Our black bean and rice bake is the perfect vegetarian comfort food dinner – it’s packed with nutrients and tons of flavor in every bite! This recipe will become your new favorite meatless meal in no time.Jump to Recipe
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A while back, Alex won a free trial of Purple Carrot, so we tried out the plant-based meal subscription service and were surprised by how much we liked the vegan recipes. One dish in particular captivated our taste buds: the Black Bean and Rice Bake. We knew we had to recreate it without relying on special ingredients from the delivery service, so we’ve spent the last year perfecting our own recipe.
This vegetarian adaptation of the Purple Carrot Black Bean Rice Bake has been our easy, go-to weeknight dinner for a while now. After many attempts at testing different veggies, seasonings, and cheeses to put our own twist on the recipe, we found the perfect balance between healthy, comforting, and satisfying by introducing a few of our favorite spices – and a little bit of cheese. While this recipe is no longer vegan, it’s still vegetarian and packs a whole lot of nutrition into a low-calorie dinner.
What Goes In Black Bean and Rice Bake?
This simple rice and bean bake recipe is a fusion of flavorful ingredients. Thai Jasmine rice and Mexican produce might sound like an odd pair, but trust us – it’s delicious! With tons of nutritional value and relatively affordable ingredients, our vegetarian black bean and rice casserole is the perfect healthy, satisfying dinner on a budget.
Here’s exactly what goes into our vegetarian rice and bean bake:
- Jasmine rice – Jasmine rice has tons of flavor and health benefits, so it’s a no-brainer for this nutritious rice and bean bake. Plus, it crisps nicely in cast iron for the perfect golden-brown crunch!
- Pasilla or poblano pepper – Thin strips of this relatively mild green pepper add some Mexican flair to this dish, along with a number of antioxidants and vitamins.
- Jalapeno pepper – Much like the pasilla pepper, jalapenos spice up this dish while providing extra nutrients.
- Roma tomato – Fresh tomatoes add both juiciness and sweetness to this otherwise spicy dish. These flavors balance out nicely as everything bakes in the oven.
- Canned black beans – For convenience and ease of preparation, simply drain a can of black beans and rinse them in a mesh strainer before adding to your bean bake. Black beans are a great source of protein, plus they’re pretty cheap!
- Seasonings – This recipe has tons of fresh flavor just from the peppers, rice, and beans, so you don’t want to drown it in seasonings. That’s why we use just a dash of garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, and salt for a subtle hint of spice.
- Mexican-blend cheese – We all know cheese tastes great on rice and beans! A blend of cheddar and Monterey jack adds mild flavor and puts some moisture back into the rice as it melts.
- Avocado – Top your rice and bean bake with ripe avocado slices for a burst of freshness and creamy texture in every bite! Avocado really makes this dish pop. Plus, like most of the ingredients in this bean bake, they provide tons of nutrients and health benefits.
How To Make Black Bean and Rice Bake
This recipe is not hard to make and only takes about 40 minutes, with 10 minutes of that being completely hands-off. That’s why it’s one of our go-to weeknight dinners when we’re craving something healthy yet satisfying, and easy!
Here’s what you’ll need to make rice and bean bake:
- A saucepan for steaming the rice.
- A large cast iron pan, or other oven-safe frying pan, for cooking.
Since it’s a rice and bean bake, you’ll need a pan that can cook on the stovetop but also in the oven. We have this awesome 2-in-1 cast iron set that works perfectly for recipes like this one, especially since we can use the small side for a single batch of bean bake, or the large side for a double batch.
Here’s how to make this healthy vegetarian dinner:
- Steam the rice in a covered saucepan.
- While the rice cooks, start prepping your veggies. Slice the pasilla pepper into small, thin strips and dice the jalapeno and tomato.
- Drain and rinse your canned black beans and set aside.
- Preheat oil in your cast iron pan for a few minutes, then add minced garlic along with the pasilla pepper and jalapeno. Cook until the peppers are slightly softened (just a few minutes) before adding the tomatoes and black beans. Season with cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, and salt and cook until the beans are softened and the tomatoes are juicy.
- Transfer the black beans and veggies to a bowl and set aside, scraping as much as you can out of the pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and return the pan to the stove. Add more cooking oil, then add the cooked rice to the pan.
- Press the rice into the bottom and edges of the pan and let it sit for a few minutes to crisp. You’ll hear it start to crackle and it might get smoky – just turn on your vent hood and don’t touch it! After a few minutes, turn the rice over with a spatula and then press it down into the bottom and edges of the pan once again. Repeat this process a few times, letting the rice get crispy against the hot cast iron before fluffing and stirring, until the rice is a light golden brown. Then remove the pan from heat and press the rice into the bottom and edges of the pan once again, creating a wide well for your toppings.
- Sprinkle the cheese evenly into the well on top of the rice. Then top with the cooked black beans and veggies.
- Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes to let all the flavors infuse into the rice.
- Top rice and bean bake with fresh avocado slices before serving.
We like to serve this dinner family-style and bring the cast iron pan right to the table. One batch will make about 3 servings, which is the perfect amount of food for two hungry people – or two average people who want one meal leftover for lunch the next day!
Notes On Scaling
If you’d like to double this recipe, we recommend making a few minor adjustments:
- Use an extra-deep or extra-wide pan for a double batch so there’s plenty of room for everything. The larger side of this 2-in-1 cast iron set works great.
- If you’d like to have a bit more of the black bean filling and less rice, you can 1.5x the rice for a double batch of beans and veggies. This will also make it easier to get that nice “bowl” of rice on the inside of the pan to encompass the filling, depending on the size and shape of your pan.
- Depending on if your pan is extra wide or extra deep, you may or may not want to increase the amount of cheese. If your pan has a 10-inch diameter, you won’t need more cheese – you simply want a thin layer on top of the rice. But if your pan is much wider, use extra cheese as desired to top the whole bed of rice.
Rice and Bean Bake Customizations
Although we recommend sticking to our tried-and-true recipe below for the best chance of success, it’s easy to customize any rice and bean bake to your liking! Here are a few tips for making this dish your own:
- Try a different kind of rice, if you prefer brown or basmati over jasmine. Note that each type of rice has its own set of nutritional benefits, so choose one that fits your needs.
- You can easily substitute the pasilla and jalapeno peppers with other chili peppers if desired. However, substituting with something milder like bell pepper will yield a very different flavor profile in this dish.
- The mild flavor of shredded Mexican-blend cheese complements the rice, beans, peppers, and tomatoes nicely, but you can always substitute with cheddar, mozzarella, or pepper jack if desired.
- For a dairy-free dish, you can skip the cheese entirely or opt for vegan cashew cheese instead.
- If you love spice, you can drizzle some of your favorite hot sauce on this black bean and rice bake before eating. Just don’t skip the avocado topping – it’s the best part of this dish 🙂
Our black bean and rice bake is one of those rare healthy comfort food dishes. A spoonful of crispy rice and a little gooey cheese balanced out by spicy black beans, veggies, and creamy avocado is just so satisfying. It’s warm, it’s healthy, and it’s cheap – so it’s the perfect staple dinner recipe for anyone trying to eat less meat and spend less on groceries without sacrificing on flavor. Try the recipe below and don’t forget to rate, comment, and share if you enjoy it. We’d love to hear what you think!
Love this recipe? You may enjoy these recipes, too:
- Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas
- Chili Lime Chicken Burrito Bowls
- Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
- Spicy Chorizo Stuffed Bell Peppers
Black Bean and Rice Bake
- 1 cup jasmine rice dry
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp vegetable or avocado oil divided
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 medium jalapeno pepper diced
- 1 medium poblano (pasilla) pepper sliced thin and into 2-inch long strips
- 1 medium roma tomato diced
- 15 oz canned black beans drained and rinsed
- ¼ tsp ground red cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp cumin
- 1 pinch salt
- ⅓ cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese
- 1 small avocado sliced
- First, make the rice. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan and stir in jasmine rice. Cover and cook over low heat until the water has evaporated and rice is fluffy, about 20 minutes.
- While the rice is cooking, prepare the black beans and veggies. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic, jalapeno, and pasilla/poblano peppers and sauté until peppers are slightly softened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Next, add the tomatoes and black beans. Season with cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, and salt and cook until beans are slightly softened and tomato juices have started to come out, about 3 to 5 minutes. Then transfer black beans and veggies to a bowl and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Return the cast iron pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tbsp oil, carefully swirling it around to coat the inside of the pan.
- Add the cooked rice to the cast iron pan. Spread it out into an even layer and gently press down on it with your spatula. Let it crisp until lightly golden on the bottom, about 3 to 5 minutes, then stir and press down into an even layer again. Let it crisp one more time, about 3 to 5 minutes, until golden. Then stir again, and press down into the bottom of the pan and around the edges to create a wide, shallow well for the beans and veggies.
- Remove the cast iron pan from heat. Sprinkle shredded cheese evenly over the rice, then top with the black beans and veggies. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes to let the flavors combine.
- Serve hot, topped with avocado slices and an optional garnish of chopped cilantro.