(Note: this post was originally published on January 15, 2021, although additional examples have been added subsequently. The date above reflects migration to the new platform.)
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 too can be loving the burrito bowl life.
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.
The other thing I really love about burrito 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, I like more veggies whereas Dave likes more protein) or set up a assemble-your-own 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 some of the primary components I like to put in a burrito bowl, how to organize a burrito bowl, and some tips for making them 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.
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 burrito bowl?? Here's how I tend to think about things:
Carbs. My go-to options are quinoa, brown rice, roasted sweet potatoes, and/or a few tortilla chips. Given that this is probably one of the heaviest aspects of the bowl, I 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. Or see the walnut taco "meat" in Example #3!
Something slaw-like or salad-like. I love some freshness in a burrito bowl, so I almost always include something salady. 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.
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 (see Example # 1 for a double-salsa bowl: corn and papaya!).
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, a drizzle of crema (or cashew crema), and some fresh cilantro. 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 and everything.
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. See Example #s 4, 8, and 9 in particular. 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.
Think ahead. Are you making burrito bowls tomorrow night? Then cook some extra quinoa or brown rice tonight!
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, 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.
Tips for A Killer Bowl
How do you make your burrito bowl feel really special and interesting? How do you make it fun? Here are a few of my preferred strategies:
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, crema). 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 Example #s 2 and 5 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. I love to incorporate all sorts of colorful ingredients, and sometimes I even organize the different components by color.
Lastly, here are a few suggestions for some components to add to your bowl. Most of these will work great in your bowl as leftovers, so make a couple for a weekend get-together and then enjoy the fun leftovers the next few nights.
Carb: 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.
Carb: 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.
Protein/Carb: 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.
Protein: 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,
Protein: 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.
Veggie: 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.
Topping: 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).
Even More Examples
Since I'm pretty much 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 so 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.