• Kris

Black beans and healthy grains Mexican bowl

Brown rice and quinoa, along with protein packed black beans, sweet plump corn and an array of veggies makes this bowl healthy and delicious at the same time. Vegan, gluten free, oil free.


I call it a “copy-kitten” recipe of Panera Bread’s warm Baja grain bowl. A “copy-kitten” recipe? You might be thinking “Now what that would be?!” right? Okay, let me explain. Has it ever happened to you that you eat a certain food at a certain restaurant, and you like it so much that you come home and make it yourself? Yeah, I thought so! We call it a ‘copycat recipe’ right? Here what happened is, I never even tasted this particular food! A friend of mine comes to me and says a lot of good things about this warm Baja grain bowl he ate at Panera Bread. And I was totally stimulated to make it myself at home. So, I looked at the description of this bowl and came up with a recipe of my own. So, instead of a copycat, shouldn’t it be called a copy kitten?


We’re gonna need cooked brown rice, quinoa, black beans and corn for this bowl. I admit it takes a bit of a time if you have to cook them all from scratch. But the nice thing about cooking these grains and pulses is, you can cook a big batch of them, put in a zip-top bag and freeze for later use. So, when it’s time to make this bowl, or any other dish, just take it out, and add directly to the skillet.


I have excluded the Greek yogurt and feta cheese that Panera serves with their bowl in order to keep my recipe vegan. And instead of their salsa verde, I used a simple herb salad of my own.

I haven’t got a chance to sample Panera’s bowl yet. So, I have no idea how similar or different mine tastes from theirs! It is absolutely decadent that I can promise! So, why not make it and be the judge yourself?

About the dish :

Course – Entrée

Serves – 6-8

Difficulty level – Easy

Recipe type – Vegan, gluten free, oil free.

Does it keep – It keeps in the refrigerator for 2-3 days


What you need :


1 cup finely chopped red onion

¾ cup chopped cilantro

1 lime, juiced

1.5 cups of cooked black beans or 1 can (15 oz) of black bean, rinsed.

3/4 cup of cooked whole kernel corn (you can use canned, or cook frozen corn as per instruction on the package)

2 cups cooked quinoa (cook as instructed on the package)

2 cups cooked brown rice (cook as instructed on the package)

1 Tablespoon chipotle powder

2 Tablespoons chili powder (blend)

Salt and pepper to taste


Toppings :

Sliced avocado

Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half


What you do :


1. Let’s make the herb salad first. In a small bowl, mix your chopped red onion and cilantro. Add the lime juice, mix well and set aside. While you’re cooking the rest of the bowl, this lime juice will infuse your herb salad with flavor and cut down the harsh taste of raw onion.



2. In a large skillet add 2 tablespoons of water and put it on the stove at medium. When water starts to sizzle add the black beans (see here how to cook dry beans from scratch) and corn. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. If you’re using canned beans and corns, then maybe you would not need to add any more salt.




3.Let the beans and corns be in the skillet for a couple of minutes until they are heated through. Then add the cooked brown rice and quinoa to it. Yep, this recipe is a good way to use up your left-over rice and quinoa! Stir to mix the grains with the beans and corn.



4. Now it’s time to add flavors. Add the chili powder and chipotle powder. Mix well to combine.



5. Add salt and pepper to season the whole dish. Turn the heat off.


6. Add the onion and cilantro salad you set aside. Mix well to combine.



7. Serve in individual bowls, topped with sliced avocado and cherry tomatoes.



Nutritional info (Per serving) without toppings :


Calories – 406 Cal

Carbohydrate – 79 g

Protein – 17 g

Fat – 4 g

Saturated fat – 0 g

Sugar – 3 g

Sodium – 49 mg

Dietary fiber – 11 g


Modifications you can make :


  • Instead of water for sautéing the beans and corn, use oil if you like.

  • Vegetable broth can also be used instead of water here.

  • White rice can be subbed in for brown rice.

  • If you like your food spicy, you can add chopped jalapeno in the herb salad.

  • If you don’t have cherry tomatoes at home, go for chopped regular tomatoes.


You see how easy it is to make? You’ll be surprised how fabulously flavorful a dish can be with so less of an effort! Great pleasures in life often come in simple little packets. So they say. And I think, they are absolutely right!



Do you have any questions? Any feedback after you've made it? I'd surely like to know! Feel free to comment below.

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