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Harissa Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spinach

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This roasted sweet potato salad gets a flavourful kick from harissa, a spice paste common in North African cuisine. Combined with iron-rich spinach, tangy pomegranate and creamy pistachios, this salad makes a light yet cozy meal all on its own and a wonderful side dish too.

When the weather is cold, I tend to eat fewer main dish salads…but you know me, I can’t live without my greens! Somehow, I’ve also never shared a spinach salad…which is wild, because I eat them a lot! I’ve added cozy roasted sweet potatoes dressed in flavourful and fiery harissa to put a warming and winter-y spin on the classic spinach salad. There’s also a ridiculously good tahini vinaigrette because #flavour!

Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are such a delicious and cozy addition to your winter plant rotation…we eat them a lot! Root veggies don’t get the credit they deserve: they’re affordable, keep for a long time and yes…they’re healthy! Sweet potatoes are super nutrient-dense, making them a wonderful part of an anti-inflammatory diet (as if you needed more reasons to love them!).

  • Rich in vitamin A carotenoids: a smallish sweet potato contains more than your daily intake of vitamin A as beta-carotene. Vitamin A helps support skin health (including collagen formation!) as well as the immune system so it’s a wonderful winter support food.
  • Sweet potatoes also contains vitamin C to help you absorb more iron from the spinach (great plant pairing!). Vitamin C also supports healthy skin and immunity.
  • When eaten with their skin, sweet potatoes contain both soluble and insoluble fibres to help support digestion as well as feed the gut microbiome. Sweet potatoes even contain resistant starch, a type of starch that helps feed gut bacteria.
  • Sweet potatoes also contain potassium to support heart health and electolyte balance in the body, as well as energizing B vitamins, manganese and copper.

Sweet potatoes versus yams

Okay, now this one might blow your mind….but in North America, the orange tubers we usually refer to as yams are actually just orange varieties of sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes have smooth flesh and come in a few colours: orange, yellow and even purple…the purple ones are extra nutritious! We started calling orange sweet potatoes ‘yams’ in North America just to differentiate them from yellow sweet potatoes. Trouble is, then it becomes extra confusing because yams are a thing…and they are definitely not a sweet potato!

True yams are a totally different plant. Common in West African and Caribbean cuisine, their skin is quite bumpy and tough and they have white starchy flesh.

roasted sweet potato salad ingredients

What you’ll need for this roasted sweet potato salad

It might look like a lot of ingredients…but most of them are pantry staples! There are just three steps to this salad: roasting the sweet potatoes, blending the dressing and tossing everything together. Put these 8 ingredients on your shopping list

  • 1 pound (450g) of orange fleshed sweet potato
  • 1/2 pound (225g) of baby spinach
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Salted pistachios
  • Shallot
  • Lemon
  • Harissa paste
  • Fennel seed

And check your pantry to make sure you have the basics: avocado oil, salt, pepper, garlic, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar!

What is harissa?

Harissa is a spice paste originating from Tunisia, with as many variations as there are home cooks. The base is chili peppers, garlic, salt and oil plus a variety of herbs and spices like cumin, coriander or mint. The amount of heat – and flavour – can really vary from brand to brand. I’ve bought some that are quite bland and others so fiery that you can’t use much. Right now, my local grocery store is carrying a harissa from Red Stick Spice Company which I like a lot…but you can also make your own harissa!

Harissa Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spinach

This cozy roasted sweet potato salad is light yet satisfying – and packed with flavour thanks to fiery harissa, tangy pomegranate arils and creamy pistachios. Perfect for a light meal with some grilled tofu or crispy chickpeas…or as a side salad

Prep Time20 mins

Cook Time25 mins

Total Time45 mins

Cuisine: American, Mediterranean

Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

Keyword: harissa, spinach, Sweet Potato

Dietary Preference: dairy free, egg free, Gluten-Free, grain free, vegan, vegetarian

Servings: 4 servings

Author: Desiree Nielsen, RD

Ingredients

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1 pound orange-fleshed sweet potatoes about 1 extra large, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) chunks
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 1 tablespoon avocado oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Tahini Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seed crushed with a mortar and pestle or minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 small clove garlic crushed or micrograted
  • freshly cracked pepper

Salad Ingredients

  • ½ pound baby spinach
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils
  • cup salted shelled pistachios roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup minced shallot

Instructions

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Prepare a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

  • Whisk harissa, oil, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and salt in a large salad bowl. Toss sweet potatoes with sauce until evenly coated and then spread onto baking sheet. Roast for 20-24 minutes, until soft.

Tahini Vinaigrette

  • Meanwhile, mix the dressing: in a wide-mouthed jar or bullet, blend the tahini, lemon juice, oil, maple syrup, fennel seed, salt, garlic and pepper with an immersion blender. If you need to thin it out, add ½ – 1 tablespoon water and blend again.

Salad Assembly

  • Wipe out the salad bowl and add spinach, shallot, pistachios and pomegranate. Add sweet potatoes, toss with dressing and serve.

Notes

As I mentioned in the blog, harissa pastes can really vary – taste yours to make sure it’s flavourful, or the sweet potatoes will be bland! You can always add a bit of extra ground cumin, garlic powder or cayenne to enliven them if your harissa is dull.
Also, spinach tends to wilt when dressed so if you’re planning on leftovers, just dress the amount you’ll eat now and store the salad separately from the dressing for best results.

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