Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

black bean and sweet potato stew

You know how they say necessity is the mother of invention? Something like that is responsible for this black bean and sweet potato stew. I had a really specific idea of what I wanted this dish to be–warm, spicy with a touch of sweetness, comforting, hearty. I wanted the beans to be cooked down and creamy, but with recognizable chunks of sweet potato. I wanted heat, but not too much. And the problem was, I couldn’t find a recipe out there that satisfied all these requirements.

So, I made my own. I solved the texture problem first, by roasting the sweet potatoes in the oven and keeping them separate until the very end. Normally I’m all for eating the skins of potatoes, but here I do recommend that you peel them. Then, I focused on making a creamy, flavorful pot of beans starting with toasted spices and multiple layers of heat provided by the chili powder, ancho chile and cayenne. Despite being meatless, this stew takes cues from some well-known chili tricks, like the inclusion of a bit of unsweetened cocoa and a cinnamon stick for added complexity.

The result is a creamy, spicy, satisfying stew that’s hearty and filling. It’s vegan (unless you take my suggestion of topping it with cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt) and it also freezes well. I have several servings in quart-sized zip-top bags in my freezer as we speak!

A further note: I’ve been pretty consistently meal prepping for the past few months (in other words, making big batches of foods on the weekends to eat throughout the week). This is one of the dishes I’ve come up with to feed myself. I’ve added a new tag to the blog so that I can note for you the recipes I’ve successfully prepared for this purpose. Recipes in the Meal Prep category:

  1. Make enough servings for several days.
  2. Will keep well in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.
  3. Will include storage and reheating instructions as needed.

They will also often be fewer than 400 calories, but not always. View recipes in this category here.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew

Yield: 5

Calories per serving: 359

Fat per serving: 5.7 g

Carbs per serving: 60.1 g

Protein per serving: 16.3 g

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Stew


    For the sweet potatoes:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
    For the beans:
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder or more to taste
  • 1 ancho chile in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup roasted red peppers, diced (alternatively, roast half a red bell pepper with the sweet potatoes, then remove the skin and dice it up)
  • 3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp molasses or brown sugar
  • 1.5-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
    Optional toppings:
  • Crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the sweet potato with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, salt, smoked paprika and cumin on a baking sheet. When the oven is hot, roast the potatoes until cooked through and browned, turning once. This will take 15-25 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small frying pan until fragrant. Combine the toasted seeds with 1/2 tsp kosher salt, remaining paprika, oregano, chili powder and garlic in a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Coarsely chop the ancho chile and add that as well; for less spice, use only half the chile. Grind the mixture together to form a paste.
  3. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spice mixture and cook, stirring, until fragrant and dispersed throughout the onion, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the roasted peppers, black beans, cornmeal and water. Bring to a boil and stir in the cocoa, molasses or brown sugar, and cinnamon. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, uncovered until thickened, about 20-30 minutes. 
  5. Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes and simmer another 10 minutes more. Add a bit of water if the mixture becomes too thick.
  6. Remove the cinnamon stick and.discard. Stir in the vinegar. Taste and add salt or cayenne as needed. Dish into bowls, top with cheese, sour cream or hot sauce, and serve.  

Storage: Keep extra servings in the fridge for 3-5 days, with any cheese or other toppings stored separately. Or, freeze in quart-sized zip-top bags for longer storage.

Reheating: Defrost if necessary. Then, microwave on high 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a bit of water if the stew is too thick.