There’s a well-known restaurant that is famous for its burrito bowls, and I can see why. The flavorful all-in-one meal offers a high degree of customization and it’s sort of fun. It’s viewed as a healthier option than many fast food choices, and with reasonable choices, it can be. But guess what? These tasty bowls are easy to pull off at home.
When walking through a buffet line—or, in the burrito restaurant case, choosing from a profusion of toppings–I find it incredibly easy to overindulge. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach, and I don’t always make the best choices when staring down an endless array of mouthwatering options.
Going in with a plan helps. The following recipe offers a plan for home use yet it’s adaptable, too. This versatility works like a short order cook–helpful when a multitude of tastes coexist under one roof.
If you just don’t like bell pepper, substitute some chopped, seeded tomato. Black beans aren’t your thing? Use garbanzos or edamame. If you can’t tolerate dairy, omit the cheese and rely on guacamole and extra salsa for your sauce. And if last night’s leftovers happen to be grilled flank steak, seared shrimp, or pulled pork, toss that into the bowl instead of chicken.
To keep this popular meal as healthy as it is satisfying, I start with a base of leafy greens, adding extra veggies later on. Your choice of grain provides added fiber and filling complex carbs, while black beans and lean chicken offer high-protein staying power. A judicious amount of cheese and other flavorful toppings assure that this do-it-yourself rendition is every bit as delicious as the restaurant version. (Dare I say better?)
The interplay of temperatures and textures adds to the appeal. The cheese melts to gooey perfection thanks to the layer of warm rice, both of which taste somehow better against a backdrop of cool, crisp lettuce. That said, I‘ve been known to make this meal with leftover components and simply warm the assembled bowls briefly in the microwave to take the chill off. They still taste great.
Last week’s recipe for Chili Lime Chicken is a flavorful option, but plain cooked chicken—even rotisserie chicken—may be used. For a vegetarian version, these bowls can be served sans chicken and still be quite satisfying.
- 1 cup uncooked rice (brown or white according to preference; may substitute an equal amount of uncooked quinoa)
- 1/2 cup salsa (I often use a hot green salsa; choose your favorite variety)
- 3-4 cups chopped greens of choice (I often use baby spinach, but romaine, iceberg, or even a pre-shredded cabbage mix lend more crunch)
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, or a Mexican blend work well)
- 1 pound cooked chicken, shredded or chopped (about 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
- 1 (15-ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed*
- 1 cup corn (canned, fresh cooked, or frozen and thawed**)
- 1 red bell pepper (or color of choice), seeded and diced (may substitute 2 Roma tomatoes)
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (omit or substitute parsley if not a fan)
- Dressing: Chipotle Lime Crema (see recipe notes for other options ***)
Cook the rice according to package instructions. (I find rice cooks best when using 1-3/4 cups of water to every 1 cup of rice–which is 1/4 cup less liquid than most instructions specify.) Remove from the heat and allow to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork, and stir in the salsa. Cover to keep warm, and set aside. The rice may be made in advance and reheated.
To assemble, divide the greens among 4 bowls. Top each bowl with a quarter of the rice mixture and then the cheese. Follow with the chicken, black beans, corn, bell pepper, avocado, and cilantro.
Serve immediately, drizzled with chipotle lime crema or dressing of choice.
- * You may mix the beans, corn, and bell pepper together if desired. (I often do this, stirring in a tablespoon or two of fresh lime juice.) It’s also fun to put out individual serving bowls of the various ingredients and let people build their own burrito bowls.
- ** To quickly thaw frozen corn, add it to the colander with the beans when draining them and rinse altogether.
- *** For a quick option to the Chipotle Lime Crema, top the burrito bowls with a mixture of equal parts ranch dressing and salsa. Or use guacamole in place of the avocado. Your favorite vinaigrette with ingredients like cilantro and lime is sure to be delicious, too.
Following are a handful of delicious protein options that will kick these burrito bowls up another notch or two. Eat the first night as directed in the recipe and use the leftovers in the burrito bowls for a healthy, flavorful, filling–and easy–meal another night.