As a lover of authentic Mexican cuisine, I often find myself searching for that perfect jicama substitute when I don’t have access to fresh jicama. Jicama is a sweet, crunchy, juicy root vegetable that lends a wonderful texture and mild sweetness to salads, slaws, and other Mexican dishes. When I can’t find jicama at my local grocery store or farmers’ market, I’ve learned to improvise and discover some fantastic replacements that work just as well in recipes.
In this article, I’ll go over exactly what jicama is, considerations for finding the best stand-in, and my top recommended jicama substitutes for both raw and cooked applications. Whether you’re looking to mimic the signature crunch of jicama or its nutty, sweet flavor, these substitutes will have you covered.
What is Jicama?
For those unfamiliar with jicama, it’s a globular root vegetable that hails from Mexico. Jicama has light brown, papery skin that encases creamy white flesh. When cut open, jicama has a bulbous shape similar to a turnip or potato.
Jicama is cherished for its incredibly crunchy texture – even when eaten raw, it has an audible crispness that livens up the texture of any dish. The flesh is also notably juicy and refreshing. But the best part of jicama is its flavor – it has mild, slightly sweet nuttiness reminiscent of a water chestnut.
Beyond its delicious taste and texture, jicama packs some great nutritional value. It’s low in calories and rich in vitamin C, magnesium, and dietary fiber. Jicama also contains antioxidants like vitamin E.
So in summary, the virtues of fresh jicama are:
- Crunchy, juicy texture
- Subtle sweetness
- Nutty, water chestnut-like flavor
- Low calorie
- Packed with vitamins and fiber
When raw jicama isn’t an option, consider what texture and flavors you’re looking for before choosing a substitute.
Considerations for Finding the Best Jicama Substitute
Because jicama has such a unique crispy-crunchy texture, finding the perfect stand-in can be tricky. There are a few factors I keep in mind when selecting a substitute for jicama:
- Texture – The substitute should mimic the crisp, juicy crunch of jicama as closely as possible. For raw applications like slaws and salads, texture is key.
- Flavor – Ideal substitutes will have a similar mild, subtly sweet and nutty flavor. You want the jicama flavor essence without overpowering the dish.
- Purpose – Consider if the jicama is being eaten raw or cooked. Certain substitutes hold up better in salads vs. cooked applications.
- Availability – Choose a vegetable that’s easy to find year-round at your local grocery store or market.
- Affordability – Opt for budget-friendly options that give you the most bang for your buck.
With these factors in mind, let’s look at the best jicama swap options for any recipe.
The 8 Best Jicama Substitutes
For salads, slaws, and fresh salsas, you need a jicama stand-in that replicates its signature crunchy bite. After much trial and error, here are my top picks:
Hands down, celery is the best replacement I’ve found for raw jicama. It has an incredibly similar texture – rigid, super crunchy, and juicy. Celery replicates the satisfying “snap” of jicama when you bite into it. For salads and slaws, I simply dice up some fresh celery stalks.
While not as sweet as jicama, celery has a pleasantly bright, grassy flavor. It also has that refreshing quality needed in raw dishes. And its mild taste absorbs other flavors well. For the best texture match, go with the inner heart of celery stalks versus the outer ribs.
Delicious daikon radishes are another stellar substitute with a satisfying crunch factor. These large, white radishes have a firm texture quite similar to jicama – moist and dense with a starchy snap.
Daikon radishes have a milder, more subtle flavor than other radishes. Their taste is similar to jicama – sweet, with a hint of pepperiness. Daikon radishes tend to be much easier to find than jicama in regular grocery stores. For an affordable, accessible jicama dupe in raw dishes, daikon radishes are perfect.
Without a doubt, sweet potato is my number one substitute for cooked jicama recipes. Once cooked, sweet potatoes have a similar starchy, slightly dry texture that mimics jicama’s mouthfeel. More importantly, sweet potatoes mirror the subtle sweetness and nutty essence of jicama – especially Japanese sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are also packed with antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and fiber. They have a natural sweetness that enhances – but doesn’t overwhelm – savory dishes. As a bonus, they’re budget-friendly and easy to find. For any cooked jicama recipe, cubed sweet potato is my go-to swap.
Also known as sunchokes, these knobby tubers make for a fantastic jicama substitute. Jerusalem artichokes have a similar firm, crunchy texture and sweet, nutty flavor when cooked. They contain inulin fiber that gives Jerusalem artichokes their signature sweet taste and starchy texture reminiscent of jicama.
You can prepare Jerusalem artichokes just as you would jicama – roasted, sautéed, or added to soups. Their nutty sweetness pairs well with bold seasonings. Jerusalem artichokes also boast tons of iron, fiber, vitamin C and have prebiotic benefits. Though they look odd, don’t be intimidated – Jerusalem artichokes make a delicious jicama substitute.
Cassava or Yuca
Cassava, also called yuca or manioc, is a starchy tuber common in Latin American cuisine. Like jicama, cassava has a very firm, dense texture and an incredibly high starch content. When cooked, cassava develops a drier, flakier interior similar to jicama with a subtle sweetness.
Cassava has an earthy, nutty flavor that complements bolder seasonings well. It can be fried, mashed, or simmered into stews just like jicama. Cassava is also very affordable and available at Latin or specialty grocery stores. For its texture and essence of sweetness, cassava makes a fantastic jicama replacement.
Water chestnuts are an underrated jicama substitute, thanks to their similar crunchy texture and nutty essence. While more bland than jicama’s sweetness, water chestnuts absorb surrounding flavors remarkably well. Their firm, juicy crunch livens up any dish. Water chestnuts are also quite affordable and convenient to find canned or fresh.
Also called celeriac, knob celery, or German turnip, this odd root vegetable is worth trying as a jicama substitute. Celery root has a flavor profile similar to jicama – subtle sweetness with clean, bright notes. When raw, it has a delightfully firm, crunchy bite. Cooked celery root develops a moist, starchy interior like jicama. It’s delicious roasted but also makes a mean [jicama] slaw or salad.
In a pinch, jicama powder or flour allows you to mimic jicama’s sweetness in recipes. Made from dehydrated jicama, the powdered form amplifies jicama’s sweet, nutty flavor. Add it to marinades, dressings, dry rubs, etc. Just know it won’t provide the signature crunch factor.
Key Benefits and Uses of Top Jicama Substitutes
Now that we’ve covered plenty of options, let’s recap when and why to use some of the best substitutes:
Delicious, versatile, and nutritious sweet potatoes are my ideal jicama swap for cooked applications. Their texture, mild nutty sweetness, and flavor absorption make them a perfect stand-in. I love using cubed sweet potatoes in place of jicama in soups, stir fries, stews, and oven-roasted veggies. Their natural sweetness also balances spicy flavors well.
Underrated water chestnuts shine thanks to their firm, juicy crunch and ability to take on surrounding flavors. Whenever I want that textural “pop” minus jicama’s sweetness, I use water chestnuts. They’re fantastic in Asian-style stir fry dishes, chicken salads, green bean casseroles, and more. Their neutral taste lets other ingredients shine.
Jerusalem artichokes don’t get enough love! Their crunchy texture, sweet flavor, and stellar nutrient profile make them a jicama all-star. I love roasting Jerusalem artichoke wedges seasoned with cumin, chili powder, and lime juice. They also shine in pasta primavera, tacos, and creamy vegetable soups. Try these unique tubers – they won’t disappoint!
As far as raw texture and crunch factor go, juicy daikon radishes are unbeatable. Their crisp snap and mild, sweet flavor mimic jicama remarkably well. Daikon radishes have become my go-to for Latin cuisine coleslaws, salsas, and street-style tacos when I need that signature crunch. Affordable, easy to find, and delicious – you can’t go wrong with daikon radishes as a jicama substitute.
Celery root is likely hiding under your nose at the grocery store, but don’t skip this unsung hero! It mimics jicama’s texture and essence of sweetness so well when raw or cooked. I love shredding celery root into crunchy, tangy slaws paired with citrusy dressings. Roasted celery root also develops that same starchy, sweet interior as jicama. This knobbly vegetable deserves some vegetable aisle fame!
Final Thoughts on the Best Jicama Substitute
That wraps up my guide to the very best options for mimicking tasty, versatile jicama. Whether raw, cooked, salad, or stir-fry, there’s a stellar stand-in here to match your needs and flavor preferences. Personally, I suggest keeping sweet potatoes, daikon radishes, and celery on hand as your classic jicama subs.
While no substitute can fully replace the unique taste and crunch of fresh jicama, these alternatives come impressively close. Now you can still enjoy jicama’s essence in recipes when you can’t source the real thing. Improvise, get creative, and fill your dishes with delicious new flavors thanks to these tasty jicama swaps.