These healthy sweet potato boats are the perfect combination of sweet and spicy with comforting southwestern flavors and a generous topping of cheese.
There's just something so comforting about southwestern flavors. The combination of beans, corn, spice, and of course, cheese, never fails to cheer me up. Take away the guilt by making it lighter and packing with vegetables, and I'm in my happy place.
This recipe has a lot of simple swaps to make it lighter and healthier, as well as vegetarian. Skimping on flavor is not an option! I promise you the end result with be comforting, flavorful, and filling, but not heavy.
Ingredients in Healthy Southwestern Sweet Potato Boats
The most important ingredient in this dish is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are extremely nutritious, packed with a variety of vitamins and minerals, and fiber. They're also super delicious, soft, and creamy when mashed. The sweet potato is the base of the meal that holds it all together.
To make a flavorful and cheesy filling, the sweet potatoes are mashed with cinnamon, salt, pepper, garlic herb seasoning (I will never not use this😂), Parmesan cheese, a splash of milk, and fat free cheddar to make it lighter. Fat free cheese tastes just as good as regular with a fraction of the calories and none of the fat! The sweet potato mixture is then mixed with a hearty combination of vegetables, beans, and grains:
- Large onion: almost any great meal starts with caramelized onions, and I recommend large for optimum flavor. Both white and yellow onions work here.
- Colored bell peppers: I use the baby ones, but it's your call. Peppers add a touch of sweetness and color to this dish, plus extra health benefits!
- Garlic: I use garlic pretty much every time I'm in the kitchen (okay, maybe not in desserts but still) and its such an amazing flavor. It really brings these potatoes to life.
- Quinoa: Quinoa is a healthy grain that is packed with fiber and nutrients. For extra flavor, cook it in broth. You’ll thank me later.
- Spinach: A fairly small amount, but it still makes a difference. You gotta get your greens in somewhere, and spinach pairs perfectly with these flavors.
- Black beans: This is where the protein comes in! It's a classic southwestern flavor and so delicious.
- Corn: Who doesn't love corn? It's sweet, refreshing, and the perfect companion to black beans. However, corn is best eaten in moderation, so we're not using too much here.
- Spices and seasonings: It's all about flavor. Basic salt, pepper, and garlic herb seasoning to start, then sweet Spanish paprika (use regular or smoked if you like it spicy), cumin (use roasted for extra flavor), crushed red pepper, and chili powder. Personally, I don't like a ton of spice, so if you like the heat I would add extra than what is written in the recipe.
You got all that? Good because now we're going to go through the steps!🙃
How to make Healthy Southwestern Sweet Potato Boats
Step one: Bake the potatoes. Start by cutting them in half, lengthwise, then rubbing in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic herb seasoning, and cinnamon. Place facedown on nonstick aluminum foil and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (yes its hot). The result will be irresistible caramelized sweet potatoes. The hardest part of this recipe? Not eating all the potatoes right then and there. You'll understand once you see and smell it.
Step two: Make the veggie mixture. Start by cooking the quinoa in the broth. This gives it more flavor than using just water. While the quinoa cooks, heat up oil on high heat in a nonstick pan. High heat is important to get a nice sear and caramelization. I also like to use nonstick because I do not enjoy scrubbing stuck pans. To the oil, add onions and peppers. Cook for a few minutes, then add spinach, then later lower heat and add in the quinoa, garlic, black beans, corn, and seasonings. The order is important because every ingredient cooks at different times. The key to getting the perfect caramelization is to stir occasionally and to cook for a long time. This is pretty obvious, but if you don't stir then it will burn and if you stir too often then it won't get that nice sear.
Step three: Mash the potatoes. Scoop out the potato insides into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. If you don't have one, complete the following steps using a potato masher or simply use a fork. It won't come out as smooth as a paddle attachment would make it, but it hardly makes a difference in the end. 😉Add salt, pepper, garlic herb seasoning, thyme, cinnamon, Parmesan, fat free cheddar, and a splash of milk. This makes it soo creamy.🤤
Step four: Fold in the vegetable/bean/quinoa mixture with a spatula (not the paddle attachment, which would mash everything) and give it a taste test. Add more salt and/or pepper if desired.
Step five: Spoon the mixture back into the carved out potatoes until none remains. Although I won't judge if you keep some for yourself to eat by the spoonful.🤭🤫
Top with more fat free cheddar because more cheese is always a good thing.
Then bake! 5 minutes in the oven is all you need to warm them up and melt that cheese.🤤
How to serve Healthy Southwestern Sweet Potato Boats
These sweet potato boats are a complete meal on its own, but there are many ways to get creative with your toppings!
I like to serve with lime, cilantro, avocado, and plain nonfat Greek yogurt (as a sour cream replacement, but you can still use sour cream). Whatever floats your boat 🙂
Sorry for that pun, I had to.🤭
I really hope you enjoy this recipe! If you decide to make it, post a picture and tag me @nutritiousdelights on Instagram--I'd love to see it!❤️
Southwestern Sweet Potato Boats
- 3 large sweet potatoes washed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- ¼ cup uncooked quinoa rinsed
- ½ cup vegetable broth
- 1 large yellow or white onion diced
- ¾ cup diced bell peppers
- 1 cup chopped spinach
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 15 oz can low sodium black beans drained and rinsed
- ½ cup corn fresh or frozen
- 2 teaspoons salt divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper divided
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon divided
- 1 tablespoon garlic herb seasoning divided
- 2 teaspoon sweet paprika use regular or smoked for more heat
- 2 teaspoons roasted cumin or regular
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme optional
- 1 ½ tablespoons milk of choice
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup shredded fat free cheddar cheese plus more for topping
- Optional toppings:
- Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil.
- Cut each potato in half, lengthwise, and place on the sheet tray. Rub in 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, 2 teaspoons garlic herb seasoning, and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon. Make sure it is all evenly incorporated, then place face down and bake for about 40 minutes (depending on size) or until they are very soft and caramelized.
- In a small pot, cook quinoa in the broth (instead of water) according to package directions.
- In a medium pan, heat up the remaining oil on high heat. Cook onions and peppers for 2-3 minutes until they are caramelized and the onions are translucent. Add the spinach and cook for another minute, until wilted. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic, beans, cooked quinoa, and corn. Stir in 1 teaspoon garlic herb seasoning, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, paprika, cumin, crushed red pepper, and chili powder. Cook for 2 minutes then turn off the heat.
- Once the potatoes are finished, preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Scoop out the potato insides into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or a potato masher. There should be a thin layer of potato remaining on the skin, enough for it to hold its shape. Mash the potatoes with either a potato masher/ricer or paddle attachment, and add in milk, remaining cinnamon, remaining garlic herb seasoning, remaining black pepper, ½ teaspoon salt, and thyme if using. Mix in the Parmesan and cheddar.
- Remove paddle attachment and switch to a spatula. Gently fold in the vegetable/quinoa mixture. Add the remaining salt, only if necessary. Spoon the filling back into the potatoes, then top with fat free cheddar. Bake for 5 minutes. Serve with desired toppings, such as cilantro, lime, avocado, and/or Greek yogurt.