make-ahead

Whip up this Chipotle-style burrito bowl recipe for easy ‘takeout’ from your own freezer!

April 7, 2015 at 3:13 PM ET

Fresh ingredients, made to order, assembled just the way you like them — it's no wonder that Chipotle's endlessly customizable burrito bowls are a crazy popular option for a weekday office lunch or quick dinner. It's almost as good as homemade… but it's not homemade, and with a little advance prep work, you can stock your freezer with the real deal and save a few bucks in the process.

Make your base components — spicy chicken, flavorful black beans and that irresistibly zippy rice — ahead of time, then refrigerate or freeze for pre-layered, ready-to-go burrito bowls you can microwave or reheat on the stovetop. Then top your warmed bowl with fresh tomato and/or corn salsa, sour cream and more. The base recipes double easily for batch lunches or dinners in a pinch.

Make-Ahead Chipotle-Style Burrito Bowls Recipe
Casey Barber

Make-Ahead Chipotle-Style Burrito Bowls
Makes: 4 servings
Active Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes plus freezing time, if desired

Chicken
  • 1 pound raw or cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 chipotle peppers, chopped, and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from 1 7-ounce can chipotles in adobo
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil, divided (see below) 
Cilantro-Lime Rice
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Black Beans
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 a small yellow or white onion, minced
  • 2 small to medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from 1 7-ounce can chipotles in adobo
Corn Salsa
  • 1 1/2 cups thawed frozen white corn
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, stemmed, de-seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 a large lime
Additional Toppings
  • Pico de gallo, tomatillo salsa and/or hot salsa
  • Shredded Cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Lettuce

PREP YOUR COMPONENTS

Make-Ahead Chipotle-Style Burrito Bowl (prep)
Casey Barber

1. Make the chicken:

For raw chicken: Cut the chicken into rough 1-inch cubes and toss in a large zip-top bag with the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, garlic, oregano and 2 tablespoons oil. Seal tightly and gently press the bag with your hands to mix the ingredients, then leave at room temperature for 1 hour. (Alternatively, refrigerate the bag for up to 8 hours.)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add about 1/4 of the marinated chicken cubes — don't crowd the pan, or the chicken will steam instead of brown. Cook, flipping after 2-3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, and transfer to a clean bowl or plate. Repeat with the remaining chicken, adding the final tablespoon of oil as needed. Slice the cooked chicken into small bits.

For cooked chicken: Cut the chicken into rough 1-inch cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce, chopped garlic and oregano. Stir together and add the chicken, tossing in the sauce to season and coat the chicken. Transfer to a cutting board and slice the cooked chicken into small bits.

2. Make the black beans:

Heat the oil in a small (1 ½ to 2 quart) saucepan over medium-low heat and add the onion, garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes until the onion begins to soften.

Drain the beans, reserving 1/2 cup of liquid from one of the cans. Add the beans, reserved liquid and adobo sauce to the pan. Stir, then cover and cook for 10 minutes more until the beans are softened and warmed through.

3. Make the rice:

Bring the water, lime juice and lemon juice to a boil in a small (1 ½ to 2 quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add the salt and stir to dissolve, then stir in the rice. Cover and reduce the heat to low.

Cook without stirring or uncovering the pot for about 20 minutes, until the rice is fluffy and has absorbed the liquid. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.

4. Make the corn salsa:

Toss the corn, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime juice together in a bowl. Refrigerate up to 3 days, until ready to use.

PACK IT UP TO EAT LATER

Make-Ahead Chipotle-Style Burrito Bowl (frozen)
Casey Barber

If you'll be eating it within 36 hours as a reheatable lunch or dinner: Either refrigerate the chicken, beans and rice in separate containers or pre-layer in single-serving microwaveable containers.

To freeze for later lunches and dinners: Spread the chicken, beans and rice on separate rimmed baking sheets and freeze for 1 hour until each component is frozen through. Either transfer the components to separate sealable freezer bags or pre-layer in single-serving freezer-safe microwaveable containers.

REHEAT AND EAT

Make-Ahead Chipotle-Style Burrito Bowl (finished)
Casey Barber

The frozen or refrigerated chicken, beans and rice can be reheated separately on the stovetop or in the microwave and layered in bowls, then topped with your favorite add-ins like salsa, sour cream, cheese and guacamole. Or the pre-layered containers can be microwaved for 2-3 minutes (refrigerated) or 4-5 minutes (frozen), then topped with your favorite add-ins.

Tips and tricks for transporting toppings

  1. To keep your guacamole from turning brown, press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the guacamole before sealing it in a plastic container. This prevents air from coming into contact with the guac.
  2. No room for separate containers for storing your toppings? Use a mason jar. Layer your toppings in this order: salsas on the bottom, then guacamole, sour cream, cheese and lettuce on top. This order separates the wet stuff from the dry and keeps the lettuce crisp.
  3. Bento-style boxes or Indian-inspired "tiffin" lunchboxes compartmentalize ingredients to keep them from running into one another. Many on the market are meant for kids' lunches, but they work great in this instance too! Look for them at specialty grocery stores, Target or Amazon.com. 
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