Recipes

sweet potato salad with pepita dressing

Good morning and apologies in advance, as I’m again one of those loathsome (that if, if you were shivering somewhere) people who just returned from the beach, where we went on vacation last week because our kids were off from school and we didn’t see why they should have all the fun. Around me were turquoise waves, glittering with sunlight, lapping gently at the silky white-sanded shore and there were no children having tantrums or whining because this was a magical place — and at some of those things are true. However, as will always happen on vacation, while we had some enviable tacos and aguachiles, I was only a few days in when I started to fiercely miss home-cooked food, most especially this salad I’d made the week before.


a few sweet potatoeshalved and thinly slicedready to roastleafy roasted sweet potato

Listen, sometimes I challenge myself to run distances further than I wish to (that would be: any), sometimes I challenge myself to go to bed at a decent hour for a week and see if it makes me a nicer person (shockingly, yes) and sometimes I challenge myself to do things like this, which is to take something I’m pretty sure I don’t like — sweet potato salads — and create one that I would. Creamy dressings and/or any parallels to summer cookout potato salads were rejected. So were cubes. I wanted it warm or room temperature and I liked the idea of using some Southwestern-ish flavors but not to the point that it basically tasted like these sweet potato tacos in salad form. And I wanted crunch, interest, and acidity, without having a bunch of extra hurdles to get them. The results surprised me. I’d expected, at most, to make it once or twice to iron the kinks out of the recipe; I thought the kids might like it, but I hadn’t expected to be sitting by the beach in Mexico kinda wishing someone would bring me some a full week later.

set crisp pepita oil sideadd the beans

A few more details: I cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch half-moons so they were leafy but not so thin that they’d fall apart. While they roast in the oven, you do a few simple things: drain and rinse a can of black beans, chop some scallions and cilantro, halve a couple limes and an avocado and then we’re going to make a warm but deconstructed dressing. I love using pepitas but they can be a little flat-tasting from the container, whether raw or already toasted. Warming them in olive oil gets them extra-crisp and perfumes the oil with a deeply nutty flavor. Add some chile flakes for heat and then, when the potatoes are ready, we’re going to scatter everything on in layers, building the salad right on that sheet pan, because why dirty another dish? Finish it with salt, pepper, and lime juice and scoop it right onto your plate. I’d intended to add some cotija for a salty kick but was too busy eating it as-is to get it out of the fridge, meaning that it’s also vegan. And while I’d also intended this to be a warm salad, I found the leftovers spectacular from the fridge, no need to reheat them. I hope you love it as much as I did.

all layered up

Previously

One year ago: Cauliflower and Tomato Masala with Peas
Two years ago: Quick, Essential Stovetop Mac-and-Cheese
Three years ago: Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes and Pomegranate Grapefruit Paloma
Four years ago: Belgian Brownie Cakelets, Broccoli Melts, and White Russian
Five years ago: Perfect Corn Muffins and Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Fried Eggs
Six years ago: Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt and Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew and Morning Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel
Seven years ago: Blood Orange Margaritas
Eight years ago: Double Coconut Muffins and Fried Egg Sandwich with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Nine years ago: Green Bean Salad with Pickled Red Onions and Fried Almonds and Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil
Ten years ago: Walnut Jam Cake, Ginger Fried Rice and Chocolate Souffle Cupcakes with Mint Cream
Eleven years ago: Whole Lemon Tart, Alex’s Mom’s Stuffed Cabbage and Toasted Coconut Shortbread
Twelve years ago: Pasta Puttanesca and Pear and Almond Tart
Thirteen years ago: Fusilli with Baked Tomato Sauce and Aloo Gobi.

Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Pepita Dressing

  • Servings: 4
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

I looked for longer, thinner sweet potatoes here, so the slices weren’t too big. If you’d like more heat, paper-thin slices of a hot pepper such as a jalapeno or serrano would be a great addition here.

  • 2 pounds (about 4 medium) sweet potatoes
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), raw or roasted
  • 1 teaspoon mild (Aleppo-style) or hot red pepper flakes, or less to taste
  • 2 limes
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans
  • 1 large avocado
  • 1 big handful fresh cilantro
  • 4 thin scallions
  • 1 cup crumbled cotija (optional)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, and then into 1/4-inch half-moon slices. Coat a large baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Scatter sweet potatoes over and toss them with another 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and many grinds of black pepper. Spread them evenly in pan; they won’t fit in one single layer at this point and that’s fine as they shrink as they roast. Roast for 20 minutes, until browned underneath, then flip potatoes and roast another 15 minutes, until all of the pieces are tender and have brown spots.

While potatoes roast, combine pepitas with 3 tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet and warm over medium heat. Let pepitas sizzle in oil for 1 to 2 minutes but keep a close eye on them; raw ones may be able to handle more time but already toasted ones will need less to get one shade darker. Remove from heat, season with salt to taste plus red pepper flakes. Set aside until potatoes are ready.

Drain and rinse your black beans. Halve avocado and remove the pit. Leave halves in their skin and cut avocado into thin slices, not cutting through the skin. Roughly chop cilantro, thinly slice scallions (white and green), and halve your limes, cutting one further into wedges. Squeeze one lime wedge over avocado to keep it from browning.

When potatoes are ready, immediately spoon pepitas and oil over potatoes, and squeeze the juice of your limes halves over. Scatter tray with black beans. Use a spoon to remove avocado slices in sections and fan them out over the tray. Sprinkle pan with cilantro and scallions, plus cotija if you’re using it (recipe will, of course, no longer be vegan). Season well with additional salt and pepper.

Scoop sections of potatoes and their toppings onto plates, serve with extra lime wedges, and eat right away. Leftovers keep nicely for a few days in the fridge; I didn’t rewarm them.

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130 comments on sweet potato salad with pepita dressing

    1. Ann

      Sounds delicious! How well did the avocado hold up in the leftovers. Husband is not much of a sweet potato or avocado fan so I’ll be lucky enough to get the whole pan to myself.

      1. Kelli Towers Jasper

        My favorite sweet potato salad is the warm butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini dressing, from this site, made with sweet potatoes no instead of squash! Sigh…I dream of it. This looks delicious too! Thanks for inspiring my cooking on a regular basis.

        1. Cathy

          The explosion of flavors in my mouth!!! I will make this again and how have I lived 62 years and never discovered pepita’s? I have made just the dressing several more times already to have over lettuce, cucumbers, etc.

    2. Kelli Towers Jasper

      Yum! My favorite sweet potato salad is actually your warm butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini dressing, made with sweet potatoes instead of the squash!! I dream of it…sigh… This one looks delicious too. Thanks for inspiring my cooking on a regular basis!!

  1. amycjes82

    Well, I’m a sweet potato convert after your sweet potato tacos recipe- heaven! So this will be dinner tonight. Of course the best part is that I already have all of these items on hand….love it when that happens!

      1. Gerley

        I still haven’t tried the lasagna and now this…been so uninspired lately because the kids don’t eat. But this is such a good meal I should make it soon. And give the kids bread.

  2. Annette

    Question about technique: how do you flip all those potato slices? Do you do them individually (but that would take quite some time), do you go in with a spatula and hope they’ll turn the way you want them to, and re-spread? I had that problem recently when I was doing your roasted cauliflower, so I am really curious to know how you do it.

      1. Annette

        Thank you for replying – I will look for a spatula like this (I used tongs for the cauliflower which was not ideal). Thanks again!

  3. This sounds delicious! Any idea about what you would add instead of black beans? My nephew is allergic to nuts and legumes, but I would love to make this when it’s my turn to host family dinner.

    1. Anna

      I would think corn (charred or roasted if possible) would be delightful, or cubes of summer squash that have been cooked in a dry heat method. Something that also has sweetness and some but not too much moisture and a contrasting color to the sweet potatoes.

    2. Gary

      Just skip the beans. I regularly make a much pared down version of this and it is great as a side (sweet potato, salt, pepper, lime, cilantro) even without the beans, etc.

  4. JP

    Anything with sweet potatoes and avocado would be good in my book. Do you think sunflower seeds, shelled, would work in place of the pepitas? Thanks for what looks like another winner!

  5. Recipe looks delicious! Any suggestions for a substitute for the pepitas? Sadly, middle age has brought an intolerance for nuts and seeds to me. I love the crunch factor that the seeds would bring… Croutons?

    1. mt

      @bsm595 how about ramen noodles? they seem to be tossed into salads raw, for crunch. I’m referencing the noodles from those inexpensive packs of ramen soup, just broken up.

    2. RO

      What about crunchy/crispy roasted chickpeas or edamame? I would recommend buying them in the snack aisle to keep it quick & simple, but I think Deb has a recipe for successfully oven roasting and crisping up chickpeas somewhere on this site.

      1. Alugana

        One of the best recipes i have tried on your site so far. I used salted pistachios in stead of pepitas and due to an allergy replaced the scallions with baked onion. It was the best, Thanks! Also a strong qualifier for ‘put an egg on it’!

  6. Hannah

    I am looking at these photos with all the longing…. My 4.5 year old gets violently ill after eating sweet potatoes. I miss them so much, and this looks like such a great combo of flavors! Do you think it might work with butternut squash or carrots?

  7. Sara in MA

    I made this. I used sunflower seeds as I forgot to buy pepitas. My first mistake was letting the sunflower seeds toast too long! Got to watch them closely. The dish is delicious and yummy, my lunch is already packed for tomorrow. My husband prefers the roasted sweet potato and chickpea sheet pan dinner because he likes chickpeas over black beans. Both are winners.

  8. Anne

    Dear Deb,
    “we didn’t see why they should have all the fun”. I do understand – but I would like you to weigh up whether these few days of fun are worth further risking the future of your and everybody’s children in this world with the flights. In any case, a less cavalier approach to this topic in your blog would be desirable. Thank you an all the best.

    1. Amy

      There are so many larger things to focus on in terms of global warming. Politicians have effectively distracted us from putting pressure on policy and large companies by turning us towards shaming each other for personal decisions that I will not deny do have an effect, but there are bigger fish to fry.

  9. Thanks for the idea of sweet potatoes with a pepita dressing! I’ve made something very similar, except my pepitas were just roasted, so I’m excited to try the dressing out! If anyone is looking to make it a little more “hearty” of a meal, I would recommend making it with “green rice” where you blend a jalapeno, shallot, spinach, and veggie broth together and make either white or brown rice with that broth.

  10. katherine

    Haha, this is right in line with one of my favorite easy meals: baked sweet potatoes piled high with all those same toppings, plus leftover shredded pork If I have some. Lots of Cholula hot sauce, too! The flavor profile is addictive.

  11. Moos

    I made this tonight and it was delicious! I didn’t have pepitas so I used pistachios, which tasted fine to me. Will make this again for sure.

  12. Monica

    This was a perfect weekday lunch! Was skeptical of combining avocados and sweet potatoes but LOVED them! Terrific new salad dressing to add to my repertoire—thank you, Deb. Was starting to be very bored of same same food and this was perfect! I tossed in some farro for a bowl-type meal. Next time I might top with micro greens, like the ABC roasted carrots on this site.

  13. msampogna

    I made this for dinner last night and was seriously blown away with how good it was! My fiance loved it too – he called it sweet potato nachos! I served it with instant pot carnitas (recipe from Bon Appetite), but it easily stands on its own as a full meal. I’m making more tonight!

  14. Elaine

    Delicious! Had green beans that needed to be eaten, so chopped them up and used them instead of black beans. Also, feta, because that’s what I had. Will definitely make again.

  15. DeadDeath.com

    Oh, menhhh… I mistaken posted that, wanted to share with a cousin on Facebook. Please ignore the above comment on Joseph Sampson Death.

    That preparation makes me feel like a vegetarian, it is very lovely. I am attracted to orange colours too. What a lovely made!

  16. Love, love, loved this! Brought to a neighborhood gathering and put the cheese on half to satisfy our vegan. Tons of complements. Great presentation, great flavor! Thank you, Deb! You’re just the best!

  17. Maia

    Made this and it was easy and delish! I added about a 1/2 cup of quinoa underneath the rest of the layers (plated on a platter) and it was a perfect addition for a full dinner meal for company…Will definitely be a regular go-to!

  18. KQ

    Any suggestions for do-ahead prep? If the pepitas were sizzled, then stored in the oil for a day or so, would they lose their magic?
    Thinking about using this salad for our taco night at the next family reunion.

  19. Pam Ireland

    Delicious! As were the leftovers today. I couldn’t find cotija easily, but have ready access to halloumi. I fried small chunks of that in the residual oil in my cast iron skillet after dumping out the pepitas. It would probably also work to roast it in larger chunks on the sheet with the sweet potatoes à la Halloumi roast recipe in Smitten Kitchen Everyday, which we love at our house. Everything in that book, in fact.

  20. Elizabeth Lehnertz

    This was delicious! I was worried it wouldn’t be hearty enough for a meal, but it absolutely was. The pepitas were delicious – I substituted feta for the cotija, and it was great.

  21. Sandy Konerman

    This is not only pretty, it’s delicious! We devoured it for dinner last evening along with a shredded kale/cabbage salad, poppy seed dressing and more fresh lime juice. We have a small amount leftover for a lunch. I am sharing recipe with our 3 adult vegetarian grandchildren who have enjoyed many of your wonderful recipes from me. Thank you.

  22. JMS

    Very good! I kept the avocado, cheese (I used feta), and seeds (I used toasted sunflower seeds and just sprinkled on as-is) off the tray and instead topped individual bowls; this way I can reheat and re-top leftovers as needed.

  23. Elisabeth in Vienna

    so good! my 9yo gobbled hers up in no time. Glad, there are leftovers for today’s office lunch.
    I used feta instead of cotija (no idea what this is and it is probably not available in Austria anyway) and it worked beautifully.

    thanks for helping to get some vegetables into my family and me!

  24. Emily

    So good! Followed the recipe, just subbed feta cheese for cotija, and made farro to go on the side/mix in so it could be a full dinner. Whole family loved it.

    I’ll note that my cooking times for sweet potatoes are always less than Deb’s, for some reason, this recipe included. I’ve learned to check early so they don’t char too much : ) Did 20 minutes on one side, then flipped and did only 5 minutes more.

  25. THIS. IS. FAB. I regularly make and love your recipes (or a version thereof) and was truly smitten with this one. On the regular rotation now. Do NOT skip the lightly toasted pepitas. ❤️

  26. amatulla2013

    This is great. I made it with chickpeas instead of black beans and that was delicious too. The fried pumpkin seeds with the chile flakes is sooo good. Thank you SO MUCH Deb, I’m trying to lower my cholesterol and recipes like this make it so much easier to stick to my healthy eating with joy instead of pain.

  27. Well, it’s about time I comment; I’m pretty sure 95% of the recipes in my regular rotation are from you. I really can’t thank you enough for all the work you put into creating, testing, writing, and publishing recipes.

    Despite my love for all your recipes, this one exceeded even my highest expectations. It’s just damn delicious. And easy. And healthy. What more could anyone want?

  28. Gail

    Yet another delicious combination of sweet potatoes and black beans. This combo is now my default taco filling. I liked the nutty oil and the scallions here. I make another sweet potato/black bean “salad” from epicurious or somewhere that has you roast the red onions, but I like this way much better.

  29. KB

    Oh my gosh, this is SOOOOO delicious! I told my family I felt like it was the best thing I’ve ever cooked. I could eat it all day every day.

  30. KA

    This was excellent – right up our alley. Swapped in half a pickled red onion (from the chicken milanese recipe) for the spring onions, as I didn’t have the latter, and skipped the cheese.

    Had as a side to spicy turkey burgers, and worked really well with those.

    Thanks for another great one.

  31. Bridgit

    I’m very much looking forward to making this. I had a sweet potato salad a few summers ago with tahini, and I tried to replicate it at home. I ended up just blending tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper, tossing it on the mostly still warm sweet potatoes, and it was delicious. And so easy. I bet it would be great with chickpeas and scallions, as a middle eastern take on this recipe. Thanks for another great recipe.

  32. I made this with cubed kabocha squash instead of sweet potatoes because that’s what I had on hand. I also added some cumin along with the pepper flakes (yum) and used feta instead of cotija simply because I had some open. HUGE HIT. One kid rolled his portion up in a tortilla and the other, our vegetable-averse vegetarian (eye roll) even had seconds. Will definitely be making this again and again.

  33. Hillary

    We very much enjoyed this! Added some crumbled feta and some pickled red onions that I had leftover in the refrigerator. Really liked the lime juice on top. We would make this again.

  34. Emily Banks Wooten

    OMG!! I made this salad yesterday and absolutely loved it. It’s my new favorite thing. I ate three bowls of it. And best of all — my husband and daughter loved it too. Way to go!!

  35. KMP

    This is a keeper without a doubt. My only change was to dub in feta due to availability. A repeat has already been requested by my husband. To quote him, “This has to be a Deb recipe, the flavours are fantastic.”

  36. Natalia

    I made this for dinner last night at it was GOOD. I did put some cojita on there and I agree with Deb, the cheese is unnecessary. It would be just as good without and so that’s what I’ll do next time.

  37. CarolJ

    Why do I come to Smitten Kitchen – apart from wanting to read all the posts, no matter what the topic? The answer is in the “Let me count the ways” vein, among them: it encourages me to attempt, successfully, things I never dreamed I could make (chocolate babka), it makes me want to eat salad (broccoli slaw, kale pecorino), and it offers dynamite flavor and ingredient combinations that I would never, ever come up with on my own – namely, this salad (which introduced me to black beans, by the way). It made a delicious supper, served over arugula. Beautiful, too. This will become a standby. Thank you.

  38. Barbara McCormick

    This was “the best”! I brag about Smittenkitchen all the time. I haven’t tried ANYTHING that I haven’t enjoyed. This one was over the top delicious. If all vegetarian meals were THIS good, I’d never eat meat again. Bravo. I made a recipe of this and gave it as a birthday gift to my vegetarian son to take to work today. I can’t wait to hear the response.

  39. Caroline

    I made this last night, omitting the cilantro (even though I love it – my neighborhood grocery store was out) and adding extra pepitas and lime juice. It was delicious, and I’m happy to have a new addition to my rotation of salads for lunch.

  40. gorb1267

    I made this tonight and besides not adding cheese, I was not reading carefully and peeled the sweet potatoes. Still turned out so good. I mean, really, when you only put good stuff in (sweet potatoes, avocado, etc.) how can not not come out with a winner? My husband reminded me that lime and cilantro were made for each other. It was a great meal we had with a side salad. There were only two of us eating, so I only used half the avo and will use the other half tomorrow when we finish this up. Thanks!

  41. Rachel

    This is SO GOOD. Met with rave reviews from the whole family. We did put a runny fried egg on top of each portion…mmmmmmm

  42. Foodservice is all about food and beverages that are consumed out of the home. Consumers visit foodservice outlets for a number of reasons, such as the added convenience, to sample new tastes and flavours, to celebrate and to socialise

  43. Amy E Cooke

    I made this exactly as written and we loved it. Just perfect. Will definitely go into regular rotation. A side benefit is the discovery of Aleppo pepper. I almost didn’t go out of my way to find it, but so glad I did. It’s the perfect amount of heat for me.

  44. Becky Turner

    Was saving this for a dinner gathering and made it up last night. It was a hit!
    Followed the recipe except served the cilantro on the side for those who taste soap. I served it with a mixed greens salad and it was great mixed into the greens warm. Of course that will not hold up well if you have any leftover but do not think that is going to be an issue with this salad.

  45. Patricia

    I had no cojita on hand so i used a Chipotle garlic crema drizzed on this and IT IS AMAZING. you have to try it!
    Instead of the cheese, try this:
    56 grams Mayo
    56 grams Sour Cream
    3 gram garlic (i used ready chopped from the jar)
    14 gram chipotle peppers in adobo (can be replaced with Chipotle pepper powder to taste)
    mix together and drizzle generously on top – I am freaking out its amazing.

    enjoy!

  46. Terri

    I made this for breakfast yesterday, and now I want it for every meal. This is my new favorite food. I followed the recipe exactly, but left off the scallions and cilantro because I didn’t have them. I’ve been eating leftovers straight from the fridge without reheating – this is just as good cold as warm. For the beans I used Rancho Gordo ayacote negro.

  47. Sweet potatoes salad with pepita dressing is a very healthy salad Both sweet potato and pepita are good for health. Both are easy to digest you can take it as early morning snacks sweet potatoes are a great source of fibers, vitamins, and minerals. pepita is high in fiber. pepita is easy to add in your diet as it is easy to digest.you can also add black pepper to a little bit spice it up.
    if you are looking for a catering service which provides good quality food you can visit Atticus catering services which are located in south Delhi. Atticus is a bespoke fine dining catering brand in Delhi NCR.

  48. Jane Morse

    Incredibly delicious, even without the cilantro. I used fat free feta cheese and it was perfect. I’m thinking of leaving the beans off for a Thanksgiving dish.

  49. amycjes82

    Welp, my grocery store is completely bare of sweet potatoes (actually, all potatoes, onions, toilet paper….etc) thanks to COVID-19 fears. Just a note to let everyone know that this salad works very well with butternut squash instead of potatoes. I first made it with the recommended sweet potatoes, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

  50. DH

    This is the best lunch recipe ever! So glad you can eat it cold. It looks beautiful and tastes amazing. I’m not keen on beans so substituted chickpeas instead and used pomegranate seeds rather than citrus- same flavour pretty much but a prettier colour and they were already in my fridge! Definitely a keeper

  51. Barbara Holthaus

    Amazingly, I have everything in the recipe on hand. Making tonite and serving over a bed of faro (I have three bags of it- long story) Thanks so much for the helping hand during the Covid-19 home hang!

  52. Diane Foote

    Deb, your recipes never disappoint but this is a new favorite for me. I used lime flavored olive oil to roast the sweet potatoes so cut back on the lime at the end. I had to force myself to stop eating, if is so yummy. Thanks

  53. Rebecca

    Planning to make this tomorrow night. We just stocked up on most of the ingredients for staying in…..my son just returned from working in Mexico and promptly announced he wants to go meatless; this should suit him well. I saw a FB meme recently that said we would either come out of this pandemic as better cooks or alcoholics! I am going for the cooking angle and using this site extensively!!!

  54. Shoshannah

    This is a wonderful recipe and makes a superb meal.. My only changes were feta in place of cotija and a little pickled hot pepper added to the tray when I flipped the slices. I will definitely make this again.

  55. Kelly

    I made this with a few modifications. I didn’t have pumpkin seeds, so I used unsalted Marcona almonds. I also used a shallot instead of the scallions. It was absolutely delicious. Great as both a warm salad and leftovers as a vegetarian option for nachos. Layered on top of tortilla chips with some cheese sauce and a little shredded cheese, then warmed in the oven (350 for 6-8 minutes) and topped with some sour cream. Very versatile dish!

  56. Waffler

    Yummy. After many fails, i am afraid to buy avocados in Alaska, so i only had some greens to toss in. Would make this weekly!

  57. Sarah

    This was delicious—fancied up our Taco Tuesday for sure! I didn’t have black beans on hand so I used pinto beans. Not as pretty in terms of color, but still tasted great! I love your recipes!!

  58. Alex

    This was so yummy! I’ve saved so many of your recipes and just salivated over the photos instead of making. Finally made one. This is a hit and an easy repeat :)

  59. Jenny

    Thank you Deb, another winner.
    We did find it a little salty, probably due to the Cotija, so I’ll just ease up on the potatoes seasoning next time – because there will certainly be a “next time”!