Southwestern Sweet Potato, Kale, and Quinoa Salad

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This Southwestern Sweet Potato, Kale, and Quinoa Salad with a creamy avocado lime dressing makes a delicious and hearty meatless meal. Great for meal prep and lunches.

441 CAL 61g CARBS 19g FAT 12g PROTEIN
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It's hard to beat a delicious kale salad but sometimes I want to turn that salad into a full meal and this Southwestern Kale and Sweet Potato Salad is the perfect solution. It's filling, packed with plant-based protein, and has the most amazing creamy avocado cilantro dressing. 

Lately, I have been on a salad kick and have been making all kinds of hearty, healthy salads for dinner. I have also been obsessed with this homemade avocado dressing. It's made with creamy avocado, Greek yogurt, lime juice, jalapenos, and cilantro. It tastes good on everything.

So when I was staring into the pantry trying to plan dinner the other night I decided that kale, taco-seasoned sweet potatoes, and quinoa would be the perfect combination.  

Paired with that creamy avocado dressing, it's one delicious meal. As an added bonus, in my opinion, it only gets better after a night in the fridge. The dressing gets more flavorful, the kale softens slightly, and the flavors deepen. 

Ingredients and Pantry Swaps

Here's what you will need to make this tasty kale salad.

  • Kale: Tuscan or Lacinato kale is the best option for this salad since it tends to soften and soak up the flavor of the dressing better than curly kale. However, both will work and you could always swap in another green if you aren't a fan of kale. Just beware that it won't store as well. 
  • Sweet potatoes: The sweet potatoes are coated with taco seasoning and quickly cooked in a skillet for easy prep. You could also roast the sweet potatoes if you prefer. Regular potatoes, butternut squash, or other roasted veggies work as well. 
  • Quinoa: Quinoa is one of my favorite grains to use in vegetarian salads since it is packed with more protein than brown rice and other grains. With that said, any cooked grain will work. 
  • Avocado: This is the key to making a delicious, creamy dressing that is packed with healthy fats and flavor. Make sure the avocado is ripe and flavorful since it is the base of the dressing.
  • Greek yogurt: This is another way to add some protein to this salad. For a dairy-free option, swap in vegan mayonnaise or leave this out completely and just use some extra olive oil to create a smooth, creamy dressing. 
  • Cilantro: When it comes to Southwestern flavors, cilantro is key. If you aren't a fan of cilantro, swap in parsley or basil.
  • Lime juice: This salad needs some acid and zing to break through the rich flavors. Lime juice complements the avocado and cilantro. Lemon juice or vinegar can be used as well.
  • Jalapeno: If you like things spicy, add a jalapeno to the dressing. Red pepper flakes would also work if you don't have a jalapeno on hand. 

Way to Add More Protein

This salad has 12 grams of protein per serving, but it is very easy to add extra protein. 

  • Beans: Add some canned black beans, chickpeas, or white cannellini beans for extra protein and fiber. 
  • Tofu: Another way option for adding vegetarian protein is tofu. Store-bought baked tofu is an easy option or you could pan fry some cubed tofu in taco seasoning. 
  • Chicken: If you aren't a vegetarian, leftover cooked chicken is a great way to add protein. 
  • Seeds and nuts: Add some crunch, healthy fats, and protein with some seeds or nuts. Roasted pumpkin seeds, cashews, or sunflower seeds are all delicious. 
  • Ground Turkey: Take some inspiration from this Turkey Taco Salad and add ground turkey for extra protein. 

Customize Your Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

It's easy to customize this salad and make it your own.

  • Dried fruit: This salad is delicious with some added sweetness from dried cranberries, apricots, or mango.
  • Cheese: Creamy goat cheese, salty queso fresco, or some freshly shredded cheddar cheese all add great flavor to this kale salad.
  • Protein: Chicken, canned beans, tofu, and cooked ground meat all taste great in this salad.
  • Crunch: Add some toasted pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, baked tortilla chips, or crispy baked chickpeas. 
  • Salad dressing: Instead of the avocado dressing, serve this with some jalapeno ranch or chipotle dressing

Tips for Making the Best Kale Salad

Making kale salad can be tricky if you don't know how to treat the kale so it is tender and flavorful.  These tips ensure that the kale is packed with flavor and tender. 

  • Make sure to cut the kale into smaller pieces so it is bite-sized.
  • Always massage the kale with some of the salad dressing or plain olive oil to make it tender and less bitter. This step is key to making the best kale salad.
  • Opt for Tuscan kale instead of curly kale since it is more tender and easier to eat. 
  • Let the kale marinate in the dressing for 10-15 minutes before adding the other ingredients for best results. This helps to soften the kale and helps it soak up the flavors in the dressing. 

How to Store Leftover Kale Salad

This salad keeps well in the fridge since it is made with hearty ingredients that won't wilt easily. If you will be consuming the salad within 24 hours, you can combine the salad and dressing and store it in the fridge.

If it will be loner than 24 hours, store the dressing separately and combine 15-30 minutes before serving.

If you just have some leftover roasted sweet potatoes, consider making these delicious Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most common questions people have about making this kale and sweet potato salad.

Lacinato and Tuscan kale, the kind with flat, dark green leaves are the best for salad. Curly kale can work in salads but it tends to be more dense and stringy. Always make sure to massage kale before using it in a salad.

Always wash and dry the kale leaves well to remove any dirt or debris. Then remove the stem from the kale since it is fibrous and difficult to chew. Then tear or chop the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. 

This salad will work with any roasted, cooked, or raw veggies you like. Try using butternut squash in place of the sweet potatoes. You can add cucumbers, chopped tomatoes, or celery for some crunch. In place of the kale, you could use arugula and even shredded cabbage. 

The Recipe
Southwestern sweet potato, kale, and quinoa salad in a bowl with a creamy avocado and lime dressing.

Southwestern Sweet Potato, Kale, and Quinoa Salad

441 CAL 61g CARBS 19g FAT 12g PROTEIN
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  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, diced small
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 4 cups kale, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • Salt and pepper

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Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Normally this means bringing the quinoa and water (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water) to a boil. The cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn off the heat. Let steam for 5 more minutes.Fluff with fork.


Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the sweet potatoes, taco seasoning, salt, and pepper. Stir to coat and then add the water. Turn the heat down to medium low heat. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes or until tender, shaking the pan a couple of times.


Meanwhile, blend the avocado, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil. jalapeno, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper. This will be the dressing for the salad.


Toss together the kale and half the dressing, Gently massage the dressing into the kale. Then add the quinoa, sweet potatoes, kale, red onion, and remaining avocado dressing.

Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 2-2.5 cups
Amount Per Serving
Calories 441
Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 19g
Saturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 241mg
Total Carbohydrate 61g
Dietary Fiber 11g
Sugars 5g
Protein 12g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
† We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.
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