Perfecting the Art of the Grain Bowl in 3 Easy Steps

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Perfecting the Art of the Grain Bowl in 3 Easy Steps | Wit & Delight
Photos by Sonja Overhiser at A Couple Cooks

Editor’s Note: This post, originally published in September 2020, breaks down exactly what you need to know to craft a delicious grain bowl every single time. Enjoy!

There’s one question I get the most as a food blogger slash cookbook author. What are the best easy and healthy dinner recipes? (Well, that and how you get one million followers on Instagram.)

The first question is much easier to answer. And here’s what I turn to most often: grain bowls! Bowl meals, Buddha bowls, quinoa bowls, rice bowls: Whatever you call them, these bowls are where it’s at for dinnertime without thinking too hard. Why? They’re easy, they’re full of flavor, and they come together quickly. They’re also great for reducing food waste in the kitchen. Because let’s face it: What other way can you throw random leftovers in a bowl and call it a meal?

Grain bowls might seem overly simple, but there’s actually an art to this concept. You need to play up contrasts in flavor, texture, and color or you’ll end up with a dull and mushy grain bowl. But do it right, and you’ll want to stuff your face. Here are the three main rules for a kickin’ grain bowl.

quinoa for grain bowl

3 rules for a great grain bowl

1. Pick your base grain.

There are lots of whole grains to choose from: some standard, some more unique! If you’ve got a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, now’s the time to use it. You can cook all of these in advance and refrigerate until serving. Here are a few options:

2. Add toppings.

Here’s the real “meat” of your grain bowl: the toppings! There are two main divisions of toppings: vegetables and proteins. Make sure to mix it up with some of both. Here are some ideas:

3. Bring it together with a sauce.

Got your grain bowl together? Great! Let’s tie it all together with a homemade sauce. I find that once I’ve compiled everything, I only have energy for the simplest of sauces. Here are my two favorites that don’t even require a blender:

  • Tahini Sauce: Creamy and zingy, it works for a wide variety of bowls (it’s also vegan).
  • Cilantro Lime Sauce: This play on ranch is seriously tasty and works with Latin-style flavors.
Rice bowl

Tip: Play up the contrasts!

One last thing to remember: Grain bowls are all about contrasts! No one wants a drab bowl that’s all brown and yellow, or a bowl that’s total mush. It’s important to think about contrasts in flavor, texture, and color.

For example, pair soft and fluffy quinoa with crunchy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, and savory chickpeas, then top it with a creamy and tangy sauce. Not only do the textures and flavors contrast but there are also a variety of colors. Remember: We eat with our eyes!

Example grain bowl recipes

When acquiring any skill, I find it’s easiest to learn from examples. So here’s the fun part: Take a look at these tasty grain bowl recipes! There are a few of my favorites and some ideas from trusted sources around the web. You’ll see lots of examples of the components arranged with contrasts and themes in mind. Good luck and let us know how your grain bowl turns out!

how to make a grain bowl

BY Sonja Overhiser - December 23, 2021

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September 15, 2020 9:31 am

Thank you for sharing this! I love all of your recipes!!!!

September 15, 2020 9:38 am
Reply to  Tracy Klemens

That is so kind. Thank you!

October 16, 2020 2:37 am

Greate recipe, Just love it.

October 27, 2020 3:44 am

So fresh and healthy it is. Thank you for sharing.

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