These vegan rice & bean collard wraps can be meal prepped for easy, make-ahead lunches. They feature my favorite, nutritious trio of foods, grains, beans, and greens! Barbecue sauce is a perfect accompaniment for dipping or drizzling.
I made these rice and bean collard wraps so many weeks ago that it feels odd to be posting about them now! I’m still thinking about what a great little lunch they were, though.
I don’t need to do anything special to rice and beans in order to enjoy them. I love this simple pairing of two simple, yet sustaining, ingredients.
Oft-cooked rice and bean recipes in my home include coconut sweet potato rice and beans, turmeric rice, beans and greens, grain, green, and bean skillet (with yum sauce!), and of course the rice, beans, tofu n’ greens from my cookbook Power Plates.
To date, it’s the recipe from that book that I’ve cooked the greatest number of times.
These vegan rice and bean collard wraps might join those other recipes as a staple meal. They gave me an excuse to eat rice and beans, which made me happy.
And they reminded me of how fun it is to make collard green wraps!
Rice, beans and complete proteins
When I became vegan, it was long enough ago that there was still a lot of mainstream advice to seek out complete, or complementary, proteins. Rice and beans were listed as a classic example of these.
We now know that it isn’t necessary to pair foods together in order to create complete proteins. Or rather, we don’t need to seek them out with each meal. Eating a wide array of protein-rich vegan foods is enough to supply our bodies with the essential amino acids that we need.
Even so, I remember taking the suggestion to eat rice and beans together seriously. In addition, they were each easy to cook.
Rice and beans became a staple food for me. It was one of the first meals I felt comfortable preparing. To this day, it remains maybe a top five comfort food within my diet.
I became interested in raw foods not too long after this. So, funnily enough, collard green wraps also became a staple in my diet around that time.
How to make collard green wraps
The reason I initially became interested in collard wraps was because I was leaning in the raw food direction. I wasn’t eating a lot of regular wraps, so collard leaves were an alternative.
Today, many years past my raw food flirtation, I enjoy cooked collard leaves for collard wraps, rather than raw.
Cooked or raw, collard wraps are pretty easy to make.
The main thing, I think, is to trim down the thick part of the center stem, so that the leaf becomes relatively flat. This makes the leaves easy to fill and wrap.
You can use a paring knife to shave down that stem, or you can use a vegetable peeler.
After that, you can treat the wrap similarly to how you’d treat a grain wrap! Add some filling to the bottom third, fold the bottom of the leaf over it, tuck in the sides, and roll upward.
If you’ve had a hard time warming up to collard greens, then it’s worth experimenting with this way of enjoying them. Collards are an especially good source of vegan calcium, and they’re really versatile.
Rice and bean collard wrap ingredients
The plainest way to prepare this dish would have been to mix cooked rice with canned beans, stuff them into my steamed and trimmed collard leaf, wrap them up, and eat them as is.
I will probably take that exact shortcut at some point, maybe adding some avocado to the wraps or using whatever homemade sauce I have leftover for some flavor and healthful fat.
But this time around, I seasoned the rice and beans with some sautéed onion and pepper, cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika. It gave the rice and bean filling some character.
I also added some tamari for saltiness and umami—sometimes I think it’s a more flavorful solution than regular salt—and some vinegar for a little acid.
Aside from those flavorings, this recipe really only consists of the rice, beans, and collards. Simple, wholesome stuff.
Shortcuts and time savers
This rice and bean collard wrap recipe calls for cooking your rice and using pre-cooked beans.
I use canned beans in my cooking 90% of the time. That’s shortcut number one.
Shortcut number two would be using frozen, cooked rice—a few brands make this nowadays, including Whole Foods’ 365 brand, Birds Eye, and Grain Trust. Minute Rice is another useful option.
If you’d like to serve the collard wraps with BBQ sauce, which I recommend, you can of course use a store-bought sauce.
Finally, you can prepare the whole recipe in stages: cook your rice one day, prepare the seasoned filling the following day, prep the collards and create your wraps a whole day later.
Each step of the process will feel pretty easy this way—a comforting approach to cooking anything when life feels overwhelming.
Dipping and drizzling
On their own, the collard wraps are tasty and nutritious. But I think that a good sauce is a key part of making the recipe feel craveable.
I love the way these taste with my date-sweetened barbecue sauce—or a store-bought BBQ. Barbecue sauce compliments the smoky seasoning in the rice and bean filling well.
However, I think that a lot of other sauces would work well with the wraps. A few ideas:
- Yum sauce
- Vegan yellow cheese sauce
- Cashew queso
- 4-Ingredient vegan sour cream
- Balsamic Dijon tahini dressing
- Cashew cilantro lime sauce
- Delightfully green tahini dressing
If you don’t have any of those, then I think salsa, hummus, store-bought vegan sour cream, and store-bought vegan ranch dressing would all be great.
You can drizzle your sauce over the collard wraps on a platter and serve them to your loved ones. Or you can meal prep the wraps and serve them with sauce as a dipper for as an easy WFH lunch.
Storage and freezing
While I don’t recommend freezing the wraps once assembled—the collard leaves are a bit too delicate to hold up that way—you can prepare the rice and bean filling and freeze it for up to six weeks.
Once you make the collard wraps, they’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for four days. Prep them on Sunday, then savor them as a nutrient-dense WFH lunch or light dinner for the next few days!
- 8 collard green leaves (medium or large in size)
- 1 cup long-grain brown rice (180g; substitute 3 cups pre-cooked brown or white rice)
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil (or another neutral vegetable oil)
- 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (240g cooked beans, or one 15-ounce / 425g can, drained and rinsed)
- 2-3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (to taste)
- 1 cup date sweetened BBQ sauce (or a BBQ sauce of your choice, or another sauce you love)
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add the rice and boil (like pasta) until tender, about 40 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat. Drain the rice and return it to the pot. Cover and allow it to steam for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot and ﬂuff the rice gently with a fork. Re- cover and set aside.
- While the rice cooks, trim the bottoms of the collard stems. Lie a leaf flat on a cutting board with the back side (the side on which the center stem protrudes) facing you. Use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to trim down the thick part of the center stem, so that the leaf becomes relatively flat. Repeat with the other leaves.
- Fill a large pot with a few inches of water and fit it with a steamer basket. Bring the water to a boil over medium- high heat. Turn the heat to low. Place the collard leaves in your steamer basket, cover the pot, and steam until tender, about 5 minutes. Pat the leaves dry and set them aside.
- When the rice is ready, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and pepper to the skillet. Sauté, stirring often, until the onion and pepper are tender and the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, and tamari to the vegetable mixture and continue heating and stirring for 30 seconds. Add the cooked rice and kidney beans. Mix and heat the rice and beans through, stirring often. Taste the mixture and add apple cider vinegar to your liking—just for a hint of acid. Adjust the tamari for saltiness to taste.
- To assemble the wraps, start by layering about 2/3 cup of the rice and bean mixture horizontally along the bottom third of a collard leaf. Tuck the sides of the leaf in, covering the filling. Roll the wrap up from bottom to top. Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling—you may have a little filling leftover, which you can enjoy however you'd like.
- Serve the collard wraps with BBQ sauce for dipping, or drizzle them with sauce before plating. Enjoy.
I have a great many weeks where a sandwich every day for lunch suits me just fine. It’s usually the easiest option, especially if I’ve been removed from my beloved meal prep routine.
Yet I’m always really happy—and feel very satisfied—when I can squeeze some whole grains, beans, and greens into a working lunch. Hope this recipe, with all of its make-ahead potential, will give you that possibility.