This easy rice bowl comes together in a flash! This fast dinner stars black beans and veggies with zingy cilantro lime ranch sauce.
Every time we ask readers what they want, we get a similar answer. Fast and easy dinner recipes! Essentially, you don’t care how basic it is. You just want easy, healthy ideas to get food on the table. So here’s one to file under dinnertime basics: this Easy Rice Bowl! This 30 minute dinner features these easy black beans, a trick to make a bland can of beans taste amazing in 5 minutes. Pair it with rice and colorful veggies. The kicker? A zingy cilantro lime ranch that you’ll want to bathe in. These were so tasty and easy, we knew we had to share (we simply inhaled them).
Another variation: Make our Shrimp Bowls with cilantro lime rice!
How to make rice: our favorite methods
The longest lead time on a rice bowl is cooking the rice. So get that started first! You can use any variety of rice you’d like. We like cooking rice on the stovetop, but a pressure cooker also makes quick work of it. You can also make the rice in advance and reheat it before serving (instructions below). Here are our favorite methods for cooking rice:
- How to Cook Rice This method is the secret way to get perfectly cooked rice every time.
- How to Cook Brown Rice Here’s our shortcut method on how to cook brown rice…fast! It takes just 35 minutes, compared to around 50 minutes for the traditional way.
- How to Cook Rice in an Instant Pot A pressure cooker is great for rice: it’s an easy, hands-off method!
- Coconut Rice or Cilantro Lime Rice Step it up with some simple seasonings!
The star: 5-minute easy black beans!
The best part of this rice bowl, similar to a burrito bowl, is the easy black beans! This is the way to bring big flavor with only a few minutes of cooking. Once you’ve got your rice started, whip up those black beans. Here’s what you need to infuse huge flavor into these beans in no time:
- Canned black beans: You don’t even have to rinse them! The residual can liquid makes a creamy sauce.
- Fresh garlic: Minced fresh garlic brings big savory flavor.
- Cumin: A hint of cumin adds the final flavoring.
Pop them in a pan for just 3 minutes, and you’ll be surprised at the amount of flavor you’ll get. You can use these beans as a component in lots of different meals outside of this rice bowl.
How to make a rice bowl
Once you’ve got your rice and your beans: it’s time to make a rice bowl! The vegetable and sauce ideas we’ve provided here are just ideas. This is a free-form concept so anything goes! Here are a few ideas for vegetables and components you can swap to make a rice bowl. This one is like to a burrito bowl, but you can use different flavors and sauces for a different vibe. The main guiding principle: maximize contrasts in color, flavor and texture!
- Make the rice. See above.
- Make the protein. You can of course use any type of protein you like: beans, tofu, tempeh, chicken, shrimp: you name it! This bowl would be great with Cilantro Lime Shrimp too.
- Prepare the veggies. Use lots of colorful raw veggies. Some favorites are avocado and cherry tomatoes. We like to add corn for sweetness and red onion for a savory crunch. Other ideas: bell peppers, leafy greens like spinach or mixed greens, or roasted sweet potatoes,
- Add the sauce. Top it all off with a healthy sauce to bring it together: ideas below!
5 different sauce variations (with vegan options!)
What makes a rice bowl? The sauce. This rice bowl is covered in a creamy, zingy cilantro lime ranch that takes it over the top! You’ll love this tasty sauce: but we’ve got lots of other options too. If you’re looking for a vegan variation, review the list below:
- Cilantro Lime Ranch Quick and easy: you don’t even need a blender! Made with Greek yogurt and mayo, a zesty spin on ranch.
- Creamy Cilantro Sauce or Easy Cilantro Lime Dressing Vegan variations! The first is creamy with cashews, the second is a vinaigrette.
- Easy Chipotle Sauce Vegan variation! Zesty, smoky and creamy with a magic ingredient: canned adobo sauce.
- Cilantro Lime Dressing A bright green sauce that’s full of flavor.
White rice vs. brown rice
Which type of rice is best for a rice bowl? Is it better to eat brown rice? Here’s a little breakdown of the benefits of making either variety for this rice bowl:
- White rice is quick to cook and takes about 20 minutes total. It’s great when you’re in a time crunch!
- Brown rice has more vitamins, minerals, and fiber than white rice. 1 cup cooked white rice has 0.6 grams fiber, but 1 cup cooked brown rice has 3.2 grams of fiber, 13% of your daily need. (Source) It’s also less processed so has more nutrients. It does take longer to cook, but use our quick method above to cook it in 35 minutes. So if you have time, brown rice is a great choice for this rice bowl or other brown rice recipes.
Shortcut: make the rice in advance and reheat it!
Make this rice bowl even quicker by making the rice in advance. Refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve. You may have noticed that when you refrigerate rice, it gets very dry. Here’s a trick for how to reheat rice so that it’s perfectly moist:
- Place the cold rice in a saucepan on the stovetop.
- Add a small splash of water.
- Heat the rice until it’s warmed through: the water will steam and absorb into the rice.
Black beans nutrition
You can make this rice bowl with a variety of different protein options. But here’s a plug for using black beans! Here’s why black beans are such a plant-based powerhouse (source):
- Excellent source of protein. 1 cup has 15 grams of protein, about 30% of your daily protein needs.
- Excellent source of fiber. 1 cup also has 15 grams of fiber, about 50% of your daily intake.
- Black beans have a lower glycemic index compared to many other high-carbohydrate foods, meaning they cause a smaller rise in blood sugar after a meal. In fact, some studies have even shown beans eaten with rice can reduce a rise in blood sugar vs when people eat rice alone.
This rice bowl recipe is…
Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.Print
Easy Rice Bowl
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
This easy rice bowl comes together in a flash! This fast dinner stars black beans and veggies with zingy cilantro lime ranch sauce. Variation: Try our Shrimp Rice Bowl!
For the black beans*
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained but not rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- Scant 1 teaspoon kosher salt
For the rice bowl
- 1 ½ cups dry white rice or brown rice
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 ripe avocado
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels, defrosted (or canned corn)
- 1/4 red onion
- Cilantro Lime Sauce or Chipotle Ranch (or for vegan, Spicy Chipotle Sauce or Cashew Cilantro Sauce)
- Cilantro, to serve
- Cook the rice, according to How to Cook Rice. (Or try Cilantro Lime Rice!)
- Cook the black beans: Mince the garlic. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant but not yet browned. Add the beans (drained but not rinsed), cumin, kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cook 2 minutes until warmed through. Taste and add additional salt if desired.
- Make the sauce (see above).
- Slice the tomatoes in half. Slice the avocado. Defrost the corn. Thinly slice the red onion.
- To serve, place rice in the bowl and top with black beans and vegetables. Drizzle with the sauce and top with torn cilantro.
*If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, make half this recipe and cook 1 cup dry rice.
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mexican inspired
- Diet: Vegan
Keywords: Rice Bowl, Rice Bowls
I just made this for dinner tonight, and it was amazing! Toddler approved too!! I made it with your cilantro lime dressing, it was the perfect pairing. Thank you so much for such a simple, yet delicious recipe.
Easy, quick, tasty and healthy, what else could you expect from a recipe? Plus you can always have the ingredients in your cupboards. Definetely adding it to my weeknight lifesaviors!
Love this recipe. Quick, easy and yummy.
I loved the recipe and super easy to make. My 2.5 year old toddler who doesn’t usually eat much,enjoyed the recipe. This one is a keeper!
Made this for my wife and I last night and it was incredible! We loved it!! I made a vegan cilantro sauce substituting the Greek yogurt for a vegan cashew yogurt. Would recommend this to anyone!