Southwestern Kale Power Salad – Cookie and Kate

Southwestern Kale Power Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa & Avocado Sauce

This hearty salad features a few of my all-time favorite ingredients. Here we have massaged kale, quinoa, spiced sweet potatoes, and black beans served with a dollop of creamy avocado sauce. I added crumbled feta and toasted pepitas for good measure.

I’d cook with only these ingredients if it weren’t for diversity’s sake. This texture-rich vegetarian salad packs great for lunch. If you like to meal prep for the week, this is an excellent candidate. Given the number of components, this is not the quickest recipe around, but it’s absolutely work the effort.

southwestern kale power salad ingredients

This recipe has been a reader favorite since it was originally published in 2015 (really, nine years ago?). I developed it during a month-long stay in Austin, Texas with my friend Ali. You could probably say that the Southwestern vibes influenced the recipe.

Today, this salad is getting fresh photos and some slight revisions. Enjoy!

how to make power salad

How to Make This Power Salad

You’ll find the full recipe below, but here’s a brief rundown with notes and video.

  1. Cook the quinoa. The recipe uses my foolproof method of cooking quinoa, which will differ from the instructions on your bag. You can make the quinoa a day in advance, if you’d like.
  2. Cook the sweet potatoes in a skillet. I love roasted sweet potatoes, but these sweet potatoes are cut quite small, so the skillet method is ideal. We’ll add a little bit of water, cover and let them steam until tender, then uncover and cook them until they’re caramelized on the edges.
  3. Massage and dress the kale. Massaging the kale (literally just scrunching it in your hands until it’s darker and softer) removes all the poky edges and improves the flavor. Then we’ll whisk together a simple olive oil and lime dressing, and toss to coat.
  4. Make the avocado sauce. Combine the ingredients in a food processor and blend. Add more lime juice, if you’d like. The sauce should be nicely tart, but not overwhelmingly so.
  5. Toast the pepitas in a skillet. Freshly-toasted pepitas taste amazing and are totally worth the extra few minutes. Keep an eye on the skillet, as it’s easy to turn on the heat and forget until they’re too toasty.
  6. Assemble! Divide the components between bowls as shown, and enjoy.

Watch How to Make Southwestern Kale Power Salad

drizzling dressing over kale salad

southwestern kale power salad components

More Sweet Potato and Kale Recipes

Please let me know how this recipe turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.

Southwestern kale power salad bowl


Southwestern Kale Power Salad with Sweet Potato, Quinoa & Avocado Sauce

  • Author: Cookie and Kate
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 4 large salads 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Varies
  • Cuisine: Mexican
  • Diet: Vegetarian

4.8 from 119 reviews

Healthy kale and quinoa power salad with spicy sweet potato, black beans and creamy avocado sauce. If your lime are particularly big, scale back. This gluten-free, vegetarian (easily vegan) salad packs well for lunch, too! Recipe yields 4 generous salads or 6 medium.



Quinoa and kale

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 bunch kale, ribs removed and chopped into very small, bite-sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium lime, juiced
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt

Sweet potatoes

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ½ pounds), sliced into small, ¼-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt

Avocado sauce

  • 2 ripe avocados, sliced into long strips
  • ¼ cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • 1 medium jalapeño, deseeded, membranes removed and roughly chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander, optional
  • ¼ teaspoon fine salt, to taste

Everything else

  • 1 can (14 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked black beans
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta
  • ¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)


  1. To cook the quinoa: First, rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh colander under running water for a minute or two. In a medium-sized pot, combine the rinsed quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then cover the pot, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the quinoa from heat and let it rest, still covered, for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, drain off any excess water and fluff the quinoa with a fork. Set it aside to cool.
  2. To cook the sweet potatoes: In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped sweet potatoes and toss to coat, then add the cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Stir to combine. Once the pan is sizzling, add a scant ¼ cup water, then cover the pan and reduce heat to low to avoid burning the contents. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potato is easily pierced through with a fork, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Uncover the pan, raise the heat back to medium and cook until the excess moisture has evaporated and the sweet potatoes are caramelizing on the edges, about 3 to 7 minutes (add another little splash of olive oil if the potatoes start sticking to the pan). Set aside to cool.
  4. To prepare the kale: Transfer the kale to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the chopped kale with salt and use your hands to “massage” it, which improves the flavor. Just grab handfuls of kale in your hands and scrunch it up in your palms. Repeat until the kale is darker green in color and more fragrant. Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the juice of 1 lime and ½ teaspoon salt. Drizzle over the kale and toss to coat.
  5. To make the avocado sauce: Combine the ingredients as listed in a food processor or blender. Blend well, add more lime juice if desired, and season with salt, to taste.
  6. To toast the pepitas: In a small skillet over medium-low heat, toast the pepitas, stirring frequently, until they are turning lightly golden on the edges and starting to make little popping noises, about 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Once the quinoa has cooled down a bit, pour it into the bowl of kale and toss to combine. Divide the kale and quinoa mixture into four large salad bowls. Top with sweet potatoes, black beans, a big dollop of avocado sauce, and a sprinkle of feta and pepitas.


Make it dairy free/vegan: Omit the feta.

Storage suggestions: This salad keeps well, covered and refrigerated, for a few days. To keep the avocado sauce fresh, store it separately in a small bowl, with plastic wrap pressed against the top surface to prevent oxidation.
Change it up: Butternut squash or carrots would be good substitutions for the sweet potatoes.

Edits 1/1½024: Adjusted avocado sauce by omitting 2 tablespoons olive oil (unnecessary), decreasing the salt for the sweet potatoes from 1 ½ teaspoons to ½ teaspoon, and specifying the amounts of lime juice and salt.

▸ Nutrition Information

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice. See our full nutrition disclosure here.

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