Don’t you hate it when your brilliant ideas don’t pan out? I’ve spent the week in the kitchen and I don’t have much to show for it. It’s maddening, I tell you. But, if anyone is going to end up with lackluster homemade meals, let it be me. I don’t want any precious avocados or maple syrup going to waste in your kitchens on my behalf.
Ali and I were both in sour moods on Tuesday after spending the afternoon sharing pans and sighing at our resulting recipes. We were so frustrated that we almost decided to stay in and watch more of The Blacklist on Netflix, but! We reminded each other that our evenings in Austin are dwindling. I traded my yoga pants and sandals for skinny jeans and booties and we headed out.
Dinner was pretty good. I just ordered a salad. Our waiter surprised me with a free dessert (griddled cornbread and bourbon ice cream!) and the night got better from there.
We found great live music. I ordered more bourbon. A stranger pulled me onto an empty dance floor and I, for the first time in my life, actually danced like no one was watching in a room full of people. Correction: I wiggled in front of a room full of people. I’m a terrible dancer but an excellent free-form wiggler.
Then we went downstairs to The Continental Club and watched an enchanting woman with wild gray hair belt out a few songs. Luke Wilson was there. We ran into our bartender friend, Floyd, and made a new friend, too. One of them brought me more bourbon. The place filled up with members of the country music industry for an awards show after-party and I witnessed a jaw-dropping number of fringed button-ups on men with very serious handlebar mustaches. Best people watching ever. Correction: Best Tuesday Night Ever.
I digress. After the disappointing recipes, I decided to combine a few of my all-time favorite ingredients in a bowl and call it good. (It’s great, actually!) Here we have massaged kale, quinoa, spicy sweet potatoes and black beans served with a dollop of creamy avocado sauce, feta and pepitas for good measure. I’d cook with only these ingredients if it weren’t for diversity’s sake. It’s a hearty, healthy, texture-rich salad that packs great for lunch!
Wusthof 7-Inch Santoku Knife
Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
Cuisinart 7-Cup Food Processor
▸ For more of my favorite cooking tools, shop my healthy kitchen!
Southwestern Kale Power Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa & Avocado Sauce
- Prep Time: 20 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 large salads 1x
- Category: Salad
- Cuisine: Mexican
Healthy kale and quinoa power salad with spicy sweet potato, black beans and creamy avocado sauce. This gluten-free (and easily vegan) salad packs well for lunch, too!
Quinoa and kale
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped into very small, bite-sized pieces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium lime, juiced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds), sliced into small, ¼-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 2 avocados, sliced into long strips
- 2 limes, juiced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium jalapeño, deseeded, membranes removed and roughly chopped
- 1 handful cilantro leaves
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander, optional
- Salt, to taste
- 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked black beans
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta, omit for vegan/dairy-free salad
- ¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
- To cook the quinoa: First, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander under running water for a minute or two. In a medium-sized pot, combine the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess water and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
- To cook the sweet potatoes: In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and toss to coat, then add the cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Stir to combine. Once the pan is sizzling, add a scant ¼ cup water, then cover the pan and reduce heat to low to avoid burning the contents. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is tender and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pan, raise the heat back to medium and cook until the excess moisture has evaporated and the sweet potatoes are caramelizing on the edges, about 3 to 7 minutes (add another little splash of olive oil if the potatoes start sticking to the pan). Set aside to cool.
- To prepare the kale: Transfer the kale to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chopped kale with salt and use your hands to “massage” it, which improves the flavor. Just grab handfuls of kale in your hands and scrunch it up in your palms. Repeat until the kale is darker green in color and more fragrant. Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lime and ½ teaspoon salt. Drizzle over the kale and toss to coat.
- To make the avocado sauce: Simply combine the ingredients as listed in a food processor or blender. Blend well and season with salt, to taste.
- To toast the pepitas: In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pepitas, stirring frequently, until they are turning lightly golden on the edges and starting to make little popping noises, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- Once the quinoa has cooled down a bit, pour it into the bowl of kale and toss to combine. Divide the kale and quinoa mixture into four large salad bowls. Top with sweet potatoes, black beans, a big dollop of avocado sauce, and a sprinkle of feta and pepitas.
Storage suggestions: This salad keeps well, covered and refrigerated, for a few days. To keep the avocado sauce fresh, store it separately in a small bowl, with plastic wrap pressed against the top surface to prevent oxidation.
Change it up: Butternut squash or carrots would be good substitutions for the sweet potatoes.
▸ Nutrition Information
I made this today without the feta and it was AMAZING!!!!! Love it!!!
Wonderful to hear, Diane!
We call this the “fiber bowl” and have made it twice. My husband who sells cattle and was raised on beef LOVES it. He kept saying,“are you sure this isn’t dessert?” Think I’ll try it with the butternut squash next time. Thanks Kate (and Cookie) for ALL your delicious recipes and your stylish website and videos!
That’s great! I’m glad it was a hit for both of you, Cindy.
My daughter, who lives in DC, asked me to make this for her. After we ate it, we both agreed that if we ordered this in a restaurant here, it would be very expensive. We absolutely loved this recipe, and the only thing I changed was substituting toasted pecans for the pepitas.
I’m glad you and your daughter loved it, Leslie! I appreciate your review.
Great technique for cooking the sweet potatoes. I subbed chicken broth for water to cook the sweet potatoes and I think it added an extra bit of flavor. The avocado sauce was absolutely delicious and I will be making this regularly.
My absolute favorite salad! It lasts me about 4-5 days. I wish I could eat it for breakfast because I crave it when I know it’s sitting in the fridge :)
This is absolutely phenomenal!! The lime juice on the kale makes a huge difference and the avocado sauce is out of this world! I made it exactly as written (debated on just roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven and didn’t) and will be making it again and again! Thank you for a perfect fall recipe!
You’re welcome, Nancy! I appreciate your review.
I must have made this recipe for the first time 5 years ago for a work potluck and since then I have continued making it to where I don’t even need to look it up anymore so I just thought I’d say thank you for this amazing recipe. My family loves it. Sorry for the late review.
I love that you keep coming back to this recipe! I appreciate your review.
I have never left a review for anything until now. I just had to let you know this was terrific. I thought the feta might be weird with the cumin, but it worked. And while the avocado sauce tasted a bit tart on it’s own, it was fabulous with the quinoa and veggie mixture. Thanks for a great recipe!
This was nutritious & DELICIOUS! Thank you for always making dinner fun.
Just made this for this week’s meal prep and it looks so delicious! I can’t wait to try it!
I did try the Avocado sauce and I ended up adding maple syrup to it because I think I added too much lime. It made it taste delightful
I love all of your recipes!
Thank you, Jessica! I’m glad you loved it.