This easy make-ahead lunch is a nutritional all-star from a buzzy culinary tradition

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Pulse Ribbon
Nutrient-dense, (mostly) plant-based, and with amazing, distinct flavors you won’t find anywhere else, Ethiopian food is one of the healthiest cuisines around. This isn’t news to those of you in cities with thriving food scenes where diners are getting increasingly psyched about all things Ethiopian, but for those of us who are late to this particular party (guilty!), it’s surprisingly easy to try it out yourself at home.

Photo: Sweet Potato Soul
Photo: Sweet Potato Soul

Case in point: key sir, a dish made with beans, beets, and potatoes. For years, Jenné Claiborne ordered key sir every time she went out for Ethiopian. Then the vegan chef, who runs the food blog Sweet Potato Soul, began experimenting with her own version at home (with sweet potatoes, of course!).

“I love the combination of sweet veggies, spicy jalapeño, and tangy lemon. The beans complete the dish by adding even more hearty goodness,” Claiborne says, which is why it’s no surprise that pulses—the super healthy group of foods that include beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dry peas—make frequent appearances in her recipes.

“I love the nutty earthiness of white beans, and their creamy texture. They take this key sir into true ‘comfort food’ zone. I also use them often to make white bean hummus, and in soup purees to replace white potatoes and cream,” she says.

With white beans (which have tons of healthy fiber, plus the mineral most of us don’t get enough of: magnesium) as well as beets and sweet potatoes (hello, antioxidants!), key sir is a nutritional all-star.

Plus, since you can eat it either warm or cold (after marinating in all the spices and lemon juice—yum!), it’s an easy workday lunch you can make ahead. #Saddesklunch, you just took another hit.

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Key Sir with Beans

4 small, or 3 medium-sized, beets, roasted and cubed
1 medium sweet potato, cubed and roasted
1/4 lb. dry white beans, cooked and drained
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalepeño pepper, finely diced. I used 2 Green Thai Chilis (very spicy)!
Juice of one medium lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
Pinch of sea salt
Handful of fresh cilantro (half chopped)

Once the roasted beets and potatoes have cooled a bit, put them together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add diced onion, jalepeño, lemon juice, and a pinch of sea salt. If you like cilantro, I recommend adding some chopped to the mixture. Stir, and set in refrigerator to marinate. The dish is great served right away, but even better when it’s had time to marinate and chill.

Garnish with cilantro, and enjoy with fresh injera (the flatbread with a slightly spongy texture that’s an Ethiopian staple), or whole wheat sour dough bread.

For more recipes with white beans and other pulses, visit

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