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What is Yacon?

Yacon is a plant native to Peru that produces sweet tubers that resemble yellow sweet potatoes.
Yacon syrup.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Irene Tobón, Pefkos
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2014
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Yacon is an interesting plant native to Peru, which produces sweet tubers that slightly resemble yellow sweet potatoes. It is only recently that people outside of South America have become interested in yacon, and you can now find the tuber in some place in Europe and the US. Some time ago, Japan also began growing the tuber and it has become popular in dishes like tempura.

The tubers can be eaten in a variety of ways. They can be baked, boiled or steamed or eaten raw, and many people think of them as having a slight apple flavor. In addition to tasting good, they also have a unique element that makes them attractive as a food.

Yacon tubers are sweet and crunchy when raw but they contain a special sugar that humans don’t metabolize well. This sugar is called inulin or oligofructose. The special sugar of yacon can be used to sweeten products for people with diabetes, because it doesn’t increase blood sugar levels. In fact, you can now purchase yacon syrup in some health food stores and on the Internet.

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Many people compare the syrup to molasses or honey, except that most consider it even sweeter. It does need to be substituted carefully in recipes and used sparingly, or foods made with it may taste overly sweet. Some people prefer this syrup as a sweetener to things like processed sugars. Vegans who avoid refined sugars and who don't eat honey because it is produced from bees may especially enjoy having this naturally produced sugar substitute.

You certainly don’t have to think of yacon as only used in syrup. Since growers have started producing this tuber outside of South America, chefs and amateur cooks have responded with numerous recipes for its use. Curries can be excellent with additions of chopped or grated yacon, and the tuber also lends itself well to use in salads. One recipe of interest is a Waldorf salad that combines carrots, walnuts, raisins, and grated slices of the tuber with a mayonnaise dressing.

There are also some nutritional benefits to eating yacon. It is considered a nutraceutical by some people because of its low sugar content, which may not only be a good sugar replacement for diabetics but might lower risk of diabetes. It may additionally promote good digestion. As a food, it’s eaten mostly for flavor. It doesn’t have a lot of calories but also isn’t a terrific source of protein, fiber or vitamins.

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candyquilt
Post 3

@simrin-- It would be hard to find yacon products in regular grocery stores, but definitely check out organic groceries.

I found yacon herbal tea at our organic grocery. I remember asking the employee about what yacon was. Some months later, I also spotted fresh yacon at the farmer's market in Oregon. I didn't pick up any as I had no idea what I would do with them.

I do wish I had tried them though. I didn't know that they are so tasty and healthy! I will definitely buy some next time. I have a cousin who is vegan, I'm sure she would be happy to use it if I don't.

burcidi
Post 2

We use yacón a lot in Bolivia. It grows in regions near the Andes mountains and is transported to other parts of Bolivia. I love fresh young yacón roots. It is very crisp and tastes like apples.

Sometimes the Bolivian grocery brings yacón from Latin America. My wife cooks yacón with fish and pepper sauce. It is a really nice flavor. Whenever I have it, it reminds me of home.

SteamLouis
Post 1

Wow, a low-calorie all natural sugar substitute?! It sounds great! How come I've never heard of this before? I've been hearing about new and all natural sugar substitutes like splenda, but have never seen yacon sugar or yacon syrup in the grocery store. I guess it is still not widely available in the U.S., which is a shame.

Type 2 diabetes runs in my family and both of my parents suffer from it. It seems like an unavoidable disease that will inflict me at one point in the future. I am still doing my best to avoid it by eating wholesome foods, exercising and trying to stay away from sugar.

I'm good at avoiding desserts but I also have a sweet tooth and tend to put sugar or honey in my tea and coffee. I also don't like to use artificial sweeteners as I read that they increase the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.

I'm very excited to hear about yacon though. I will look at organic stores and online to see if I can get yacon syrup or substitute.

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