Sweet Potato Chipotle Quinoa Cakes with Cilantro Lime Crema

by Sala Kannan

Turn a weeknight meal into a sweet and spicy quinoa-studded affair with these chipotle spiced sweet potato and quinoa cakes!

I am always trying to find new ways to eat quinoa. When my sister, a fellow quinoa fan, visited me a few days, she suggested we make patties with cooked quinoa and some mashed sweet potatoes to hold it together. We loved the outcome – the cakes were crispy on top, soft and sweet on the inside, specked with salty cotija cheese and seasoned with Mexican spices like chipotle and cumin – a tasty, easy meal.

Chipotle is smoked, dried jalapeño. The word comes from the Nahuatl word for “smoked chili”. Besides the whole dried chili pods, Chipotle peppers are available canned (with adobo sauce containing garlic, vinegar and spices), as well as powdered. You can usually find the canned peppers in the Hispanic aisle of the grocery store and the powdered version in the spice section. I always keep ground chipotle peppers in my pantry, which is what I used for this recipe. Whatever form you buy them, these spicy, smoky and will transform any dish from plain to amazing.


Tips
– 1 part uncooked quinoa yields 4 parts cooked quinoa. This recipe requires 2 cups cooked quinoa. So start with 1/4 cup uncooked quinoa and you will end up with 2 cups cooked quinoa.
– The best way to cook the sweet potato for this recipe is to peel and boil them until they are soft, but still holding their shape. Drain the boiled sweet potato well, making sure there is no excess water. Mash the sweet potato using a potato masher or a wooden spoon.
– Cool the quinoa and sweet potato before forming patties, they will be easier to work with. Or make the quinoa and mashed sweet potato up to 2 days ahead and refrigerate until you are ready to use them.
– You may need more bread crumbs than what the recipes calls for if the sweet potato mixture is too wet. Make a small patty and test it by frying it on the skillet first to see if it holds together well. If the patty loses its shape, add more bread crumbs.
– When the cakes are cooking, leave them undisturbed so they brown evenly.


Chipotle Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes with Cilantro Lime Crema Recipe
Makes 8 cakes

Ingredients
For Quinoa Cakes
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 1/4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potato
1 tablespoon ground cumin
3/4 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper. (Substitute with paprika if you can’t find chipotle pepper.)
1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese. (Substitute with Jack cheese if you can’t find cotija cheese.)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste

For Cilantro Lime Crema
1 bunch cilantro
1/2 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic
Zest of 1/2 a lime, optional
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

For garnish
1/2 a jalapeño, thinly sliced, optional
1 lime, cut into wedges

Method
1. To make the quinoa cakes, place all ingredients except the olive oil in a mixing bowl. Using your hands, gently mix everything together. Adjust the salt and spices according to your taste. Divide the mixture into 8 balls. Place a ball in the palm of your hand. Using the other palm, press down on the ball gently to form a patty about 1/3 of an inch thick.
2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet. When the oil is hot, arrange the flattened patties on the skillet. Fit as many as you can in the skillet without crowding them. You may have to do this in batches.
3. Cook the quinoa cakes on medium-high heat until the bottom sides are golden. Using two spatulas, gently flip the cakes over and cook the other side. Drizzle more oil around the cakes if needed. Serve the sweet potato quinoa cakes garnished with jalapeños, lime wedges on the side, and cilantro lime crema. For a complete meal, serve the quinoa cakes with some bread and salad.
4. To make the crema, place all ingredients a food processor along with 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth. Scoop the crema into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. The crema can be made up to 3 days ahead.

Photo credit: Sala Kannan