A ready when you are salad, Black Bean Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad is make ahead ready and improves with a bit of time in the fridge. Layered with good things like smoky pepitas, spinach and avocado, this quinoa salad is dressed with a scrumptious roasted jalapeño lime dressing! It’s a Southwestern style salad, yet not too spicy. This recipe is vegetarian, vegan and gluten free.
This recipe was first published March 2017. I’ve updated the photos, text and recipe notes April 2021. The recipe remains unchanged.
A Hearty Black Bean Sweet Potato Salad
Because quinoa salads are a favorite, and Mexican food flavors are always on the agenda, I developed this sweet potato salad, full of spicyish Mexican flavors. This black bean quinoa salad is perfect for meal prep, week day lunches and easy dinners. It can hang out in the fridge for days!
Sweet potatoes and black beans are like peas and carrots; perfect partners in every way. The sweet potatoes are lightly seasoned with chili powder and cumin then roasted offering a sweet-salty-spicy edge to the salad. The smoky pepitas offer crunchy nourishment, a terrific contrast to the creamy avocados and sweet potatoes.
The roasted jalapeño lime dressing ties all the components together and best of all, its flavor improves with a bit of time in the fridge. If you’re sensitive to spicy things, don’t worry! The jalapeño offers so much flavor with just a hint of spice.
RELATED: Home-cooked black beans have the best flavor and are perfect in this recipe! They’re easy to make too. Follow my guide to the most flavorful homemade black beans.
Quinoa: A Perfect Salad Base
Quinoa offers a blank canvas of whole grains to create delicious hearty salads using the freshest ingredients and homemade dressings. Quinoa has an earthy flavor, with a fluffy-like yet chewy texture, it’s naturally gluten free and offers all 9 essential amino acids. Best of all, it only takes 15 minutes to cook.
It’s an ingredient I keep in my pantry because of its versatility and healthy benefits. And because I can make a nourishing meal prep salad like this in no time!
Make Ahead Ready
Whipping up a hearty salad like this black bean sweet potato salad means lunch is on the ready through the week so I’m less likely to grab something out of convenience (and not so healthy). As an added bonus, as the salad rests in the fridge, the flavors marry and improve making it a perfect meal prep salad.
This sweet potato quinoa salad is filling and so satisfying.
How to Make Black Bean Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad
This mouthwatering, flavorful and nourishing quinoa sweet potato salad is one we make over and over again. It’s simple to make and is soooo flavorful. In summary, here’s how to make it (see recipe card for full details):
- First, toast the pepitas, and put the sweet potatoes, and jalapeño in the oven to roast.
- Second, cook the quinoa, chop the spinach and onions.
- Third, rinse the black beans and gather the ingredients for the dressing.
- Next, while the potatoes, pepitas and quinoa are cooling, make the dressing in a food processor
- Last, assemble the salad, pour on the dressing and stir in the avocado just before serving.
RELATED: Love hearty quinoa salads? Then you’ll love this Quinoa Mango Black Bean Salad with Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette. Make once, eat for days!
A Few Recipe Notes
- Make Ahead! This recipe makes a big salad. It’s make-ahead, holding well for several days in the refrigerator, which means it’s ready when you are! #getinmybelly
- Suitable for lunch, picnics, potlucks or a light yet filling dinner, I find hearty salads like this help me stay full through the day and avoid afternoon snack attacks!
- Spicy or Not? If you’re sensitive to spicy things, the jalapeño is not very noticeable as long as you scrape out the seeds and ribs after roasting. It adds a fabulous flavor with a mild mouth burn due to the balance of cooling ingredients such as lime and avocado. Use one or two in the dressing depending on your taste for jalapeños.
- For the Crunch! If saving for later, add the pepitas just before serving as they tend to get a little soft after setting for a while.
More Hearty Make Ahead Salads to Love
- Summer Quinoa Veggie Salad with Fresh Mozzarella
- Quinoa Mango Black Bean Salad
- Forbidden Rice Salad with Mango and Coconut Curried Dressing
- Spinach Brown Rice Salad
- Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad
- Lemon Orzo Salad
Black Bean Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad with Smoky Pepitas and Roasted Jalapeño Lime Dressing
For The Salad:
- 4 C (510g) Sweet Potatoes peeled and diced in 1/2" (1.3cm) cubes, about two medium sweet potatoes
- 1 1/2 Tbs + 1/2 tsp Vegetable Oil divided; I like olive oil or coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp Chili Powder
- 3/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp Smoky Paprika divided
- 1/4 tsp Cumin ground
- 2 tsp + 1/8 tsp Fine Sea Salt divided
- 1/2 C (70g) Pepitas
- 1 C (195g) Quinoa rinsed and drained, any color
- 1 3/4 C (420g) Water
- 1 3/4 C (15oz / 425g) Cooked Black Beans or 1 can, rinsed and drained
- 4 C (140g) Baby Spinach chopped and packed
- 1/2 C (45g) Green Onions sliced thin
- 2 Avocados diced
- Fist-full of Cilantro leaves chopped fine
For The Salad:
- Preheat oven to 425F (218C). Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper. Place the jalapeño (for the dressing) on the sheet pan.On the same sheet pan, toss the cubed potatoes with 1 1/2 Tbs oil. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp cumin, and 3/4 tsp salt over the top of the potatoes and stir well. Arrange the sweet potatoes in an even layer and bake with the jalapeno for about 20-24 minutes or until fork tender. Turn the jalapeño once while roasting. Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool. Set the jalapeño aside to cool.
- Meanwhile, toss pepitas with 1/2 tsp oil, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp paprika. Toast the pepitas in the same oven as the potatoes and jalapeño for about 6-7 minutes. They will be slightly golden and fragrant when ready. Set aside to cool.
- While the potatoes, jalapeño and pepitas are roasting, cook the quinoa. In a small sauce pot, bring quinoa, water and remaining salt to a boil, turn to low and simmer uncovered for 13-14 minutes. Remove from heat, stir, cover and let set for 5 minutes. The quinoa is ready when tender and with its 'tails' showing. Drain off any remaining water. Place in refrigerator to cool while the rest of the salad is being prepared.
For The Dressing:
- Slice the roasted jalapeño (see step 1 in "for the salad") in 1/2, lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In the bowl of a food processor, add the jalapeño, lime juice, garlic, cumin, salt and cilantro. With the processor on, pour in the olive oil. Process until smooth.
- After the potatoes and quinoa have cooled, transfer the quinoa into the large mixing bowl with the potatoes along with the black beans, spinach, and green onions. Drizzle 3/4 of the dressing over the salad and toss well. Taste to see if more dressing is desired and adjust as needed. Add a few twists of fresh ground pepper. If time is available, dress the salad about an hour before service. The flavors will marry as it sets in the fridge.
- Just before serving, stir in pepitas, diced avocado and chopped cilantro. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve with lime wedges. Store in the refrigerator, in a lidded container for up to three days.