The letter Y is a mysterious one. Is it a vowel? Is it a consonant? And why oh why do Y and "why" sound the same?
While we can't solve the mysteries of the English language for you, we can show you that there are a whole lot of foods that start with Y that are completely wonderful! We bet you could already name a few, but it might surprise you just how many foods that start with Y there are out there to discover. Let's dig in!
20 Foods That Start With the Letter Y
The literal translation of “yakitori” is “grilled chicken”, and that’s exactly the case here. A traditional Japanese dish, yakitori typically consists of small pieces of chicken breast or dark meat that have been skewered, seasoned, and grilled to perfection. Yakitori is often dipped in or brushed with a mixture of soy sauce and rice wine before and during the grilling process. The result? Sticky, sweet, and savory skewered chicken.
As the joy of yakitori has spread across the globe, the word has come to include a wide range of grilled skewer dishes, frequently including vegetables as well as other types of meats. Since they make for excellent finger food, yakitori are often served as appetizers but are substantial enough to serve as a main course if desired.
Commonly thought of as synonymous with sweet potatoes, yams are actually a food unto themselves! A true yam has deep brown skin with pale flesh, whereas a sweet potato has red-brown skin and that brilliant orange flesh we all know and love. As you would expect from an edible tuber, a yam will have a starchy consistency, making it an excellent choice for roasting or frying. One of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare a yam is to dice it, toss it in olive oil, and roast in a hot oven. You might have to seek out a specialty market or produce vendor to get your hands on some true yams but trust us, it will be worth your effort.
3. Yam Bean
Yam beans are often seen in supermarkets as jicama, which is their Spanish name. The yam bean plant is a legume and although it does produce seed pods similar to soybeans and peanuts (two close relatives!), these seed pods are toxic when mature. Luckily, the yam bean plant also produces tuberous roots which are nutritious as well as delicious! The crunchy white flesh of yam bean tubers has a pleasantly sweet flavor and is especially delicious when eaten raw in salads or as a snack. Try them dusted with chili powder and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
4. Yankee Pot Roast
This style of pot roast is native to New England, hence its name! The dish consists of a large cut of beef and various vegetables that have been braised together in meat juices, stock, and/or wine. The cuts of meat that work best for Yankee pot roast are those that have a higher proportion of fat and connective tissue, such as beef round or brisket. Cuts of beef such as these are often most economical, as affordability was an important factor in the development of this dish in its early days. The vegetables in Yankee pot roast are along the same lines: inexpensive and hearty root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and parsnips give the meal plenty of heft without breaking the bank.
5. Yardlong Beans
Yardlong beans, despite their name, are not actually a yard long. These beans top out around half a yard long, which is still an incredibly impressive 1½ feet! Also known as asparagus beans, these long and slender beans are a variety of cowpea, but don’t let that name deceive you either. Yardlong beans are excellent food for humans, having a nutty flavor that makes them especially excellent when roasted or stir fried.
While not necessarily a food per se, yeast is such an important food ingredient that it just had to be included on our list! Yeast is a single celled organism (yes, it's alive!) and is actually a member of the fungi family, along with molds and mushrooms. As yeast consumes the sugar present in other foods, it produces carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts. This carbon dioxide production is vital to baking processes such as leavening breads and doughs, while the alcohol production is key for brewing beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages.
7. Yellow Apple
Apples are most often featured with a brilliant red hue, but there are plenty of wonderful yellow apples that deserve our attention as well. Yellow apple varieties include Golden Delicious, Crispin, and Jonagold to name a few. Yellow apples tend to be sweeter and milder than their crimson counterparts and are great for eating, juicing, baking, and of course sauce-making. The skins of yellow apples are highly nutritious, containing plenty of fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients--so think twice before peeling!
8. Yellow Eye Beans
As you might expect, yellow eye beans bear much resemblance to black eyed peas, the main difference being different colored "eyes". While black eyed peas have a characteristic black spot at their seam, yellow eye beans are creamy white all over with a dark yellow spot instead. Like many other bean varieties, yellow eye beans are available in dried form and are able to be used in numerous applications. From soups and stews to baked beans and beans n’ greens, these little gems are incredibly versatile.
9. Yellow Mombin
The yellow mombin is a fruit that is widely consumed across the Caribbean and South America where it is known by many different names such as jobo or coolie plum! As a part of the family Anacardiaceae, the yellow mombin is closely related to cashews and mangoes. The fruits of the yellow mombin tree start off light green and turn yellow as they ripen, much like lemons. These clusters of yellow fruit are super juicy and sweet--perfect for refreshing juices, jams, and ice creams.
10. Yellow Wax Beans
Yellow wax beans are in the same family as other podded beans such as green beans, runner beans, and fava beans. The name “yellow wax beans'' includes several species of beans which all share the characteristic pale yellow pod. Yellow beans can be cooked in all the same ways as other bean pods and are especially tasty when steamed, roasted, or stir fried. When shopping for yellow wax beans, look for pods that are firm but not too big as these beans can get fibrous as they grow larger.
11. Yellowfin Tuna
Yellowfin tuna: a true giant of the sea! These fish can grow up to 6 feet long and as their name suggests, have brilliant yellow fins and tails. Yellowfin tuna inhabit the warm waters of tropical and subtropical oceans where they swim in schools, often alongside other species of tuna. Usually seen on restaurant menus as ahi tuna, the fillets of yellowfin tuna are bright red before cooking and have a rich, meaty flavor thanks to their high oil content. Yellowfin tuna takes well to being grilled and is also a popular type of fish to be used in sushi and sashimi.
12. Yellow Squash
Yellow squash comes in 2 main varieties: straightneck and crookneck. Unlike zucchini (perhaps the most recognizable squash of them all), both types of yellow squash have a bulb shaped end with a tapered top. This tapered top on the crookneck variety often crooks to one side, hence the name!
Now, there is another summer squash that is yellow in color, but don't be fooled, this squash variety is actually a "golden zucchini". However they’re classified, the main fact is that summer squashes are one of the best perks of the season and you'd do well to stock up when you find them. The best way to keep yellow squash perfectly ripe is to keep it in an open plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator.
Yogurt is a popular dairy product that is created by the process of fermentation. Live bacterial cultures are introduced to milk where they begin consuming the natural sugars. The bacteria chow down, releasing lactic acid as a byproduct, and leave the resultant yogurt with a pleasant tang! It is believed that yogurt was originally developed as a means of preserving fresh dairy products. By putting fresh milk through a controlled fermentation as in the process of yogurt-making, it prevents the milk from spoiling in ways that can be harmful to one's health.
Yokan is a sweet Japanese delicacy, consisting of red bean paste, sugar, and various thickening agents such as agar and arrowroot flour. The dessert has a gelatinous texture and a deep red coloring courtesy of the azuki beans which are used to make the paste. Yokan often is served plain, but there are several variations, some of which include nuts, fruits, or even sweet potatoes!
Yolks are the center part of an egg and are present in all types of eggs--chicken, duck, turkey, and even ostrich eggs! It's no secret that egg yolks are high in cholesterol, but they also contain high levels of healthy fats and vitamins. In addition to these health benefits, the unique composition of egg yolks gives them great culinary significance as well. Since they contain both water and fat molecules, egg yolks can act as an emulsifier, successfully binding other liquids and fats together. Egg yolks are important binders for many sauces, dressings, ice cream, and baked goods.
16. Yorkshire Pudding
Though called “pudding”, Yorkshire pudding is not the creamy, custardy dessert one normally associates upon hearing the word. Originating in Great Britain, the Yorkshire pudding is more akin to light and airy rolls, very similar to popovers. Yorkshire pudding starts out as a thin, eggy batter which when baked at a high temperature, puffs up and leaves a hollow opening in the center. Yorkshire pudding is often served as a side to roasted meat, but also can be stuffed and served as a dish all on its own.
If you didn't know any better, you might see a youngberry bush and mistake it for a blackberry bush. It would be an honest mistake! Youngberries look nearly identical to blackberries and are closely related, however there are a few key differences. Overall, youngberries are smaller than blackberries, but oddly enough the drupes (small juicy nodules) that make up youngberries are actually larger. As a result, youngberries are sweet, juicier, and more fragile than typical blackberries. Arguably the best way to enjoy these sweet little treats is freshly picked from the bush, but of course they will make fantastic jams, jellies, baked goods, syrups, and pies as well.
Also known as cassava, yuca is an exceptionally nutritious root vegetable that is a staple food item for people in tropical regions of Central and South America and Africa. Yuca has a grainy texture, but with more of a sweet taste as compared to the earthy flavor of potatoes. Despite this flavor difference, yuca can be prepared in many of the same ways as potatoes and is excellent when fried, roasted, or mashed. Unlike potatoes, the skin of yuca is inedible and must be carefully removed before cooking.
19. Yukon Gold Potatoes
Yukon gold potatoes are prized for their luxuriously creamy texture and buttery flavor. At first glance, there seems to be nothing gold about them, all wrapped up in that thin brown skin! But upon cutting a Yukon gold potato, you’ll find the interior to be a golden-yellow flesh that is super moist and tender. Yukon gold potatoes are considered to be starchy potatoes (as opposed to waxy red skinned potatoes) meaning they break down easily upon cooking. This makes them a great candidate for baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, and are extra delicious (but let's be honest, what isn't) when fried.
20. Yuzu Fruit
Yuzu is a hybrid citrus fruit, thought to be a cross between the mandarin orange and a relatively obscure citrus fruit known as the papeda. The yuzu fruit is about the size of a mandarin orange and is lemon-yellow when ripe. As with other citrus fruits, yuzu is highly acidic! So much so that you cannot consume yuzu in raw form, but its juice and zest add a delicious and unique bright flavor to dishes and beverages.
Foods That Start With Y: The Takeaway
When learning about new ingredients, it's helpful to compare them to things you might already be familiar with. Once you realize that a basket of warm Yorkshire pudding on your dinner table is just a small step away from the freshly baked rolls you're accustomed to, or that a side of yuca french fries can accompany your burger instead of sweet potato fries, your entire world opens up.
Use this list of foods that start with Y to give something new a try! Maybe you'll discover a new delicious dish, or you'll come to appreciate your favorite comfort food classics even more. The letter Y itself might be atypical, but foods that start with Y don't have to be uncommon occurrences in your life. Pick one out and see what the letter Y can bring to your table!