How to Cook: How to Make a Grain Bowl

5 min read

Creating your own grain bowl at home will not only enhance your culinary skills but also allow you to create a highly nutritious and well-balanced meal that’s adaptable to any cuisine. Get tips on how to make a grain bowl from Food Revolution Network’s lead dietitian and recipe developer, Nichole Dandrea-Russert, RDN. Follow along with the video below!

If you’ve ever visited a Chipotle, Sweetgreen, Cava, or the like, then you’ve most likely eaten, or heard of, a grain bowl. Grain bowls are culinary poster children for many fast-casual restaurants that aim to offer healthy and plant-forward options.

But are these prepared grain bowls really all that good for you?

The truth is that many restaurant grain bowls come with animal-based ingredients, fried items, sugar- and oil-laden dressings, and way too much salt — all of which are the antithesis of the grain bowl’s origins.

You see, the concept of the grain bowl is similar to a Buddha bowl, a vegetarian meal served in a single bowl that includes several small portions of foods like whole grains, beans, and vegetables. It’s said that Buddha bowls got their name from the Buddha’s alleged tradition of receiving food donations in a bowl he carried with him.

Since then, this simple type of meal has acquired a variety of names, from grain bowl to power bowl to nourish bowl.

But the concept of a grain bowl is a universal one. Cultures around the world have their own version of combining grains, plant protein, veggies, and other ingredients in a bowl. Dishes like Indian thali, Korean bibimbap, and Ethiopian beyaynetu are all examples of grain bowls.

And you can create any type of bowl-based meal using spices and inspiration from your favorite cuisine, which you can also customize to your heart’s content! The ingredients can even vary depending on what time of day you plan to consume the dish.

So how can you construct your own plant-based grain bowl at home? In the accompanying “How to Cook” video, we’ll walk you through the steps to concoct your own DIY grain bowl masterpieces.

What Is a Grain Bowl?

Baked vegetables, avocado, tofu and buckwheat buddha bowl. Vegan lunch salad with kale, baked sweet potato, tofu, buckwheat and avocado in a white bowl. Vegan concept.

A grain bowl is an all-in-one meal featuring whole grains as the base and is traditionally served in a bowl. You can use a single grain, like brown rice, or a grain medley, like amaranth, quinoa, and buckwheat (a winning combination since these particular grains cook in approximately the same amount of time!).

Part of the grain bowl’s beauty is that it can help you manage time and efficiency in the kitchen. Grain bowl ingredients are easy to batch cook and meal prep with.

Make a large quantity of beans or lentils and whole grains for the week, chop up some veggies, store everything away in the refrigerator, and dish them out individually when you’re ready to assemble your bowl. Change up the flavors by using different spices or sauces each night of the week.

Grain Bowl Ingredients

Other benefits of grain bowls are that they can accommodate just about any dietary preference and offer endless combinations of ingredients. You can easily create a different grain bowl every night of the week or perhaps every night of the year! (Editor’s Note: If you try this, please keep a running list of your 365 grain bowl combinations, and we may include your culinary creations as a follow-up to this blog!).

At their simplest, plant-based grain bowls typically include:

  • Whole grains or a starchy veggie: Options may include brown rice, quinoa, farro, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, or potatoes.
  • A protein source: This may include lentils, chickpeas, edamame, black beans, tofu, or tempeh.
  • Vegetables: Any veggies are an option here! Choose what’s local to you, what you need to use up in your fridge, or any vegetables you know and love.
  • Sauce or dressing: Get started with any of the seven delectable FRN homemade sauces here.
  • Optional toppings: These include anything that offers nutrition, texture, and flavor, such as herbs, nuts, seeds, sprouts, microgreens, sauerkraut, or kimchi.

Building a Healthy Grain Bowl

Aerial view of the hands of a young Caucasian woman adding cucumber slices to a salad plate with chopped lettuce, arugula and couscous. Around the plate there are many bowls with fresh ingredients like: raddish slices, chopped lettuce, cucumber slices, couscous, green peas, arugula, dressing and pistachios.

In the video below, you’ll learn:

  • 5 reasons to start creating grain bowls today
  • The formula for creating a grain bowl you’ll actually eat, love, and crave
  • Optional toppings to try
  • Tips on making grain bowls more efficiently
  • How to assemble your bowls

Grain Bowl Recipes

Once you’re comfortable tossing together different ingredients in grain bowls, the kitchen becomes your playground. Use these recipes as your trusted guides to the world of plant-based flavors and textures.

Now, it’s your turn to take the lead — mix in your favorite veggies, grains, or spices, or get adventurous with entirely new combinations. Transform each grain bowl into a unique culinary masterpiece that’s distinctly yours!

1. Turmeric Freekeh Breakfast Bowl with Chickpeas and Beets

Turmeric Freekeh Breakfast Bowl with Chickpeas and Beets

Kickstart your mornings with the vibrant and nutrient-rich Turmeric Freekeh Breakfast Bowl with Chickpeas and Beets. This bowl combines the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric with the fiber-rich goodness of freekeh and chickpeas. You’ll also get a dose of earthiness from the beets and a bit of satisfying crunch from the walnuts. This breakfast bowl is not only delicious but serves as an easy make-ahead solution for busy mornings. So start your day off right with a meal that’s both fulfilling and quick to assemble.

2. Roasted Root Vegetable and Lentil Bowl

This Roasted Root Vegetable and Lentil Bowl swaps out grains for a rich mix of root veggies like sweet potatoes, radishes, carrots, and parsnips. This hearty combination makes for a delicious, nutritious, and fiber-rich meal. Sprinkle your bowl with zesty microgreens and crunchy pumpkin seeds, and finish it with a tangy Lemon Tahini Dressing to take this bowl to a whole other level of yum!

3. Deconstructed Sushi Bowl

Discover the joys of plant-based grain bowls with this delightful Deconstructed Sushi Bowl. It’s a garden in a bowl, blending the crunch and vibrancy of edamame, carrots, cabbage, and green onions. The magic ingredient? Sweet and tangy sunomono, a Japanese cucumber salad that elevates this dish to new heights. With so many interesting foods included, this sushi bowl isn’t just a treat for the taste buds; it’s a colorful feast. This is an excellent grain bowl option for anyone looking to enjoy a healthy, delicious, and satisfying meal. Get ready to add a new staple to your culinary repertoire that’s as nourishing as it is flavorful.

Create Healthier Grain Bowls!

The brilliance of grain bowls lies in their adaptability, enabling a seamless fusion of diverse ingredients that cater to various dietary preferences. With each bowl, you have the opportunity to craft a unique culinary experience that prioritizes nutrition without compromising flavor or textures. And by choosing to prepare grain bowls at home, you’re not only making a choice for a healthier lifestyle, but you can also take steps toward reducing food waste. As we embrace the simplicity and depth of grain bowls, we open doors to a more sustainable, nutritious, and flavorful way of eating.

Tell us in the comments:

  • What’s your favorite grain bowl combination?
  • Which cuisine-inspired grain bowl sounds most appealing to you?
  • What other creative names (other than nourish, Buddha, or grain) could you give your bowl creation?

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