Healthy Baja Bowl Recipe: Panera Copycat with Chicken

Avocado Baja Bowl Brown Rice Chicken Cilantro Lime copycat recipe dairy-free fiber Gluten-Free Grain Bowl healthy meal prep Mexican-inspired Panera protein Quinoa Salsa Verde

Posted October 3, 2023 by: Admin #Kitchen

If you’re a fan of Panera’s Baja bowl, you’re in for a treat with this homemade copycat recipe! This Baja bowl with chicken is a delicious combination of protein, fiber, and flavor. It’s versatile enough for dinner, lunch, or meal prep.

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Baja bowl with chicken in a white bowl on a wood plate with a fork and a bowl of black bean and corn salsa and bowl of salsa verde on the side.

This Baja bowl recipe draws inspiration from Panera’s grain bowl menu. Following the success of my Mediterranean grain bowls recipe, I couldn’t resist trying out the Baja bowl.

Surprisingly, these bowls are a breeze to prepare at home. While the ingredient list may seem long, the process is relatively straightforward. If you prefer a shortcut, you can use store-bought rice and quinoa blend and canned corn salsa.

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No matter how you choose to make them, these Baja bowls with chicken are a satisfying and nutritious meal, rich in protein and fiber, sure to please the whole family.

Overhead view of bowl with grains, grilled chicken, black bean and corn salsa, cherry tomatoes, avocado, Greek yogurt, salsa verde, and fresh cilantro.

Understanding the Baja Bowl

A Baja bowl takes its inspiration from Mexican cuisine and is a popular offering at Panera restaurants. It comprises a mixture of rice and quinoa, grilled chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, tomatoes, yogurt, and salsa verde.

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This recipe offers a simplified take on the beloved restaurant dish.

White bowl filled with cooked cilantro lime brown rice and quinoa.

Ingredients & Substitutions for Baja Bowls

To recreate the copycat Panera Baja grain bowl, gather the following ingredients:

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  • Brown Rice – You can use white rice for the cilantro lime grain mixture if you prefer.
  • Quinoa – White quinoa is used in this recipe, but any variety will work.
  • Lime – Lime juice and zest add zing to the grain mixture.
  • Coriander – Provides flavor to the rice and quinoa.
  • Fresh Cilantro – Enhances the grains and completes the bowls.
  • Chicken – Adds protein to the dish.
  • Black Beans – Canned beans are suitable for the corn and black bean salad.
  • Corn – Frozen or canned corn can be used.
  • Tomatoes – Choose grape tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or chop up whole tomatoes.
  • Avocado – Incorporates healthy fats. Guacamole is an alternative if ripe avocados are unavailable.
  • Salsa Verde – Adds spice and flavor. Any salsa of your choice can be substituted if salsa verde isn’t available.
  • Greek Yogurt – Balances the spiciness of salsa and provides extra protein and healthy fats. Sour cream can also be used.

Although it’s not included in the original recipe, you can sprinkle Cotija or feta cheese on top for additional protein and flavor.

Dietary Modifications

To make these bowls gluten-free, no adaptations are necessary; they are naturally gluten-free.

For a dairy-free version, simply omit the Greek yogurt.

White bowl of black bean and corn salsa on a wood cutting board with an avocado and salsa verde on the side.

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Preparing the Panera Baja Bowl

Here’s how you can make the Panera Baja grain bowls with chicken at home:

  • Cook the grains. Combine brown rice, water, lime zest, lime juice, and ground coriander in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
  • Add quinoa. After 25 minutes, stir in the quinoa, cover, and continue to cook on low-medium heat for 15 minutes until fully cooked and fluffable with a fork.
  • Grill the chicken. Generously season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then grill for 5-6 minutes per side or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Allow them to rest for 5 minutes before slicing into thinstrips or cubes.
  • Prepare the salsa. In a medium bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, garlic powder, paprika, ground cumin, and a pinch of salt. Add black beans and corn, tossing to coat. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Assemble the bowls. Divide the cooked quinoa and rice mixture among four bowls. Top with grilled chicken, black bean and corn salsa, tomatoes, avocado, a dollop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of salsa verde, chopped cilantro, and a lime wedge.

Detailed step-by-step instructions are available in the recipe card below.

Nutrition Tip

For a time-saving option, look for pre-cooked brown rice and quinoa mixtures in the grocery store. Often, these are available in the grain aisle, near microwaveable rice, for a quick and convenient meal solution.

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Overhead view of two chicken Baja grain bowls with lime wedges on the side.

Choosing the Best Chicken for Baja Bowls

The recipe specifies salt and pepper grilled chicken breasts, but you have the flexibility to use any sliced chicken of your choice. For added flavor, consider options like cilantro lime chicken, lemon pepper chicken, or lemon garlic chicken thighs.

Can Baja Bowls Be Prepared in Advance?

Absolutely! Baja grain bowls stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, making them an excellent choice for prepping ahead of time and enjoying quick and easy lunches for several days.

Close up of a copycat Panera Baja chicken bowl.

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Storage and Reheating

To store, assemble the bowls and place them in airtight containers in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. Alternatively, prepare all components separately and store them in airtight containers for up to 4 days. Assemble the bowls when ready to eat. Note that the black bean and corn salsa should not be frozen.

For reheating, warm the rice and quinoa mixture and chicken in the microwave for 1-2 minutes if you prefer to eat the bowls warm. Other components should be consumed cold.

Baja Bowl with Chicken

These copycat Panera Baja bowls with chicken are easy to make and packed full of protein and fiber. Enjoy them for dinner or prepare them ahead for healthy homemade lunches.

Ingredients

Cilantro Lime Brown Rice and Quinoa:

  • 1 cup raw brown rice
  • 1/2 cup raw quinoa
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced

Chicken:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Black Bean and Corn Salsa:

  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, strained and rinsed
  • 1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt

To Serve:

  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup salsa verde
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Instructions

  • In a small pot or saucepan, combine brown rice, 3 cups of water, lime zest, juice of one lime, and ground coriander. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes.
  • After 25 minutes, add quinoa, stir to combine with the brown rice, cover, and continue to cook on low-medium heat for 15 minutes or until cooked and can be fluffed with a fork.
  • While the grain mixture is cooking, prepare the chicken. Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and season them generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • In a grill pan or cast-iron skillet on medium-high heat, warm the olive oil, then add the seasoned chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes per side until cooked through or they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. Once cooked, remove them from the pan and set aside for at least 5 minutes before slicing them into thin strips or cubes.
  • While the chicken is cooking, prepare the black bean and corn salsa. In a medium bowl, add the olive oil, lime juice, garlic powder, paprika, ground cumin, and a pinch of salt and whisk until well combined. Add the strainedand rinsed black beans and corn and toss until well coated in the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
  • Once the grain mixture and chicken are ready, assemble the bowls. Split the cooked quinoa and rice mixture evenly across four bowls, then top with grilled chicken, black bean and corn salsa, tomatoes, avocado, a dollop of Greek yogurt, a drizzle of salsa verde, a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, and a wedge of lime.
  • These bowls can be served immediately or stored in the fridge for up to 4 days. If making them ahead of time, it is best to wait and add the avocado, Greek yogurt, and salsa verde when you are ready to serve.

Notes

Although the recipe does not call for it, as it’s not part of the original Panera version, a sprinkle of Cotija cheese or feta cheese on top would be a delicious addition!

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Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 bowl
  • Calories: 664 calories
  • Sugar: 5 grams
  • Fat: 23 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 82 grams
  • Fiber: 15 grams
  • Protein: 36 grams

NEXT: Authentic jambalaya recipe

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