Salads are one of the most diverse and varied food items in the entire culinary world. It isn’t an exaggeration to say there are thousands of variety of salads. Sometimes all it takes to change a salad is wonder ingredient like jicama. The white flesh of a root tuber is usually shredded and added fresh to salads. It brings a crisp crunchy texture coupled with a light sweetness that enhances some salads. Jicama is more often found in Mexican cuisine recipes so it may not be easy to find for everyone. There are substitutes you can use for jicama in your salads. To rate these substitutes we need to first understand the characteristics of jicama.
What Is Jicama?
Jicama is the product of a leguminous plant that goes by the name Mexican yam bean or Mexican Turnip. The scientific name of this plant is Pachyrhizus erosus. The name Jicama is often used to refer to the root tuber which looks something like a turnip. Though jicama has a thin brown skin membrane on the outside with white and crispy flesh that is similar to a potato or a pear. It has a flavour that is lightly sweet and starchy and is consumed both cooked and raw. Interestingly the rest of the plant is poisonous to animals including humans and an extract from the seeds is used to make pesticides. Jicama combines very well with flavours of chilli, cilantro, ginger, lemon, lime, orange, red onion and soy sauce among others. So what substitutes are available for jicama in your salads and how well do they stack up?
Granny Smith Apples
The first substitute on this list shouldn’t be a surprise. Granny Smith apples have a long history of appearing in salads such as Waldorf and green salad. Granny smith apples are rather famous for their tart bitterness and this makes them great for cooking and salads. They are also a great texture match for jicama as they are a very crunchy variety of apples. It’s not all positive with granny smith apples as a jicama substitute in a salad. Granny smith apples are strongly flavoured, whether they fall on the side of tart or sweet. Jicama is lightly sweet in flavour so granny smith apples will likely alter the taste of your salads.
Another substitute for jicama in a salad is the Asian pear. The flesh of jicama is more similar to pears than any other item on this list of substitutes. These fruits look more like apples than pears but they are in the pear subfamily. They have a golden brown outer skin and crisp white flesh that is like an apple but a little moister. The flavour of Asian pears can be described as sweet and tart, something like a sweet variety of granny smith apples. Asian pears will work very well as a jicama substitute in salads. Perhaps the one downside of Asian pears is that they are not easy to find and when you do so they are usually more expensive than most other substitutes on this list.
Chinese Water Chestnuts
Chinese Water chestnuts make a good substitute for jicama in salads but there are a few caveats. Chinese Water chestnuts are a great texture match for cooked jicama. Jicama is most often used in salad fresh but the more adventurous may use cooked jicama. In addition to this raw water chestnuts do provide a decent enough match to the texture of raw jicama. For these reasons, we can include Chinese water chestnuts on the list of jicama substitutes in a salad. Chinese water chestnuts have a slightly sweet flavour and a light crunchy texture. When cooked Chinese water chestnuts develop a much harder crunch. They blend well with many flavours that jicama blends with so will do very well as a jicama substitute in a salad.
Another substitute for jicama you may find works favourably in salads is the Jerusalem artichoke. Known by the scientific name Helianthus tuberosus it also goes by the common names sunroot, sunchoke, or earth apple it is a species of sunflower that is native to North America. It grows a root tuber that has some qualities that are similar to jicama. Jerusalem artichokes are low in carbohydrates but contain around 13% inulin which breaks down to fructose over time in storage. So while fresh Jerusalem artichokes have a light sweet taste like jicama this can change in storage. The root tubers can be grated or shredded just like jicama and added to your favourite salads.
Daikon radishes can also make a decent substitute for jicama in salads. Daikon radishes go by many names including white radish, winter radish, Oriental radish and long white radish. The name daikon translates to big root. This is another root tuber that grows in a long cylindrical shape, unlike most radishes which grow in round bulbs. The vegetable is native to East Asia though it has spread all across the Asian continent. Raw daikon radishes have a mild and tangy flavour that is light and peppery. Not quite the light sweetness of jicama but it will work in many salads that jicama works in. It can easily be shredded like jicama and is ready for addition to your favourite salads.
A lot of the substitutes on this list are not very easy to get your hands on. Celery, our final substitute is something you can quite easily get your hands just about everywhere in the world. Celery is no stranger to the terrain of salads either being a popular ingredient in many salads. The texture of celery is a good match for jicama in your salads as it provides a solid crunch. The taste of celery however is more on the spicy side with a peppery kick. Though celery does have a light sweetness to it it is overpowered by the peppery taste. It will work well as a jicama substitute in some salads but not all.
You’re spoilt for choice if you’re looking for a jicama substitute in your salads. Granny smith apples and Asian pears are probably the best substitutes all around. Jerusalem artichokes, Daikon radishes and Chinese water chestnuts also make great substitutes though their availability is questionable. Celery makes an easy to find a substitute that will match the texture but has a peppery flavour that will stand out.