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!


  1. says

    Just made this for my food club tomorrow (where we all cook in batches and exchange dishes) and it is amazing! I left out the allspice and tabasco (because didn’t want to buy them just for this recipe) and just subbed some cayenne for heat.
    Even my husband who’s not usually a fan of sweet potatoes loved it! Will definitely be bookmarking this for future potlucks.
    Frugal Vegan Mom recently posted..Our Homemade Sauerkraut ObsessionMy Profile

  2. says

    Thank you!!! My husband has moved from a fairly carnivorous diet to total plant based in the last few months and hence I’m on the search for new recipes. This one has his name all over it!! All the ingredients he loves all in one place though I know he’d want to double the cilantro! Your site was recommended by a girlfriend and I’m so happy to have found it.
    Kim – Liv Life recently posted..Heart-Healthy Fluffy Vegan PancakesMy Profile

  3. Laurie says

    Hi Dreena! I’m excited to try this recipe and know it will be delicious . . . because ALL of your recipes are amazing! I thought I would just chime in on the detox/cleanse issue. I personally don’t feel the need to do a formal detox or cleanse because my diet is a whole foods plant-based diet with no added oils or processed foods. I feel great and my body has the energy to power me up my mountain every day. At 53 years old, I finally have found a diet which gives me amazing energy and allows me to maintain my weight (BMI of 19.2), which is something I’ve struggled with for years. Plus, I get to eat all sorts of yummy whole food treats which satisfy all of my cravings. I think our bodies cleanse themselves if we don’t clog them up with junk. Thank you for all of your incredibly delicious recipes! My whole family is benefiting from your work :)

  4. Suzi says

    We made this today, and I have it in the fridge for tomorrow letting everything marry. I tasted it – it’s yum! We have no kiddos, so we went heavy on the spices- all of them, except the salt and black pepper. I did use the sauce from a can of opened chipotle peppers I have in the fridge instead of the Tabasco sauce, and I used 1/2 tsp of that. Perfect amount of heat and smokey for us. Funny, but I think the allspice is the kicker in this recipe. What an unusual ingredient to find here, but it works! Thanks for the great recipe! Love your stuff!

  5. says

    Oh, Dreena–this looks amazing!

    And I am such a fan of one-bowl meals. I just wrote a cookbook (ebook) called The Intentionalist Cooks! and I have a recipe for Hoisin Black Bean Slaw–I have been craving smoky recipes that use black beans, sweet potatoes, and such, so this one fills the bill (and soon my tummy, too)!

    Thanks for your fab recipes–and Emma’s photos are lovely!
    Shanna recently posted..The Intentionalist Cooks Cookbook is Here!My Profile

  6. says

    I always love your recipes Dreena – simple, full of flavor, natural ingredients. You are still one of my all-time favorite recipe creators! Pinning this all over the place :)

  7. says

    Hi Dreena!
    This salad looks incredible! Healthy, delicious, substantial and easy! I will have to try it really soon :)

    I do cleanse regularly; I mix it up by doing either daily cleansing, one or two day cleanses. It gets rid of the environmental toxins you mentioned, helps decrease sugar cravings, increases energy and mental clarity. It is a cellular level cleanse, so you don’t spend all day on the toilet which is such an added bonus 😉 I also take a one ounce shot of a liquid herbal supplement that supplies my body with antioxidants and adaptogens to help me deal with whatever is thrown at me during the day (i.e. stress, fatigue, sore muscles, etc.). If you are interested in more information, please check out my website and/or email me.


    P.S. I love reading your posts and recipes; you have become so successful and knowledgeable about healthy eating and sharing your passion with others. You are inspiring :)

  8. Debbie says

    I left some information out that may be helpful to anyone wishing to lend advice… I already am a fan and true subscriber to coconut oil (as opposed to canola, corn or vegetable) and use it daily along with grape seed oil in my cooking. Also coconut and almond flours instead of any other flours, almond milk instead of cow’s milk and stevia has replaced ALL sugar in my home. Stevia was replaced long before cancer… and my only beverage daily has been water since 2004. My biggest issues are tolerating fresh, raw veggies as all my body is willing to tolerate is unhealthy white flour based carbohydrates. I need serious help in order to continue this journey. Thanks again.

  9. Debbie says

    Hello Dreena, I am a newbie here having clicked on this link that was found via a Facebook share this morning. I have been forced to change my already somewhat healthier eating mentality recently after being diagnosed in November with “new onset type 2 diabetes”. I am surviving a hellacious and near fatal form of cancer to which I took 5 very powerful and extremely toxic forms of chemotherapy drugs. It damaged my body so severely that I’ve been left with some very debilitating autoimmune disorders and new ones popping up every year. Not to mention extreme chronic pain disorder which is found nearly everywhere a body has sensation… or lack of sensation (chemo-induced) severe neuropathy. I also survived and now have “managed” closed angle glaucoma in 2009 (6 months before being diagnosed with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma in February 2010) which even had me temporarily blind for 6 weeks! I am obviously a survivor, but it takes a very strong willed determination to be one quite honestly. And I can EASILY see how many do not survive. That being said, I had been changing the way I see food for several years before the bottom dropped out. But dis-ease was silently taking over my body and my efforts to lose weight were producing no results. Hence, I rode a roller coaster of “on again-off again” changes in my diet. My biggest issues are that I normally love meat and could never stay on a vegan diet even when I really wanted to. I do not like the taste of brown rice or other rices no matter how many recipes I’ve tried. After chemo, my body could not digest meat OR fruits and vegetables. I literally lived on over cooked white rice and macaroni and cheese. Being 100% Italian, I even had trouble with my delicious home made red sauce, so much to my emotional dismay, spaghetti with tomato sauce had to go. I spent 3 1/2 years (until this past summer, 2013) vomiting 3-4 times EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Barr none. My esophagus now has lesions. Through elimination diet, we found most of my extreme nausea/vomiting triggers and at least now I can eat salad and some vegetables on SOME (not all) days without vomiting, doubling over in pain or intense nausea. I am trying to learn to love clean foods again, but my body continues to resist. This photo of the sweet potato and black bean salad looks absolutely delicious. But still I fear going through the trouble of making it only to find that my body will reject violently. If that happens, I may never be able to look at those ingredients again without experiencing violent nausea. That happens to many people when certain foods make them vomit. They never want it ever again. Perhaps you and some readers can relate from pregnancy vomiting experiences? It’s a pretty common side effect to vomiting. Any and all advice is welcome. I choose to survive this and one day find pleasure and joy in waking up free from the bondage extreme and chronic pain, not to mention cellular damage… all part of the not-so-fun little toy prize found in the bottom of the box of “Cracker Jacks” more commonly known as cancer. I believe the saying that “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors”. And this post is part of my relentless effort to always do everything in my power to find answers. I will NEVER give up no matter what. My will have to cede before my will to live does. Thanks all. <3

    • Dreena says

      My goodness, Debbie. My heart goes out to you. What a rough journey you have been on. You are obviously a very strong and resilient woman. I cannot imagine how much strength and stamina you needed to fight back from all of these health challenges. I’m so sorry you have experienced all of this, and appreciate that you were willing to share your details with us here. Yes, I understand the nausea associations. I vomited through the first 3 months of my 3 pregnancies, but thankfully that eventually passed. I was nauseous through the day, and vomited every day, sometimes twice. That exhausted my energies and I cannot imagine what you went through for 3 1/2 years being sick 3-4 times a day. That is gruesome. The associations stick, I still have some that are fading, but were quite strong for years. I remember longing to enjoy food again, because I hated eating most everything even though I needed to eat to feel less nauseous. You have shared so much here, and I don’t know if my words or recipes can help. I hope so, in some small way. Also, I hope my readers chime in to contribute any wisdom they have. Thank you for connecting, and I will send you my prayers for better health, peace, and to be able to enjoy food once again. Please stay connected and for others reading – if you have experiences to share, please do! <3

      • Debbie says

        Thank you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers Dreena. I receive them openly and sincerely. I realize that my challenges are mind boggling and beyond the scope of many to handle. Hence, I share my ongoing saga cautiously so as not to overwhelm the masses. Many of my connections care dearly, but cannot handle my issues. Believe it or not, many doctors have refused to take me on as a patient because “I’m too complicated”. One compassionate doctor said that he had overheard another doctor stating that I was “Patient Zero from Planet X”! I smiled to be courtesy and respectful of the fact that he was trying to bring humor to an otherwise extremely difficult scenario, but in truth it really isn’t funny at all. Doctors and other loving people are not there for me in the middle of the night when all hell tends to break loose. No, they are (thankfully) sound asleep and living there own dramas I’m sure. But again, I refuse to give up. I believe so strongly that diet is medicine. What we ingest matters. It can kill or it can heal. The poisons I was “fed” killed the cancer, but it killed a lot more. Food is my answer. I just have to find the right foods that my body will finally accept. And so my search continues! I’ll ask again… brown rice??? I hate it so. Perhaps you have knowledge of a sure fire recipe that will make it more palatable somehow? If so… someone… anyone… please advise. Thanks again. Peace, Love and Light everyone. <3

        • says

          Debbie… just reading your comments here show your amazing strength. You are a true inspiration.

          I have no experience with your situation, but I did make this salad, and it was fabulous. While I do love brown rice, I made a version if this with quinoa mixed in. I don’t know if that is a food you can handle, but wanted to share the idea with you. We also added chopped zucchini, which might appeal as well.

          I have extra prayers for you today, and am hoping you have a peaceful and nausea-free moment and will find a food that works.
          Kim – Liv Life recently posted..Espresso Martini with Homemade Coffee Liquor #CocktailDayMy Profile

    • Samara says

      Hi Debbie, I too have health problems that begat further health problems…. autoimmune and otherwise. Nothing at all in the sphere of your experience, but I can relate in some small way to your story. Although I do not feel I have any advice for you (you have already found Dreena! She anchors my ship in a sea of sometimes overwhelming mental and physical stress…. her recipes and inclusive spirit of compassion are so nourishing to body and mind). I just wanted to comment and commend you on your bravery and honesty. I wish you well and hope you will find your way to peace and health in your body and mind soon. S.

  10. says

    This is one of the recipes in LTEV that I’ve been meaning to try for a long time, but it seems like I never have sweet potatoes and black beans in the house at the same time. I do have some butternut squash and black beans right now though, so maybe I’ll try it that way.

    As for cleanses, I think that vegans who mostly eat cleanly don’t really need them. There is a lot of bogus science out there promoting them, of course, but I think it’s more hype than anything else. Here’s an article detailing the finer points of what I mean: I don’t think they really remove toxins as practitioners suggest or that we need to use them to prepare our bodies for healthy eating. What I do think makes sense, however, is to commit to eating more cleanly for the short or longer term. You can always have a treat a couple of times a week without being a toxic mess.
    Melissa recently posted..When We Were Good by Suzanne SutherlandMy Profile

  11. Lenore says

    Regarding cleanses and detox, I have been cleaning my liver and gallbladder almost monthly since 2010. Andreas Moritz has a simple and easy cleanse on his website and detailed in his book. And you are half way there already with your vegan diet. After 3 years of cleaning my liver and gallbladder of thousands of gallstones I rarely get cold sores anymore, I haven’t had the cold or the flu in about 2 years,( even with my family bringing 6 bouts of colds home during that time) my liver spots on my hands and face are fading, the wrinkles around my eyes are reduced, and my feet and hands are not so cold anymore. I recommend liver cleanses.

    I had a couple of small lumps around my eyes. TCM interprets that as kidney stones. I learned that lemon juice in water first thing upon rising will clean the kidney. I started this practice a few months ago and the lumps are gone so I think my kidney stones are dissolved too.

    • Dreena says

      Really interesting, Lenore. I see a TCM doctor and during fall/winter take some herbal blends for my liver, as it’s the one organ that tends to get more stressed in my body. Well done by you, taking charge of those health matters naturally. Thanks for sharing this info!

  12. says

    This was one of the first recipes I made when I bought your book. I love how easy and quick it is to put together for a weekday work lunch! (In fact, I just made it again last week when I realized I did not have anything planned for lunch the next day.)

    I just wanted to share how I cook my sweet potatoes: I peel & cube them and then steam them for ~15 minutes. They come out so creamy like that, which helps with the “melding into the salad” bit.

    Thank you for creating such delicious and accessible recipes.
    Allie recently posted..Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?My Profile

    • Dreena says

      Really? That’s so cool, thanks Allie! I figure most of us hit the recipes that have photos first, so fun to know you chose something not photographed to begin with. Thanks for sharing your sweet spud tip too! 😀

  13. Tiffany says

    Dreena, I am so excited to make this for the week to come! Looks like the perfect meal to fuel me through my first week of classes. Seems like such a portable lunch and so beautiful too! You are so talented and your work is truly a gift! I make your recipes everyday! Burgers, dressings, sweets, pancakes and more!! I am wowed every time I take a bite. Thank you, Dreena for teaching me how to cook delicious, healthful and beautiful food for myself and the ones I love. xoxo

    Emma, your photography is really beautiful! I had never seen this photo before and for some reason I thought that looks so much like Emma’s photography :) Truly beautiful and very inviting. You really captured all the beautiful color and vibrancy this meal presents!

    • Dreena says

      <3! I didn’t realize you were using my recipes everyday, Tiffany. Warms my heart, thank you. Hopefully this one will liven up your lunches and power you through your studies! You are so welcome, thank you for sharing that sentiment. I agree, Emma seems to bring her bright, warm personality to her photos!

      Many thanks – enjoy! xx

Add Comment Register

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge