Recipe: Super Southwestern Collard Rolls — Spicy Vegan Stovetop Dinner

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What do you do when you really, really want a burrito, and you have no tortillas? And you’re not sure if your favorite wheat tortilla recipe is going to set off a crazy allergic reaction?

I’ve had quite the journey recently, trying to figure out what exactly is causing my body to have apparently random symptoms of food allergy. I’ve tried going grain-free, gluten free, eating non-wheat gluten grains and eating wheat, eating lots of fruit, eating lots of greens…and yet the saga continues. So far, the most consistent culprit seems to be wheat, and I’ve been trying to steer clear of it.

But-I love burritos. Warm, seasoned filling wrapped in a soft tortilla, topped with spicy salsa and maybe some vegan cheese sauce…oh man. Clearly the solution is to wrap said filling in something wheat-free. For these Southwestern Collard Rolls, I took a cue from the common raw foodie practice of using greens as wraps and coupled that with some elements from my favorite cabbage roll recipe out of Robin Robertson’s 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

I was going for a sort of black bean sweet potato chili inside a wrap, and I think I managed to accomplish that! The filling is a fairly typical combination of onions, peppers, beans, sweet potatoes, corn and chili seasonings. Instead of simmering the ingredients in a pot of liquid like you would for regular chili, the filling gets sauteed before being rolled up inside the collard leaves. Then everything gets simmered in a saucy combination of crushed tomatoes and salsa. I happened to have some pumpkin chipotle salsa on hand, and that was pretty darn delicious. Use whatever salsa is your favorite to impart a unique flavor! Or make it so spicy that you need a dozen tissues to get through dinner, if that’s your thing.

It drives me crazy when recipes that use greens say to remove the “tough stems” but never do anything with them. Unless you have a compost heap, the next stop for those stems is the garbage. However, nothing goes to waste in this recipe! The collard stems get chopped and cooked right along with the filling so you have green inside and out! And as those of you who are familiar with my Instagram feed are probably aware, I’m a huge fan of adding greens to just about everything.

The one thing I wanted to include in the filling but just couldn’t fit was rice. I suppose if you had really big collard leaves and were feeling enterprising, you could stuff that in there, as well, but I wound up serving the rolls on top of a bed of cooked rice instead. Quinoa or millet would also be quite delicious. Depending on which grain you choose, it’s possible to put the rolls together during the cooking time and have everything ready all at once.

Be sure to choose tender collard leaves for this recipe so that they roll up easily. If you have trouble getting them to roll without tearing, you can blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds to soften them. I grabbed mine at the farmer’s market from a local farm called Berry Patch, and they were amazingly soft. They only got softer as they cooked! Even so, I recommend using both a knife and fork to devour these suckers.

Normally my garnish of choice for anything chili-themed is nutritional yeast, but in a sad twist of co-op order fate, I ran out. Fortunately, as many vegan Parmesan recipes can attest to, nuts and seeds make a reasonably cheese-like substitute, at least when you just want to sprinkle something on top of your dinner for extra flavor. Here I used pumpkin seeds, ground up in the single-serve cup of my Ninja. If you prefer something else, give sunflower seeds or cashews a try. Or just use nutritional yeast, since you’re probably a level 10 vegan and always have it around.

Whatever you do, I’d love to hear if you make this recipe! Post your photos to Instagram and include @quantumvegan in the caption. Enjoy!

Super Southwestern Collard Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Stuffed with a sweet, spicy, earthy combination of black beans and sweet potatoes, these collard rolls are a great change of pace from traditional Mexican fare.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8-12 rolls
For the filling:
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • ½ cup red bell peppers, diced
  • ½ cup green bell peppers, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1Tbsp chili powder
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • ½tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½lb. sweet potatoes, cut into very small dice
  • 1 15oz. can no-salt-added crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup salsa, any variety
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed if canned
For the rolls:
  • 8-12 large collard leaves
  • 1oz. pumpkin seeds, ground in a blender or food processor
  1. Prep the collard leaves by cutting out the tough stems. Chop these finely and set them aside.
  2. Meanwhile, place the onion and peppers in a large skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  3. Add the sweet potatoes and collard stems and stir to coat. Replace the cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Mix the crushed tomatoes and salsa together in a small bowl. Set aside while you add the beans and corn to the pan, then pour half of the mixture on top. Stir to incorporate. Cover and cook 5 minutes more, until the sweet potatoes are completely done.
  5. Place the collard leaves on a flat surface. Evenly divide the mixture among the lower third of each leaf. Roll the leaves up, tucking the ends in as you go, and place them seam-side down in the same pan you cooked the filling in.
  6. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top of the rolls. Cover and bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the collards are deep green and tender.
  7. Serve on a bed of rice or your favorite grain, topped with ground pumpkin seeds.' About The Author

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals as well as Toastmasters International and currently serves as Vice President Membership of the Capital View Toastmasters club. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read, play silly card games and knit socks.

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