Quinoa & Black Bean Mexican Skillet

This Quinoa & Black Bean Mexican Skillet was one of my birthday dinners this past year. And yes, I just said, one of my birthday dinners. Did you think anything less from me?!

You may be wondering, “But, Kara, why this recipe?” I don’t blame you if you are. Usually birthday dinners are extravagant, rich and comforting, or simply nostalgic. (Which, if that was the case, I’d be having Kraft macaroni and cheese with pigs in a blanket. Seriously had that every year for my birthday when I was a kid.)

I admit, this recipe is none of those things. While super flavorful and delicious, yes, it’s also a healthy vegetarian meal. Perfect for any kind of typical weeknight meal that you want to get dinner on the table fast!

But, birthday or no birthday, this is definitely a “Kara meal.” Which is why it was perfect for my special day! I absolutely love the flavor combination of chili powder, cumin, and paprika. And anything including avocados and sweet potatoes has me sold. Sweet potatoes are just made for being topped with black beans, guac, and salsa, IMO.

If I’m going to be completely honest, though, the real reason this made the short list for my birthday dinner was my husband’s lack of love for sweet potatoes. I felt like my birthday was the perfect excuse time for me to make a meal where the sweet potato could really shine.

But you know what? Thankfully, I don’t even have to wait until next year to have this meal. Philip loved it, too! Whether you’re a sweet potato lover or not, I hope you give this recipe a try. If anything, the quinoa and black bean Mexican skillet with guacamole is the perfect dip for chips. Not that we would know that or anything. ;)

Hope you can enjoy this soon—birthday or no birthday!

Quinoa & Black Bean Mexican Skillet

Serves 6


  • 6 small sweet potatoes, about 8 ounces each
  • 1/3 cup quinoa or 1 cup leftover cooked quinoa
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice from about 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese
  • For serving: Chopped fresh cilantro, additional lime, diced avocado or guacamole, additional cheese


  1. Bake the sweet potatoes: Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil to help with cleanup later. Wash the sweet potatoes, pat dry, and prick the outsides all over with a fork (you don’t need to peel the sweet potato). Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake until fork tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size. You can also cook the sweet potato in the microwave until tender, flipping the sweet potato every 3–5 minutes to prevent burning. This step can be done a day ahead of time.
  2. Cook the quinoa: Cook the quinoa according to package instructions. You should have about 1 cup cooked total. This can also be done ahead of time. If you want to cook the quinoa in the Instant Pot for a hands-free step, add 1/3 cup quinoa and 1/3 cup water to the Instant Pot. Pressure cook the quinoa for 5 minutes with natural release. 
  3. Prepare the veggies: Heat the olive oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and salt. Cook until the vegetables soften and the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin. Stir to coat the vegetables in the spices, then cook until the spices are fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the black beans, lime juice, and quinoa. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup cheese.
  4. Top it: Once the baked sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, make a slit in the top. With a fork, open the split and lightly fluff the insides to make space for the toppings. Add however much of the quinoa and black bean skillet as you’d like over the sweet potato. Top with any of the toppings (I’d highly recommend guacamole and lime for sure!). Enjoy!

Adapted from: Well Plated


  1. I feel obligated to report that I am now making this recipe for the second time in two weeks, back by popular demand from a very picky Italian I know… hahah but I’m certainly not complaining! Nom nom nommmmmm :)

    1. Yay, this makes me so happy! Bonus that it’s so simple to put together. If you weren’t a plane ride away, I’d ask if I could come over to join you guys! ;)

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