When I find myself craving a light and healthy yet delicious and filling meal, I typically head to my local Panera Bread for one of their Baja Grain Bowls.
Now that I have concocted my version of this simple and balanced dish, I head to my own kitchen to have a guilt-free experience of this meal.
The combination of protein, complex carbohydrates and nutrient dense veggies will keep you feeling satisfied and energized.
The explosion of flavors you get from the homemade salsa verde and pickled red onions will have you craving this bowl over and over again!
This copycat Panera baja bowl recipe is an essential weekday or weeknight meal.
Can a bowl that comes together so effortlessly be so flavorful, satisfying and balanced? Try it yourself to see that it absolutely can!
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
½ tsp paprika
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cooked rice
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup black beans
1 cup corn
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 avocado, sliced
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper
Pickled Red Onions
1 large red onion
¾ cup vinegar
¼ cup water
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
3 medium tomatillos
1 poblano pepper
3 cloves garlic
½ white onion
½ cup cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 lime, juiced
As the title of this recipe suggests, the grain is an essential part of the bowl. That being said, feel free to use whatever you have available in your pantry.
Anything will work! I’ve tried this recipe with farro, brown rice, short grain rice, quinoa and barley and it has come out exceptionally delicious.
I do suggest using more than one grain to have a variety of texture and flavor. You can also serve the grains warm or chilled depending on what you’re craving!
This flavorful salsa verde is the key ingredient that beautifully brings this bowl together.
One of the best things about it is that it can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for 4-5 days in a sealed container.
You can also customize the recipe to add more or less spice to the salsa. Simply add an additional jalapeno or a spicier pepper such as
serranos. Short on time? Don’t fret, your local grocery store will certainly have a variety of pre-made options!
Pickled Red Onions
These pickled red onions are the vibrant pop of flavor that your bowls have been missing!
They’re tangy, sweet and crunchy. They require very minimal ingredients and time but add an irresistible dimension to this dish. They will last in the fridge for 2-3 weeks in a sealed container.
I chose to use chicken thighs for this recipe because I find it to be far juicier than chicken breast.
It has a much lower chance of drying out in the cooking process. That being said, any protein of your choice would taste great in combination with this versatile bowl.
Feel free to use fresh, canned or frozen beans and corn. Charr grilled corn would be a great alternative to add another dimension of flavor to the bowl.
Start by seasoning the chicken with paprika, salt and pepper. Let it rest in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.
In the meantime, you can begin cooking your rice and quinoa. Once cooked through, mix the two grains together.
Now we’ll quick-pickle some red onions. This simple yet complex ingredient will elevate your bowl in ways you would not expect.
Heat the vinegar, water, sea salt and sugar until it comes to a gentle simmer. I typically use white vinegar but apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar will work just fine.
Thinly slice the red onion, place it in a jar and cover with the vinegar mixture. Once the onions have marinated and cooled for about one hour, it will be ready for use.
Peel, rinse and halve the tomatillos. On a lined baking sheet, roast the tomatillos, poblano pepper, jalapenos, onion and unpeeled garlic cloves in a 400 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. You want everything to become soft and develop some color.
Place the peppers in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once the peppers have cooled, peel off the charred skin, remove the stems and seeds.
Add the tomatillos, peppers, peeled garlic, onion, cilantro, salt and lime juice to a blender and blend until combined and smooth. This salsa can be stored in the fridge for a few days in a sealed container.
Remove chicken thighs from the refrigerator. Heat olive oil in a cast iron pan on high heat.
Cook the chicken on each side for 5-7 minutes or until it has browned to your liking and the interior has cooked thoroughly. Slice the chicken lengthwise into half inch pieces.
Now is time for the best part of this recipe, assembling your bowl! Start by placing a layer of grains on the bottom of each bowl.
Top with corn, beans, avocado, tomatoes and chicken. Add a dollop of greek yogurt to the center.
Finish off by garnishing with pickled red onions, crumbled feta and a drizzle of salsa verde over the entire bowl.
Greek Yogurt Substitute
While I have found that plain Greek yogurt works really well in this bowl, sour cream, creme fraiche and coconut yogurt are also great substitutes.
Make It Vegan
For a vegan version of this recipe try substituting the protein with seasoned oyster mushrooms browned on a cast iron pan.
This will make for an incredible savory alternative. Substitute the yogurt with a plant based yogurt and simply omit the feta cheese.
Make it Keto
For a keto version of this recipe use only low carb grains such as quinoa and millet.
- 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup cooked rice
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 cup black beans
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1 avocado, sliced
- ¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 avocado, sliced
- ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
- Salt and pepper
- Pickled Red Onions
- 1 large red onion
- ¾ cup vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3 medium tomatillos
- 1 poblano pepper
- 2 jalapenos
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ white onion
- ½ cup cilantro
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 lime, juiced
1. Season chicken and rest for 2 hours. Cook rice and quinoa. Once cool, combine the grains.
2.Pickled Red Onions: heat vinegar, water, sea salt and sugar until it comes to a gentle simmer and pour over a jar of thinly sliced red onions.
3. Salsa Verde: roast halved tomatillos, poblano pepper, jalapenos, onion and unpeeled garlic cloves in a 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Peel off skin and remove stems and seed from the peppers. Add tomatillos, peppers, peeled garlic, onion, cilantro, salt and lime juice to a blender and blend until combined and smooth.
4. Sear chicken on a hot cast iron pan for 5-7 minutes on each side or until you’ve achieved desired color. Slice chicken.
5. Assemble bowl. Begin with ½ cup of grains on the bottom of the and top with corn, beans, avocado, tomatoes and chicken. Add a dollop of greek yogurt to the center. Garnish with pickled red onions, crumbled feta and a drizzle of salsa verde over the entire bowl.
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nanny do it, no judgment here :)) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.