Easy Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole – Oven Bake or Instant Pot

White skillet filled with rice, beans and corn with a serving just removed and spooned into a white bowl

Making a delicious and healthy vegan meal does not get any easier than this Mexican inspired rice casserole. Perfect for busy weeknights and filled with the goodness of beans, corn and rice for a budget friendly plant-based dinner!

Thank you to Stahlbush Island Farms for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

Oven and Instant Pot Friendly

How easy is this Mexican inspired vegan rice casserole? SO EASY. There’s no chopping, peeling or slicing, just mix the ingredients together and let your oven or Instant Pot do the work for you! I’ve included instructions for both methods.

The cooking time for this rice casserole is about 10 minutes less if using the Instant Pot which isn’t much when you consider this meal is pretty hands-off so the method is up to you! That said, I prefer the oven-baked option as the rice gets a bit crispy on the sides which is my favorite part.

One of the best things about this vegan dinner recipe is that you probably have the ingredients already! Pantry staples such as canned black beans, corn and rice are nutritious, but are also easy to make into a hearty and delicious vegan meal. I used Stahlbush Island Farms Super Sweet Corn – it’s so juicy, sweet and vibrant. Instead of chopping and frying onions and garlic, we use use taco seasoning and some salsa. This saves time and dishes!

This baked rice makes for amazing leftovers as the flavors marry more overnight in the fridge. You can use the rice in burritos the next day, or simply reheat for a lunch bowl you’ll really look forward to. No sad soggy leftovers here!

Gluten-Free Option

If you’re looking to make this vegan casserole gluten-free as well, use gluten-free vegan ground “beef” (or the tofu option) and make sure your taco seasoning is gluten-free (some brands contain wheat.)

Ingredients for Mexican rice skillet laid out on a marble counter-top

How to Bake Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole:

  1. sauté the vegan ground “beef” or crumbled tofu for 2-3 minutes
  2. stir in the rest of the ingredients
  3. bake for 35-40 minutes
  4. stir in the vegan cheese and cilantro, if using, and serve!

How to Cook Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole in an Instant Pot:

  1. sauté the vegan ground “beef” or crumbled tofu for 2-3 minutes
  2. stir in the rest of the ingredients
  3. put on the lid, bring up to high pressure for 3 minutes
  4. natural pressure release for 10 minutes, followed by quick release
  5. stir in the vegan cheese and cilantro if using and serve!

What to Serve with Mexican Rice Casserole?

This baked rice is a main dish so it’s great as is. It’s also great with all the toppings. Think: more salsa, sliced avocados or guacamole, extra cilantro, sliced green onions, chopped tomatoes, lime slices, tortilla chips, or a side of refried beans.

Hands garnishing a rice skillet with avocado and cilantro

Tips for Making Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole:

What Kind of Dish Do You Bake Rice In?

I use a 3.3 qt (or about 12”) enamel coated cast iron skillet when baking this rice casserole.

If you use cast iron which does not have an enamel coating on the cooking surface, the acidity from the salsa may pull some of the iron out of the skillet. You’ll get some extra iron in your meal which is a plus if you’re looking to increase your intake, but the dish may have a mild metallic taste. The taste is not obvious to most people, but if it’s something you’re sensitive to, use cast iron which is coated, or a stainless steel heavy bottomed oven-safe skillet.

You can also bake the rice casserole in a 9″ x 13” heavy (ceramic or glass) baking dish. Avoid using something thin like a cake pan because it won’t hold the heat the same way heavy bake-ware does. This will affect the baking time and hydration of the rice.

White enamel skillet filled with rice, beans and corn, garnished with avocado and cilantro

Vegan Ground “Beef” or Tofu?

Both work well in this Mexican rice casserole. The vegan ground “beef” will give the dish more of a meaty flavor, but if you’re like me and only use it as a treat, tofu may be a healthier option. Tofu takes on the flavor of the yummy ingredients around it, especially the taco seasoning. (For those wondering: vegan ground “beef” is available in the cooler and frozen sections at the grocery store. It’s simulated beef crumbles made with plants like soy and/or wheat, seasoned and often fortified.)

Taco Seasonings Are Not All the Same

I’ve tested this recipe with different brands of taco seasoning and have found big variations in the spiciness level and flavor. For example: Using 2 tablespoons of the Trader Joe’s brand was delicious but made this pretty spicy for our kids. Meanwhile, 2 tablespoons of Club House brand was flavorful but not hot. If you like heat, you can increase it to 3 tablespoons.

Cook Rice in Water or Soup Stock?

If you’re using the vegan ground “beef”, I recommend just using water instead of soup stock as the ground tends to be already quite salty and flavorful. Plus there’s already salt in the taco seasoning and salsa. If you’re using tofu, adding soup stock adds a bit more salt and flavor that the tofu doesn’t have but will absorb. That said, I’ve used tofu with just water and the rice was still amazing. The choice is yours and how salty you like things!

Temperature of the Water or Soup Stock: Use boiling water or soup stock to give the rice casserole a boost in temperature before it starts cooking. If you add cold or room temperature liquid, the cooking time will inevitably be longer. The trouble you may run into with a longer cooking time is not knowing exactly when it is done. This isn’t a dish that can “peeked on” because you’ll let the steam out each time you check. The steam is important for hydrating and cooking the rice.

If you’re using the Instant Pot, it’s risky to bring the pressure back up once it’s come down. The element will be on much longer overall and you risk burning the food on the bottom. Long story short: use boiling liquid and life will be so much easier.

What Kind of Rice to Use in Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole:

I’ve used white Jasmine (totally not traditional, I know, but it works well!) and generic long-grain rice in this recipe with delicious results. The ratio of rice to liquid is different for other types of rice (brown, short grain, etc), as well as the cooking time, so I don’t recommend substitutions. I’m looking forward to testing other types and reporting back!

Baked rice with black beans and corn in a white skillet with a white bowl containing a serving

More Baked and Instant Pot Vegan Rice Casseroles:

One-Skillet Baked Greek Lemon Chickpeas and Rice

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes and Chickpeas

Unstuffed Pepper Skillet

If you make this easy Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole, please give it a rating in the recipe card and leave a comment below! Follow along on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes, I love seeing what you’re cooking! You can also follow me on Pinterest for vegan recipe inspiration and on Facebook. Thank you for reading!

White skillet filled with rice, beans and corn with a serving just removed and spooned into a white bowl

Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole – Oven Bake or Instant Pot

Making a delicious and healthy vegan meal does not get any easier than this Mexican inspired rice casserole. Perfect for busy weeknights, it's filled with the goodness of beans, corn and rice. A super flavorful meal that's a hearty, crowd favorite!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Baked Rice, Easy Vegan Dinner, Healthy Vegan Meals
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 299kcal
Author: Crumbs & Caramel

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 390 g vegan ground "beef" or 350 g firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 2-3 tbsp taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2-2 cups water or soup stock, boiling
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed (398 mL can)
  • 1 1/2 cups Stahlbush Island Farms corn kernels
  • 1 cup long grain white rice, rinsed until water is clear
  • 1 cup tomato salsa
  • handful of torn up cilantro, optional
  • 1-1 1/2 cups shredded vegan cheese, optional
  • avocado slices or guacamole for serving, optional

Instructions

Oven Baked

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • In a large cast-iron enamel coated skillet over medium, heat the oil. (If you don't have an oven safe skillet, do this in a frying pan and then combine everything later in a heavy ceramic or glass 9" x 13” casserole dish.) Brown the vegan ground "beef" or tofu for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the ground or tofu, stir well to coat. De-glaze with 2 cups boiling water or soup stock, scraping the bottom to lift any stuck bits. (This is when you add everything to the casserole dish if you don't have an oven-safe heavy skillet).
  • Stir in the black beans, corn, rice and salsa. Turn off the heat. Cover with tight fitting lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.
  • Optional: stir in the cilantro and/or vegan cheese. If adding the vegan cheese to the top instead, cover for 5 minutes so it melts. Serve with avocado slices, guacamole, more salsa or other toppings as desired.

Instant-Pot

  • Set the Instant-Pot to Sauté. Heat the oil and then sauté the vegan ground "beef"/crumbled tofu for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. You're looking for some extra texture. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over the ground or tofu, stir well to coat.
  • Deglaze with 1 1/2 cups boiling water or soup stock, scraping the bottom to lift any stuck bits (or they will burn during pressure cooking). Layer in black beans, corn, rice and salsa. DO NOT STIR.
  • Put on the lid, ensuring the steam valve is closed. Set to Pressure Cook on high for 3 minutes. When the time is up, allow the pressure to come down naturally for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 minutes, release the steam valve.
  • Optional: stir in the cilantro and/or vegan cheese. If adding the vegan cheese to the top instead, cover for 5 minutes so it melts. Serve with avocado slices, guacamole, more salsa or other toppings as desired.

Nutrition Info:

Calories: 299kcal | Carbohydrates: 45g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 543mg | Potassium: 375mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 387IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 118mg | Iron: 2mg

Notes:

Tips for Instant Pot Version to Prevent Burning:
DO NOT STIR once you’ve layered in the rice, beans etc. Leave the layers on their own with the stock/water at the bottom. 
Make sure that all stuck bits during the sautéing of the tofu/vegan meat is scraped up once the water/broth is added. Add the other ingredients immediately. If you leave the Instant Pot on Sauté, your moisture will cook off and there won’t be enough once you pressure cook. 
Make sure your Steam valve is closed as soon as you put on and lock the lid. Leaving it open while pressure comes up means you’re losing moisture through the steam releasing. 
Rinse your rice! This is important so the rice is not gluey when cooked but also so that it has some extra moisture going into the pot.  
Take care in measuring your ingredients – if you increase a dry a ingredient or reduce a wet ingredient, there may not be enough moisture and the casserole may burn.
Did you make this recipe?Tag @crumbs.and.caramel on Instagram!

The Nutrition Information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the Nutrition Information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click on the link and make a purchase, I’ll get a very small percentage in commission.  There’s never any extra cost to you, and I only link to products I actually use and enjoy.  Thank you for your support!

This recipe was first published on Crumbs & Caramel January 23, 2020. The post was updated on August 28, 2020 with improved educational value and fresh images.

19 thoughts on “Easy Vegan Mexican Rice Casserole – Oven Bake or Instant Pot

    1. Hi Mark! I have not tested this recipe with brown rice but that sounds really good! Brown rice takes a lot longer to cook – checking on line it looks like it needs about an hour to be baked with similar water:rice ratios as what I have listed. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it works out! Thanks ~Bronwyn

    1. Hi Sav! Yes, that should work as along as it keeps the steam in! Hope you enjoy the recipe. ~Bronwyn

  1. I don’t have an oven casserole pot I’m going to use a glass dish. So after I cook the vegan ground beef. Do I add everything including the ground beef to the casserole dish or do I put it in the pot first and then add it all to the casserole dish?

    1. Hi Jessica! It doesn’t matter too much, you can do whichever is easiest. As written, it’s mixed in the baking dish, but there’s no problem at all mixing everything in the skillet first. Hope you enjoy the recipe! ~ Bronwyn

    1. Hi Alison! Yes, I think that would be really tasty, I’d mix 2-3 tbsp of nutritional yeast in with the rice. Enjoy! ~ Bronwyn

      1. Hi Alison! Homemade enchilada sauce sounds so good! You could definitely try it instead of salsa – the only issue might be that it’s saucier than salsa so your rice might be a little “wetter” but sounds like it’ll be super delicious! Let me know how it goes! ~ Bronwyn

    1. Hi Ruby! There are metric measurements available for this recipe – you can find them by clicking “Metric” at the end of the list of ingredients, beside “US Customary”. Hope you enjoy the casserole! ~ Bronwyn

    1. Hi Erin! I haven’t tried this on the stove top – I’d worry about burning on the bottom with the recipe as written. There’s enough water in the recipe for a slow bake but likely not enough for simmering on the stovetop. If you’d like to do it on the stove-top with a modification, I’d recommend cooking your rice per the package instructions with the taco seasoning, and then add it to the skillet with the other ingredients after you fluff the rice. Hope you enjoy it! ~Bronwyn

    1. Hi Sabrina, sorry to hear you’re having this issue! A few things can help – make sure all of the stuck bits are completely lifted and the pot deglazed before adding the rest of the ingredients. If they aren’t lifted during deglazing, they will remain stuck and definitely burn once the Instant Pot is set for pressure cooking. Layer the rest of the ingredients and do not stir them – I’ve added this edit to the instructions. This helps the liquid remain on the bottom and then steam rather than coating all of the ingredients without that protective wet layer on the bottom. You could start the layering with the salsa, beans and then the rice and corn. Make sure the steam valve is closed from the beginning – lost steam means less moisture in the pot. For other tips, check out the Instant Pot website which has this article on burn protection: https://instantpot.com/instant-pots-overheat-burn-protection/ Hope this helps! ~ Bronwyn

  2. Hey, this recipe is delicious but ive cooked it twice now and each time my rice has come out totally undercooked? Am I supposed to rook the rice beforehand?

    1. Hi Skye! Thanks for trying the recipe, I’m glad you’ve been enjoying it! No, the rice is not supposed to be cooked ahead of time. Have you been baking it or using the Instant Pot? Re: baking: a few things could effect the cooking time – does your vessel seal completely? Lost steam will increase cooking time. Are you rinsing your rice? This increases the moisture a little which we need. Are you measuring your ingredients correctly? Inadequate moisture/over measured rice can increase cooking time or throw off the moisture levels. Do you have stand alone oven thermometer? Every oven I’ve ever owned has lied to me – if yours lies as well, it’s possible it runs a bit cool and the rice will need to bake a little longer. Are you using a different type of rice than listed here? Brown rice for instance takes much longer to cook. What size is your casserole dish? A smaller, deeper vessel will take longer to cook than a wider shallow one. All said, if the rice is not cooked when you pull it out, pop it back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes, taking it out when it’s done. The rice on the edge of the baking dish tends to crisp up so test the center of the dish for doneness. I make this recipe regularly as I’m lazy at the end of the day, and it’s such an easy one to make. Hope this helps! Thanks again! ~ Bronwyn

  3. Just made this and it’s absolutely delicious!!!! Came out perfectly. I used a vegan chorizo. Thank you!!!

Leave a Reply