Chipotle, like Subway, is the sort of fast food (or fast casual, in this case) joint that is only as good as you make it. The restaurant supplies the ingredient, but ultimately the flavor is in your hands. This can lead to some truly great tasting food or — if you insist on including every single ingredient offered into your meal — you’re going to end up with a muddled pile of food that has no rhyme or reason to its construction.
Point being, you can get some seriously delicious food at Chipotle if you don’t try to take advantage of an ordering system that essentially allows you to get an abundance of everything (aside from meat and guacamole) for free. We’ve already covered which of Chipotle’s protein options are the most flavorful, and even taught you how to make the greatest burrito you can possibly order (seriously, try it, I’ve received nothing but praise for this burrito in my email inbox, which is rare for a food writer) — so now it’s time to teach you how to make the best Chipotle Burrito Bowl you’ll ever eat.
Unlike the burrito, which whether you acknowledge it or not, is inspired by a San Francisco Mission Burrito and tastes best when you build it like one, the Burrito Bowl has no traditional baggage behind it. So I couldn’t just settle on one ultimate burrito, I had to make three:
- The Best Tasting Burrito Bowl
- The Best Tasting Keto Burrito Bowl
- The Decadent Anything Goes Burrito Bowl
If you want additional bowls in other styles (vegan?) let us know and we’ll get on it. For now, here are three ways to make the best Chipotle Burrito Bowl you’ll ever eat.
The Best Tasting Bowl You’ll Ever Eat
If we’re looking to make the best bowl, we have to start with the best beans, and at Chipotle, that’s the pinto. I know the black beans are fun and different, and maybe slightly less calorically dense, but when you want flavor, pinto is where it’s at. These beans are tender, creamier, and spicier than the black beans, so in addition to a better and softer mouthfeel, they just pack more flavor.
It’s got to be the white rice. Yes, the brown rice is better for you thanks to the higher fiber content, but again, you want a nice mouthfeel and the white rice is going to get you that. The brown is earthy and chewy — we don’t want that. The white cilantro lime rice is fresh and herbal, with just a hint of citrus that is flavorful enough to be enjoyable, but neutral enough to act as a sponge for the barbacoa juice we’re going to spoon all over it.
Now we’ve come to perhaps the most important ingredient in this bowl. You’re going to get barbacoa, it’s Chipotle’s best permanent meat option by far. It’s tender, savory, and juicy, with a blend of herbal oregano, clove, and bay leaf adding some deep earthy flavors. But before you ask for the barbacoa, you need to ask the Chipotle employee to spoon that juice the meat is sitting in all over your rice and beans.
It’s important that you do this before they actually add the meat. The meat is already juicy, we want that savory goodness all over our relatively bland rice and beans. This is a game changer.
When I built the perfect Chipotle burrito I skipped out on the fajitas, which was hard for me to do because I love fajitas and at Chipotle this is the most flavorful single ingredient on the whole menu. This isn’t an SF burrito, so go nuts and go ahead and ask for extra fajitas here. The onions and bell pepper are going to add some nice aromatics to this bowl and a whole lot of depth of flavor.
Tomatillo red. Always tomatillo red. If you really can’t handle the spice, go ahead and get the green tomatillo, but be careful — that salsa is heavy on the onions and you’ve already got onions via the fajitas and the guacamole we’re going to add.
Skip it. Sour cream is great, I get it, but you don’t need that tangy fatty flavor here, it’s only going to distract and one of the easiest mistakes at Chipotle that people make is doing too much.
Cheese + Lettuce
Always, of course. The lettuce will water down the flavors just a bit, but it’s just a small handful so it won’t do too much damage while still adding a nice texture. The cheese is a must, it’ll add some sweet, salty, and nutty notes that will pair nicely with the more earthy herbal qualities. My editor
The guacamole is a must here, it adds so much flavor and helps the bowl to be even more filling than it already is. But the best move is to order this stuff on the side. If you order it in the bowl, it’s going to muddle and overwhelm the flavors and lead to a really inconsistent experience. Some forkfuls will be better than others, so instead order it on the side, and scoop out a nice portion onto your fork between each bite. Yes, it’s a slight pain in the ass, but it’s going to allow you to control the amount of guacamole you get in each forkful, making each bite from first to last a wonderfully flavorful experience.
The Final Touch:
Once your bowl is built you need to walk to where Chipotle keeps the forks and napkins and add a dash of the green pepper tabasco sauce. A simple drizzle of this stuff is going to add just a touch more heat, and a smokey quality that is going to wrap all the flavors together harmoniously and make them downright mouthwatering.
Way more savory than you’d ever imagine a Chipotle bowl to be. Each forkful is spicy, smokey, earthy, and slightly sweet with mouthwatering aromatics that deliver half of the flavor before you even take your first bite. The barbacoa is juicy and tender with its clove and oregano notes combining with the spicy cumin-heavy pinto beans. By the time you get to the bottom of this bowl, your rice should be adequately soaked in that barbacoa juice, adding adobo and pepper notes to the rice and giving it a lingering sweet and meaty finish.
A forkful of guacamole before every bite will add some fresh citrus notes and more onion emphasis. I think this is even better than the burrito, when I order it I don’t even think about the tortilla.
The Best Tasting Keto Bowl
We’re going with a double serving of chicken here. Chicken is the only protein option on Chipotle’s menu that doesn’t include any carbs, aside from the Carnitas which just don’t taste good. Carnitas are delicious, but Chipotle’s are dry and stringy. The chicken can be a bit hit or miss, but it’s your best protein option if you’re trying to keep carbs low.
The steak, with one gram of carbs per serving, is also a great option, but ultimately we’re trying to keep this bowl at 16 grams of carbs total, so we have to make some sacrifices here.
Get them, a single serving is going to give you a whole five grams of carbs, but we promise it’s going to be worth it as the fajitas are going to add a lot of flavor and aromatics.
Chipotle’s guacamole will add an additional eight grams of carbs to your meal but considering it’s loaded with monounsaturated fats and a good amount of protein and fiber, it’s really one of the best things you can add to your bowl.
Get a light serving of tomatillo-red chili salsa. A little goes a long way with this spicy salsa and a half serving will only add two grams of carbs to your meal.
If 18 grams of carbs isn’t too much for you, get the sour cream, it’ll add some more fat and some tangy notes to the meal but I think this is an optional ingredient. We’re going to have plenty of flavor courtesy of the fajitas, guacamole, and salsa.
Add it, it’s giving us a lot of protein, and cheese just tastes great. Always. Cheese on everything!
What’s the damage?
Our burrito bowl, according to Chipotle’s nutrition calculator, is approximately 735 calories, with 44 grams of fat, 73 grams of protein, and just 16 grams of carbs. That’s a big and hearty meal and a relatively low carb count that should allow you to eat at least two more meals throughout the day.
I know, it looks f*cking boring but, welcome to keto, my friends. While it isn’t all that much to look at, the flavor should be dominated by a savory adobo zest, with some smokey roasted fajitas adding a sumptuous and elevated quality to the guacamole, all wrapped together with some nutty sweet salty cheese. The light serving of tomatillo salsa might not add much visually, but that spicy aftertaste it leaves on the palate is incredibly satisfying. with 73 grams of protein and 44 grams of fat, this bowl is going to fill you up, despite the fact that it looks a bit empty.
The Decadent Anything Goes Bowl
Garlic Guajillo Steak. It’s a limited-time protein option but it’s Chipotle’s spiciest and juiciest meat. When the Garlic Guajillo Steak window is closed, defer to the barbacoa.
Go with white for the same reason listed in our first build.
This is our Anything Goes bowl so go nuts and get half black beans and half pinto beans if you want to. I still think the pinto is a better option, but the main concept behind this bowl is to have everything you want, so long as it still results in a great-tasting bowl, so go nuts!
As we’ve said before, fajitas are one of Chipotle’s most flavorful additions. You get a lot of sweet and savory notes from the onions, and smokey peppery sweetness from the bell peppers, plus a great crunch, which you’re going to need in this wet and sloppy bowl.
Always the tomatillo-red! But in this case, we’re going to suggest you order it on the side. As I mentioned before, this is going to be a sloppy bowl, so you don’t need salsa in the mix making it even more of a mess. Getting it on the side will allow you to control the portioning much easier without getting messy.
Get it! We’re finally suggesting you get the damn sour cream, are you happy? It adds an extra layer of savory goodness and even though the rest of the ingredients muddle up that distinctive tang, it’s still there lurking in the aftertaste.
Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa
This bowl is going to be wet, the roasted chili-corn salsa is going to add some much-needed texture.
Cheese and Lettuce
Always. In fact, go heavy on the cheese, it’ll only make your bowl that much better. Once again, the lettuce is for texture.
Duh, guacamole is appearing in all three of our builds because, well, it’s f*cking guacamole. It’s a must. People have a tendency to complain that Chipotle charges for guacamole but where don’t they charge extra for guacamole?! If you’re getting guacamole and not charged for it, it’s probably some shitty guacamole.
I don’t suggest putting this in the bowl, but a side order of Chipotle’s queso blanco will make a good dip anytime you feel like you need some extra salt. The queso blanco here is made with aged white cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese, giving it a sharp and nutty quality. I get it on the side because I feel like it can become quickly overwhelming, but hey, if you want it on the bowl itself, go nuts!
The Final Touch:
Add that jalapeño tabasco! The smokiness is an underrated flavor quality and it makes Chipotle taste that much better. There is a reason they stock this stuff, why so many people ignore it is beyond comprehension!
Look at this thing, it’s got a little bit of everything! The bean combination provides a nice spicy and smokey backbone which compliments the roasted garlic and chili pepper kick of the Guajillo Steak. That combination plus the tomatillo red salsa makes each bite so spicy it’s downright drool-inducing, with the guacamole and sour cream balancing things out with a refreshing citrusy tang. Dip a forkful in the queso for a sharp and salty initial taste that makes the whole thing taste just a bit more decadent.
The Bottom Line:
Start with the best-tasting bowl and eat the other ones for curiosity’s sake. Our first recipe is guaranteed to be one of the most satisfyingly flavorful experiences you’ll ever have at Chipotle, and we didn’t even need a tortilla to get you there!
Find your nearest Chipotle here.