How To Make Slow Cooker Veggie Burrito Bowls

How To Make Slow Cooker Veggie Burrito Bowls

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Patty Catalano
Apr 23, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Veggie burrito bowls are a one-stop shop, delivering the best part of a burrito — the filling — without the fuss. With the slow cooker, this one-pot meal is completely hands-off, easily filling in for Meatless Monday or Taco Tuesday. Fill your bowl with tender brown rice, smoky pinto beans, fresh veggies, and a dollop of citrusy sour cream, but make sure to leave room on top for your favorite burrito fixings.

This recipe will teach you how to use your slow cooker's constant and gentle heat to cook veggie burrito bowls. While your first instinct might be to chop the vegetables, sprinkle in the rice, pour on the broth, and stir, this recipe shows you how simple strategic steps guarantee the vegetables cook evenly while the rice plumps.

With smart use of your slow cooker, the rice, beans, and a crisper drawer full of vegetables cook in one pot without so much as a second glance until it is time to scoop and serve.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

The Key to Veggie Burrito Bowls Is in the Layers

Burrito night often means standing over a stove cooking rice on one burner, a skillet of sautéed vegetables on another, and babysitting a pan of sweet potatoes in the oven. Why not go hands-free and cook everything in the slow cooker? Slow cooking rice and vegetables for burrito bowls requires one key concept to avoid unevenly cooked vegetables and crunchy rice: layering.

First step is to mix the rice and seasonings. Since we add the ingredients in layers, waiting until the end to stir, seasoning the rice first means it can absorb all of the smoky, earthy flavors as it cooks. Dense sweet potatoes and the seasoned rice go into the bottom of the slow cooker first. These need to be submerged in the broth throughout cooking to soften and absorb the liquid. Do not stir once you add the liquid, which is exactly what comes next.

Pour in a can of diced tomatoes with their juices and vegetable broth. The canned beans are already tender while quick-cooking veggies (the zucchini, bell pepper, and poblano pepper) simply need to steam and soften from the gentle heat of the slow cooker. Since they are not submerged in the liquid they retain their shape without overcooking. Wait to stir in the corn kernels until the very end. Even frozen kernels take mere seconds to thaw and warm through.

Brown Rice Is Best for Slow Cooking

Brown rice still has its tough outer layer and endosperm intact, where much of the fiber and nutrients reside. Thanks to this tough outer coating, brown rice is best suited for slow cooker recipes because the rice grains actually need longer cook times and will not break down the way their lighter-hued counterparts do.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Key Steps for Making Veggie Burrito Bowls in the Slow Cooker

  • Season the rice. Mix the rice, salt, and seasonings in a small bowl before adding to the slow cooker. This evenly distributes the spices among the grains, ensuring that every bite is packed with smoky, earthy flavor.
  • Layer the vegetables and slow cook. Scatter the sweet potato cubes in the bottom of the slow cooker before sprinkling in the spiced rice. Pour in the diced tomatoes with their juices and the vegetable broth, making sure the potatoes and rice are submerged. Canned pintos are already cooked, but need to soak up some of the seasonings, so scatter them on next. Zucchini, bell peppers, and poblano peppers can lose their shape and become waterlogged if overcooked. To avoid this, layer them on last to steam.
  • Slow cook for about 5 hours. Five hours on low is the sweet spot where the brown rice is tender with a bit of chew and the vegetables are soft but not overcooked. Stir in the corn kernels at the very end of cooking for a quick thaw and a bright pop of fresh, sweet flavor.
  • Mix up lime sour cream. I'm an advocate of adding acid to the end of most slow cooker suppers. This time, while the veggies and rice simmer away, mix tart lime juice and sour cream for a citrus-laced topping.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman | Kitchn)

Serving Veggie Burrito Bowls

You can serve this filling in a bowl (with tortilla chips) or in tortillas — just make sure your favorite burrito fixings are nearby. A dollop of the sour cream topping wakes up the deep, smoky flavor from the smoked paprika, chili powder, and coriander.

The tender vegetables take center stage with the smoky seasoned rice, adding a chewy texture and toasted flavor to the dish. Although I've specified veggies I like to use in my veggie burrito bowl, sometimes our crisper drawers are filled with other odds and ends from the produce department. Simply layer dense vegetables that require longer cook times and that benefit from simmering in liquid at the bottom of the cooker and leave the more tender morsels on top to steam.

How To Make Slow Cooker Veggie Burrito Bowls

Serves 4

What You Need

Ingredients

  • For the veggie burrito bowl:
  • 1 cup

    uncooked brown rice

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 3/4 teaspoon

    chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    smoked paprika

  • 1

    medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

  • 1

    (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 1 1/4 cups

    low-sodium vegetable broth

  • 1

    (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1

    medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick

  • 1 cup

    diced red or orange bell pepper (from 1 pepper)

  • 1

    medium poblano pepper, seeded and diced (about 3/4 cup)

  • 1 cup

    fresh or frozen corn kernels

  • For the lime sour cream:
  • 1/2 cup

    sour cream

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely grated lime zest

  • 2 teaspoons

    freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • For serving:
  • Diced red onion, crumbled queso fresco, diced avocado, shredded red cabbage, cilantro

  • Equipment
  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Mixing bowl

  • Knife and cutting board

  • 3- to 4-quart slow cooker

Instructions

  1. Combine rice and seasonings. Place the rice, salt, oregano, coriander, chili powder, and paprika in a small bowl and stir to combine.

  2. Layer the sweet potatoes, seasoned rice, tomatoes, and pour in broth. Scatter the sweet potatoes in the bottom of a 3- to 4-quart slow cooker. Add the rice and spice mixture on top of the sweet potatoes. Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juices and vegetable broth.

  3. Arrange beans and vegetables on top. Scatter the pinto beans, zucchini, bell pepper, and poblano pepper over the top, but do not stir.

  4. Cook on LOW for about 5 hours, then stir in corn. Cover and cook on the LOW setting until the rice is tender and has absorbed all of the liquid, 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours. You can stir once or twice toward the end of cooking to make sure the rice cooks evenly. If excess liquid remains once rice is tender, uncover, increase the heat to HIGH, and cook for 5 minutes so the liquid can evaporate. Stir in the corn kernels, mixing to evenly distribute rice, beans, and vegetables.

  5. Make the lime sour cream. Meanwhile, stir the sour cream, lime zest, lime juice, coriander, and salt together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  6. Serve veggie burrito bowl with lime sour cream and other toppings. Serve veggie burrito bowl with lime sour cream and assorted toppings.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

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