These Black Bean Buddha Bowls are a simple but sophisticated twist on classic black beans and rice. This satisfying vegan recipe is perfect for weeknight dinners or meal prep.
This recipe was originally published February 28, 2017. It was updated on July 23, 2019 with a revised recipe, new photos, additional content, and tips.
Despite being made with some of the humblest ingredients in your pantry, these Black Bean Buddha Bowls are totally crave-worthy. There is so much to love in this sweet little package:
- Spiced citrusy black beans made in just 30 minutes
- Tender roasted sweet potatoes
- Creamy avocado
- Fresh and tangy cilantro
We regularly turn to black beans for a quick (and cheap!) weeknight protein. The base of these vegan buddha bowls are a weeknight twist on this recipe for black beans from Simply Recipes. I adore beans cooked from scratch when I have the time, but time is most definitely a lacking commodity these days (who can I petition for 28-hour days?!?), so this weeknight version is what I use in a pinch.
What’s a Buddha Bowl?
From vegan to Whole30 and beyond, from Pinterest to Instagram, the ill-defined but ever-present Buddha bowl is, well, everywhere. But what is it exactly?
The not-so-precise but oh-so-satisfying answer is that it’s what you want it to be – little bits of this and that layered in a bowl to give you the most variety (and therefore the most nutrition) as possible in a single meal. Typically I make buddha bowls for two occasions: meal prep and “clean out the fridge” lunches or dinners.
Buddha bowls are typically composed of real, whole food ingredients, and you could simply define them as “delicious, clean ingredients in a bowl”, but there are some key features found in most:
- Some kind of grain, like quinoa or rice; or grain substitute, like cauliflower rice
- Some kind of protein, typically plant-based, but I’m seeing more and more paleo and Whole30 bowls emerging recently; you also can’t go wrong with a fried or poached egg
- A primary veggie (or two or three), typically roasted or grilled
- A variety of colorful toppings, for flavor and nutrition, also serving the dual purpose of looking beautiful (eat with your eyes, friends!)
- Optional: nuts or seeds for crunch and a sauce to tie it all together
Disclaimer: This section and the recipe card contain affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission (at no cost to you!) if you make a purchase using these links. Rest assured, we only endorse products we own and truly love!
- Dutch Oven, for cooking the black beans
- Baking Sheet, for roasting the sweet potatoes
- 2-Quart Saucepan, for cooking the quinoa
- Wide, low serving bowls: We like using pastas bowls for Buddha Bowls and love these ones from Crate and Barrel, but honestly, any bowl will work.
How to Make Black Bean Buddha Bowls
The star of these vegan buddha bowls are citrusy black beans. Layered with quinoa and roasted sweet potatoes then topped with avocado and cilantro, the end result is a nutrient-dense meal packed with flavor. These bowls are a satisfying, crave-worthy vegan meal and perfect for dinner or meal prep.
Dice a few sweet potatoes into one-inch cubes, then toss with olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, and salt. Roast the sweet potatoes until tender and caramelized.
While the sweet potatoes roast, prepare the citrusy black beans.
In a dutch oven, sautee a diced sweet onion until soft and translucent. Add some garlic and sautee until fragrant.
Then add some tomato paste, and the seasonings – chili powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, and a tiny pinch of cinnamon. You have some discretion with the heat level here, so if you prefer spicier beans, double the chili powder from one to two teaspoons. Stir until the spices are super fragrant and the tomato paste is worked into the onions.
Add two cans of undrained black beans, a diced bell pepper, and a half cup of (preferably fresh) orange juice. Stir it up, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer the beans until they’re thick and the peppers are cooked through – about 15 minutes. Stir the beans every few minutes so they don’t scald.
Note: YES, I said undrained black beans. The liquid in high-quality canned beans is just water and salt. After canning, the salt absorbs the starches from the beans, and becomes thick. Using canned beans along with their liquid will result in thicker, creamier black beans for this quick recipe. It’s not quite the same as scratch-cooked beans, but it’s pretty darn close.
The only downside here is sodium content – canned beans have a lot of salt, since it acts as a preservative. DO NOT salt your beans until they’ve been fully cooked. Taste for seasoning after, and if they need a bit more salt, add it then. Despite the name of this blog, I added zero salt to this recipe.
The finished beans will be thick and creamy. Turn off the heat and stir in another tablespoon of orange juice and a tablespoon of lime juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust with additional citrus and/or salt.
Layer the black beans into bowls along with the roasted potatoes and your grain of choice (I used quinoa, but white or brown rice is great too). Top with diced avocado, radish slices, and lots of fresh cilantro. For a non-vegan option, add a bit of queso fresco too.
Tips for Making This Recipe Perfectly
- This recipe calls for using canned black beans and their liquid – this isn’t a typo! The canning liquid contains starch, which will help thicken the beans and mimics the texture of scratch-cooked beans.
- Hold off on seasoning with salt until the very end – the canning liquid contains quite a bit of salt, so you likely won’t need to add any at all.
- Stir the beans frequently so they don’t scald.
- Need more spice? Use up to two teaspoons chili powder (any more will compete too much with the remaining flavors). If you need even more heat, add a minced jalapeno along with a portion of its seeds to the black beans, bell pepper, and orange juice.
- Garnish away! The topping really bring this bowl together, so use as many garnishes as you wish.
Garnishes and Toppings for Black Bean Buddha Bowls
- Diced avocado or guacamole
- Diced red onion or sliced green onions
- For crunch, radishes or pepitas
- Lots of cilantro
- For non-vegans, crumbled queso freso or cojita cheese, or a dollop of sour cream
More Vegan Recipes You’ll Love
- Cauliflower Shawarma Buddha Bowls
- Roasted Vegetable Salad with Green Tahini
- Black Lentils with Roasted Asparagus and Carrots
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
- Broccoli Quinoa Salad with Sunbutter Sauce
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- 2-quart Saucepan
Citrusy Black Beans
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 1 c quinoa
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 c water or broth
- green or red onion sliced or diced
- avocado diced
- radishes slices
- queso fresco crumbled
- cilantro chopped
- Roasted the sweet potatoes. Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, toss the diced sweet potatoes with the olive oil, salt, paprika and garlic powder. Spread the sweet potatoes evenly over the baking sheet. Transfer to the oven and roast for 35-45 minutes, tossing occasionally to ensure even browning.
- Make the citrus black beans. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the onions to the oil and sautee, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and sautee until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, chili powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, and pinch of cinnamon and work the spices and tomato paste into the onions and garlic until incorporated and fragrant.
- Add the black beans and their liquids, bell pepper, and orange juice to the pot and stir until all ingredients are well mixed. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed, the sauce is thick, and the bell peppers are soft. Stir in the reserved orange juice and lime juice. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste (canned black beans have a lot of salt, so you may not need any).
- While the black beans simmer, make the quinoa. Place the quinoa into a sieve, rinse with cooling running water until the water runs clear, then transfer into a 2-quart saucepan. Cover with 2 cups water or broth and add ½ tsp salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Turn off the heat, and keep covered an additional 10 minutes.
- Prepare additional garnishes while the quinoa and black beans simmer - slice onions and radishes, dice avocado, crumble the queso fresco, and chop the cilantro.
- Compose the black bean buddha bowls. Layer the cooked quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, and citrus black beans into bowls. Garnish to taste, and serve immediately.
- The nutrition calculation for this recipe incorporates the black beans, sweet potatoes and quinoa, plus 1/4 avocado and 1 tbsp cilantro per bowl.
- This recipe calls for using canned black beans and their liquid - this isn't a typo! The canning liquid contains starch, which will help thicken the beans and mimics the texture of scratch-cooked beans.
- Hold off on seasoning with salt until the very end - the canning liquid contains quite a bit of salt, so you likely won't need to add any at all.
- Need more spice? Use up to two teaspoons chili powder and/or add a minced jalapeno along with a portion of its seeds to the black beans in Step 3.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission (at no cost to you!) if you make a purchase using these links. Rest assured, we only endorse products we own and truly love!