(Note: this post was originally published on January 15, 2021. It has been updated a few times since then with additional photos, examples, and recipe links).
Burrito Bowl Love
Is there a more perfect meal than a giant bowl filled with all your favorite burrito ingredients? No way! I've always been a big burrito bowl lover, but have recently become especially enamored with them. I want to share with you some tips and examples I've picked up along the way, so that you have lots of inspiration for your own vegan burrito bowl creations.
What Is a Burrito Bowl?
Before we dive in, what exactly is a burrito bowl? I think it's whatever you want it to be! But in my mind, it's Mexican-inspired ingredients (think classic taco or burrito fillings) assembled in a bowl rather than in a tortilla. I love how easily-customizable these bowls are and how many great, nourishing ingredients you can pack in. They're also often called taco bowls, so I'll use those two terms interchangeably throughout this post.
The other thing I really love about burrito bowls (a.k.a. taco bowls) is that everyone can design their own. This is especially great if you're cooking for people with different diets or different preferences. You can customize them for each person (for example, a vegan taco bowl for certain people, non-vegan for others) or set up a assemble-your-own healthy taco bowl bar. We've even done this with great success as a potluck dinner party, where everyone brings one or two components to share.
Goals of This Post
In this post, I'll discuss the primary components I like to put in a healthy taco bowl and provide lots of tips for making a bowl that is super-satisfying (and also easy!). But my biggest take-home message? You do you! There's no right or wrong way to do this, and creating the bowl is half the fun. All of the ideas shown here are plant-based, since the vegan burrito bowl is how I roll, but you can easily sub in your favorite protein.
To get you started, you'll see loads of examples scattered throughout this post. Make sure to check out the caption for each, which is where you can find additional details about the bowls that are pictured. I'll also keep adding to this post as I create new bowls, so don't forget to bookmark it and check back.
What should go in your healthy burrito bowl?? Here's how I tend to think about things:
Carbs. My go-to easy options are quinoa, brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes, and/or a few tortilla chips, but leftovers (especially rice and beans!) are awesome too. Given that this is probably one of the heavier aspects of the bowl, use a smaller amount.
Protein. Black beans or refried beans are great options, totally on-theme, and so easy. Your grilled protein of choice is also awesome, but a bit more labor-intensive. Any Mexican-inspired protein will work including leftover bean dip, bean salads, etc. If you're going for a vegan burrito bowl, beans or tofu will be your best friend.
Something slaw-like or salad-like. I love some freshness in a burrito bowl, so I almost always include something salad-like. This could be a quick cabbage slaw, some massaged kale, some romaine, or a mixture of them all. Opt for hearty greens that can stand up to all the other goodies in the bowl rather than something delicate like leaf lettuce that will get smooshed. For a healthy taco bowl, I suggest trying to take up about half to two thirds of the area with lots of colorful veggies!
Other veggies. The sky is the limit! Corn is an easy, obvious choice. Raw veggies like bell peppers or tomatoes can add freshness, whereas cooked veggies (think chili-roasted squash or cauliflower, stir-fried onions and peppers, etc) add depth of flavor.
Salsa. I'm listing this as a category separate from the toppings since I think it depends on your salsa. A good, robust salsa can actually serve as a whole component rather than a topping. You'll see lots of homemade, hearty salsas in the examples here!
Toppings. Go crazy! I always love to incorporate avocado in some way, either in slices or as a sauce. Other great options are a spicy salsa or hot sauce, fresh cilantro, or an avocado-based green sauce. Crunchy toppings (e.g. roasted salted pepitas) are always fun, as are super-flavorful toppings like pickled jalapeno slices. This is a good opportunity to dig through your pantry and fridge and grab anything you think is a good fit. Especially for a vegan taco bowl, nuts and seeds add great protein and healthy fats.
Tips for Efficiency
Okay, so you want an epic burrito bowl but don't want to spend all evening on it. Me too! Here are a few tips for how to make this multi-element meal come together without a fuss:
Use leftovers. This is a great way to use whatever odds and ends you have in the fridge. Things like bean salads, quinoa salads, grilled proteins, slaws, etc, are all treasures when it comes to making a burrito bowl. Best of all, you don't need a whole lot of any single thing. See Examples 4, 8, and 9 for leftover makeovers!
Think ahead. Are you making burrito bowls tomorrow night? Then cook some extra of whatever you're making tonight! This is a good way to get ahead with hearty elements like quinoa, brown rice, roasted potatoes, beans, etc, which tend to have longer cooking times.
Focus your efforts. Sure, you could make half a dozen really intricate components, but who has time for that? I like to make a couple really special things, then take the easy way out on a couple things. Canned black beans or refried beans and frozen corn are great shortcuts for a vegan burrito bowl, and chopping up some romaine takes seconds.
Delegate. Are you having people over for dinner? Ask everyone to bring a few components to share. It makes for a really fun potluck option, and your guests might come up with things you never would have thought of.
How To Make the BEST Burrito Bowl
Now for the most important part of the post: how do you make your healthy burrito bowl feel really special and interesting? How do you make it fun? Here are a few of my favorite strategies. These will take your bowl from good to great!
Think about textures. Your bowl won't be very exciting if everything is the same texture. Try to combine chewy (e.g. kale, brown rice) with soft (e.g. roasted squash) with crunchy (e.g. cabbage, peptias, chips) with juicy (e.g. cucumber or fruit) with creamy (e.g. avocado). This makes for a bowl that's super-satisfying and interesting.
Think about temperature. I think bowl meals are most successful when they have a mixture of warm and cold elements, or a mixture of cooked and raw elements. The warm or cooked elements add heartiness, substance, and deep flavor; in contrast, the cold or raw elements add freshness and juiciness. Trust me, this combination is magic! See Examples 2, 5, and 11 for half-and-half bowls that juxtapose cooked and raw elements very clearly.
Think about color. Burrito bowls should be fun, and they just won't feel that way if everything is brown. Plus, eating the rainbow is definitely the right choice for a healthy taco bowl! I love to incorporate all sorts of colorful ingredients, and sometimes I even organize the different components by color.
Lastly, here are a bunch of suggestions for components to add to your colorful, plant-filled, healthy burrito bowl. Most of these will work great in your bowl as leftovers, so make a couple of the following recipes for a weekend get-together and then enjoy the leftovers the next few nights.
Hearty Bases and Carbs
Patatas Bravas. You'll see leftover potatoes in a couple of my examples, above! They're a fun way to add carbs and heartiness in an unexpected format. Bonus: the dipping sauce included in this recipe will work great on top of a bowl meal.
Tropical Sweet Potatoes. Yup... more potatoes! This recipe has a tropical vibe and another fun dipping sauce that can be used to top off a bowl.
Nourishing Taco Pasta. Leftovers of this are wonderful in a burrito bowl the next evening. Plus, there's so much going on in this pasta already that you just need to add a few fresh components to make a super-satisfying bowl.
Jicama Ceviche. It actually gets better as it sits in the fridge, so make a double batch and use the leftovers in burrito bowls all week. Jicama is a great, light, juicy option that works well as a carb stand-in.
Vegan Bean Dip. A big dollop of this is the perfect way to add some lusciousness to a burrito bowl! Make a big batch for a weekend get-together and then enjoy the leftovers for a couple days.
Nacho Cabbage. This black bean filling is dynamite, and easy too! Make a double batch of the filling when you make the nachos, or just make the filling (minus nachos) for your burrito bowl.
Butternut Squash Black Bean Enchilada Skillet. Leftovers from this one-pan skillet meal will make for an absolutely awesome burrito bowl the next day. There's so much going on in this dish that you can just add a couple fresh elements and you'll have everything you need.
Kaua'i Hummus. If any chick pea hummus can work in a burrito bowl, it's this one! It's loaded with tropical flair thanks to macadamia nuts, coconut milk, and lime zest, so it's great in a burrito bowl with tropical flavors.
Macadamia Taco Filling. Prepare to have your mind blown by this plant-powered taco filling! It's easy to make too, and won't take you more than 15 minutes, plus it's a totally surprising addition to a vegan burrito bowl.
Blistered Shishito Peppers. Just use the pepper part of this salad recipe and you can thank me later. Blistered shishitos are truly amazing.
Orange Jalapeno Brussel Sprouts. One of my favorite recipes ever, these are a delight. Make them specifically for your bowl or make a double-batch the day before and save the extras.
Brussel Sprout Nachos. Perhaps my favorite dish ever! Make them for a weekend get-together, but make sure to save a big scoop for a burrito bowl the next day.
Kabocha Squash Dippers. Make these for a party, but stash a couple in the fridge for a burrito bowl the next day. They work especially well if you roast the squash in chili powder and cumin!
Mexican Street Corn. Make these stuffed peppers, double the filling, and use the extra filling in a burrito bowl the next night.
Tri-Colored Citrusy Slaw. You'll see many, many versions of this quick slaw in examples here. It's a great way to add a big pop of freshness and color into your healthy taco bowl! It works well in a mini batch too.
Any sort of fruit salsa. Especially awesome in a tropical bowl! You'll see lots of fruit salsas throughout the examples I've shown here. My fruit salsa guide is loaded with awesome examples and variations.
Tropical Guacamole. So darn fun and summery! Definitely best made right before serving so it doesn't brown (same for all the guacamole recipes listed here).
Green Goddess Avocado Dressing. Scroll down, they're listed alphabetically. Use it leftover, or make it specifically for this bowl (in which case, use all cilantro instead of the other herbs). This is a great way to add a creamy drizzle (without the cream!) to a vegan burrito bowl.
Even More Examples
Since I'm always making burrito bowls, I'm continually creating new and different examples. I'll keep adding to this section moving forward, so remember to bookmark this page and check back. You never know what will appear!
And there you have it! All my tips, tricks, and examples to help you construct your own perfect burrito bowl. Whether you have these as an easy "fridge clean-out" weeknight meal or a fun dinner party, they're a great way to make sure everyone gets exactly what they want. Doesn't a burrito bowl just make you happy?
It makes me so happy to hear from you and see your creations! Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about this recipe. If you post a photo on Instagram, hashtag #TheRogueBrusselSprout and tag me (@TheRogueBrusselSprout) in the post text so that I'm sure to see it.
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