You know those meals you have on repeat? You always have most of the ingredients on hand, it’s a go-to when the dinner dilemma hits hard. Quesadillas are one of those meals for me. I always have XL tortillas in the fridge and freezer, and when it comes to what’s inside, the options are endless. I usually use either homemade cashew cream or sunflower seed cream as the “cheesy” part of my quesadillas, and for this one I did just that. It may sound strange, but trust me when I say the garlicky, savory sunflower seed “cream” (which i used here) turns all ooey and gooey and perfect. So freaking irresistible, I can’t take it.
For this winner of a quesadilla recipe, I overloaded it with a combo of hearty black beans, roasted sweet potatoes and spicy veggies, then added some shredded cabbage for even more texture and volume. It all comes together in an epic symphony of flavor, texture and color, and that’s what really good plant-based eating is all about – hitting as many different flavor, texture, color and nutrient notes as possible.
Vegan Sweet Potato & Black Bean Quesadillas
1 large sweet potato, small diced
1 medium-large yellow onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
sea salt, fine grain
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (optional, for heat/spice)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 14-oz can black beans, drained/rinsed
1/2 of a small green cabbage, core removed and shredded
1 batch savory sunflower seed cream (2 cups)* see notes
4 large tortillas (burrito-size, I like the Whole Foods brand flour ones)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl toss sweet potato with 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Flip and rearrange. Roast for another 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss onion and bell pepper with 2 teaspoons olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, cumin, chipotle powder and chili powder. Chipotle powder is spicy, if you don’t love heat/spice, reduce to 1/4 teaspoon or leave it out completely (if you leave out the chipotle powder, increase chili powder).
Transfer onions and peppers to another baking sheet and arrange in a slightly overlapping single layer. Roast onions and peppers for 15 minutes. Flip and rearrange. Roast for another 8-10.
In a mixing bowl, combine peppers, onions, sweet potato and black beans.
Preheat a large heavy skillet over medium heat (i use a large cast iron pan). After a few minutes, turn it to medium-low. You want to keep the pan hot, but you also don’t want to brown the quesadillas too quickly. Adjust the heat between low and medium as needed. See notes.
Make the quesadillas in batches of two, prepare quesadillas as they’re ready to cook. Add a scant 1/4 cup of sunflower seed cream to half of each tortilla and spread into an even layer, getting close to the edge. Top evenly with 1/4 of the bean/veggie mixture, then a handful of shredded cabbage. Top cabbage with another 1/4 cup of the sunflower seed cream by drizzling it over the cabbage. Fold the clean half of the tortilla over the toppings.
Add olive oil the pan, I like enough to coat the bottom in a VERY thin layer. Add two of the quesadillas to the large pan, press down gently. Cook until golden brown, then carefully flip, adding a little oil to the pan and moving the quesadillas around in the pan.
The sunflower seed cream recipe is at the bottom of the cashew cream recipe, it’s the nut-free alternative. I like to use sunflower seeds instead of cashews sometimes because I don’t like to depend on one ingredient too much. The sunflower seed cream has a gray-ish tint to it and it’s quite and smooth, sweet and luscious as the cashew version. Recipes like this are perfect for sunflower seed cream because it’s mixed with lots of additional flavors and colors.
You want to cook the quesadillas low-and-slow to allow the “cream” to set up while also staying a little gooey inside. If the pan is smoking, it’s way too hot. I adjust between low and medium heat as needed to keep the oil sizzling while also slowly browning the tortilla.