Yuca Hervida ~ Cuban Boiled Yuca

Yuca hervida is a Cuban side dish that can be enjoyed with any meal but especially at Noche Buena dinner, a Cuban Christmas Eve tradition. Fried, mashed, or boiled, yuca is soft and supple when cooked. For yuca hervida the starchy root vegetable is boiled to tender perfection and prepared with a generous garlicky mojo. Although red onions make for a more beautiful yuca hervida, my family makes yuca hervida with white onions. Despite its dull appearance with the white onion and garlic mojo, yuca hervida is full of flavor and is a classic Cuban comfort food.

Yuca is my favorite stubborn, sticky starch. Hard to cut and covered in skin, yuca takes a bit of time, love and prep to get ready for boiling. I typically purchase frozen yuca, which is already peeled and divided, and tastes just the same. Apparently the layer between the woody brown skin of the yuca root and the tube can be poisonous, I recently learned this so you should wash the yuca well and cook thoroughly. Boiled yuca is the starting point for many Cuban dishes and I have made this recipe many times, and I love the gummy, carby bite of boiled yuca.

Yuca Hervida ~ Cuban Boiled Yuca

  • 2 lbs yuca peeled cut in quarters (fresh or frozen)
  • Juice of 1 sour orange or lime
  • 1 thinly sliced onion onion
  • Salt
  • 7 cloves of garlic
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Crushed chicharron optional

Cover the yuca in water and add the the juice of half a lime and salt. Boil until the yucca is fork tender about 20 minutes. When the yuca is fork tender drain the water and let cool slightly. Remove the tough center fiber from the yuca chunks. It will easily come out of the yuca once it is cooked. The yuca will be very sticky.

While the yuca is cooking begin making the mojo. Mash the garlic cloves with a mortar and pestle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and a teaspoon of salt. Set aside.

Heat olive oil on low heat in a frying pan, add the onion and sauté slightly. The onions are best on the raw side, and really add a lot of emphasis to the flavor of the yuca hervida. Set the onions aside.

Add the mashed garlic cloves to the pan and stir. Add the juice of the rest of the sour orange juice to the pan. Sauté the yuca hervida for two to three more minutes. Gently add the yuca to the pan and toss in the garlic mojo 5 minutes making sure to evenly coat the yuca in the mojo.

*I have had yuca hervida with red onion instead of white onion and prefer the look although this is more traditional for the Dominican Republic.

**Crushed chicharron (or pork cracklins) garnish is great for added texture on the Cuban boiled yuca.

Cilantro Garlic Sauce

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Pollo Tropical got me addicted to cilantro garlic sauce. This place is a Hispanic fast food mecca in South Florida- easy take-out like the home cooking your abuela made. Chicken, pork, maduros, tostones, white rice, sopa de pollo, yuca frita (and have we mentioned the cilantro garlic sauce!?!) are all authentic and Cuban. My mom is a power business woman so when I was growing up she would often get us Pollo Tropical on the way home from guitar lessons, swim practice, or soccer games. I grew up eating this stuff and crave it; my love for Pollo Tropical is close to my passion for Publix Subs.

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I made cilantro garlic sauce and yuca frita for a post I did over a year ago. This single post has been by far my post popular post and drives the most traffic to this site. The fanaticism behind Pollo Tropical’s cilantro garlic sauce is no joke people. So I decided to test out the very best variations to make sure my recipe was just right. Based on my research, I have to modify my previous recipe. I tested the sauce with mayonnaise, yogurt, and sour cream, and I also did variations with two, three, and four garlic cloves to test the impact on flavor. As I tried out different recipes I also realized the freshness of the garlic impacted the flavor. Older garlic can tend to have a sharper and spicier flavor than fresh cloves- I prefer the fresh and lighter taste.

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After trying to make the cilantro garlic sauce with mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, and sour cream I decided I like sour cream the best, but hey you do you and make it according to your palate. Greek yogurt is the thickest of the three and the mayonnaise has that distinct underlying egg flavor. Cilantro garlic sauce is a great condiment for tostones, chips, tacos, yuca frita, burritos, and even crudites.

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 Cilantro Garlic Sauce

  • 12 oz sour cream (or Greek yogurt or mayonnaise in any combination)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Remove the stems from the cilantro and wash it well in cold water. Cilantro can have gritty sand on the leaves so make sure to rinse well. Dry the cilantro using a salad spinner or I usually roll it up in several paper towel sheets and place it in the refrigerator while I prep everything else. Muddle the garlic and olive oil together with a mortar and pestle. Although you will be using a food processor, I think this step really infuses the garlic and oil together helping to smooth the taste of the garlic in the sauce.

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Mix the lime, salt, and cayenne into the garlic oil and then pour into the food processor with the chopped cilantro and sour cream. Pulse the cilantro garlic sauce until it is smooth and creamy. Taste the sauce to determine if it needs more citrus or salt. I have found that it can become very salty very quickly so err on the side of caution. Serve the cilantro garlic sauce with yuca frita, French fries, tostones, fajitas, chips, mariquitas, or with tacos, on bowls… at this point the possibilities are endless.

Cuban Mojo Marinade

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Cuban ingredients are evading me in New York City. Although I have lived abroad, I never realized how difficult it can be to find integral Cuban ingredients, mainly because I wasn’t looking for them then. Now that I am looking for certain items (mojo, iron beer, mamey, sour oranges, etc.) they simply aren’t there. For a brief second I thought of going to Miami impulsively for a two-day stint to load up on real Cuban bread, mamey, anones, and croquetas galore.

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I have to be honest with you- my search didn’t begin with fresh ingredients to make homemade mojo. I was looking for the bottled stuff- Mojo Criollo either from Badia or bust (full disclosure: I’m actually not getting paid by Badia, it’s just my jam). When I realized this Cuban kitchen staple was not readily in supermarkets I was aghast- “No, Morton Williams, I do not want bottled Goya salsa! Where the hell is the mojo!?”. Thankfully it turns out you can mix lime and orange juice as a substitute for the real stuff.

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Homemade mojo marinade can be used on pork, chicken, duck, beef or fish. I’ll be using the leftover lechon from the mojo pork roast to make tamal en cazuela later this week. Hunger took over once the mojo roasted pork was ready so there are no beautiful blog-worthy pictures, only the lingering sensation of home.

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Homemade Mojo Marinade

Yields: about 2 ¼ cups of mojo marinade

  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • ½ large Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground onion
  • ½ tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ cup sour orange (or 2 parts lime juice to 1 part orange juice.
  • ¾ cup Spanish olive oil

Smash and peel the garlic cloves and place them in the food processor with the diced onion and dried spices. Traditionally one would use a mortar and pestle, but I can’t seem to find mine. Blend everything into a paste and scrape down the sides with a spatula to ensure everything is blended well. Whisk the spiced garlic paste with the sour orange juice in a glass bowl to make the mojo base. I went on a quest in the lower east side to find sour oranges in vain. I ended up juicing 3 large limes and 2 Florida oranges which gave me an exact 2 to 1 ratio to make the sour orange substitute. Allow the mojo base to sit for around 30 minutes.

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Heat the olive oil to around medium heat and then remove from the burner. Let the olive oil to cool or 5 minutes or so before carefully whisking in the mojo base. I used around ¾ cup of this marinade for half of a chicken for roasting. Allow the protein of your choice (chicken, duck, beef, pork, tofu, etc.) to marinate for a couple of hours or even better- overnight to marinate in the delicious garlic and citrus mojo marinade.