What Is Jicama, and How Should I Cook It?

Don’t pass up this snappy, refreshing addition to salads and slaws. 

Published July 26, 2022.

My introduction to jicama (pronounced “HEE-ka-ma”) was a true delight. I was cooking in my first-ever restaurant job, where the menu featured a dish of chile-grilled shrimp with a jicama, avocado, and mango salad. The chef gave me a taste before tasking me with preparing the ingredients. Recalling the textures and vibrancy of that dish still makes my mouth water. 

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The jicama, cut into thin matchsticks, was juicy and crisp, with a texture and appearance similar to green apple or a firm pear. But it had a mild, nutty sweetness and an incomparable snap that held up remarkably well after sitting in the dressing. I was hooked, and I immediately began buying jicama to use at home.

This is all to say that you should definitely give jicama a try.

What Is Jicama?

Originating in Central America, this root vegetable is common in Mexican cuisine but is also cultivated in the Philippines, China, and Southeast Asia. In the United States you can find it in the produce section of well-stocked groceries and in Latin markets. 

How to Shop for Jicama

A good jicama should be firm, feel heavy, and have smooth skin. Avoid wrinkly or shriveled specimens or those with soft spots. If you’re in a pinch and need a substitute, try turnip or radish, though both will have a spiciness that jicama lacks. 

Seared Scallops with Watermelon, Cucumber, and Jicama Salad

Quick-cooking scallops and a crunchy-cool salad make a satisfying summer dinner.
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How to Use Jicama

Jicama is most often eaten raw, and one of the most popular ways to eat it is as a simple snack: peeled, sliced, and tossed with lime and chili powder. The fibrous skin can be tough to remove, but a sharp vegetable peeler (I like the supremely affordable Kuhn Rikon Y-shaped peeler best for this) will get the job done. It can also be shredded, either on a box grater or using the shredding disk of a food processor, making for an excellent addition to salads and slaws. 

But my new favorite use for jicama is to make this quick, elegant recipe for Seared Scallops with Watermelon, Cucumber, and Jicama Salad. Either way, once you’ve tried jicama, you’ll find yourself putting it on the shopping list time and time again. 

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