Clean Eating: Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad

Out goes December with its indulgent dinners and desserts… and in comes January with cleanses, detox plans, and unfortunately – quick-fix diets. Silly diet programs aside, do you do cleanses or detox plans this time of year? I have never done a cleanse or detox. I could very well benefit from one, I”m not sure! I just haven’t ever done so!

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad - from "Let Them Eat Vegan", by Dreena Burton of Plant-Powered Kitchen

Generally though, I do feel one of the perks of eating a whole-foods plant-based diet is that the majority of our foods are already… clean… real… minimally processed… detoxifying! We can enjoy a cleansing, detoxifying diet daily. Not that we (ahem, I) always do. Most of us enjoy some sort of treat or more indulgent foods from day to day. (Tell me I’m not alone!) But it’s very attainable to eat a clean diet most of the day – or the majority of meals in a week.

I think the more we move towards healthier eating, the more we feel like heck when we don’t stick to it! I sure do! I’m no food saint. I enjoy my chocolate and ice creams, and have come to really appreciate red wine in recent years. (What’s that all about? Is it a 40s thing?) And, we are all under stress and exposed to environmental toxins daily. While I feel healthier than I did in my 20s, I do notice that it takes less to nudge me out of balance than years ago. I’m not sure if that’s related to the stress of being a busy mom, being in my 40s, or maybe because healthy eating is a bit of a one-way street. Once you move in a healthier direction, your body does not appreciate going back.

Balance in life has always been important to me (I’m a Libra). So, I guess I’ve always tried to keep these food and health stress imbalances more in-check with cleaner eats throughout the day. Starting the day with nutrient-dense green smoothies and having nutrient-dense salad bowls or wraps at lunch are two such ways. These are routine foods for me, but there are always ways to mix them up – especially the lunch bowls.


This Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad from LTEV is a perfect example of delicious, clean, plant-powered food that can be enjoyed regularly. I love the blend of ingredients and flavors in this recipe. The smoky, spicy, bright dressing plays off the sweet, comforting spuds and hearty black beans. It’s tasty, nutritious, and very satisfying!

This salad is also a perfect example of how one dish can be served in different ways to be enjoyed for a lighter lunch, a more substantial lunch, or for an even more substantial dinner…

  • Serve on its own, in a bowl as-is!
  • Or, serve how I usually enjoy it – in a ‘lunch bowl’ with steamed kale, raw spinach or lettuce.
  • Spoon and roll in green wraps, or simply spoon into smaller, crispy romaine leaves for “salad boats”!
  • Do I need to mention it’s even more fabulous topped with avocado or avocado cream? Yeah, that’s pretty much a #dreenareciperuleofthumb – avoc, please! 😉
  • Try layering with that guacamole in a serving dish to serve at parties. Pair with tortilla chips (see recipe note, below).
  • Transform into a heartier dinner meal: serve over quinoa or brown rice (again with avocado), or over baked potatoes drizzled with a savory cashew cream, use as a taco filling, or tuck into whole-grain tortillas and bake for warm burritos to serve with salad and guac on the side!

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad from "Let Them Eat Vegan" by Dreena Burton

Smoky Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad ReciPage to print/share

gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, oil-free 

The sweet potatoes in this salad partially break down and help hold the other ingredients together. They offer sweetness and along with the beans a soft toothsome texture, which is balanced by the crunchy, fresh red pepper and cucumber and the smoky essence in the spices added.

2 cups cooked sweet potato, cut in cubes (see note for baking tips)

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

¾ cup red or yellow bell pepper, diced

½ cup cucumber, diced (seeds removed) (or jicama, peel trimmed and diced)

2 tbsp chives, roughly chopped, or green portion of green onions, sliced

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, minced (cilantro can also be used)

1 – 1 ½ tsp fresh oregano, minced

4 – 5 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (will need about 2-3 limes)

1 tsp sea salt (little scant)

Freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp chipotle hot sauce (I use Tabasco brand; can use another ½ tsp if you like it smokier/hotter)

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp allspice

1/8 – 1/4 tsp smoked paprika (start with 1/8, then adjust to taste)

¼ – 1/2 tsp pure maple syrup or agave nectar

To bake potatoes, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Bake at 400 for 40-60 minutes (baking time will depend on whether you are using smaller or larger sweet potatoes). Check the potatoes a few times in the last 10-15 minutes of baking.  They can be baked until quite soft, which will give potatoes that meld into the salad (losing most of their structure). While baking and cooling sweet potatoes (see note), prepare other ingredients. Once sweet potatoes cool to just warm or cool, cut in cubes and add to a large bowl with remaining ingredients (starting with 4 – 4 ½ tbsp lime juice, I like to use close to the 5 tbsp myself). Toss through to combine well. Taste, and add additional lime juice if desired, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or chipotle hot sauce if desired. Salad is delicious at room temperature, but can be chilled for a picnic or to keep for lunches during the week.

Make It More-ish!:  This would be delicious as a layered dip with guacamole.  Distribute salad over the bottom of a shallow casserole dish. Make a simple guacamole, and dollop or smooth over top to distribute as evenly as possible. Scoop out portions to serve with tortilla or pita chips, or to wrap in lettuce leaves.

If This Apron Could Talk: If you want more of firm texture to the sweet potatoes, bake for less time, until just ‘al dente’ (cooked through, but with a slight give when pierced), which will help them hold more structure in the salad.  I like the sweet potatoes cooked until mostly soft since I like how they meld into the salad and help it ‘hold’ when serving/eating… but, it’s up to you for your salad!

photo credit: Emma Potts

Do you ever do cleanses or detox programs? Think I should consider one? Do you have any regular clean-eating routines? Please share your tips/ideas!

Almond-Roasted Cauliflower (and ‘evolving’ taste buds!)

If you’ve been using my books since way back (like early days with The Everyday Vegan and Vive le Vegan), you’ll know I haven’t always loved all my veggies.  In fact, I once declared that you would not find cauliflower in my cookbooks!

Times have changed and now I’m eating my words (and the cruciferous)… because Let Them Eat Vegan has a selection of recipes with cauliflower, including this one:

When I created this recipe I had no idea how much of it I could eat.. or our girls!  Normally our girls won’t dig into cauliflower, but when I make this recipe I double the batch so we all get some!

And, we’re not the only cauliflower-converts.  I’ve heard from dozens of people that have tried this recipe and then e-mail saying “I now like cauliflower“!

While I’m still not a fan of raw cauliflower (or raw broccoli… or cabbage), I never thought I’d love eating raw greens like kale and chopping copious amounts of parsley for my lunch salads!  It is so true that over time our palates adjust.  Our taste buds evolve and we become “open” to more diverse flavors and nuances in foods.

Eating vegan did just that for me. Before becoming vegan I relied on cheese to make foods taste good. I learned there are far more options that taste better – and feel better.

Do you feel this way about eating vegan? What foods do you now love that you didn’t before? 

Enjoy the recipe, kids!

x Dreena


Almond Roasted Cauliflower wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free  (from Let Them Eat Vegan)

link to print/share

Roasting cauliflower is not a new idea, but the addition of almond meal and nutritional yeast makes this side dish something special. Easy . . . and addictive (even if you aren’t a huge cauliflower fan)!

4 – 4 ½ cups cauliflower flowerets (about 1 medium cauliflower, with bite-sized flowerets cut and used)

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (can reduce, or omit, see note)

1/8 tsp (rounded) sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper (optional if making for kids)

2 tbsp almond meal (try tiger nut flour for nut-free version)

1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet or 8 by 12-inch baking pan with parchment paper.  Toss the cauliflower with the olive oil and sea salt (and pepper, if using). Transfer to the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, tossing once or twice. At the 20-minute mark, check the doneness and color of the cauliflower. If it has started to soften, turning a golden color, add the almond meal and nutritional yeast and toss again. If, at 20 minutes, it isn’t at this stage, let it bake for another 10 minutes and then add the almond meal and nutritional yeast. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or more, tossing again once, until the cauliflower is golden brown and fully softened.  Remove from the oven and season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm!  Serves 2 to 3… or maybe just 1!

Oil-free note: You can reduce or omit the oil. Without oil, the cauliflower will not be as moist and caramelized. Be sure to use parchment paper.