Mexican Couscous Bowl

One pot, 20 minutes, and made almost entirely from pantry staples, this quick and easy Mexican Couscous Bowl is the perfect comfort food.  Filled with beans and plantains, it’s packed full of fiber, protein, and bold Mexican flavors.

overhead view showing a couscous bowl with mango, avocado, pulled pork, and limes.

Do you like super quick dinners that you can cook in one pot?  Because I sure do.  And I’m excited to bring one of my favorites to you today — this Mexican couscous bowl.

Some version of this has been in our dinner rotation for years now.  I used to make it at least once a month during my 4 years of long-distance marriage.

Super easy, vegetarian, filling, and makes a ton of leftovers.

Here’s what I love so much about a Mexican couscous bowl: other than the plantains, everything in here is something you can easily store in your pantry.

(And you can even store sliced, uncooked plantains in the freezer, so you can pull out a bag in a snap.)

This whole dinner comes together in 20 minutes.  It’s packed full of fiber, protein, and bold Mexican flavors.

Easy, delicious, and healthy – count me in!

view of pulled pork and diced mango piled high on a couscous bowl.

Ingredients and Toppings

As far as the pantry staples go, the list may look a little long, but I promise, the recipe is simple! You’ll need the following:

  • Olive Oil
  • Honey
  • Canned Diced Green Chilies
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Frozen Corn
  • Beans (pinto, kidney, and/or black beans all work well!)
  • Chili Powder
  • Paprika
  • Cumin
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Couscous (regular or whole wheat)

As far as things you may need to purchase, add the following to your grocery list:

  • Plantains
  • Red Onion
  • Orange
  • Lime
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Shredded Mexican Cheese

All easy ingredients that combine together into one power-packed delicious Mexican couscous bowl.

And of course, like any good “bowl” dinner — don’t forget the toppings!

We like ours with diced mango, sliced avocado, and if I have some in the freezer, some of my favorite slow cooker BBQ pulled pork.

couscous cooked with corn and beans in a saute pan.

Pan Fried Plantains

This easy one-pot recipe starts by pan-searing plantains. Plantains may not be something you’ve cooked with frequently, so let’s start with a little information about them!

Plantains are similar to a banana, but they are much starchier and less sweet when unripe. However, as plantains ripen, the starches gradually convert into sugars. This process takes much longer than it does for a banana, and you want the plantain to be ripe. A truly ripe plantain, like you want to use for this recipe, is very very dark brown – practically black, and it can take weeks to ripen to this level!

When we cook these plantains, we’re relying on the Maillard reaction for browning and flavor development. What is this, and how does it work? It’s time for my favorite subject… kitchen chemistry!

Kitchen Chemistry

The Maillard reaction is a chemical reaction that occurs between amino acids (proteins) and reducing sugars (glucose and fructose) in the presence of high heat. This reaction produces a range of flavorful compounds, including melanoidins, which give the plantains a golden-brown color and create a rich, nutty taste.

As the Maillard reaction is happening, the plantains also undergo caramelization, which is the breakdown of these sugars at higher temperatures, leading to the formation of caramel compounds. The high heat and direct contact with the surface of the pan (don’t crowd the plantains!) enable the plantains to develop that golden-brown exterior and sweet, tender interior.

one bowl couscous with mexican flavors in colorful bowls.
  • Large Saute Pan: Use a large heavy-bottomed saute pan with a lid to make this couscous bowl.
  • Chef Knife: A sharp chef knife is essential for slicing the plantains (and mangos for topping!).
  • Citrus Juicer: This handheld citrus juice makes squeezing your limes a breeze!
colorful bowls filled with mangos, limes, and avocado.

Tips and Tricks for the Best Mexican Couscous Bowl

  1. Wait for Plantains to Ripen: Choose ripe (black!) but firm plantains. Peel them (use a knife to cut slice open the peel) and slice the plantains just before cooking to prevent oxidation.
  2. Perfectly Fluffy Couscous: To achieve perfectly fluffy couscous, fluff it with a fork after the resting period. This prevents clumps and ensures each grain is separate and tender.
  3. Customizable Spice Level: Adjust the cumin and chili powder to your preference. Want it spicier? Add more!
  4. Make it Creamy: If you prefer a creamier texture, stir in a tablespoon or two of Greek yogurt or sour cream just before serving.
  5. Add Garnishes: The toppings are always the best part, right?! Try some sliced avocado, mango, pulled chicken or pulled pork, crumbled feta, picked jalapenos or red onions – the options are endless!
  6. Batch Cooking: This recipe is excellent for batch cooking or meal prep. Double the ingredients and store leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

More Easy Vegetarian Dinners:

Mexican Couscous Bowl

Mexican Couscous Bowl

Yield: Serves 6
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Filled with beans and plantains, this Mexican Couscous Bowl is packed full of fiber, protein, and bold Mexican flavors.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into 3/4-inch thick rounds
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 can diced green chilies
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 can black beans or kidney beans, drained
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika (smoked paprika suggested)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 orange, peeled, seeds removed, and diced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cups dry whole wheat couscous
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • topping suggestions: diced mango, avocado slices, salsa, sour cream, additional cilantro


  1. Heat the olive oil and honey in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the plantains and onion.  Saute until edges of the plantains are browned, about 5 minutes.  Flip the plantains and continue to cook an additional 2-3 minutes.  Add the diced chilies, garlic, thawed corn, pinto beans, kidney or black beans, and all spices.  Stir well to combine and cook until beans and corn are warmed, an additional 5 minutes.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, orange, lime juice, and cilantro.  Turn the heat to high and bring broth to a boil.  Add the couscous, cover pot with a lid, and reduce heat to low.  After 5 minutes, remove the lid and toss couscous to mix thoroughly.  Stir in the shredded cheese.
  3. Serve in bowl, garnished with chosen toppings.


  1. The plantains should be ripe - almost fully black - before using. Plan ahead, as this can take weeks if your plantains are green!
  2. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.

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Mexican Couscous Bowl: one pot, 20 minutes, and made from pantry staples, this is the perfect comfort food. Packed full of fiber, protein, and bold Mexican flavors.