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.
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:
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:
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:
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!
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!
Sonja is author of award winning food blog A Couple Cooks and the cookbook Pretty Simple Cooking. Together with her husband, Alex, the two are leading voices on plant-based eating, and authors of a recipe series with Washington Post Food called Voraciously: Plant Powered. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
BY Sonja Overhiser - December 23, 2021
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.