Garnet Yam Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Lime

Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Musings, Recipes | 3 comments

My relationship with yams has matured through the years.

As a child growing up in the 60s, I ate yams once a year, at Thanksgiving. They showed up, fresh from the can, as a casserole layered with margarine, brown sugar and pecans, topped with the obligatory marshmallows. I loved that this was considered a vegetable and wished I could eat more of them slathered in sugar and melted marshmallows.

When I moved to California, I had my first fresh yam. The first time, it was baked, split and served with a large melting pat of sweet butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. Whoa. I had had no idea what a yam really tasted like and this was a revelation. Just sweet enough, nutty, earthy, deep orange and delicious. Even the brick-red skin was tender and I left nothing on my plate.

The next time they showed up at a potluck Thanksgiving gathering as simply mashed yams with a hint of nutmeg, cream and lemon juice. Whatever nostalgia I had been nursing for those gooey sweet candied yams of my childhood vanished in that moment.

This time of year, this kind of transitional season, when it’s still hot enough to wear sandals by day, but cool enough to wrap up in a sweater by night, I find myself making this yam salad. It satisfies that craving for autumn flavors, but is still cool and refreshing for those lingering hot days. The mellow sweetness of the yams with a touch of honey is balanced with tangy crème fraiche and lime juice. The nutty pumpkins seeds, cilantro and mint make this a versatile nice side for anything from fried or roast chicken to slow-roasted pork shoulder, grilled salmon or baked ham.

While I usually use Garnet yams, you could make this with sweet potatoes or any other variety of yam. I like steaming the potatoes because it keeps them moist and easy to peel when they cool off. But baking will work just fine. And pine nuts would be a great substitute for the pumpkin seeds.

Garnet Yam Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Cilantro and Lime
(makes 1 quart)

1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2 pounds garnet yams (about 4 medium)
2 large shallots, finely minced (about ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar, plus more, if needed
2 limes
½ cup crème fraiche
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350°.
Position a rack in the center of the oven.
Toast the pumpkin seeds for 6-7 minutes or until fragrant and just starting to brown. Cool, then chop coarsely and set aside.

Roast or steam the whole, unpeeled garnet yams until tender. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

While they are cooling, combine the shallots and the rice vinegar in a small bowl. Zest the limes, reserving the zest. Juice the limes and measure the juice. You should have about 3 tablespoons. If you are short, make up the difference with additional rice vinegar. Add the juice to the shallots and vinegar.

When the yams are cool enough to handle, peel them, cut into ½ “ cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the lime zest and add it to the yams. Add the shallot mixture. Combine the crème fraiche and honey in a small bowl and mix together. Pour over the yams. Add the salt and pepper and the chopped cilantro. Finely sliver the mint leaves and add the to the bowl then gently combine all the ingredients with a large spoon, being careful not to over mix. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, lime juice or honey, if desired.


  1. This sounds so delicious. I am going to make it soon.

    • Thank you, Sharon! Happy cooking~

  2. Chef P., I just saw this recipe today. Looks delicious. We just got back from Spain. G O O O O D eatin’! Have you spent time there?

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