Black-Eyed Pea and Sweet Potato Quesadillas. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Have you heard this dig at vegetarian cooking: that it takes too long? Vegetables take more care, more time — and, particularly for a dinner party, more trouble to put together in interesting ways than your standard meat-and-sides approach, some folks have told me.

 I heard that many times from some cooks helping me prepare for a book-release party a few years ago. (I didn’t think it was fair; if I hadn’t been trying to showcase a diverse collection of my own recipes, I would’ve just made a big paella or pasta dish, with a couple of accompaniments, the same way they would roast a chicken.)

Nonetheless, every cook I know — vegetarian, vegan and omnivore — likes things to go quickly at least some of the time. We might gear up for big day-long (or multi-day) efforts on the weekends or holidays, but night in and night out, we all relish the joy of an easy, quick recipe that doesn’t taste like it.

Kathy Hester knows the drill; that’s why in her latest effort, “The Easy Vegan Cookbook” (Page Street Publishing, 2015), she focuses on recipes with short ingredient lists and minimal prep work. Thankfully, she gives lots of options, so people who, say, don’t want to open up a can can do (a little) more work to get the same (or better) result. In the recipe that I tried, Black-Eyed Pea and Sweet Potato Quesadillas, she allows that you can peel, cube and quickly cook the sweet potato, or sub in pureed pumpkin. The same goes with black-eyed peas: Soak overnight and then cook from dried, or drain and rinse from a can. Rather than chop and saute garlic, you can use garlic powder.

I took a mix-and-match approach, going with her on the garlic powder — but not on the cans. The spice mix she calls for results in a filling with some nice smoky-hot flavors, and nutritional yeast gives a little nutty backdrop in much the same way Parmesan cheese would.

Because this is a vegan recipe, by the way, you Spanish speakers no doubt realize that calling them quesadillas is something of a misnomer, as the “queso” is missing. Feel free to add some cheese if desired — or to call them whatever makes you happy.

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Black-Eyed Pea and Sweet Potato Quesadillas

4 servings

Serve with your favorite salsa.

MAKE AHEAD: The filling can be refrigerated for up to 1 week; bring to room temperature before making the quesadillas.

Adapted from “The Easy Vegan Cookbook,” by Kathy Hester (Page Street, 2015).


1 small to medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 11/2 cups or 9 ounces), or 11/2 cups pumpkin puree

One 15-ounce can no-salt-added black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained, or 11/2 cups home-cooked black-eyed peas, drained

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or as needed

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon salt, or as needed

Freshly ground black pepper

Tabasco or other hot sauce of choice

1/4 cup plain vegan yogurt

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Eight 6-inch corn tortillas

1/4 cup chopped parsley (may substitute cilantro)


If you use pumpkin puree, you can skip this step: Place the sweet potato pieces in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium; cook until the potato pieces can be easily pierced with a fork, 5 to 10 minutes, then drain.

Combine the cooked sweet potato or pumpkin puree, the black-eyed peas, oregano, smoked paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper (to taste) and allspice in a medium bowl; mash well until the black-eyed peas have broken down and the spices are well incorporated. Add the 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the black pepper and hot sauce (to taste).

Mix in the yogurt and nutritional yeast. Taste, and adjust the seasonings as needed.

Heat some of the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, spread one-quarter of the filling mixture on one tortilla, sprinkle with parsley and top with another tortilla. Place in the pan; cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until lightly browned and crisp. Repeat with the remaining oil, tortillas and filling.

Serve warm.

Nutrition | Per serving: 290 calories, 9 g protein, 45 g carbohydrates, 10 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Recipe tested by Joe Yonan; e-mail questions to