What are root vegetables?
Root vegetables grow underground. In Spanish root vegetables are often referred to as Vianda. Yams, beets, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, kohlrabi, onions, garlic, celery root (or celeriac), horseradish, daikon, turmeric, jicama, Jerusalem artichokes, radishes, and ginger are all considered root vegetables. They are starchy vegetables, and because they grow underground, they absorb many nutrients from the soil. In Latin America and the Caribbean, root vegetables like yuca, aka cassava, yautia, malanga, taro, sweet potatoes, ñame, and white yams are all native to the land and have heavily influenced Latin cuisine.
Here are some of the health benefits of root vegetables:
- Good source of dietary energy.
- Rich in soluble and insoluble fiber.
- High levels of vitamins A, B & C.
- High levels of minerals and antioxidants.
- Help boost gut health.
- Lower high levels of blood fats and glucose.
- Reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers.
Because root vegetables grow underground, they must grow as naturally and organic as possible. Just like they absorb nutrients, they can also absorb any pesticides and chemicals in the soil. Buying the produce when it is in season, from a farmers market, or organic is recommended to get the best quality and nutrients.
What is “Vianda” and How to make it
Vianda is a popular dish made in Puerto Rico. It is basically root vegetables boiled until soft. They are served with a bit of olive oil on top and typically with bacalao (salted codfish) on the side. You can find a recipe for our famous “Gazpacho” on the blog.
To make the vianda, peel and chop yuca, yautia, ñame, and malanga into 2-3” chunks. You can also peel a few green bananas and cut them into 2” pieces and add to the vianda. In a large pot, add all your vianda, fill with water until it is all covered, and boil until soft enough to stick a fork in them. Drain, add a few pieces of each onto a plate, and drizzle extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt to taste. Enjoy as a side to your favorite protein, veggies, or salad. Buen provecho!
What is sancocho?
Sancocho is a famous stew in Latin American countries, mainly because it’s made with various root vegetables that predominantly grow in warmer climates. The recipe varies from place to place, but the base of it is really similar. The stew consists of chicken, pork, or beef, and a variety of root vegetables like yuca roots (cassava), yautia (malanga), ñame, and batata (a type of sweet potato or yam). Some also add green bananas and green plantains. I will share the Puerto Rican version of sancocho, as it’s the one I’m most familiar with, and a recipe inspired by the Panamanian sancocho. It’s the perfect meal for colder weather and rainy days, but it can be enjoyed anytime. Plus, it’s a healthy stew as root vegetables are gluten-free, low-glycemic, and high in fiber and minerals.
Puerto Rican Sancocho
(Meat and Root Vegetable Stew)
- Chop the meats into 2-inch chunks or smaller if desired and marinate with the adobo.
- In a large pot, over low-to-medium heat, combine the oil, sofrito, chicken, and beef, and stir until the meat is brown on all sides. Add a bit of broth if the meat starts to burn or stick to the bottom.
- Add the sazón, tomato sauce, broth, green olives, and all the root vegetables, including the green bananas, plantains, carrots, and corn.
- Add additional broth or water if needed until everything is covered.
- Bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cover for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes or until the stock has reduced, the meat is tender, and the vegetables are soft.
- Serve and sprinkle cilantro on top if desired.
- Can be served with rice or on its own as a hearty soup. Enjoy!!
(Chicken & Root Vegetable Stew)
As I mentioned, sancocho is a traditional soup or stew in various Latin American countries. My trip to Panama inspired this recipe. I ordered a sancocho at a local restaurant and was pleasantly surprised. In Puerto Rico, sancocho is made as a hearty stew with various meat and root vegetables. In Panama, it’s made as a broth chicken soup. In this variation, I combined both the Puerto Rican and Panamanian sancochos with a twist, as I’ve made it compliant to suit both the elimination (Whole30) and autoimmune paleo diets. I love this recipe because it combines the soothing benefits of bone broth and turmeric. It is ideal for someone dealing with autoimmune symptoms.
Paleo - AIP - Whole 30
- Cut the chicken into small pieces.
- Chop the cilantro, including the stems.
- In mortar and pestle, mince the garlic cloves. Add the cilantro and continue to mince together. Then add the salt, oregano, turmeric, and sazón, and mix well.
- In a large pot, add the oil and the herb and spice mixture on high heat, and allow to sizzle for 30 seconds. Add the chopped meat and mix well.
- Continue to stir on high heat for a minute or two. Add a bit of broth if it starts to stick. Bring to low and cover.
- In the meantime, chop the onion, add it to the chicken and mix well. Cover and continue to cook on low.
- Peel the plantains and yuca, and cut them into 1-2 inch pieces.
- Bring the heat back to high, and add the broth, plantain, and yuca. Continue to cook on high heat until it boils. After it boils, lower the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes until the yuca and plantain are tender enough to stick a fork in them easily.
- Turn off the heat. Enjoy right away, or allow it to sit and cool off for 10 minutes.
- Serve and top with a few fresh cilantro leaves if desired.
Made with Love, Mayra
Founder of Nutriton Dork & Healthy Rican
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