Spice in the Kitchen: Cold African Sweet Potato & Peanut Salad

Cute set of plates found at Goodwill. Another edition to the future Etsy shop!

My mother-in-law asked me how I come up with recipes. For the most part, it is based on past cooking experiences, recipes committed to memory that I have slowly adapted to my family's taste and the experience of knowing which flavors combine well. Sometimes, like tonight, I have to invent a dish based on what needs to be cooked before it goes bad. I really hate wasting food.

So here is how this recipe came to be: I bought a papaya at the grocery store to learn how to make a papaya salad. Searched for some recipes. Discovered I did not have some key ingredients, so I put the papaya in the fruit bowl. Saw a sweet potato that needed to be cooked. Made me think of potato salad. "I wonder if sweet potatoes would make a good cold salad?" Then, I remembered seeing, somewhere in a menu, an African sweet potato peanut soup. I looked around at flavors/spice combos for this type of soup and adapted them for a dressing. After deciding on quantity and texture, I measured up the ingredients and tweaked the final taste. Phew! That is how a recipe is born. It's not easy, but I have fun doing it.

Cold African Style Sweet Potato and Peanut Salad (vegan)
serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a side; time involved: 20 minutes prep (plus chilling time)

Salad Ingredients
  • 1 very large sweet potato
  • 1 cup chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup chopped organic celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes for garnish
  • 1/4 cup finely diced sweet red bell pepper for garnish
  • cilantro leaves for garnish
  • dry roasted peanuts for garnish
  • diced red onions (I don't partake, but would work here if you do!)

Dressing Ingredients
  • 3 TB peanut oil
  • 1 TB peanut butter
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TB ginger
  • 1 TB minced garlic (optional or use hing)
  • 1 tsp powdered cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 TB sweetener (liquid or crystalized)
  • 1 TB finely, finely chopped cilantro (or use a Trader Joe's frozen cilantro cubes! Best invention ever!)
  • 1/2 -1 tsp salt ( I really like salt, chill if you don't.)
  • dash pepper
  • dash ground cloves
  • dash hot sauce (Sriracha!) or cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 TB water (Depending on how thick your peanut butter is. The dressing should be thick, but pourable.)

  1. Set water in a steamer pan to boil.
  2. Peel the sweet potato and cube. Place in steamer basket. Steam for 10-12 minutes or until you can pierce with fork.
  3. While the sweet potatoes are steaming, cut/prepare your other veggies and garnishes.
  4. Mix the ingredients for dressing. Whisk or shake in a tightly sealed jar. Set in fridge to chill.
  5. Chill sweet potatoes. Toss with celery and chickpeas when cool. Toss with dressing (I used about 3/4 of mine) and garnish each serving.

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