Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with Chile and Lime

I’ve been working on a recipe for a robust, vegetarian posole for the past couple of months. The version I finally came up with was so labor-intensive (yet so completely worth every tedious step), that I haven’t had the wherewithal to make it again in order to photograph and share it. Hominy and beans are soaked and boiled for hours. Dried ancho chiles are re-hydrated, peeled, and pureed. Stock is made. Sweet potatoes are roasted. Soup is simmered. Toppings are prepared. Five years later, when you are half dead with fatigue and starvation, posole is finally ready to be devoured.

Hence, this is not a recipe for posole, but rather the happy accident that came out of some leftover ingredients from that project.

I’d been using the leftover ancho chile paste to slather on sweet potatoes which I’d roast in the oven and top with lime juice. The other day, I found myself with some extra cooked quinoa as well, so, inspired by this lovely recipe from Naturally Ella, I tossed it all together into a salad which I topped with what we had around: avocado chunks, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese.

The tangy-sweet salad, full of protein-rich quinoa and pumpkin seeds, was exactly what I wanted to be eating. So I made a second (huge) batch to share.

Multi-quinoa cooks up light and fluffy, with a bit of crunch from the firmer red and black grains. Soaking it first does away with the bitter outer coating, leaving behind only mild, nutty sweetness. (Though I do hope to try this with sorghum, as per the original recipe.)

We like the salad best when still a little warm, when the goat cheese gets a bit gooey against pillows of spiced and slightly smokey sweet potatoes. Toasted cumin adds robust bass notes, and lime gives it all a lively edge. Avocado season is in full swing in California and our co-op is currently stocking 4 different varieties of the oblong fruits, all locally-grown. Creamy slices give this salad a feeling of decadence, and so does a generous pour of good olive oil. Red onion and cilantro add crunch and freshness, respectively, making this a nourishing one-bowl meal that doesn’t taste like a big helping of deprivation.

(Speaking of deprivation, this space has been shockingly devoid of chocolate as of late. Don’t worry, I’m getting ready to remedy that in a major way.)

We served this at a get-together recently, and it was a huge hit. The flavors just work so nicely together, people can’t help but open their eyes wide and exclaim, “This is good!” (At least, that’s what I do.) Many thanks to Erin for this beautiful recipe!

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Keen on quinoa:

Quinoa, Beet and Chickpea Veggie Burgers
Quinoa, Kale and Sweet Potato Salad
Quinoa with Roasted Corn, Zucchini and Mint

Sweet on sweet potatoes:

Curried Red Lentil, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup
Sweet Potato, Chard, and Black Bean Enchiladas
Spiced Sweet Potato Oven Fries

One year ago:

Nettle Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Pink Grapefruit Vieux Mot Cocktail

Two years ago:

Winter Vegetable Noodle Curry

Three years ago:

Butterscotch Pudding

Four years ago:

Citrus Cornmeal Pound Cake

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with Chile and Lime

Adapted from Naturally Ella

We like this salad best when the components are still slightly warm. But the base can also be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve, up to 2 or 3 days. The grains and veg will continue soaking in the flavors and moisture from the dressing, so add more lime, salt, and olive oil until the flavors taste bright and poppy again. Do be sure to taste your chile powder to verify its mildness before dumping it on the sweet potatoes, or add a few pinches of cayenne if you want it kickier.

Makes 6-8 servings

1 3/4 pounds sweet potatos (jewel or garnet, about 4 medium)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons mild ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 cups quinoa
2 3/4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons cumin seed
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced
leaves from a small bunch cilantro
juice of 1-2 limes
2 large (ripe but firm) avocados
4 ounces goat cheese (or feta, cotija, or queso fresco)
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375ºF. Scrub the sweet potatoes, trim away the ends, and cut them into 1″ chunks. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil, salt, chile powder and paprika, and toss to coat. Spread into a single layer, and roast, flipping the potatoes once or twice, until they are soft and golden in places, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the quinoa in a very fine mesh strainer and place the strainer in a bowl. Fill the bowl with enough cool water to cover the quinoa and soak for 5-10 minutes, swishing the quinoa occasionally with you fingers. Drain the quinoa well, and place it in a large saucepan with the water and salt. Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until all the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender with a hint of bite, about 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff gently with a fork. Dump into a very large bowl.

Toast the cumin in a small, dry skillet over a medium flame, shaking the pan constantly until the cumin smells toasty, 1 minute. Let cool, then grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

When the sweet potatoes are done, add them to the bowl with the quinoa. Sprinkle the toasted, ground cumin over, drizzle with the olive oil, add the onion and cilantro and toss to combine. Add enough lime juice to give the quinoa some punch, and more salt if you feel it needs it. Serve the salad topped with avocado slices, crumbled goat cheese, and the pumpkin seeds, drizzling more lime juice and olive oil over the top just before serving.

28 thoughts on “Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with Chile and Lime”

  1. I think this salad is what I've been looking for! It's full of my favourite ingredients and looks so good! I've just found your blog and have been so inspired by your work:)

    1. What a sweet thing to say – thanks, Kezia! These are many of my faves, too. From the rhubarb recipes on your site, it looks like we have similar tastes. :)

    2. Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog:) I made this salad for my lunch today – it was amazing! I didn't use any cheese and used pine nuts instead of pumpkin seeds. It was super delicious and I'll definitely be making it again!

  2. Oh… I am so behind. I still want to try out the shrub and miso soup! I would make it right now but am missing sweet potatoes. So I think I'm going to make this next weekend for girls night – with drinks of course.

    1. That's so sweet! I always have a million recipes I want to try, too. Please let me know how you like these. And girls night with drinks! Can I come? ;)

  3. This sounds like the exact kind of lunch I would love to eat! I always try to sneak in a sweet potato into my lunch daily.

    The vegetarian posole sounds so good though! I do hope you share it :) I'm a Texan, therefore, I understand the need to soak chiles and the time they require to extract flavor :)

    1. I've been trying to live a more sweet potato-y existence, too! They're such a perfect food, and I don't get enough of them. My mom used to roast them and serve them simply with sour cream – so decadent and delicious! And thanks for the encouragement about the posole – I gotta get on that!

  4. This is so pretty I just want to get the pictures printed and framed! Well, actually, I really want to eat it too! Don't you love when great recipes come from leftovers?

    1. Oh, Monet, that's the nicest thing anyone could say! It was so dark when I took these that I had to do heavy editing to get them to look ok, so I really appreciate the sweet compliment! And yes, so lovely when leftovers work out well!

  5. Such great flavors (I love throw-everything-yummy-thats-in-the-fridge into a bowl meals), and the pictures are gorgeous. The posole sounds awesome too!

  6. Well, I must say that I am super excited about that posole recipe (and would totally be the crazy person spending her weekend making it), but I am also thrilled for this salad! It has so many of my favorite things!

  7. Ooh, this sentence 'the avocado season is in full swing in California' made me feel extreme envy for a moment, here in the storm-battered UK!

    This looks mouth-watering, just the thing to counteract the winter blues, even if I have to use imported avocado :)

    Kate

  8. OH YES! I think you would know that I absolutely love this (and yes, we are complete spoiled brats with the fresh avocados- I think I've eaten one every day for the past couple of weeks.) Lovely photos and I hope you do post the posole recipe sometime soon!

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