A Caribbean spin on a classic favorite. Chunks of cassava enveloped in a homemade mayonnaise dressing and studded with capers, celery, and carrots for the ultimate crunch.
What is cassava?
Cassava which is also known as yuca is an essential root vegetable used in Caribbean cooking. We add it to soup, boil and sauté it with onions, mash it with seasonings, fry it as chips, and use it to make a popular sweet snack known as pone. Cassava is quite starchy and has a velvety smooth texture when cooked, similar to a creamy red potato, though the flavors are not alike. It makes a great substitute for potatoes, and in this case perfect for a cold salad since it holds up well to the mayonnaise dressing.
What is cassava salad?
This salad is a Caribbean twist on the classic potato salad. Potato is replaced with small chunks of cassava and seasoned with hot pepper, green onions, and a glossy homemade mayonnaise. First you'll chop and boil about two pounds cassava. Let it cool off then add salt, pepper and finely diced Guyanese wiri wiri or scotch bonnet pepper. Decide on your "mix-ins." We used carrots, celery, and grated eggs here. Toss it all together with the dressing and refrigerate until you're ready to serve.
How to peel cassava
To start, chop both ends off the cassava and discard. Now chop into smaller sizes that is easier to hold. About 3inches wide. Use a small pairing knife to make a slit through the outer rough brown skin as well as the pink layer underneath. Use your knife to gently lift both the brown and pink skin. Now with a little more force, pull the skin completely off. Alternately you could use frozen cassava measure for measure.
Collaboration with Chef Devan Rajkumar
This post is part of a collaboration with Chef Devan. We made a mouthwatering pot roast chicken recipe and had it with this cassava salad. Rocky and Sherry from the popular YouTube channel, Being Rocky extended a warm welcome to us to cook in their kitchen for as long as we needed. They were incredibly generous and so fun to be around. From the moment we all met each other, it was like a group of old friends hanging out and enjoying good food. Check out our collab on post roast chicken here.
Devan whipped up a luscious homemade mayonnaise and tossed it with the chunks of boiled cassava. The mayonnaise was light and silky and perfect against the dense texture of the cassava. I particularly love capers in these type of tangy cold bar salads and he wanted shredded carrots and celery for a nice crunch. Together, it was insanely good! And believe or not, this salad is not heavy in the belly! I am guessing because the cassava is cut into small chunks so it doesn't feel like you're eating too much of it at once.
My cassava salad story
The first time I made cassava salad was by total accident. My cousin Sita who lives in Guyana first introduced me to cassava salad. She makes it often and serves it as a side dish. I was so excited to make it, but never got around to it until we decided to barbecue for dinner one day and didn't have any potatoes for the potato salad!
I went to the grocery store and bought all the ingredients I needed for our kebabs, grilled vegetables, and cheesecake. Except potatoes, because I had some in my pantry already; or so I thought. When I got back home and was ready to boil the potatoes I couldn’t for the life of me find any potatoes in the kitchen! Apparently I had only two potatoes which was six potatoes short for potato salad. I settled on making a rice dish, but saw some cassava in my vegetable tray and immediately remembered Sita. It was my first time making cassava salad. I cooked it exactly how she instructed and it turned out fabulous! So much so that a couple of us in my home actually prefer it now over potato salad.
What to serve with cassava salad
Potato salad especially, is a summer classic destined for barbecues, picnics, and backyard celebrations. But in Caribbean culture, this is a year round dish. It's common to find these type of cold salads at Easter time as well as a Christmas spread, and every event in between. You can serve this cassava salad alongside chow mein, fried rice, and bbq foods, or dare I say on its own. Hey, it's got eggs and vegetables in it so that counts as a complete meal, right?
Make it your own with a variety of mix-ins
Add your favorite ingredients to the mix. Here are some ideas: sweet peas, chopped pickles, olives, red peppers and even some red onion would be delicious in this salad.
- 2lbs cassava, peeled
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 3 eggs
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 green onions, finely sliced
- 2-3 wiri wiri peppers or 1 small scotch bonnet or habanero
- ½ cup celery, finely sliced
- ¾ cup carrot, grated
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ¼ cup neutral oil, such as avocado, grapeseed, or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon salt, adjust to taste
- 4 teaspoons capers (optional)
- Peel cassava: Chop both ends off the cassava and discard. Now chop into smaller sizes that is easier to hold. About 3inches wide. Use a small pairing knife to make a slit through the outer rough brown skin as well as the pink layer. Use your knife to gently lift both the brown and pink skin. Now with a little more force, pull the skin completely off. Repeat for remaining pieces.
- Chop cassava: Chop each piece in half vertically. Lay the flat side down on a cutting board and chop into 1 inch sized cubes.
- Cook cassava: Add chopped cassava to a large pot. Fill with enough water to cover the cassava. Add 1 ½ teaspoons salt to the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer (medium low heat). Simmer until the cassava is tender when pierced with a fork, about 22-23 minutes. Drain, and set aside leaving cassava in the colander until completely cooled.
- Cook the eggs: While the cassava is cooling, add the eggs to a small pot, cover with water and boil for 10 mintues. Remove pot from the heat and leave eggs in the water for an additional 3 minutes. Drain water from pot leaving eggs inside. Gently shake the pot back and forth so the eggs can hit the sides, loosening up the shells. Peel eggs and rinse. Grate eggs using the larger holes of a box grater, or coarsely chop the eggs instead.
- Chop the aromatics and vegetables: Finely slice 3 green onions, reserve a tablespoon to garnish at the end. Finely chop wiri wiri peppers or hot pepper of your choice, set aside. Finely slice celery. Wash and peel carrots. Grate carrots using the larger holes of a box grater.
- Make the mayonnaise: In the bowl of a food processor, add the egg yolk and dijon mustard. Pulse on low for 30 seconds. With the processor still on, slowly drizzle in the oil, tiny drops at a time and let it emulsify for another 30 seconds. Add the lemon juice and salt. Continue to pulse for an additional 15 seconds. Taste and adjust the salt. Empty mayonnaise into a separate bowl. Stir in capers and set aside.
- Assemble the salad: In a large mixing bowl, add cassava then sprinkle black pepper and salt. Use a rubber spatula to gently toss it together. Add the eggs, green onions, hot peppers, celery, and carrots. Gently toss until well combined. Pour the mayonnaise over the salad and slowly mix to completely coat the cassava. Do not put too much force in this step otherwise the cassava can turn mushy. We want the cassava to keep its shape as we toss everything together. Transfer salad into another dish with a lid. Garnish with handful of green onions. Refrgerate for 30 minutes minimum before serving.
- Storage: Store salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- You can certainly use frozen cassava to save time. Let cassava thaw a little so you can chop it into cubes. Proceed with the instructions from step 3.
- If you do not like too much celery, reduce amount to ¼ cup.
- Omit any ingredients that doesn't suit your fancy!
- Add what you like- pickles, sweet peas, red pepper are all great additions to this salad.
- Use your favorite store-bought mayonnaise if you don't want to make it from scratch