Mucho Gusto

Maya’s Sweet Potato Chili

This is the fifty-seventh installment in Mucho Gusto, a recipe initiative by and for students to help connect us through food in times of isolation. If you’ve got a recipe you think would make a great addition, reach out to us!

Sweet potatoes seem to be all the rage now; it may sound funny, but they are all over my Instagram feed (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!) I constantly see mouthwatering photos of sweet potatoes topped with pesto, pumpkin spice, or even nut butter. It can get a little weirder, too: I find sweet potatoes on toast (or acting as toast), or sweet potatoes as boats for eggs. I’ve discovered the power of sweet potatoes as an ingredient in morning oatmeal, or sweet potatoes sneaking their way into cakes. I even see sweet potatoes being perfectly cooked in a microwave! That being said, this picture propaganda always gets to me, and as both a foodie and a skeptic, I am always saving posts to eventually try the new recipes that I come across. So, as soon as fall began, I knew it was time to bring out the sweet potato recipes. I always have some around for cooking, as their wonderful taste, texture, and nutritional health benefits lead me to consume them pretty regularly. After all, who said eating vegetables had to be boring?

Sweet potatoes originate from Central and South America. Due to their versatility, they remain a popular staple ingredient in the cuisines of countries all over the world, including Africa, Asia, New Zealand, Japan, Peru, Italy, and Spain. They create a nutritious, substantive meal, as they are full of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants such as carotene. Additionally, sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and starchy, which is perfect for fall and winter meals. They act as a great, neutral complement to almost any dish! You can play upon their molasses-like flavor and bring it out with cinnamon, or complement them with salt and spice next to a meaty main course. Plus, they are a must during the holidays! Incorporating them into side dishes and casseroles guarantees that everyone will reach for seconds. 

While I enjoy sweet potatoes year-round, there is nothing I love more than a hot bowl of hearty soup when the cold, wintry weather starts to set in. Pun-ily enough, the chilly outdoors often make me crave chili! Chili traditionally includes beans and some sort of tomato base. However, the unique addition of sweet potatoes to this dish diversifies the flavor profile. The delectable orange root vegetable stands out in this soup recipe, resulting in an interesting chili that is both smoky and sweet. 

Inspired by The Minimalist Baker’s recipe, this sweet potato chili recipe is the perfect bowl of warm bliss. With just five main base ingredients, this recipe is simple yet delicious! I love this sweet potato and black bean chili because it is a great example of combined cuisine; to me, this Tex-Mex dish is quintessentially American, but with a clear connection to Latin American roots through the ingredients. Black beans and sweet potatoes, the central ingredients of this dish, create a rich, smoky, and savory flavor. These starchy star ingredients make for a thick, balanced, full-bodied chili with notes of spice and natural sweetness. This chili is the perfect dish to warm the soul. With just five major base ingredients, this recipe is proof that delicious cooking can be easy, healthy, and quite literally, minimalist! I like to jazz it up by adding some of my favorite vegetables as well. Any ingredients you have on hand can be added to enhance this delicious pot of flavor! Enjoy different variations of it over and over again throughout this holiday season!


  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (16-ounce) can chunky tomato salsa (can be substituted with canned tomatoes and tomato paste if necessary)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • 1 can corn
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 -1 teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon chipotle powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For Serving: 

  • 1-2 teaspoons hot sauce of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves 
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion 
  • 2 avocados, chopped 
  • Tortilla chips 
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded Mexican-blend cheese or Cotija cheese 


In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onions with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook the onions down until they are soft and transparent. Add the sweet potato and the spices. If adding another starchy vegetable, like carrots, as in my case, add them at this point as well. Mix over the heat for about 3-5 minutes. 

Then, add the vegetable stock, water, and tomato salsa. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the beans and any other vegetables you want to incorporate, such as corn. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. The sweet potatoes and the beans will marinate in the soup and bring all the flavors out. 

When the chili is done, the sweet potatoes should be soft, smooth, and tender. The soup should be on the thicker side. This chili is best when left to rest overnight, or at least for a few hours before eating as this allows the flavor of the vegetables and spices to mix together and develop even further. While not required, this step is highly recommended for a tastier soup. 

Serve with any combination of lime juice, fresh cilantro, red onion, avocado, sour cream, and cheese. Tortilla chips also make for a crunchy topping or can be used as an edible spoon. The best bowl, in my opinion, includes all of these fixings!

While this recipe does not take too long to prepare, it is best to prepare ahead of time so you can sit back and relax while you wait, and enjoy time with loved ones! This recipe serves about 6-8 people. Happy eating!

(Recipe adapted from The Minimalist Baker blog, est. 2012)

Cover photo courtesy of Delish


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