Sweet Potato Salsa

appetizer bbq entree snacks vegetarian Mar 12, 2022

Sweet Potato Salsa

Sweet Potato Salsa

If you live in the South Bay in Silicon Valley, you may have visited Aqui. A "fast-casual" chain, Aqui offers Southwest, Asian, California style cuisine; in other words, a broad mix of cultures. They're also known for their "industrial-strength margarita." I occasionally indulged in one until I jokingly said to the bartender, "I bet there are 500 calories in this glass," to which she replied, "no, about 900!"

Back to the food...

My favorite dish was a salad with romaine, braised grass-fed beef, and a sweet potato salsa. I loved that dish, especially the salsa, so much so that I dissected it and created my version, which I think is pretty darn close.

As the restaurant expanded to multiple locations, the salsa changed. This often happens with restaurants chains that grow. Recipes need to be consistent across all locations, and the nuances of the original recipe disappear. It's still good, but I think my version, closer to the original, is better ;-).

Back to the salsa...

Sweet potatoes with the orange interior and red skin known as "Garnet Yams" or "Jewel Yams" are sweet potatoes from the morning glory family. They are roots and, like carrots, can be eaten raw. True yams from the Dioscoreaceae family are tubers, often white or brown-skinned, and should not be eaten raw. It's confusing as the two vegetables are often both called "yams," which has to do with marketing. Just make sure you choose the dark orange and purple-skinned sweet potatoes.

Back to the recipe...

If you're going to give it a try—and you should—make sure you don't overcook the sweet potatoes. They are charred on the outside and left raw on the inside to keep their crunch factor. The skin should be blackened or charred; while the flesh can slightly soften on the outside, most of the yam should be uncooked and firm. You can do the charring under a broiler, on an outdoor grill, or over a gas flame. Turn the potatoes and cook just long enough the burn the skin. It doesn't have to be black, just a dark color.

Also, in the recipe, I use cilantro stems instead of leaves. The stems are edible and hold up really well in salsa; the leaves tend to wilt and discolor.

Serve this salsa with chips, chicken, or beef tacos, or on its own for a vegetarian taco filling with tahini or mole sauce spread on the tortilla first. It’s also delicious on a romaine lettuce salad with braised or grilled chicken or beef, a vinaigrette or creamy style dressing, crunchy chips, and feta cheese.


2 garnet yams, skin on and scrubbed

⅔ cup minced red onion

2 Tbls. or more finely minced cilantro stems

½ tsp. chili flakes (more or less) 2 Tbls. olive oil

lime juice to taste (1 to 2 limes)


1. Pre-heat broiler and place yams directly on oven shelf closest to broiler. Watch closely while you char the potato skin so that it is black; this can also be done on an open flame. Carefully set yams on a cutting board and allow to cool just long enough to handle.

2. When cool enough to handle, cut the yams into small dice, charred skin included. They should still be as warm as possible without burning yourself while dicing.

3. Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion until crisp-tender, about halfway cooked.

4. Add onions to the bowl and toss with remaining ingredients. Season with salt. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate and allow to cool. This will slightly steam the yams. Adjust seasoning.

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