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What Is a Burrito Bowl?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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A burrito bowl is a variation on the traditional Tex-Mex burrito featuring an assortment of savory ingredients that are served in a bowl rather than wrapped in a tortilla. Beyond this basic definition, the exact contents of a burrito bowl can vary widely. Many diners choose burrito bowls over traditional burritos to cut calories and fat or to avoid consuming gluten. Burrito bowls can be made at home or purchased in restaurants.

The only real criterion for a burrito bowl is that it should contain ingredients that could be found in a traditional burrito, but which are served in a bowl rather than wrapped in a tortilla. Exact burrito bowl recipes can differ dramatically from one another, and potential ingredient combinations are largely limited only by the cook’s imagination. Often, however, a bowl contains items like chopped, shredded, or ground meat, such as chicken, beef, or pork, as well as rice, black or refried beans, tomatoes, onions, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, and pico de gallo. These ingredients may be layered on top of one another or mixed so that they are evenly distributed.

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Some Tex-Mex food chains bill the burrito bowl as a “healthy” alternative to traditional burritos. This claim derives primarily from the fact that the extra-large tortillas commonly used to make burritos can be a significant source of calories and carbohydrates. Additionally, burrito tortillas are usually made from wheat flour, which must be avoided by those who have difficulty digesting gluten, a protein found in wheat and certain other grains. While avoiding tortillas may save some calories as well as preventing digestive issues in certain diners, however, it should be noted that a burrito bowl can still pack a large amount of fat and calories, depending upon what it contains. For a health-friendly meal, diners should choose bowls that pile on lots of fresh vegetables rather than red meats and full-fat dairy products.

Home cooks can make burrito bowls fairly easily by combining seasoned meat with rice, chopped vegetables, beans, and their preferred toppings. Those who prefer to let others do the cooking will generally find that burrito bowls are readily available in many take-out and eat-in Tex-Mex restaurants. Even if burrito bowls do not feature on the menu at one of these establishments, diners can often improvise by asking restaurant staff to serve their burrito without its shell.

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