Genius Report: We Have Our New Kale Salad

March  9, 2016

The orange in this salad isn't carrot, though it could pass without triggering any questions or nervous pokes with a fork—much the way your eyes jump right over a typo. We see the orange we want to see.

But this orange is sweet potato. Raw sweet potato! The most congenial tuber, in the most unfamiliar place. Before you wrinkle your nose and head to a safer space, remember: We felt this way about kale salads not long ago.

Why start eating raw sweet potatoes out of nowhere, like some sort of farm animal? Let's start small: You probably have one or two hibernating in a dark corner of your pantry or fridge, just because you didn't feel like cooking them. Now you don't have to! Plus, raw sweet potatoes are crunchy and flavorful, and far from sticky-sweet, the way they can be when they're cooked.

Unsurprisingly, a sweet potato can stand in for a raw carrot, but they also have a subtle milky-starchy quality, like a more substantial jicama, and can bulk up a flimsy slaw like nobody's business.

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They're really not poisonous? Really. Admittedly, I trusted this recipe because it was published on Martha Stewart's website as part of the late Whole Living magazine's New Year's 2012 cleanse (and because our Home and Design Editor Amanda Sims, who's secretly also a really good cook, vouched for it). I also learned that the recipe developer behind it was Sarah Britton of My New Roots, whom I've followed into uncharted territories before (sunflower seed risotto, psyllium husk) and been the better for it.

So of course I ate the raw sweet potato, then served it to a number of loved ones, colleagues, and office visitors. Then I did my homework.

Raw sweet potato is pretty common in the raw food community, a natural place for novel ideas like this to catch on (they predicted one-ingredient banana ice cream, too). On blogs and in cookbooks, the crunchy orange starch takes the form of spiralized salads, soups, juices, and raw sweet potato pies.

This salad in particular hangs together nicely, giving the sweet potato the chance to play it straight next to the eye-squinching tartness of Granny Smith apple, the aromatic crunch of celery, and the spice of radish and scallion. It's all batted together with fiery fits of grated ginger and lemon juice, and the just right amount of toasted sesame seeds for me (that is, enough to make the salad resemble the stucco wall outside my dentist's office).

But there are other places to play with the hibernating sweet potato: More salads are a natural, but beyond julienning, you could shave, dice, or grate it like fine coleslaw. Vegan author and Food52 columnist Gena Hamshaw sent reports of sweet potato "rice" from Prasad restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Try it as a crudité-like snack, in a spring roll, or as a taco garnish. Or taco shell? A better question: What can't you do? Orange is the new kale salad, after all.

Note: Although raw sweet potatoes can be eaten in a variety of ways safely, please don't get so excited about this salad that you make raw sweet potatoes a staple of your diet. In extreme cases, in the absence of other proteins, a diet based on raw sweet potatoes can be dangerous. Here's further reading.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thanks to Food52's Home & Design Editor Amanda Sims for this one!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Alison Fitzpatrick
    Alison Fitzpatrick
  • Laura415
  • Pantry Hound
    Pantry Hound
  • clayshapes
  • Angela Riera
    Angela Riera
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Alison F. March 21, 2016
How come no one freaked out on Martha Stewart about the "safety" of this slaw when she published it ? Relax a little folks....a lot of things arent good for you in excess amounts. Alcohol for instance. EVERYTHING in MODERATION ,right ?☺
Laura415 March 14, 2016
I like this idea. A lot of people think anything called potato is somehow poisonous raw. I never thought of eating a sweet potato raw but I also never thought of them as potentially poisonous.
White potatoes aren't poisonous either. I would peel them and juice them with my other fruits and veggies to get some, good for the gut, resistant starch. Of course if your potatoes are green looking and have eyes then you may want to skip eating those old potatoes all together. I may try this sometime. Looks like a great salad.
Pantry H. March 13, 2016
Great because if sweet potato is the new kale as you postulate in your article then whole swathes of the population might do just that :-)
Pantry H. March 13, 2016
You are making some unwarranted assumptions about your readership (location/culture/diet) when you say that it is only a concern in cultures where there is an absence of protein. Where there is any uncertainty about safety, the better course is to spell it out - not to excuse that discussion as "off-course".
Kristen M. March 13, 2016
No, I'm making assumptions that readers aren't going to make raw sweet potato a staple of their diets, but I'll be happy to clarify that on the recipe page.
Pantry H. March 13, 2016
Not sure you have really addressed the toxicity issue here sufficiently for me. Perhaps a bit more research on trypsin inhibitors might be in order first? Sticking to carrots for my raw orange content!
PG T. March 13, 2016
Agreed! Sometimes, you must be flat out serious and solid factual.
Like, about whether or not something is safe to eat.
Reminds me of the *Botulism* post that was up on FOOD52 two weeks or so ago.
There were major confusions/contradictions in the directions on how to can safely.
I commented on these problems and the post disappeared.
But really, it should have never APPEARED in the first place.
FOOD52 1st priority should be to keep their readers alive and kicking.
A bit more editorial attention seems to be in order.
Kristen M. March 13, 2016
When I say I did my homework, have faith! I did research this heavily and the trypsin inhibitors are only a concern where raw sweet potatoes are a staple of a culture's diet, in the absence of protein. I also consulted with a certified clinical nutritionist. Addressing all of this in the article would have been off-course, but trust that if I'm calling something a Genius Recipe, the underlying research is there.
PG T. March 13, 2016
Thanks, Kristen!
I'm a bit of a worrywart and will do a little private investigating on my own, but I appreciate knowing that you covered the waterfront on the safety of consuming raw sweet potatoes before setting out this recipe.
The motivation behind my comment was the fact that this salad/slaw really appeals to me and I want to make it - as long as it doesn't kill me!
Thanks again.
Catherine March 21, 2016
I completely agree that the appearance of that misinformed canning post definitely makes me look twice at any article on the site where safety could be an issue. I would love to be able to just trust all of the content posted here, but even the best authors can make mistakes. I love this site, and know that the content here is mostly stellar, but moments like that are an important reminder to read critically.

Additionally, I view including all of the pertinent safety information and myth-squelching in one single, well-written, and focused article as a composition challenge and a hallmark of a careful honed literary craft, not something to exclude because it seemed not to fit at first. Of course it's difficult to connect all of these things seamlessly, but that's the challenge in writing to inform an audience.
PG T. March 21, 2016
Well put, Catherine.
You completely met your own *challenge in writing* here - a clear and balanced presentation of the concerns you have regarding some of the writing on FOOD52 - a site we both enjoy.
Your statement about the importance of incorporating *all pertinent safety information and myth-squelching* in one deftly ordered article is inarguable.
Thank you for adding to the discussion - you made me feel like less of a curmudgeon/worry wart!
clayshapes March 13, 2016
I tried this - but it was a fail for me. I didn't like the taste of raw sweet potato - it was just too starchy tasting for my palette. I would substitute carrots next time!
Kristen M. March 13, 2016
Thanks for trying it, and sorry it wasn't to your taste. Carrots would totally work.
Angela R. March 13, 2016
How about using fennel instead of celery? Raw fennel has a refreshing licorice flavor and the stalks resemble celery.
Kristen M. March 13, 2016
It would be a strong flavor among a few other pretty strong flavors (tart apple, ginger, lemon) but it just might be delicious. Let us know if you try it.
Sandra L. March 13, 2016
Ok, this looks wonderful but I need a substitute for celery. I love every vegetable in the world except celery, I know it's crazy. I could just leave it out but I'm actually asking what can I use as a substitute for celery in anything, especially raw celeary?
A March 13, 2016
How about fennel instead of celery?
Kristen M. March 13, 2016
See my note above about fennel—definitely worth a try. I could also see this working with thinly sliced endive, or jicama if you wanted to take it in a sweeter direction.