Best Taco Bowl - How to Repurpose Leftovers

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This recipe is multi-functional: use it as a delicious hot dinner, use it for a weekly meal prep, OR instructions below to quickly transform this recipe (or leftovers) into a simple taco salad. The taco salad can be made fresh or I’ve also included tips to making a meal prep taco salad. Enjoy!

How to make a taco bowl:

  • Cilantro Lime Rice: while plain rice works great in the taco bowl, this cilantro lime rice takes it to another level. It doesn’t take long to add a huge flavor punch to your rice! To make cilantro lime rice, simply stir in some lime juice, lime zest, and finely chopped cilantro to your cooked rice.

  • Ground Beef: brown and crumble the beef with a few “taco” spices (SO good!) and add a little picante sauce for flavor.

  • Beans/Corn: drain and rinse black beans and roasted corn. IF you’re meal prepping, just throw them in the containers as is and if you’re eating these taco bowls hot, toss them in a skillet (or even with the beef) to warm through.

What to put in a taco bowl:

After you’ve made the basic base for the taco bowl (rice, beef, beans/corn), it’s all about topping your bowl! Whatever you generally like in a taco is going to be great here. Below are some ideas:
  • Cheddar cheese: we like freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream: fat free or low fat works great! Add a bit of lime juice and sriracha or hot sauce for a quick taco cream sauce. My favorite creamy sauce that would pair great with these tacos bowls here.
  • Fresh lime: a few squeezes of fresh lime adds so much flavor.
  • Avocado: while not great for meal prepping, we love avocado in fresh taco bowls. An avocado will add a nice creaminess while keeping the meal healthy.
  • Pico de gallo: or even just a few chopped tomatoes! I make a shortcut pico for these taco bowls — just tomatoes, jalapeño, red onion, and lime juice.

How to “meal prep” this recipe:

Transform this taco bowl into a taco salad:

To serve fresh: omit the rice, and serve the meat (slightly cooled), corn, and beans plus whatever toppings you’d like (I’d suggest pico, avocado, sour cream, and cheddar cheese) over a bed of chopped romaine lettuce. Whip up the following dressing and pair it with your taco salad.

To transform leftover taco bowl into a taco salad: make a taco bowl one night and a salad the next! Simply grab all your leftovers and add to a big bed of chopped romaine lettuce. Whip up the dressing below and drizzle on generously!

To serve as a meal prep: omit the rice and follow all other directions to meal prep these taco bowls. Chop romaine lettuce and store separately in a plastic bag. Prepare the dressing and store separately. When ready to enjoy: dump the lettuce on a large plate, add your beef, corn, and black beans, add the stored toppings (I’d suggest pico, sour cream, and cheddar cheese), and drizzle dressing over everything.

Taco salad dressing
  • 1 lime, juiced and zested to get about 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice
  • 2 tablespoons prepared ranch seasoning mix (do not prepare, use dry)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tomatillo, husk removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 of a large bunch of cilantro (cut off long stems, but the rest is fine)
  • 1/2 a jalapeño, optional
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (fat free works great)
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  1. Zest & juice a lime and add juice and zest to a blender along with ranch seasoning mix, garlic, tomatillo, and cilantro
  2. Add 1/2 of a jalapeño (or full one for more kick) and mayo. Add salt & pepper to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper).
  3. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust to personal preference (more lime, garlic, salt/pepper).
  4. Whisk or blend in the sour cream. Serve over taco salad or store separately for meal prep
Taco Bowl
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins
An easy to make taco bowl recipe! This meal is filling, packed with good ingredients, and is a great make ahead weekly meal prep option. 
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: taco bowl
Servings4 -6 servings
Calories237 kcal
Cilantro Lime Rice
  • 1 cup white or basmati rice, and 2 cups chicken stock, chicken broth, or water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large lime (2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
Taco Meat
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: paprika, cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: oregano, salt, and pepper
  • 1/2 cup mild picante sauce (found right next to salsas in the grocery store)
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) fire-roasted corn, rinsed
  • Sharp cheddar cheese (grated), sour cream (fat free or low fat is great!), fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, fresh avocado, fresh tomatoes (or quick pico de gallo (recipe in notes)*)
Cilantro Lime Rice
  1. Bring 2 cups of stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the butter and rice and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is cooked through and tender. Stir in the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, and salt + pepper to taste.
Taco Meat
  1. Add in the ground beef. Cook and crumble until browned through (drain off and discard any grease). Add in the seasonings (chili powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne, oregano, salt, & pepper), and stir until fragrant. Add in the picante sauce, stir, and cook until warmed through.
Assembly/Meal Prep
  1. Enjoy immediately: add rice, taco meat, beans, and corn (warm beans and corn by tossing with hot rice or hot taco meat!) and your favorite toppings such as grated cheddar cheese, a spoonful of sour cream, fresh lime, fresh cilantro, fresh diced/sliced avocado, and fresh tomatoes or easy pico de gallo.
    To see how to repurpose the meat, beans, and corn into an amazing taco salad, see the last paragraph of the blog post.
  2. Meal Prep: Add cooked and cooled rice, cooked and slightly cooled beef, beans, and corn to your meal prep container. Separate toppings into separate containers or individual bags in either another compartment of your meal prep container or separately in the fridge. Cover/seal everything tightly and refrigerate for 4-5 days. Warm rice, beef, corn, and beans mixture in a microwave or skillet together and add the prepared toppings.
Recipe Notes
To make a quick pico: 
Combine 1 cup chopped roma or cherry tomatoes, 2 tablespoons diced red onion, 1 tablespoon diced jalapeno, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, and 1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

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