How to Make the BEST Burrito Bowl


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(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.

Healthy burrito bowl with tropical flavors
Example #1: Take me to my island paradise! This vibrant, healthy burrito bowl is inspired by the tropics and organized into stripes. From left to right it includes a corn and red pepper salsa, spicy black beans, a kale and romaine salad, more black beans, and a papaya salsa. It's topped with coconut, lots of fresh cilantro, and sliced avocado.

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.

Vegan taco bowl with rice, beans, salad, and avocado
Example #2: Sweet and spicy! This vegan taco bowl has great balance between cooked and fresh ingredients, and also sweet and spicy ingredients. The left side is good old rice and beans. The right side is basically a small version of my Blistered Shishito Pepper Salad, which includes sweet juicy mango. It's garnished with fresh cilantro and avocado slices.


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.

Vegan taco bowl with walnut taco filling, rice, and veggies
Example #3: A burrito bowl is a perfect excuse for using whatever you like, whether it's three ingredients or 20! This one is a really fun mash-up of a whole bunch of different things. From the top working clockwise, there are grilled baby bell peppers, walnut taco "meat" (similar to my macadamia taco filling, it's a vegan taco bowl win!), a romaine and grilled red onion salad, papaya-mango salsa, coconut rice, baby cukes, and grilled corn. It's topped with pepitas and fresh mint. There's no right answer here, so use whatever you love!

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.

Vegan taco bowl with bean salad, cauliflower, and avocado
Example #4: Let leftovers be your best friend! In this bowl, the top half is a version of my No-Cook Rainbow Black Bean Salad (great plant-based protein for a vegan taco bowl!) and the bottom half is a version of my Margarita Cauliflower, both leftover from a weekend get-together. It's topped with lots of avocado, fresh mango (also leftover from the weekend), fresh cilantro, and crunchy spicy corn nuts from my favorite friends at LOVE CORN.

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.

Vegan taco bowl with quinoa salad, kale salad, fruit, and an avocado sauce
Example #5: Half and half! This vegan taco bowl features a quinoa and black bean salad on the left side, and a cabbage, kale, and romaine salad on the right side (loosely based on my Tri-Colored Citrusy Slaw). It's fun to play with the textures like this, making the hearty left side and fresh right side distinct elements. It's topped with juicy orange slices, fresh cilantro, crunchy corn nuts from LOVE CORN, and my Green Goddess Avocado Dressing (it's in my Plant-Based Salad Dressing Guide; scroll down, they're alphabetical).

Recipe Suggestions

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.

Protein Elements

  • No-Cook Rainbow Black Bean Salad. Works great as leftovers! You'll see versions of this salad in numerous of the examples here, it's such a go-to in our house.
  • 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.
  • Butternut Squash, Black Bean, and Wheatberry Chili. Chili in a burrito bowl?? Heck yes! I could write a whole post about ways to use leftover chili. Add a few fresh elements and some crunchy chips and you'll have an excellent bowl.

Awesome Veggies

  • Margarita Cauliflower. My absolute favorite! Plus it's easy enough to make just for the purpose of your burrito bowl, especially if you have an air fryer.
  • Mojito Corn Salad. Another awesome leftover option.
  • 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).
  • Caramelized Onion Guacamole. It's guac with a cozy twist, perfect for a hearty winter bowl.
  • Grilled Corn Guacamole. Another guac twist, this one is loaded with succulent grilled corn.
  • 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.

Healthy taco bowl with tropical ingredients
Example #6: Another tropical bowl! This vibrant, healthy taco bowl has symmetrical stripes: quinoa in the middle, honey-sriracha black beans to the outside of the quinoa, and a fresh rainbow salad (cabbage, romaine, colored bell peppers, mango) on the far outsides. It's garnished with crunchy macadamia nuts, fresh cilantro, lots of lime juice, Cara Cara orange slices, and the most epic guacamole-stuffed papaya half!

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!

Vegan taco bowl with quinoa, beans, salad, grilled peppers, and chips
Example #7: All about crunch. I love a bowl with diverse textures! This vegan taco bowl has it all with chewy quinoa, succulent grilled peppers, crunchy tortilla chips, crisp romaine, juicy kiwi, and hearty black beans. What a fun bowl! This is a great way to use up a random leftover handful of chips after a weekend party, and it has great plant-based protein too.

Healthy burrito bowl made with leftovers from a party
Example #8: Sometimes messy is best. This taco bowl was a very eclectic hodge-podge of leftovers after a Cinco de Mayo party (see Example #4 above for more thoughts about why leftovers rock!). Starting at the top and working clockwise, this one has leftover chili-roasted baby potatoes, leftover black bean salad, leftover corn salsa, leftover black bean dip, and leftover chips... plus my Tri-Colored Citrusy Slaw to freshen things up. It's topped off with avocado and pepitas.

Healthy taco bowl with black beans, roasted potatoes, salad, and grilled vegetables
Example #9: Another leftover bowl after another summer weekend party! Have I convinced you yet that the best bowls are actually leftover bowls?? Starting from the top and working clockwise, this healthy burrito bowl has a black bean salad, blistered shishito peppers, grilled corn, a romaine salad, chili-roasted baby potatoes, and a pineapple cabbage slaw. It's topped with lots of fresh cilantro, avocado, a sprinkling of chili salt,  and some flaky sea salt.

Colorful taco salad topped with avocado and tortilla strips
Example 10: Taco salad or burrito bowl? Who cares, it was awesome. This fresh, vibrant, healthy taco bowl has grilled red bell peppers, grilled corn, roasted cauliflower, and a big romaine salad. It's topped with a lime vinaigrette, avocado, Kiawe Smoked Macadamias from my wonderful friends at Mauna Loa, and homemade tortilla strips made with tortillas from my neighbors at Vermont Tortilla Company.

Vegan burrito bowl with rice and beans, plus a colorful kale salad
Example 11: Another "half and half" style bowl! I think this juxtaposition of hearty and fresh elements is so satisfying. The top half is a spicy rice and beans made with the innovative hearts of palm "rice" from Palmini. The bottom half is a tropical cabbage and kale salad with watermelon, kumquats, and a lime dressing. This interesting combo bowl is topped with avocado, starfruit, and lots of fresh cilantro.

Closing Thoughts

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?

Share It!

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.

How to Make the BEST Burrito Bowl

Burrito bowls are EVERYTHING! This guide will walk you through lots of tips, tricks, and examples to help you build a healthy burrito bowl that is exciting and loaded with flavor.




Because this post is more conceptual, there's no specific recipe. Please refer to all the tips, tricks, and examples above, then create your own recipe!

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February 9, 2023
WOW . . . thank you so much for providing so many options for tasty veggie bowls. I really love all the protein options. Endless possibilities!!
August 31, 2022
I just saw your bowl featured on the Vegan Bowls IG and found this post linked through your stories. What wonderful ideas! We do taco bowls at least once a week, our whole family loves them. Can't wait to try some of your tips!