Paleo?
Some paleo proponents argue that potatoes may have, in fact, been available to our ancestors. However, most followers of the diet avoid them due to their nutritional profile. White potatoes are high in carbohydrates and low in protein.
Potatoes also have a high glycemic index. The glycemic index assigns a number to a certain food based on your blood sugar levels two hours after consuming it. A high index means your blood glucose levels are relatively high after eating a specific food. The goal of paleo is to avoid these blood sugar spikes, so potatoes are generally off-limits.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are generally considered okay for paleo-followers. While they are also high in carbs, they have a lower glycemic index. This means they have less of an impact on blood glucose levels.
What Does Yuca Taste Like?
Our paleo-friendly mashed potatoes substitute yuca root, a starchy root that is popular in many dishes in Brazil. It can be used in virtually any recipe that ordinarily calls for potatoes, including delicious aipim frito.
The texture of yuca is quite similar to the potato, with a slightly sweeter, nuttier flavor. It can be used in sweet and savory dishes alike.
Dairy Substitutes for Paleo
Strict followers of the paleo diet also avoid dairy products, including animal milk, butter, and cheese. Nut milks, on the other hand, are perfectly fine. For our paleo mashed potatoes, we will be using cashew milk and butter, which compliment the already earthy, nutty flavor of the yuca root.
Note: Remember to use unsweetened cashew milk and make sure it has not been blended with oat or soy, which are not paleo-friendly.
How to Prepare Yuca Root
You will prepare your yuca root in much the same way you would a russet potato. Trim away the outer layer, or skin, as well as the pinkish layer under the skin. Then, cut the yuca root into 2 inch cubes for boiling.
Creamy Garlic Yuca Mash
3 lbs yuca root, peeled and cubed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cashew butter
1 cup cashew milk
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Place your peeled and cubed yuca root in a large stock pot. Add in enough water to cover the yuca by about half an inch.
- Bring the yuca to a boil and then reduce to medium-high heat. Simmer until the roots are fork tender-about 20 to 30 minutes.
- While yuca cooks, warm your cashew milk in the microwave on high for about 1 minute (careful it doesn’t boil over).
- Strain your yuca roots and set aside. In the same stock pot you used for the yuca, melt your cashew butter over medium heat.
- Add in your minced garlic and cook just until fragrant (about 45 seconds).
- Remove the pot from the heat. Add your yuca root, salt, pepper, and warmed cashew milk.
- Using a hand mixer, whip the mixture until it is creamy and smooth. Alternatively, you could empty the contents of your pot into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix using the whisk attachment.
What to Eat With Your Mashed Yuca
Garlic mashed yuca pairs beautifully with roast picanha, grilled chicken, or other smoky meat dishes. Visit Texas de Brazil’s online Butcher Shop to get premium cuts of meat delivered right to your door.