My Latest Mariano’s Adventure: Tex-Mex Rice Bowl with Salsa Fresca

tex mex rice bowl #shop

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With the recent shakeup in the Chicagoland grocery store landscape, I’m glad I can still count on #MyMarianos store in Jefferson Park. The store has ample parking, it’s clean and the aisles are wide, easy to navigate. The selection? It’s HUGE! Chicago has a reputation as a melting pot of global cultures, and I think Mariano’s does a good job of living up to that reputation by having such a wide variety of global cuisines and ethnic foods. It’s a bit like an Epcot for foodies. And their latest innovation is Mariano’s health key™ System, which simplifies the shopping experience and makes it easier to put healthier food in my cart.

Mariano's health key system #shop

With so many new food products coming on the market these days, and classic foods being recalibrated to make them healthier (e.g. gluten-free or no salt added), I’m reading food labels more than the newspaper on some days. And I read the paper everyday!

I used to be near-sighted, so reading labels wasn’t an issue. As I get older, so do my eyes — and now I have reading glasses in addition to glasses for distance and driving. But I’m always leaving my reading glasses next to my favorite chair, so I’m having to read food labels at arm’s length at the grocery store. But not with Mariano’s health key™ System, thankfully. The labels are bold, color-coded and have large text that make them easy to read. 

Mariano's health key™ System makes it easier to put healthier food in your cart #shop

Mariano’s health key™ System really does make grocery shopping easy.
The tags are big, brightly lit and have large text, so I can easily find healthier food options
– even when I forget my glasses!

If you’re like me, every now and then you need some new inspiration for dinner. I get Mariano’s weekly email newsletter that shares recipes and showcases local chefs, or I’ll go to the Community Page on their website to learn about in-store events and cooking demonstrations. For more information about Mariano’s health key™ System, visit the Mariano’s website or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

On my excursion to Mariano’s this week, I decided to try a south-of-the-board-inspired dish quite popular throughout the Southwest. I used to live in Houston and Tex-Mex “anything” was always a popular item on every restaurant’s menu. So I wanted to take some of my favorite ingredients (brown rice and ground turkey) and create a healthier version of a Tex-Mex Rice Bowl.

tex-mex rice bowl

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

First, I made a salsa fresca, which is also known as pico de gallo, with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, sweet peppers, olive oil, lime juice and cilantro. I got all of my ingredients for salsa fresca in place (mise en place) and I was off-and-running.

salsa fresca mise en place #shop

This portion of the Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe, the prep for the salsa fresca, takes about 15 minutes of cutting and dicing. After that, the recipe goes quite fast.

I tend to prefer mildly spicy foods, so I’m using sweet peppers in this recipe. But if you like something with more fire, definitely swap out the sweet peppers for jalapeno peppers. Combine all of the salsa fresca ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl.

salsa fresca

Then set aside to let it marinate while you prepare the ground turkey and rice mixtures. Gather all of your ingredients and measure out the spices to make cooking a breeze:

tex mex rice bowl ingredients mise en place #shop

First you’ll cook the instant brown rice, following the package directions. Set aside.

In a large stock pot, heat the ground turkey over medium-high heat. Cook until done and stir to crumble. Stir in the water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring this to a simmer, then stir in the corn and black beans. Cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the brown rice and cook for another 2 minutes.

Ladle the rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and sprinkle with cilantro. I’ve found that when I have a large group or if your family has different levels of spice, heat they like that it’s best to let each individual add as much (or little) of the salsa fresca as they like to personalize their own Tex-Mex Rice Bowls. That way everybody gets what they want.

This Tex-Mex Rice Bowl recipe makes a large batch; enough for 8 to 10 people. If you have leftovers, freeze the turkey-rice mixture for up to 2 months in an airtight container. For any leftover salsa fresca, that will keep for only a few days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Use leftover salsa alone or add to melted Cheddar cheese as a dip.

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Yield: about 8 to 10 servings

Tex-Mex Rice Bowl

This dish has many variations in texture, from the rice and beans to the corn and salsa fresca. Personally, I like to add a small dollop of creamy, cool sour cream on the top of a hot Tex-Mex rice bowl to help cleanse the palate from the spice.


For salsa fresca:
4 medium plum or vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, seeded (with ribs removed) and diced (substitute with jalapeno peppers, if desired)
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh-squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
For Tex-Mex bowl:
1 pound lean ground turkey
16 ounces instant brown rice (about 4 cups, dry)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups whole kernel corn
30 ounces black beans, rinsed and drained
4 teaspoons fresh cilantro, chopped


Instructions for salsa fresca:

In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside to let it marinate.

Instructions for Tex-Mex rice bowl:

Cook instant brown rice according to the package directions; set aside.

Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey. Cook until done, stirring to crumble. Stir in water, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer.

Stir in corn and beans. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in rice and cook for 2 minutes.

Scoop rice mixture into individual serving bowls. Top each bowl with salsa fresca and cilantro.


I would rate the level of spiciness for this recipe at medium. If you prefer a milder spice level, reduce the amount of chili powder and cumin. If you like a very spicy dish, substitute jalapeno peppers for the sweet peppers.

The majority of prep time for this dish is for the salsa fresca. You could also make the salsa fresca in advance and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.