Indian Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans is a delicious, easy, fast and flexible dish that can serve as a vegetarian main dish or a side dish, for an Indian meal or for a “meat and two sides” meal. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
I had a devil of a time naming this dish. I know it looks so simple, what could be the problem? Well the problem is that first of all, black beans are not, to my knowledge, used as much in Indian cooking, plus if I really wanted to make this an Indian dish, I would have included more spices, maybe some curry leaves, etc. So I do not mean to imply this is an Indian dish, although it could certainly serve as a side dish in an Indian meal. But if I had just called it Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans? Odds are every visitor to the site would expect it to have Latin American flavors, which it distinctly does not. Something about sweet potatoes and black beans just says southwestern spicing, at least in America.
So… long story short, thanks to my sister for advising me to just call it Indian Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans and to stop overthinking it (ok she didn’t say that last part but I am sure she was thinking it).
John and the kids got me several cookbooks for my birthday, and I found the beginning of this dish in one of them, Vikas Khanna’s Indian Harvest: Classic and Contemporary Vegetarian Dishes. I actually made two dishes from the book for a meal, this sweet potato dish and a truly delectable potato salad, pictured below. I decided the potato salad, flavored with sour cream, mustard and smoked paprika, could serve as your lure to buy the book, which is full of Indian inspired deliciousness!
At any rate, both dishes came together very quickly and were perfect for a weeknight. Sammy preferred the potato salad–and even loved it so much she took it to school the next day! I also really liked it, but agreed with John and Alex that the sweet potatoes and black beans were the winner. It is possible I was influenced by the season, as I love sweet potatoes in the fall. This is a great gateway dish–if you know people who are nervous of Indian food, I bet they will enjoy this dish unless they have a strong turmeric aversion (like my dad–and like the husband of the lady who randomly asked me for advice on what to order in a South Indian restaurant recently–I promise nothing if you hate turmeric). I am going to go out on an Indian inspired limb and say this would even be a fabulous Thanksgiving side dish–and vegetarian main dish option for those not eating meat!
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 T vegetable oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 t cumin seeds
- 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2- pieces
- salt to taste
- 2 15 oz cans black beans rinsed and drained
- 1/2 t turmeric
- 1/2 t paprika or cayenne
- 1 t sugar
- pinch garam masala
- 1/2 cup water
- juice of one lemon
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Place the thinly sliced shallots in a bowl of cold water--this will keep the raw onion from bothering your stomach. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet with the cinnamon stick over medium heat. When it is unfurling and fragrant, add the cumin seeds. Stir them occasionally and let them roast in the oil until they are fragrant and have darkened, about 2 minutes. Do not let them burn.
Add the chopped red onion with a pinch of salt. Stir to mix the cumin seeds throughout. Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the sweet potato with a pinch of salt. Stir into the onions and then let brown on one side, about 5 minutes or so.
Stir the sweet potatoes and onions, scraping at the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Add the black beans, turmeric, paprika (or cayenne), sugar and a pinch of garam masala. Let cook for 2 minutes.
Add the water and bring to a boil. Also use the water to deglaze the pan. When it is boiling, cover the pan and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, the sweet potatoes should be cooked through and the mixture should be mostly dry. Simmer longer if the sweet potatoes are not cooked through or simmer uncovered for a minute or two to dry out the mixture if that is needed.
Add the juice of one lemon and taste for more salt or a tiny pinch more garam masala (the spicing should be subtle). Drain the thinly sliced shallots and toss them into the dish and then sprinkle with cilantro and serve warm.
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