Kidney Bean Bowls (With Sweet Potatoes!)

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Meatless Kidney Bean Bowls combine seasoned and roasted veggies with lemony couscous and the best lemon-herb sauce.

These vegetarian bowls are hearty, filling, and packed with nourishing ingredients. The sauce has a “secret” ingredient making it thick and creamy while keeping the nutrients high — it’s cashews! 

Kidney Bean Bowls

 Kidney Bean Bowls with Sweet Potatoes

It’s no secret we love big, loaded vegetarian bowls — like these Buddha Bowls, Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls, or Sweet Potato Couscous bowls to name a few favorites. And don’t forget these Black Bean Bowls, which have been on heavy repeat the last few months — the cilantro-cashew sauce is completely addictive!

In fact, the lemon-herb sauce coating these bowls is adapted from that recipe! We’re swapping parsley for cilantro, lemons for the limes, and adding a few ingredients like jalapeño and honey. Even though these two sauces are similar, they taste completely different!

But the best thing about these two sauces is how nutritious the ingredient list is. Typically, rich and creamy sauces rely on sour cream, eggs, or mayo to get the thickness and richness we crave in a good sauce. But we don’t use any of those ingredients in this recipe! We’re using — wait for it — cashews to get that same creamy, thick, and rich result. It’s nothing short of amazing how incredibly delicious this sauce turns out and how good the ingredients in it are.

Process shots-- making the sauce in a blender

Lemon-Herb Sauce

I’ve already raved about the sauce coating these Kidney Bean Bowls! It’s incredibly nutritious, but you’d never know it without reading the ingredient list! A few quick notes:

  • Use a powerful blender to get an ultra-smooth consistency. Otherwise, there may be unpleasant chunks of cashews.
  • Soak the cashews to ensure they are thoroughly softened. Since I usually forget to soak the cashews overnight, I’ve found a shortcut: Pour boiling water over the cashews and let them stand for 45 minutes to an hour. Soft cashews in a fraction of the time! If you have a super-powerful blender, you can get away with soaking for only 20-30 minutes.
  • Allow time for the sauce to chill. The blender generates a good amount of heat blending this sauce to a smooth and luscious consistency. It needs some time to chill, so start by making the sauce and pop it in the fridge to sit. As it sits, the flavors intensify and it thickens a bit. If it gets too thick, whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of water to thin.

Ingredient shot--elements of this recipe

Lemon-Herb Sauce Tips, Continued

  • Use roasted and salted cashews. The cashews can make or break this sauce that coats these delicious bowls! Be sure to get whole cashews that have been roasted and salted for maximum flavor.
  • Use a microplane and a citrus reamer or this citrus juicer to make getting lemon zest and juice quick and easy.
  • Pick the right type of parsley! Typically there is flat-leaf Italian parsley and curly parsley in the produce section of the store. Avoid curly parsley– it’s usually used as a garnish and won’t contribute much flavor to this sauce. When measuring, no need to remove the leaves from the stems — simply grab about half of a large bunch and twist off to loosely pack into a 1-cup measuring cup.
  • Control the spice. If the seeds and ribs are removed from the jalapeño, I’d say this sauce is very mild. The jalapeño adds more of a contrasting flavor than tons of spice. If you’d like to add more spice, increase the amount of jalapeño or leave in some of the ribs and seeds. Alternatively, add jalapeños to individual kidney bean bowls if some prefer more spice while others prefer less.

Process shots--roasting the peppers and sweet potatoes

Kidney Bean Bowl Ingredients

Beyond the sauce and couscous, we’ve got the actual filling of these bowls, which includes four main ingredients — sweet potatoes, red bell pepper, kidney beans, and frozen corn. Sound like a winning combination? We sure think so! Here are a few tips:

  • Use an extra-large sheet pan. The more space the vegetables have (and the less crowded they are) the better they roast in the oven. When vegetables are overlapping on a sheet pan, they end up steaming instead of roasting, which results in softer, somewhat soggy-tasting veggies. I recommend using a 15×21 inch sheet pan.
  • Plan ahead. If an extra-large sheet pan isn’t used, the cooking time will be longer than the recipe indicates. When the veggies have plenty of room to roast, they’ll develop beautiful, caramelized edges and cook faster.
  • Season to taste. For everything to come together in a knock-your-socks-off vegetarian meal, take the time to season each element — the sauce, the veggies, and the couscous. Depending on the beans used (some are saltier than others), taste and adjust how much salt you add to the veggie and bean mix.

Process shots-- adding beans and corn to the baking pan

Kidney Bean Bowl Base: The Couscous

One of my favorite things about couscous is how quickly it comes together. From start to finish it can be ready in 10 minutes or less which is pretty uncommon for most bases like rice, quinoa, farro, barley, etc. — they all take so much longer!

There are several different types of couscous, so you want to make sure to get the small (Moroccan) couscous so it cooks up in this short amount of time. It’s typically found by rice, rice/quinoa mixes, and quinoa in the grocery store.

Once the couscous is fully cooked, we’ll add in some of the lemon-herb sauce, lemon juice, and season it with salt and pepper. So simple! Once this herby couscous is finished, we’re ready to assemble these kidney bean bowls!

QUICK TIP

What type of couscous to use? Moroccan couscous is made of tiny grains of semolina about three times the size of a grain of salt. It’s a fast–cooking grain. Israeli couscous is about the size of a dried lentil and takes longer to cook. There is also Lebanese couscous, but it’s not very common in American stores. It’s about the size of a pea. This recipe calls for Moroccan couscous so that it will have a short cooking time. the bigger the couscous, the longer the cooking time.

Process shots-- making couscous for Kidney Bean Bowls

Kidney Bean Bowl Toppings

Once we’ve got the lemon-herb sauce, roasted veggies and beans, and herby couscous whipped together, it’s all about assembling and topping the bowl.

We love using fresh, ripe avocado to add some good fats and a nice creamy element. If you’d like some spice (the sauce is very mild), add some thinly sliced jalapeños. And a drizzle of lemon brings everything together!

Process shots-- combining the sauce with the couscous

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Sweet Potato, Pepper, & Kidney Bean Bowls

Meatless Kidney Bean Bowls combine seasoned and roasted veggies with lemony couscous and the best lemon-herb sauce.
Print Recipe

Sweet Potato, Pepper, & Kidney Bean Bowls

Meatless Kidney Bean Bowls combine seasoned and roasted veggies with lemony couscous and the best lemon-herb sauce.
Course Dinner, Main Course, Vegetarian
Cuisine American, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword kidney bean bowls
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Cashew Soaking Time 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 924kcal
Cost $8.94

Ingredients

Sauce

  • 1/3 cup (52g) roasted and salted whole cashews
  • 1 cup (24g) fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley Note 1
  • 3 tablespoons (48g) lemon juice + 1/2 teaspoon zest (1-2 lemons)
  • 1/3 cup (73g) water
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Fine sea salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped jalapeño (no seeds or ribs), optional
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Bowls

  • 3 cups (390g) sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (~2 medium-sized potatoes)
  • 1 large red pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: garlic powder, paprika
  • 1 cup (145g) frozen corn
  • 1 can (15.5 oz; 439g) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (184g) uncooked couscous Note 2
  • 1 cup (235g) vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
  • 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 large, ripe avocado, thinly sliced or chopped
  • Optional, for serving: lemon wedges, additional jalapeños

Instructions

  • SAUCE: Place cashews in a heatproof bowl and pour about 1 cup of boiling water over them. Let stand for 45 minutes to an hour and then thoroughly drain. Add drained cashews, parsley, lemon juice and zest, water, olive oil, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste (I add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper), jalapeño, and honey to a powerful blender. Blend until completely smooth. Place in the fridge to get cold and for the flavors to intensify and meld. The sauce can be made ahead of time and refrigerated; simply stir before serving and thin with water if needed.
  • SWEET POTATOES: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). Peel and chop the sweet potatoes into small, bite-sized pieces (1/2-inch cubes). Place on a very large sheet pan with cut bell pepper (1-inch pieces) and toss with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, garlic powder, paprika, and salt + pepper (to taste; I add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Toss everything together, spread everything out so it's not overlapping, and place in the oven. Roast for 10 minutes, remove and stir around, and then return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes or until crisp-tender. (Timing will depend on the size of the potatoes and how spaced out they are on the tray.)
  • BEANS AND CORN: Remove the sweet potato and pepper tray from the oven and add the drained and rinsed kidney beans directly onto the tray with the frozen corn. Toss everything and roast another 2-3 minutes or until warmed through. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
  • COUSCOUS: While veggies are roasting, pour the broth or water into a small pot. Add in 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the pot from heat. Stir in the uncooked couscous and cover the pot with a lid. After about 2-4 minutes the liquid should be absorbed; fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in 1/4 cup (50g) of the parsley-lemon sauce, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and about 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (again, to personal preference).
  • ASSEMBLY: Fill 4 bowls with even amounts of couscous. Divide the roasted sweet potato and bean mixture between the 4 bowls. Add fresh chopped or sliced avocado to each bowl. If desired, add a wedge of lemon to each bowl and thinly sliced or diced jalapeños. Spoon lots of that chilled sauce over everything and enjoy immediately. Store leftover sauce in the fridge for up to a week -- it goes great on salads, with veggies, etc.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Parsley: Typically there is flat-leaf Italian parsley and curly parsley in the produce section of the store. Avoid curly parsley– it’s usually used as a garnish and won’t contribute much flavor to this sauce. When measuring, there's no need to remove the leaves from the stems -- simply grab about half of a large bunch and twist off to loosely pack into a 1-cup measuring cup.
Note 2: Couscous: There are several different types of couscous, so you want to make sure to get the small couscous so it cooks up in this short amount of time. It's typically found by the rice and quinoa in the grocery store.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 924kcal | Carbohydrates: 139g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 32g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 396mg | Potassium: 2032mg | Fiber: 24g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 31695IU | Vitamin C: 153mg | Calcium: 200mg | Iron: 11mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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