Black Bean Sweet Potato Cakes

Legume cakes are a great way to add protein to a meal. You can make them with a variety of legumes, such as lentils or chickpeas, but black beans star here. I often have some of these Black Bean Sweet Potato Cakes in the freezer to make meal time not just delicious, but also easy.

Black bean sweet potato cakes on a a bed of salad on a white plate

Looking for a way to add protein to a meal, along with easy-to-make deliciousness? I’m a fan of legume cakes. Mostly I’ve made lentil or chickpea cakes, like these, these with salmon and potato (allow me a moment to swoon) and these, but I’ve decided to expand my repertoire to beans. Black beans, which are pretty much my favourite, have top billing in these tasty and nutritious cakes.

I’ve made these numerous times now, and like many of my recipes there’s some variation each time depending on what I have on hand.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Cakes

The base of the cakes is a mash of refried black beans and sweet potato. I intended to use plain refried beans both times, but inadvertently bought a can of spicy the second time, and I do declare I liked it better. Normally I’m a season-it-myself gal, but I found it helpful to begin with something that wasn’t utterly bland. We can all use a head start now and again.

As for the sweet potato, the first time I steamed it (admittedly a little too long) and the mash was looser than I wanted. I didn’t want to add any binders like egg or flour to the recipe. So, for my second batch, pictured here, I cut the sweet potato into cubes and roasted it. The drier texture helped the cakes stay together better.

Enjoying the Process

I find the process of making legume cakes like this quite pleasant. There’s just the right amount of chopping, and I do love me some chef’s knife and cutting board action. And is there anything better than scenting the kitchen with aromatics like onions, garlic and herbs? Then there’s the mashing together of the refried beans and the sweet potato. Stirring in the veggies and herbs adds pops of colour, and I find the glossy black beans visually pleasing. Then I get to shape the patties using one of my favourite all-purpose kitchen tools, the ice cream scoop, and my hands, which appeals to my mud-pie making inner child.

As if all this weren’t rewarding enough, the patties are ready in about 20 minutes, so my kitchen play is followed by the almost instant gratification of eating the flavourful and satisfying cakes.

Black bean sweet potato cakes on a a bed of salad on a white plate

Make-Ahead Magic: Freeze Black Bean Sweet Potato Cakes

These cakes freeze well and can be quickly reheated for a meal, which I’ve done several times now. Along with a salad, these black bean and sweet potato cakes make for a quick lunch or supper. I just made a double batch of them that I’ll be freezing for easy meals through the summer.

Sometimes I impress myself.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Cakes

The beauty of dishes like these is that they’re so easily tailored to what you have on hand. This recipe was developed based on using spicy refried beans. Whether using plain or spicy, just keep tasting and adjusting the seasonings until you’ve hit upon the taste that’s just right for you. I didn’t have any cilantro on hand when I made these, otherwise I would have used it either alone or in combination with the chopped parsley.

Category: Main Course
Keyword: black bean cakes, legume cakes
Author: © Marlene Cornelis/Urban Cottage Life 2014
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 398 mL/14 oz can, spicy refried beans (see Note)
  • about 1/3 cup finely chopped onion or scallions
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 398 mL/14 oz can, black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • big handful flat-leaf parsley (and/or cilantro), finely chopped
  • olive oil, for brushing on the shaped cakes
How To Make This Recipe
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375℉. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the sweet potato into roughly 1-inch chunks, toss it with a bit of oil and roast at 400℉ for 30 to 40 minutes, or until nicely fork tender. If you’re having sweet potato for dinner the day before, make extra to use in these cakes — that’s kitchen smarts!

  3. Place the roasted and cooled sweet potato into a large mixing bowl and add the refried beans. Using a potato masher, mix together until well incorporated. Don’t sweat it if there are some largish streaks of sweet potato … really, there are more important things in life.

  4. Add the prepped aromatics (onion, garlic and chili) and the black beans, as well as the pepper, salt and cumin. Stir together until the beans are evenly distributed, then taste and adjust the seasonings as required. Stir in the splash of vinegar and the parsley and/or cilantro.

  5. Using a 3-ounce ice cream scoop, place a mound of the mixture in the palm of one hand. Pat into a cake that’s about 1/2-inch thick and nicely rounded (unlike the one with the jagged protuberance in my photos — oops). Brush a small amount of olive oil on it, then place the oiled side down on the baking sheet. Repeat, and once all the cakes have been formed, brush the tops with just a bit more oil.

  6. Bake for 20 minutes. Serve bottom-side up, or whichever side you think looks more attractive.

Recipe Notes
  • Since there’s no binder (egg or flour) in the mix, I suggest roasting the sweet potato instead of steaming it so it’s not too moist.
  • If you use plain black beans, you’ll need to adjust the seasonings.

Looking for More Legume Love?

Legumes offer endless possibility and plant-based protein, for budget-friendly, nutritious meals. I’m showcasing lentils here, in three very different dishes: Lentil and Broccoli Salad, Red Lentil Coconut Dhal with Sweet Potato and Kale, and Lentil Cauliflower Curry. Enjoy!

First published 2014 06 18
Republished 2019 04 17


  1. I almost had a gastric orgasm reading your preparations of the sweet potato/black bean cakes! I was tempted last week to buy a can of spicy refried black beans for a soup base, but now I’m definitely going to get several cans of that stuff and experiment with your patty cake recipe and a soup.

    • Oh my gosh, Terri that just may be the best comment I’ve received! I laughed out loud, and then I thought, “Wait, what did I write?!?” I’m glad my description of making these black bean cakes resonated with you. Let me know how you like them!

      And I like your idea of using the spiced refried beans in a soup — more flavour, and you get the body without having to puree the soup. A genius shortcut!

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