Mexican Sweet Potato Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette combines healthy roasted sweet potatoes with peppery arugula and thin-sliced red onion with a zesty chipotle vinaigrette... optional bleu cheese and pepitas make this a spectacular vegetarian main dish salad or side dish with your mains!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks - Recipe Inspiration
This healthy and substantial vegetarian side or main dish salad probably doesn't remind you of typical "Mexican food." I have rarely been in a Mexican-American restaurant that offered salads more varied and interesting than the shredded lettuce and tomato on the side of "combo plate #1." 😆
Having followed Rick Bayless (celebrity chef) for years, I expanded my understanding of "Mexican food." It is a rich and varied cuisine! I have several of his cookbooks, and many of his recipes are plant-based. His Sweet Potato with Caramelized Onions, Watercress, and Guajillo Dressing recipe was the inspiration for this Mexican Sweet Potato Salad with Chipotle Vinaigrette
I am always looking for side dishes for my Mexican-inspired mains that go beyond rice and beans. This salad is substantial enough to stand alone, but it's also makes a healthy side dish. Read on for more specifics!
What makes this salad "Mexican?"
The short answer? The chipotle vinaigrette brings it on! The earthy, smoky, pungent heat of chipotles is really all you need... Toasted pepitas, if used as a garnish, are definitely a typical Mexican ingredient, but it's the dressing that sets this salad apart.
📋 Ingredients You'll Need
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
Sweet Potato Salad Ingredients
- sweet potatoes - I specify standard sweet potatoes, but you can substitute other firm root vegetables if you're so inclined.
- arugula - I love the peppery flavor of arugula, but other tender greens - baby kale, spinach, watercress - are great options as well.
- red onion - I specify thinly-sliced red onion, and if I have time, I soak them in salted ice water for 15-30 minutes. Alternatively, you can cut the red onion in thin wedges, and roast the pieces with the sweet potatoes.
- garlic - My preference is to use roasted garlic cloves in the chipotle vinaigrette. I use 3 in the vinaigrette, and store the remainder in a zip bag in the refrigerator for another use. Roast the garlic alongside the sweet potatoes.
- garnishes - Bleu cheese and toasted pepitas are my favorites! Some crumbled cotija or queso fresco are good cheese options. If you want to keep your sweet potato salad vegan, eliminate the cheese, and serve with avocado, lime wedges, toasted pepitas, and chopped cilantro.
- olive oil
- sherry vinegar - I love the smooth, nutty quality of sherry vinegar. Rick Bayless suggests balsamic for a sweeter vinaigrette. I would omit the sugar if you use balsamic.
- garlic - If I have time, I roast the garlic first. The garlic loses its edge, and gets sweet and nutty. If you don't have time, or don't have a bulb of garlic on hand, raw garlic is fine. You might want to reduce it from 3 cloves to 1 or 2.
- chipotle chile - Chipotles are smoked jalapeños, and they are typically canned in adobo - a Mexican sauce or condiment that includes red chiles, spices, and vinegar. If heat is a problem, start by adding just ½ of a chipotle.
- shallot - I almost always add a shallot to my salad dressings. You can substitute a small wedge of a red or sweet onion.
- sugar - I like turbinado or piloncillo (cane sugar). Brown sugar is fine.
- Prepare the sweet potatoes and garlic - Preheat your oven to 400°. Peel the sweet potatoes, and cut into a ¾" dice. Cut off the base end of the garlic to expose the cloves. Drizzle with olive oil; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until sweet potatoes are tender (25-30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the garlic.
- Finish the sweet potatoes - Make sure they're tender when pierced with a fork. While they cool, prepare the onions, toasted pepitas, cheese, etc.
- While the potatoes roast, prepare the red onions. Slice them as thin as you can get them. Add them to a bowl with ice, water, and salt. Allow them to soak 15-30 minutes, then rinse and drain.
- Make the chipotle vinaigrette - If you're waiting for roasted garlic, get your garnishes ready first (bleu cheese, toasted pepitas, avocado, etc.). Get all of the vinaigrette ingredients into a blender or processor. The garlic will probably be ready before the sweet potatoes, so keep an eye on it. Remove it, and when it's cool enough to handle, pop 3 cloves into the blender. Purée until smooth, check seasoning, and adjust if necessary. Set aside.
- Make the salad - Toss the prepared roasted sweet potatoes, the prepared onions, and the arugula with the chipotle vinaigrette.
- To serve - Plate the salad, garnish as desired, and enjoy!
🥗 Recipe Riffs
In my previous life, before I had a food blog, I rarely used a cookbook, and I never wrote anything down. I thought of "recipes" as more of a "template." In that spirit, I've included a few ideas for making this healthy salad your own.
- Use water cress, baby kale, or spinach in place of the arugula.
- Substitute roasted butternut squash, pumpkin, or delicata squash for the sweet potatoes.
- Roast onion wedges with the sweet potatoes instead of using thin-sliced raw onions.
- Purée rehydrated red chile (ancho or guajillo) in place of the chipotle.
- Substitute lime juice for the vinegar, and ½ cup cilantro leaves for the chipotle in the vinaigrette to make a cilantro-lime dressing.
- Add a cup of cooked quinoa to the salad to round it out and keep it vegan!
- Sliced or cubed avocado is a great addition to the salad, and it's vegan as well.
🍷 Pairing Suggestions
This roasted sweet potato salad can stand on its own as a healthy and filling vegetarian main dish salad, especially if you add some toasted pepitas, cheese, cooked black beans, and/or quinoa. If you aim to serve it as a healthy Mexican side dish, consider tajín chicken or chamoy glazed salmon to keep it simple.
So, we're probably drinking a dry Spanish-style rosé with this sweet potato salad because we're either eating it as a vegetarian main dish salad or with fish or chicken. Craft beer lovers will appreciate a summer saison or a wheat beer.
🧂 Useful Stuff
Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊
Summer is in full-swing in south Texas, and it's salad time. I hope you'll give this Mexican-inspired salad a whirl!