roasted sweet potato salad with spinach on plate with fork

This roasted sweet potato spinach salad is a celebration of textures and flavours. The sweet potatoes in this salad are roasted with harissa, a Tunisian spice pasted common in North African cuisine, then combined with nutrient-dense spinach. With pomegranate, pistachios and a creamy and rich tahini dressing, this healthy salad is satisfying and delicious.

roasted sweet potatoes pistachios spinach and pomegranate

I crave salads – and not just because I’m a dietitian – I LOVE the endless flavour combinations and textures that a really good salad offers. Which is why there is a whole salads chapter in Eat More Plants Cookbook. But even I have to admit that 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, despite writing plenty of healthy plant-based salad recipes over the years, 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 spin on the classic spinach salad that’s delicious all year round. There’s also a ridiculously good creamy tahini dressing because #flavour. I believe that plant-based recipes can be just as flavourful and fun as they are nutritious…and I hope you agree after trying this salad!

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.
roasted sweet potatoes on baking sheet

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.

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!

roasted sweet potato salad ingredients

What you’ll need for this roasted sweet potato spinach salad

It might look like a lot of ingredients…but most of them are pantry staples! There are just three steps and about 20 minutes of hands on time to make 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!

Sweet potato spinach salad storage and tips

  • Dressed spinach salads tend to wilt a bit in the fridge – if you’re expecting leftovers (or want to make it ahead of time!), store salad separately from dressing and just dress on your plate.
  • You can use any kind of sweet potato you wish for this recipe – yellow, orange or even purple! Once roasted, taste and adjust maple syrup and salt to your liking.
  • This salad would make an even heartier meal with some grilled or crispy baked tofu triangles or you could even marinate and roast up some soy curls using the same harissa mixture you used for the sweet potatoes!
  • Don’t have harissa on hand? You can totally make it yourself…or use a blend of chile flakes, cumin, and garlic powder to season your roasted sweet potatoes in a pinch.

More healthy salad recipes for you!

roasted sweet potatoes pistachios spinach and pomegranate

Roasted Sweet Potato Spinach Salad + Tahini Dressing

This roasted sweet potato spinach salad is a celebration of textures and flavours. The sweet potatoes in this salad are roasted with harissa, a Tunisian spice pasted common in North African cuisine, then combined with nutrient-dense spinach. With pomegranate, pistachios and a creamy and rich tahini dressing, this healthy salad is satisfying and delicious.
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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.