Back-to-school season comes with a whole host of scheduling-related panic—when is drama class again? Are we traveling to see family this Friday or next? Did we forget to make that 100th-day of school shirt with the rainbow pompoms and decal-ed initial? I love a bustling week, but honestly, it’s a wonder we manage to feed ourselves at times. So I’ll always welcome an excuse to keep things simple in the kitchen, as long as there’s no sacrifice in tastiness!
Though my family now lives in the Midwest, there was a short time in our marriage when my husband and I lived in Texas, with all its accompanying culinary luxuries, like fresh tortillas at the grocery store and burritos bursting with fresh ingredients. I’ll always think of burritos as the ultimate convenience food. When things get to be a little, shall we say, hectic, I’ll put aside an hour on a Sunday or during a rainy afternoon to make a batch of freezer burritos to make life easier on my future self. These veggie burritos, with pinto beans, cheese, salsa, and cilantro-lime brown rice, aren’t quite a substitute for our favorite South Austin taquerias, but they’ll do in a pinch.
Since my husband and I both work from home, we like to keep these vegetarian freezer burritos on hand for a quick lunch. Sometimes they come in handy in the evenings, too, when it’s easier to heat the oven and go. They’re tasty and satisfying, with a great balance of flavors that somehow remain fresh, even through a few weeks languishing in the freezer. With a quick salad or a side of tortilla chips and salsa, a vegetarian freezer burrito hits the spot on a busy weeknight.
Personally, we like brown rice in our freezer burritos, because it adds great texture. And it tends to keep us fuller, which is a bonus when we’re running around so much. The cheese gets perfectly melty after reheating, lending that creamy-salty flavor to balance out the tartness of the cilantro-lime rice and the bright salsa. The mashed beans are my secret ingredient—savory and rich, yet healthful and incredibly simple to whip together. They’re the perfect base for all the other ingredients, creating a barrier between the tortilla and the rest of the toppings.
Of course, there’s no rulebook for a burrito (that’s what makes them so fun!). You might want to venture off the beaten burrito path. Here are some customizations you can add, if you’re looking for a new spin:
- Cook up some ground meat with taco seasoning, tofu scramble, or soyrizo to add heft and flavor. If you love seafood, add some frozen fried shrimp or fish sticks. They’ll reheat along with the rest of the ingredients and require zero additional cooking.
- Substitute crushed tomatoes for salsa, for a milder flavor.
- Use white rice for a faster take (it cooks faster than brown rice!). You could even use microwave minute rice.
- Get adventurous with your salsa! You could go spicy or lean towards a fruit-forward flavor, like a pineapple-mango salsa for a tropical touch. Tomatillo salsa also goes nicely with these lime-y flavors.
- I choose the larger size of tortillas for a more filling take, though you can use smaller fajita-style tortillas if you’re looking to make snack-sized portions. Just adjust your ingredient ratios accordingly! Take your tortillas out of the fridge to allow them to come to room temperature. The warmth from the other ingredients will soften the tortillas enough to roll.
- To maximize time, I start cooking the rice first, then the beans. Lastly, you can assemble your prep station on a large cutting board, with a roll of aluminum nearby for easy rolling. You could even make an efficient assembly line if you have willing helpers. Once you’ve finished rolling all your burritos, stick them in a large zip top bag, labeled with the date, contents, and heating instructions. These freezer burritos are best used within 3 months.
- Reheat these in the microwave or oven, depending on how many burritos you hope to eat, and how much time you have at your disposal. If you’re reheating them in the oven, you can also toss in some tortilla chips with grated cheese on top of another cooking sheet, for a quickie nacho side dish.
- Serve the warm burritos with guacamole, sour cream, and more salsa, if you wish. Leftovers go great in a school lunch!
Freezer burritos are uniquely kid-friendly, especially for teens who just need an after-school snack and can’t wait for dinner. So why not get them involved in the cooking process? Bonus: if you have multiple kids, they can fully customize their burritos with their favorite balance of ingredients (just be sure to label them to minimize discord).
Younger kids will enjoy mashing the beans, especially if you transfer them to a bowl to avoid heat from the stovetop. Mixing the cilantro-lime rice is always a fun option. And of course, they’ll be pros at assembling the burritos themselves, following an easy formula that’s basically foolproof. And who doesn’t like wrapping up the burritos in crinkly aluminum foil, for some extra fun?
The beauty of freezer burritos is that they are incredibly low maintenance and versatile. You can set up the burrito rolling station as the rice cooks and the warm rice will soften the tortillas, making them easier to roll. This is a great activity to do with kids on a rainy day and also makes future mealtimes a cinch.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups long-grain brown rice
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves, packed
- 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 to 4 dashes Tabasco, to taste
- 12 medium tortillas, at room temperature
- 7 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 15 ounces jarred salsa, divided
- Sour cream, for serving
- Guacamole, for serving
Make the rice:
- Toast the rice and cook:
Heat the olive oil on medium heat in a medium lidded pot. Add the brown rice and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, until coated with the oil and toasty.
Add 4 cups of water and salt, cover the pot with the lid, and reduce the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 40 to 45 minutes until the rice is tender.
- Flavor the rice:
To the cooked rice, stir in the lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro, fluffing with a fork as you go.
Make the beans:
- Cook the beans:
While the rice cooks, to a medium pot add the drained beans, 1 cup water, garlic powder, and salt, then bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Once the beans are simmering, turn down the heat to low and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
- Add the Tabasco and mash:
Turn the heat off, add the Tabasco sauce, and gently mash the beans with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, leaving some beans whole for the best texture.
Assemble the freezer burritos:
- Gather everything you need to assemble the burritos:
You’ll need the cooked rice, mashed beans, tortillas, cheese, salsa (set aside about half of it for serving), a large spoon, and aluminum foil for wrapping the burritos.
- Fill the burrito:
Lay a tortilla flat on a clean surface. To the bottom third, about 2 inches away from the outer edges, layer 2 tablespoons mashed beans, 3 tablespoons rice, 1 tablespoon salsa, and 2 tablespoons cheese.
- Roll and wrap the burrito:
Tuck the right and left sides of the burritos in and roll tightly from the bottom towards the top, making sure that no stray ingredients escape.
Wrap the burritos in aluminum foil. Label it with today’s date. Fill, roll, and wrap the remaining burritos just like this.
If you want to eat your burritos right away, remove the foil, and give them a quick 20-second zap in the microwave or toast both sides on a skillet.
Place the wrapped burritos in a zip top bag, seal tightly, and place them in the freezer where they will keep for about 3 months.
How to reheat the burritos:
In the microwave: Unwrap your freezer burrito from the foil and place on a plate. Microwave for 2 minutes 30 seconds, until heated all the way through. I’d recommend reheating them one at a time. The cook time depends on your microwave’s power. Be sure to let them cool slightly before eating—nothing more punishing than the fiery interior of a microwaved burrito. Top with more salsa, sour cream, or guacamole.
In the oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Keep the frozen burritos wrapped in the foil, and place them on a baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes, until warmed through.
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