Monday, June 28, 2010

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Watch out Taco Loco. I think I may have just kicked your ass in our competition for best vegetarian tacos.

Oh, you didn't know there was a competition going on?

I see.


There was.

Your head ... er... hard candy... shell.

You're in second place. And, don't worry, I wouldn't ever even try to make a better mushroom-tofu taco than the badboys you offer. Those are super good.

Almost as good as my sweet potato and black bean tacos.


sweet potato taco close-up

So I was inspired to make these when I had some sweet potato black bean tacos at the farmer's market a couple weeks ago. The Chef Shack was offering them and everything I've ever had from the Chef Shack - purveyor of fine foods such as bacon bratwursts with bacon ketchup and Indian-spiced mini doughnuts and a soft-shell crab sandwich with grilled ramps - has been exquisite, so I had high hopes. High hopes are dangerous though, especially when you finally get to watching those movies that everyone has raved about for over a decade (e.g. Pulp Fiction and Usual Suspects), and, apparently, also when you try sweet potato tacos from the Chef Shack. Don't get me wrong. Like Pulp Fiction and Usual Suspects, they weren't bad. And the portion was large, which I always like. But they definitely didn't blow my mind or even knock my socks off. They didn't even meet my expectations. The sweet potatoes were rather plainly cooked and pureed (think baby food) and the black beans were unseasoned (think canned). The guacamole and queso fresco were the best parts - hence their appearance in the recipe herein. The idea was so good though. My mission was clear.

sweet potato taco collage
plated sweet potato tacos

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
Inspired by The Chef Shack, with some guidance from Mark Bittman* via Sassy Radish
Yield: 3-4 servings

1-2 large sweet potatoes (about 1.5 pounds), chopped into 1/2" pieces
1/2 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
salt & pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup black beans**
5 small radishes, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic
1 hot red chile, seeds removed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

corn tortillas
1 avocado, sliced, or 1/2 cup guacamole
queso fresco

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss chopped sweet potatoes and onion with 2 tablespoons olive oil and place on a baking sheet that fits them all in one layer. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin. Roast in oven for 30 minutes, flipping the vegetables about half-way through. Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.

In a food processor or blender, puree the garlic, chile, cilantro, and lime juice until blended. Drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. In a bowl, toss the black beans and radishes with the dressing.

To assemble the tacos, fill warmed tortillas with about a quarter cup of the sweet potatoes and onion, then the same portion of black beans and radishes, top with crumbled queso fresco and avocado slices or a dollop or three of guacamole.

Great date food! No - that was a joke. These are as messy as they are tasty. Which means v. messy.

* You might need a NY Times account to see the recipe. It's a sweet potato and black bean salad recipe and sounds delicious. An account is free. (You don't need an account for Sassy Radish though, and I think she includes Mr. Bittman's recipe verbatim.)

** I have been on a dry beans kick lately, and the black beans I made for these tacos were delicious, so here's where I tell you how it worked: (1) Rinse and drain dried black beans and then put them in a saucepan and cover with fresh, unsalted water. (You want about an inch or two more water than beans.) Bring water to boil and boil for 2 minutes. Turn off stove, cover the saucepan and let the beans soak for two hours. This is a presoaking shortcut. Alternatively, you could soak them overnight without using the stove at all. (2) Drain the beans and then put them back in the pan and cover them with fresh, unsalted water again. Bring to boil, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes (you can check them at about 30 minutes). (3) Don't drain the water yet! Add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and/or 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Give the beans and seasoned water a stir and let the beans soak for about ten minutes. Drain and rinse. Now they are lightly seasoned and ready to go.


  1. I made this and loved it! Then it made yummy breakfast burrito leftovers. Thanks!

  2. I will be sure to try these soon!

  3. I'm so excited to be able to make this for my vegan friends! They are soon to become Cake and Edith fans too!