Help, All I Know How to Make is Spaghetti: Burrito Bowls


I considered naming this column ‘How to Stay Alive While Living Out of Home’, with this segment in particular being called, ‘The Culinary Edition’. However, a reflection upon the three years that I’ve been responsible for my own diet yielded an unsettling discovery: that all I know how to make is spaghetti. So, I wouldn’t really call myself an authority, which is what the original title would suggest. Hence the less incriminating, and thoroughly more accurate, alternative.

It’s not like I’ve been living on just spaghetti for that long though. There’s been the occasional experiment, the cheeky gustatory delight – the fanciest of which is salmon steak with sides of roast potatoes, steamed broccoli, and Mediterranean chickpea salad (purchased pre-made from Woolies).

That aside, and this being the inaugural piece of a series that I hope will not only enlighten you, my dear readers, but myself as well, I thought had better wow you with something unequivocally foolproof. That something is a burrito bowl.

A burrito bowl isn’t technically a burrito, which is defined as “a large, wheat flour tortilla wrapped around a number of ingredients”. So, burrito bowls have swapped out literally the only compulsory ingredient in favour of a good ol’ bowl. Nonetheless, it redeems itself by retaining all of the original dish’s nutritional and gustatory goodness.

The word “burrito” is derived from the Spanish “burro”, meaning “donkey”. The diminutive suffix “-ito” thus renders “burrito” the translation of “little donkey”. Why it’s called a little donkey is unknown – in fact, the origin of this iconic Mexican dish is largely obscured.

One story suggests that in the 19th century, the cowboys of northern Mexico had to find some way of preserving food on long journeys across the arid landscape. The corn tortillas used to contain various fillings would harden and dry too quickly, so they wrapped them in wheat flour tortillas instead. They would keep these food items in their saddlebags, which led to them being seen as their horses’ sidekicks. And what is a horse’s sidekick? A donkey. “Burrito” thus became a term of endearment for their little sidekick sustenance superstars.

As for today’s burrito bowl, this baby can withstand the toughest convictions of the most unshakeable vegans, vegetarians, meat-munchers, weight watchers, cheapskates (read: students) and of course those that hold no convictions at all besides the one to simply stay alive. Thus, without further ado:

The Unequivocally Foolproof Burrito Bowl
for four serves

Bare basics

3 cups of cooked rice (brown rice, white rice, quinoa, or even cauliflower rice)
2 x 400g cans of black beans
1 x 375g jar of Old El Paso Thick & Chunky salsa
1 tsp of ground cumin
1 tsp of garlic powder
½ tsp of salt
Cheddar cheese, shredded, the amount of which I have no authority to prescribe


400g of pulled pork, chicken breast, minced beef, or your meat of choice seasoned to your liking
2 x 400g cans of corn kernels
Iceberg lettuce, shredded
Avocado, if you’re rich


  1. Cook the rice according to the package directions – or, if you are buying microwaveable rice, nuke the buggers.
  2. While the rice is cooking, heat the black beans (undrained) in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin, garlic powder and salt. Look out for it to start bubbling around the edges, but don’t let it boil.
  3. Once the rice is cooked and the beans are seasoned, build the bowls. Quarter the cooked rice and black beans into bowls and/or containers. Add salsa and cheese to your liking.

These burrito bowls have the potential of becoming real gourmet staples with garnishes of lime, chopped green onions, and/or cilantro. But you can save those for when people are watching.


Natasha Hau studies a combined Bachelors in Communications and International Studies, plus a Diploma in Languages. She likes grammar a lot, which explains why she's still studying German.