Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Chili


Your last post was hilarious.  Why?  Because I made a dish very similar to it last week.

Were there plantains involved?  No.  However, there were black beans and spices and a starchy-sweet produce item served over rice.  We may be progressing toward actually reading each others minds.

This chili is a staple for me, because it is so freakin’ easy and I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  It’s so much a staple that I don’t have a single picture of making it, and wasn’t even going to post it until I read your Fried Plantains and Black Beans post.  But I can’t keep this goodness to myself.

The only picture of this meal.  Leftovers for lunch.  In my cubicle.  It's how I roll.

The only picture of this meal. Leftovers for lunch. In my cubicle. It’s how I roll.

I got this recipe from that book I bought when we moved into Lullwood House in college, Nava Atlas’ The Vegetarian Family Cookbook.  I haven’t made too many other things from the book because I always end up just making this:

Black Bean and Roasted Sweet Potato Chili
(serves 4)


  • 1 cup brown rice*
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 small (or half of a medium/large) yellow onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small (or half of a medium/large) red pepper, diced
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, lightly drained
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro**
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

*I actually served this over bulgur this time, since I had some left from a stab at tabbouleh this summer.  However, I’m really not happy with how I prepared it so I don’t feel like I can give directions for that.  I just googled “how to prepare bulgur” and went with one of the top few methods listed.  It called for much too much water, I had to drain out a ton later.  It was tasty but, you know, not exactly skillfully prepared.

**I usually use 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, but I found I was out!  Oh the humanity!


  1. Cook the brown rice with your preferred method.***
  2. Cook the sweet potato.  Nava suggests microwaving them whole and unpeeled for 3-4 minutes on one side and then 3-4 minutes on the other, then letting them cool, then peeling and dicing them.  I already had the oven on when I was making this so I just tossed the peeled, diced pieces with about a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper, and roasted them in a casserole dish for about 40 minutes at 350*F.  Then set the cooked sweet potato pieces aside.
  3. In a dutch oven or medium soup pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until almost translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two, until it is fragrant and maybe a little bit golden, but not brown/burning.****
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients other than the sweet potato (the bell pepper, beans, tomatoes with chilies, cumin, and cilantro).  Bring these to a simmer.  Cover and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Add the sweet potato pieces and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.  If you want a thicker chili, leave the lid off so that more liquid cooks off.  If you want a thinner chili, leave it covered.  I typically do both by just offsetting the lid so that there’s a crack for steam to escape.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls over rice.

***I had the weirdest brown rice epiphany earlier this year.  I used to cook it like this.  It was always good but the grains tended to explode a bit, making them starchier.  This worked great when I wanted them to add thickness to a sauce in a sort of risotto-ish way, but not so great when I was looking for separate, individual grains.  My method now is so simple: put an amount of brown rice and 1.5 times that amount of water into a sauce pan.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling lower to a simmer for 20 minutes.  Take off of the heat, leaving lid on, and let the rice steam itself for 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Done!

****For a while I burned garlic all.the.time.  It was so annoying!  I finally gave in and now I don’t add it in with the onion until the onion has cooked for a few minutes.  Then I add it to the pan but baby it by stirring the garlic rather a lot, and cooking for only about a minute before adding the next ingredient.  Garlic, why you gotta be such a diva with me?  And yet you are so delicious.

Hope you have a great week, Kaki!  I’m about to start concert week for choir, so… many hours of rehearsal are in my immediate future.  But then the concert!  It’s gonna be good.  🙂

Later girl,


P.S. I made your Cinnamon-y Apple Crisp last week!  And I indeed ate it for breakfast.  No pictures because I took it into the office and it was totally gone by the end of the day.  So, you know, pretty well received.  🙂  Two questions, though: it looks like you used an 8×8 pan, yes?  Mine fit in a 9×13 and I’m not sure it would have fit in anything smaller.  Also, does it actually get crisp per se?  Mine was delicious but not crispy, and I couldn’t tell if that was how it was supposed to turn out or not.

P.P.S. Oh my gosh please cook something with nopales and tell me all about it!

P.P.P.S. Last week I made this drink with that apple brandy.  I used like half the amount of cardamom pods, though, because 1/4 cup is insane.  At their suggested hour-and-a-half steeping time the bourbon wasn’t great, so I thought maybe since I decreased the amount I’ll let it go just a bit longer.  Wrong!  Ugh, after about three hours the bourbon, instead of the lovely spice note I was hoping for, had an unmistakable floral quality, as though the cardamom shell instead of the seeds was doing all the work.  And I love a floral liquor (hello, St. Germain is my favorite!), and it wasn’t like it was terrible, it was just so not what I was hoping for.  What I’m saying is that bourbon and cardamom sound like a match made in heaven but don’t do it.


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