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Savory, super-satisfying sweet potato and black bean tacos taste great and will make you feel great, too. We amp up the classic combo of creamy beans and chili-roasted sweet potato with crisp, refreshing cabbage slaw and our super-popular cilantro sauce.
Why we love these tacos
Tacos are inherently happy-making. They bring the party with them wherever they go. But sometimes you want a taco that — like a mullet — has a little business in the front to go with the party in the back.
- These tacos pack a nutrient punch that equals their next-level flavor profile. And they’re convenient if you’re feeding a crowd with various dietary preferences. They’re vegetarian and easily made vegan by skipping or subbing the cheese. And if you use corn tortillas, they’re naturally gluten-free.
- FUN FACT: We developed this orange and black “Tiger Tacos” recipe for a little cooking segment for our 2020 Princeton Reunion, which, as with everything these days, is happening via Zoom. Keepin’ it as festive as possible and hoping you do, too.
The chili-roasted sweet potatoes
Lightly crisp on the outside and tender and creamy on the inside, roasted sweet potatoes add heft, a hint of spice, and a gorgeous earthy sweetness to these tacos. They’re easy to make and 100% make-ahead friendly.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Here’s what you need to make the sweet potatoes:
- Sweet potatoes: You can use any variety of orange sweet potatoes or yams for this recipe. Though unrelated, orange sweet potatoes are often called yams at American supermarkets. Look for firm potatoes without visible wrinkles (which, just like for us, are signs of aging). Medium-sized sweet potatoes are a good bet for a nice, creamy texture when cooked. And though the shape doesn’t matter too much, it’s easier to dice slightly rounder sweet potatoes without long, scraggly ends.
- Chili powder: To avoid any confusion, chili powder means the spice blend that combines ground chili peppers with other ground seasonings like cumin, garlic, and oregano and NOT pure ground chili peppers.
- Safflower oil: We use safflower oil in this recipe for its neutral taste and high smoke point. Feel free to substitute canola oil or a vegetable oil blend.
WHAT YOU’LL DO
Here’s how to get those sweet potatoes ready for the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F / 218°C with a rack in the center. This temperature will get you a nice combination of gentle crispness on the outside and creaminess on the inside. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch dice (a little bigger is okay, but not much). This might be a little smaller than you’re used to cutting them.
- Toss the potatoes with the oil, chili powder, and salt.
- Arrange them in a single layer so they’ll cook evenly. Roast for 20 minutes, then toss with a spatula and pop them back in the oven for 15 minutes more.
- When they’re done, set them aside until everything else is ready.
The smoky, savory black beans
Black beans are truly magical. They have an incredible depth of flavor on their own. And when sautéed with a few aromatics and spices and then mashed up just a bit, they create a creamy, savory layer for these tacos.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Here’s what you’ll need to make the beans:
- Beans: Canned black beans work just fine in this recipe, especially if you use a nice, firm brand. Pop the beans into a colander and rinse them off well, then let them drain before adding to the pot. Of course, beans cooked from scratch are even better. Learn how to make them on the stovetop, in the Instant Pot, or in the oven, in our tutorial here.
- Smoked paprika: Smoked paprika is also called pimentón. It has a fabulous smoky flavor that’s totally different from Hungarian paprika. Smoked paprika comes in sweet and hot varieties. We prefer to use sweet, but hot is okay too if you want to add an extra layer of spiciness to these mild tacos.
WHAT YOU’LL DO
The beans come together quickly on the stovetop while the sweet potatoes roast in the oven. Here’s all you need to do:
- In a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat, cook the onion and garlic in the oil until softened — about five minutes. Stir in the salt and spices and cook for a minute, stirring, to make the spices all fragrant and toasty.
- Pour in the rinsed and drained beans and stir it all up.
- Pour in 1/2 cup of broth (veggie or chicken is fine), water, or bean cooking water if you made the beans from scratch. Give it a stir and let it simmer for 10 minutes until it’s warmed through and the flavors have had a chance to mingle.
- Using a potato masher, mash up about 1/3 of the beans. If you don’t have a potato masher, you can use the back of a wooden spoon. Mashing helps make the beans into a nice base layer for the tacos rather than a hot mess that wants to fall out everywhere, while still leaving lots of the beautiful black beans intact.
The cabbage slaw
These creamy, earthy tacos need a fresh, crunchy element, and this simple, tangy cabbage slaw is just the thing.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
Here’s what you’ll need to make the slaw:
- Cabbage: A good old salt-of-the-earth head of green cabbage is what we’re looking for here. Nothing fancy. The crunchier the better!
WHAT YOU’LL DO
Salt, acid, and time do all the work to make this crunchy, tangy slaw. Here’s what you’ll do:
- Cut out the core of the cabbage. (To see this in action, check out our video tutorial. This was one of our first-ever videos, so it’s a little rough around the edges but still informative, ahem.) Then thinly slice the cabbage.
- Tease apart the cabbage shreds with your hands and add them to a mixing bowl.
- Pour in the freshly squeezed lime juice and salt, and toss it all together well. Let it sit while you make the rest of the components for the tacos. The salt and lime juice will tenderize the cabbage just enough and imbue it with tons of flavor.
- Before serving, drain any liquid that’s accumulated in the bottom of the bowl. (Salt draws moisture out of foods, which is cool and osmotic, but no one wants soggy tacos.)
Assembling and serving the tacos
Here’s how to layer up your sweet potato and black bean tacos for the ultimate experience:
- Start with a corn tortilla. We’ve been making our own soft corn tortillas recently and LOVING it. You can buy whatever taco-sized soft corn tortillas you like best. (Or use flour tortillas if you prefer them, but we love the flavor of corn with these tacos.)
- Start with a base of about 1/4 cup of the black bean mixture in the center of the taco. Layer some roasted sweet potatoes on top.
- Layer on a bit of crunchy cabbage slaw, and spoon on plenty of our famous cilantro sauce.
- Sprinkle with some crumbled cheese (cotija is our favorite, but feta works in a pinch) and serve!
Expert tips and FAQs
These tacos take less than an hour to make, but there’s no denying there are several elements in play. The sweet potatoes take the longer than anything else, so prep them and pop them in the oven first. While the sweet potatoes cook, you can cook the beans and make the slaw and the cilantro sauce.
The chili-roasted sweet potatoes, the black beans, and the cilantro sauce are 100% make-ahead friendly. Make them whenever you like during the week and reheat the beans and potatoes just before serving. You can reheat in the microwave or oven, or on the stovetop.
Make the cabbage slaw and assemble the tacos just before serving.
We love the tangy, herby, savory qualities of our cilantro sauce. But if you’re one of those folks who just doesn’t do cilantro, don’t skip this recipe. Swap out the cilantro for flat-leaf parsley and the lime juice for lemon juice and drizzle away.
More of our favorite taco recipes
Love tacos? So do we! Here are some of our favorites:
- Carne asada tacos
- Ground pork tacos with black beans
- Garlic shrimp tacos
- Crispy potato tacos
- Happy-making vegetarian tacos with black / pinto beans
FOR THE CHILI-ROASTED SWEET POTATOES
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
FOR THE BLACK BEANS
- 1 tablespoon safflower oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup broth or water
FOR THE CABBAGE SLAW
- 1 pound green cabbage
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 corn tortillas
- 1 batch cilantro sauce
- 4 ounces crumbled cotija or feta cheese
- Preheat oven to 425°F / 218°C with a rack in the center.
- Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Place diced sweet potatoes onto baking sheet and sprinkle with oil, chili powder, and salt. Toss well and arrange in a single layer.
- Place sheet pan on center oven rack and roast for 20 minutes. Then toss with a spatula and return to oven for 15 minutes, until tender inside and lightly crisped and browned outside.
- While the sweet potatoes roast, make the beans. In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring from time to time, for about five minutes, until softened. Stir in cumin and smoked paprika and cook for 30 seconds. Then add beans and broth or water. Simmer for 10 minutes. Off the heat, use a potato masher to mash about 1/3 of the beans.
- Make the cabbage slaw: Using a chef's knife, cut the core out of the cabbage and thinly slice / shred the cabbage. Place into a medium mixing bowl and stir in lime juice and salt. (I like to use my hands to make sure everything is mixed well.) Let sit while the sweet potatoes and beans cook. Before serving, drain any excess liquid from the bowl.
- To assemble the tacos: Onto each tortilla, layer some black beans, sweet potatoes, slaw, cilantro sauce, and crumbled cheese.
- Oil: We use safflower oil in this recipe for its neutral taste and high smoke point. Feel free to substitute canola oil or a vegetable oil blend.
- Beans: Two cans of beans yields about three cups. We use canned beans for convenience, and they work well here. But cooking beans from scratch is even better. Here's how to do it.
- Cabbage: Watch the recipe video in this post to see how to shred cabbage. For a full video tutorial on how to break down a cabbage, watch our short video here.
- Make-ahead: You can roast the sweet potatoes and cook the beans in advance and reheat right before serving. Cilantro sauce keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.
EQUIPMENT WE USE FOR THIS RECIPE
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 429Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 605mgCarbohydrates: 66gFiber: 16gSugar: 10gProtein: 18g