Spice up your summer cookouts
Here in the US, Memorial Day is coming up soon—signaling the start of cookout season. And cookouts require potato salad. They just do.
You could make an old favorite with white potatoes, of course. But why not try something different? Sweet potatoes—with their deep, rich flavor—work extremely well in potato salad. Add some chipotle to the mix, and you have a side dish that can stand up to any main course you slap on the grill.
So make extra. Because your guests may walk right past the burgers or barbecue to load up on this.
Recipe: Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad
Some potato salads are mayonnaise-based (like American Potato Salad), while others are vinaigrette-based (think German Potato Salad with Bacon). Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad takes the vinaigrette path.
To make this salad, you need cooked sweet potatoes that have been chilled and cut into cubes of ½ to ¾ inch. There are several ways you to prepare them. You can peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into cubes, cook them in boiling water, then drain and cool them. To use this method, follow the general procedure described in Potato Salad Basics, substituting sweet potatoes for regular white ones. I find it usually takes 5 or 6 minutes to cook sweet potatoes using this method (depending on the size of the potato cubes), but start checking after 4 minutes—if you overcook the potatoes, they tend to crumble when you make the salad.
Alternatively, you can boil the sweet potatoes in their skins (it’ll take maybe 20 minutes). Then cool them, remove the skins, and dice them. If you go this route, I find it works better to cook the potatoes a day ahead of time, then refrigerate them overnight before removing the skins.
Or you can roast the sweet potatoes. For general instructions, see our post on Roast Sweet Potatoes.
My recipe is adapted from one I found in Cheryl and Bill Jamison’s Smoke & Spice.
This recipe serves 6 to 8 (but it can be scaled up easily).
If you start with cooked, cubed sweet potatoes, this recipe takes 10 to 15 minutes to prepare. You can serve Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad immediately, but it tastes better if chilled for a few hours (it’s even better chilled overnight).
Leftovers keep for a few days if stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- ~2 pounds cooked, chilled sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes of ½ to ¾ inch (see recipe headnote)
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into dice of ½ inch or a bit less
- ½ large red onion, peeled and chopped (about ¾ cup; or to taste)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons canned chipotle peppers, puréed (see Step 4; these peppers are spicy hot, so you may want to start with less—see Notes)
- 1 garlic clove, minced fine
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard (to taste)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
- salt to taste (3 or 4 pinches; optional)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ~2 tablespoons minced cilantro (may substitute parsley; or skip entirely)
- additional minced cilantro or thinly sliced red onion for garnish (optional)
- Place cooked, cubed sweet potatoes in a medium-sized mixing bowl (see recipe headnote for instructions on cooking sweet potatoes).
- Wash and dry the red bell pepper. Remove the core and white inner membranes, then chop the pepper into dice of ½ inch or less. Add to the sweet potatoes in the mixing bowl.
- Peel the onion and cut into small dice, then add the diced onion to the sweet potatoes and red bell pepper. Mix the ingredients together and set aside.
- Pour a 7-ounce can of chipotle chilies (including their accompanying sauce) into a mini food processor, then pulse until puréed. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the purée in a small mixing bowl—you’ll be mixing the vinaigrette in this bowl. (You may want to start with no more than 2 tablespoons of chipotle purée, then add more if desired; refrigerate the remaining chipotle purée in an airtight container—see Notes).
- Peel a clove of garlic and mince fine. Add to the chipotle purée.
- Add mustard, lime juice, and cumin to the chipotle purée and garlic, then use a whisk to blend the ingredients together. Taste, and add a bit of salt if needed.
- To complete the vinaigrette, slowly add the olive oil—drop by drop—to the chipotle purée mixture, whisking all the while. As an emulsion begins to form, you can dribble the olive oil in more quickly. Taste, and add a bit more lime juice, olive oil, or salt if necessary.
- Add the vinaigrette to the sweet-potato mixture you made in Step 3. Toss lightly until the dressing is well incorporated. Add the minced cilantro, and mix again.
- You can serve Chipotle Sweet-Potato Salad immediately, but it tastes better if it rests in the refrigerator, preferably overnight (in an airtight container). When you serve the sweet-potato salad, garnish (if you wish) with additional minced cilantro or thin slices of red onion.
- In the US, canned chipotle chilies tend to be sold in 7-ounce containers (most grocery stores carry them in their Mexican food sections). The canned chilies are packed in adobo sauce, which has a tasty vinegar base—so the sauce works well in our vinaigrette recipe.
- After you pulse the canned chipotle peppers in a mini food processor and measure out the amount you need for the recipe (Step 4), place the remaining purée in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator. It will keep for weeks (even months, probably).
- Chipotle chilies are smoke-dried jalapeños. So they’re spicy (and can be hot on the tongue). If you’re not familiar with them, start with just 2 tablespoons of chipotle purée—or even less—when you make the vinaigrette. After you’ve finished mixing the vinaigrette (Step 7), you can always whisk in more chipotle purée if the dressing isn’t spicy enough for your taste.
- BTW, if you’ve recently made Shrimp in Chipotle Sauce, which we posted about back in April, this would be a great way to use some of the leftover canned chipotles from that recipe.
- Some people like a hint of sweetness in this dish. If that’s you, try adding a bit of honey or brown sugar to the vinaigrette. The original recipe calls for a tablespoon of ketchup (which would also add some sweetness). So you could try that too, if you like (though I haven’t).
“This might be my new favorite,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, forking her Chiptle Sweet-Potato Salad. “It would be terrific with barbecue. Like maybe our Oven Slow-Cooked BBQ Spare Ribs or Oven Slow-Cooked BBQ Pulled Pork. Or that old Saint Louis specialty, Barbecued Pork Steaks.”
“Of course, on Memorial Day, we’re planning to serve Grilled Hamburgers,” I said. “So traditional Mayonnaise Potato Salad might work better as a side. Or maybe Mustard Potato Salad.”
“Though I kind of fancy French Potato Salad,” said Mrs K R.
“Fortunately, we have loads of cookout-appropriate recipes,” I said. (And you can find a handy list of them at the end of this post.)
“Don’t forget dessert,” said Mrs K R.
“I’m pretty sure you’ll remind me,” I said. “In fact, I’m guessing you have something planned?”
“Ab-so-lu-ment,” said Mrs K R. “We’ll serve Black Cows, which most people know as Root Beer Floats. They’re our tradition, after all.”
And here at Kitchen Riffs Central, we don’t mess with tradition.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
Cookout and Summer recipes you may also enjoy reading about:
Tangy KC-Style Barbecue Sauce
Barbecued Pork Steaks
Oven Slow-Cooked BBQ Pulled Pork
Oven Slow-Cooked BBQ Spare Ribs
Jalapeño Coleslaw with Pimentón
Creamy Cole Slaw
Celery Root (Celeriac) Rémoulade
German Potato Salad with Bacon
Mustard Potato Salad
French Potato Salad
American (Mayonnaise) Potato Salad
Horseradish Potato Salad
Potato Salad Basics
Root Beer Floats
No-Cook Fruit Fool
Or check out the index for more recipes