Poor Man’s Burrito Bowls

Written by Beth - Budget Bytes

One of my favorite dinners from my childhood was a big bowl of rice, black beans, salsa, and cheese, or what I call “Poor Man’s Burrito Bowls.” Looking back I don’t know if that was our dinner because we couldn’t afford more, or if my mom didn’t have the energy to make something more complicated, but either way I loved that meal. It’s only a few ingredients, it’s super inexpensive, but somehow still so filling and so delicious!

Originally posted 9-13-2015, updated 11-29-2019.

Two poor man's burrito bowls on wooden plates with bowls of toppings on the sides

Why “Poor Man’s” Burrito Bowls?

In the age of Chipotle, when burrito bowls have become layers upon layers of fancy meats, creamy dressings, and crunchy tortilla strips, I’m scaling it back to the basics. No frills, no fancy ingredients, just the bare bones. The only ingredients you absolutely need to feel full and satisfied. And somehow, despite its simplicity, these super basic burrito bowls still make me so happy that my feet wiggle. 

Add In Your Leftovers!

Another reason I love these Poor Man’s Burrito Bowls is because it’s a great “sweep the kitchen” meal, or a meal that is versatile enough that you can add in all sorts of leftovers you might have hanging out in your fridge or pantry. Here are some other ingredients that you can add, if you have them on hand, and they need to be used up:

  • Sour cream
  • Roasted vegetables (zucchini, bell peppers, onions)
  • Frozen corn
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Lime crema
  • Avocado
  • Pickled red onion
  • Cilantro
  • Tomato
  • Rotisserie chicken
  • Ground beef
  • Carnitas (I make big batches of this and then stash some in the freezer)

See? You can go as simple or as fancy as you want, but the “Poor Man’s” version, with just rice, beans, cheese, and salsa is all the deliciousness I need. This time around I also added green onion and jalapeño because I seem to always have extras of those in the fridge. :)

Can You Freeze Burrito Bowls?

Yes! These burrito bowls freeze great, so you can fix up a bunch and stash them in the freezer, cheese and all, for busy weeknights. As with any rice dish, it’s important that they are divided and cooled immediately after cooking. Once they are cooled completely in the refrigerator, you can transfer them to the freezer for long term storage. 

Front view of a Poor Man's Burrito Bowl with a fork lifting a bit out and cheese pulling from the bowl.

Close up overhead shot of a poor man's burrito bowl with melted cheese
Print Recipe Grocery List Favorites
4.86 from 55 votes

Poor Man's Burrito Bowls

These easy no-frills burrito bowls are super fast and affordable. They're the perfect satisfying weeknight meal for times when money is tight!
Author: Beth - Budget Bytes
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked long grain white rice ($1.32)
  • 1/2 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 2 15oz. cans black beans ($0.98)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin ($0.05)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1 16oz. jar salsa ($2.37)
  • 6 oz. shredded cheese* ($1.27)
  • 1 bunch green onions ($0.89)
  • 1 jalapeño (optional) ($0.15)

Instructions

  • Add the rice, salt, and 3 cups water to a medium sauce pot. Place a lid on top, turn the heat on to high, and allow the water to come up to a full boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let it sit, with the lid in place, for an additional five minutes. Fluff just before serving.
  • While the rice is cooking, make the beans. Add both cans of black beans (undrained) to a small sauce pot, along with the cumin, and garlic powder. Heat over medium, stirring often, until heated through.
  • Slice the green onions and jalapeño (if using).
  • Once the rice is cooked, build the bowls. Add one cup cooked rice, 1/2 cup warm black beans, 1/3 cup salsa, and 1 oz. shredded cheese (about 1/4 cup) to each bowl. Top with a few sliced green onions and jalapeños, then serve.

Notes

*Use your favorite type of meltable shredded cheese. Cheddar and pepper jack are both great choices.
See how we calculate recipe costs here.
Tried this recipe?Mention @budgetbytes or tag #budgetbytes on Instagram!

Nutrition

Serving: 1 ServingCalories: 521.75 kcalCarbohydrates: 85.28 gProtein: 20.32 gFat: 10.32 gSodium: 1078.75 mgFiber: 15.22 g
Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclaimer here.

The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Overhead view of a Poor Man's Burrito Bowl with a black fork stuck in the middle

How to Make Poor Man’s Burrito Bowls – Step by Step Photos

Cooked rice in a sauce pot, fluffed with a fork

Begin the rice first because everything else will be finished by the time the rice is done cooking. Add 2 cups long grain white rice, 1/2 tsp salt, and 3 cups water to a sauce pot. Place a lid on top and turn the heat on to high. Once it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let it rest, with the lid in place, for an additional five minutes. Finally, fluff with a fork.

Seasoned and heated black beans in a sauce pot

While the rice is cooking, season and heat the beans. Add two 15 oz. cans of black beans (undrained) to a sauce pot along with 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp garlic powder. Heat over medium, stirring often, until heated through.

Burrito Bowl components laid out next to eachother

Slice a bunch of green onions and one jalapeño (optional). You’ll also need about 6 oz. (weight) shredded cheese (about 1.5 cups).

build burrito bowls - salsa being scooped into a bowl with rice and beans

Then it’s time to build the burrito bowls! Add about 1 cup rice, 1/2 cup beans, and 1/2 cup salsa to each bowl.

Add cheese, green onion, and jalapeño to burrito bowls

Then add about 1 oz. (1/4 cup) shredded cheese, sliced green onion, and sliced jalapeño (if desired). Enjoy!

Two poor man's burrito bowls on wooden plates with bowls of toppings on the side

The heat from the hot rice and beans will usually be enough to melt the cheese, once stirred.

Close up overhead shot of a poor man's burrito bowl with melted cheese