Thursday, November 03, 2011

Taco Bell Border Rice Bowl Copycat - Zesty Chicken Recipe

At my previous two jobs I had a taco bell within walking distance (doesn't mean I walked, they were just close!). I love taco bell for their good food and also that they serve Pepsi products (read: Mountain Dew).

Once a week I'd get the Zesty Chicken rice bowl (they called them border bowls I guess?). They're like a really REALLY good salad, with not too much lettuce. Healthy too, as nothing is fried, it's full of veggies, brown rice, beans and cheese. Of course they eventually decided to discontinue their border bowls and I was devastated. Thankfully, I have some decent cooking skills and I was able to recreate what I consider an almost perfect match of Taco Bell's version. So, here goes the recipe!

This serves 2 people by the way. Brown 2 chopped chicken breasts in 1-2 Tbsp of oil.

Halfway through the cooking, add pepper to the chicken and sprinkle a good amount of taco seasoning on the chicken. You may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if the seasoning doesn't distribute well.

Next up, the rice. I used Uncle Ben's rice in a bag (SO easy to make!), again added more taco seasoning as well as some taco bell mild taco sauce.You don't want it super flavorful, but enough you can taste the seasoning. You could also use any quick or long grain rice as long as you add some taco seasoning to the water. Some commenters cooked the rice in chicken broth for more flavor too.

 Warm up a can of Taco bell's refried beans in the zapper.

 Spread about half the can in the bottom of a bowl

top with a cup or so of rice

then half of the cooked chicken

Then tortilla strips. I found these at walmart in the salad dressing aisle

Then top with chopped tomatoes, shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese, and shredded lettuce. (Sorry no pictures of the last two)

 The finishing touch is the topping. Taco Bell Mild Taco sauce (also found at walmart) and Spicy Ranch dressing. The picture doesn't show Spicy Ranch because I didn't have it at the time. But I assure you, It tastes exactly like the sauce at Taco bell. *Update: They now sell a Kraft brand "Taco Bell Spicy Ranch Dressing" that I use. You can find it with all the other Kraft brand dressings at the grocery store.

Trust me, this Rice bowl is SO good! If you've made it and like it, Comment! Tell me what you changed to make it better. I love suggestions for other copycat recipes too.



  1. Oh my gosh!! If I could hug you through the screen right now, I would! I used to get these all.the.time. It was the only thing I would eat at Taco Bell and just like you, I was devastated when they got rid of it! :( I am going to try your version. :) Thanks so much for posting this!!

  2. Thanks so much for this.. I loved these and I just went the other day and the girl looked at me weird and I said.. "are they before your time" she said "must be"

  3. Denise cunningham4:03 PM

    I made these for dinner and OMG they are so freaking good! Thanks and my kids loved them too

  4. OMG! I've been asking Taco Bell when are they going to bring back the boarder bowls. Needless to say I couldn't wait any longer so I looked online to see if anyone had posted the recipe. I'm so happy to have found your blog. I just got done making & eating this. Absolutely amazing!! I cannot thank you enough. I'm 6 months pregnant & have a major craving for this. THANK YOU!!

  5. I'm so glad u have this here I'm prego and I use to eat it alot back in the day. So I went to Taco Bell yesterday and I asked for the Zesty bowl and they gave me the fiesta bowl that was clearly not it and I asked for my money back bc the lil girl didn't have a clue she probably thought I was crazy. But thank u again so much!!

  6. Just went to Taco Bell and got the veggie was delicious but I'm going to try this and see how it turns out

  7. Anonymous1:20 PM

    Omg thank you so much for this recipe!!! I too was devastated by taco bell discontinuing this bowl. Today was 1 of those days I had a serious craving for 1. I found your recipe and went to work. I did make a couple of changes though - I used chipotle taco seasoning and let the chicken simmer in it, instead of regular tortilla strips I used the sante Fe 1's, I cooked my rice with chicken broth instead of water, I added in sliced avacodos and taco bell's creamy jalapeno sauce. I would take my version over taco bell's any day! Lol! Thanks a million times over for this recipe. It saved my life :)

  8. If you ever try making this, instead of ranch, make the Southwest Cream Sauce found in the following recipe!!:

    It tastes just like the zesty sauce.

    1. Awesome! I will give it a try. Thanks for the suggestion and the link!

  9. Oh, and I used sour cream in the recipe.

  10. Anonymous5:46 PM

    I've been craving these zesty chicken bowls for two weeks now and I found your recipe. It is AWESOME. I made these bowls and they are delicious. Thank you soooo much.

  11. Anonymous4:39 PM

    I know this is a late comment...but this recipe has become a staple in my home since I first discovered your blog 5 months ago. I have tried many 'copycat' recipes and I have almost always been disappointed with the results. Not this time. This is exactly how I remember the Zesty Chicken Fiesta Bowl from Taco Bell (before it disappeared from their menu in my hometown). For me, the key is the Kraft/Taco Bell Spicy Ranch Dressing. I hope this dressing is never discontinued (you wouldn't happen to have a copycat recipe for that would you?).
    Thank you so much. This is SPOT on and satisfies the cravings I have been having.

  12. When I first made this recipe years ago, they didn't have the Kraft Taco Bell Spicy Ranch dressing, but I use it for this recipe now too! I will definitely try to do a copycat for that as well, seeing how they'll discontinue it like everything else we get addicted to!

    Glad so many people have enjoyed this recipe! I'm working on a Skippers Chowder copycat recipe right now!

  13. Anonymous12:15 PM

    I found this recipe when I was pregnant and was careful with what I could eat so I have been waiting to try for months and I finally did last night! WOW, So good! The only thing is, I remember being the sauce a little bit more on the tangy side. but other than that, it was so close and I will be making this often!

    It was so hard to find the spicy ranch sauce. Were you able to make it yourself and if so, please share the recipe!!

  14. Anonymous12:17 PM

    Luv this so much, thank you!!!! We add jalapenos! Brings back memories from when the hubby and I were first dating. We would go to Taco Bell every single Friday for the longest time :) This and the chili cheese burritos were my absolute favorite. I had to find a copy cat recipe for those too since I missed them as well.