When we lived in Southern California a decade ago (yes, Janet, a decade ago) we frequented the nighttime Farmer’s Market known as Sunset Market. Exploring the local food vendors in one place allowed us to taste flavors of the community. One one of our favorite dishes was California Okinawa Taco Rice.

In true military fashion, we moved to Okinawa a few short months after trying it. Little did we know at the time that the version served at the market was a very California specific version. A twist on the Okinawan Taco Rice we came to know while stationed in Japan, this version provides an opportunity to show off local California produce. While we haven’t located this old favorite at the market lately, we have re-created it at home often.

Taco rice seems to be a family favorite- not just for us but for just about anyone we talk to when we discuss meal planning and the ever elusive, “things my kids will actually eat” discussions. Our kids gobble it up (both the Okinawan version and the California version) and both versions make a regular appearance in our weekly dinners.

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California Twist on Okinawa Taco Rice

The trademark of the California version of the Okinawa Taco Rice is adding a fresh, healthier twist on a budget. It utilizes a healthier version of meat with ground turkey, which is an unlimited vessel for spice and adds in beans for bulk. In addition, the fresh produce showcases the California style.

California Taco Rice

How to Make Californian Okinawa Taco Rice

Ingredients

  • Black Beans (canned for a short-cut as dry beans should be soaked overnight for use)
  • Black Olives
  • Grape Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Avocados
  • Brown Rice – prepare according to the package
  • Ground Turkey or Beef (seasoning below)

California Taco Rice Seasoning

Sometimes only homemade seasoning will do. These pantry staples easily come together for a tasty seasoning. Make it as spicy as you can handle.

  • 1 TBL Chili Powder
  • 1 TBL Cumin
  • 1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Garlic Salt
  • 1 Tsp Pepper
  • 1 Tsp Crushed Red Pepper Add for a little extra kick.
California Taco Rice

Directions

Prepare the rice, following the instructions on the packet.

Mix the spice mix together so it is ready to be distributed over the meat and beans.

Brown the turkey and ensure that all liquid is drained before adding the spices. Evenly distribute the spice mix over the turkey with ¼ cup of water to allow the spice mix to coat the meat. When the meat is completely browned, add in the black beans.

Once the rice is prepared, layer the rice and then the meat and beans combination. On top add shredded kale, sliced olives, diced tomatoes, and sliced avocados.


The beauty of making California Taco Rice at home is you can utilize any fresh produce in your area. Maybe avocados aren’t in season, but you can get prepared guacamole. Or if endive is in season, that can be the green of choice. Enjoy a taste of Okinawa with a California twist seasoned with your family name, or wherever you are currently living and stationed. Kanpai!

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California Taco Rice

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Photo credits: Heather Walsh

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