Vegan Sweet Potato
& Black Bean Tacos
A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with My Inner Glow. Founded by Kyle Somersall, My Inner Glow brings people together for inspired meditation based events. When he initially approached me and asked me to cook for one of his upcoming events, I was excited to team up with him, and to put together a menu for the evening. We started the night outdoors in a beautiful backyard in Kips Bay, Manhattan. I served soccas, which are thin crepes made of chickpea flour, on parchment paper and adorned them with varying combinations of delicious toppings. For the main course (wait for it...) we had tacos, which if you know me even on the most introductory level, will likely not surprise you.
I knew I wanted one of the tacos to be vegan/vegetarian friendly, so I decided to revisit a classic combination: sweet potato and black bean. I deepened the flavor of the black beans with smoked paprika and lots of lime juice, and made them extra creamy by crushing them in the pot slightly while they were cooking. I made the sweet potatoes spicy AND sweet with serrano chile powder. And, because I am undoubtedly a condiment & toppings kinda lady, I topped this all off with homemade cashew cream, avocado, fresh cilantro, aleppo pepper and a squeeze of lime for good measure. Ideally this taco is finished off with one of my favorite salsas, La Fundidora's Humo Salsa. What is better in life than eating a warm tortilla jam-packed with deliciousness on a balmy May night in New York City?!?
In the past year, the lowly sweet potato has managed to land itself right up there on my list of top 10 favorite foods. Why? Because sweet potatoes are incredibly versatile, satiating and tasty. In this case, their sweetness perfectly offset the citrusy, savory black beans, and of course, I added some heat to them with chili powder, because to me there's nothing like the combination of sweet, savory & spicy.
I am someone who loves to layer flavors and ingredients with contrasting mouth feel, so, of course, I added in yet another element: creamy. Which brings me to another of my new favorite foods: cashew cream. Insanely easy to make, delicious and dairy free, cashew cream has actually changed my life. As a life long cheese and sour cream addict, Kite Hill's spreads were the first of the nut-based vegan cheese replacements to pull me away from my dairy addictions, and while this stuff is SO good, it's not cheap. And while the cost of nuts can also add up, a bag of cashew pieces from Trader Joe's will cost you the same as 1 container of Kite Hill ($6.50), and will render you much more. All you need is 1 cup of soaked cashews + water (which is free) to make more than 8 ounces of delicious, nutty cashew cream. As I mentioned before with my Vegan Roasted Red Pepper Pesto recipe, it really is an amazing tool to be able to make your own pantry staples at home for a fraction of the cost. It will only take you a little forethought + 5 minutes or so to blend your way to cashew cream happiness! And it's worth it - I promise.
Tacos are best when they have lots of delicious toppings, in my opinion, so don't forget your garnishes, and feel free to add others!! Grilled corn? Pickled red onions? The options are endless. And of course, don't forget your salsa!! My suggested salsa pairing is La Fundidora's smokey, delicious Humo Salsa, which I purchase at the Whole Foods here in Chelsea, New York. If you can't find it, don't worry, Cholula works too!! I like the Original flavor best, but salsa is a very personal choice, so do what feels right to you. And most importantly, don't be afraid to eat 2 (or maybe 3) of these tacos in one sitting.
Vegan Sweet Potato & Black Bean Tacos
- 6 x Corn Tortillas
For Sweet Potatoes
- 1 Large Sweet Potato, diced
- ½ TBSP olive oil
- ¼ TSP serrano chile powder
- ¼ TSP cumin
Heaping ¼ TSP salt
- 1 lime - juice of 1/2 or whole, if half doesn’t bring out the lime flavor enough
- 1 can black beans
- ¼ TSP garlic powder
- ¼ TSP smoked paprika
¼ TSP salt
For Cashew Cream ** PREP NOTE - You will need to soak your cashews overnight
- 1 cup raw cashews or cashew pieces - soaked overnight
- 1/2 cup water
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 Avocado
- Aleppo Pepper
- Fresh Cilantro
- 1 Lime (for lime wedges)
- Suggested Salsa Pairing: La Fundidora Humo Salsa OR Cholula Original
Let's start by making our cashew cream. Take your soaked cashews and put into the bowl of a food processor with a 1/2 cup of water and a nice pinch of sea salt (a high speed blender is ideal here if you own one, but a food processor works great too). Allow the food processor to run for up to 4 minutes, or until the cashew cream is silky (it will take about the half time in a high speed blender). If using a food processor, stop intermittently to scrape down the sides. When the cashew cream is finished, pour into a jar and put in the fridge.
Next, you'll want to roast your sweet potatoes. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees while you get to dicing the sweet potato. I like to roast it on a high temperature so that the sweet potato bits get nice and crispy. Here is my tactic for dicing the sweet potato: cut into rounds, then pile up 4-5 rounds at a time and dice down into squares/rectangles. Throw the diced pieces into a mixing bowl as you go. Once the entire sweet potato is diced, add the olive oil and spices, and toss to coat thoroughly. Next, you'll want to spread the coated sweet potato bits onto a flat baking sheet (parchment paper optional). The key here is that the sweet potato is laid out in a single layer, without overlapping any of the pieces. This allows the sweet potato to cook thoroughly all over and get nice and crispy! Put the sweet potato in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes check the sweet potato, and add more time if necessary. The sweet potato bits should be golden and crispy around the edges. It's OK if a few of the smaller pieces get burnt. You can always separate those pieces after to avoid the bitter flavor. When the sweet potato is done, put it to the side and turn off the oven.
While the sweet potato is in the oven, you can get the beans ready. Empty the can of beans into a strainer and rinse off the liquid from the can. Put the cleaned beans into the sauce pan add the spices and juice of your lime. You can start with half a lime here, mix and then taste. The lime should come through distinctively, so if half the lime is not enough, add the other half. While they start to heat up, use the back of a big spoon (or a potato masher if you have) to slightly mash the beans. You don't want a total pulp here, but mash until the texture starts to become slightly more broken down and creamy. When the beans are ready, you can turn the heat down to low so that they stay warm. If they start to dry out, just add a little vegetable broth or even a splash of water to loosen them.
It's almost time to build our tacos!! Depending on how small or large your sweet potato is, and how generously you fill, the amount of tacos this renders will vary. Grab 6-8 corn tortillas, and get ready to char them over an open flame. Turn on one of the burners on your stove on very low, and grab a pair of tongs. Put your first tortilla directly on the burner, hovering above the flame. Heat and slightly char on both sides, about 45 seconds each, using your tongs to flip the tortillas. Put the warmed tortillas onto a plate as you go. If you don't have a gas stove, you can char your tortillas in a hot pan.
Once they're all heated, start by spreading beans onto each taco. Next, top with sweet potato bits. Add a dollop of cashew cream to each as well as 2 slices of avocado, a few leaves of fresh cilantro, a shake of aleppo paper, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and one of the two suggested salsas. My favorite is the Humo Salsa, which is sold here in New York at Whole Foods, but if you can't find it, good old Cholula Original works too.