You see them all over Instagram and Pinterest. The big beautiful bowls full of colourful deliciousness. They go by many monikers, Buddha bowls, grain bowls, hippie bowls, macro bowls, bliss bowls, power bowls, nourish bowls and more. No matter what you prefer to call them, they’ve become insanely popular, and for good reason. They are a super simple way to add some good, well-rounded nutrition to your day. Today we’re going over how to build an epic tasting, nutrient-rich Buddha bowl in 4 easy steps. So, let’s get to it, how to build a great WFPB bowl.
What Is a Buddha Bowl?
Buddha bowls are basically a one-dish meal, consisting of a bunch of different elements mixed together to create some well-rounded and satisfying grub. I like to think of them as salad’s cooler cousin. The great thing about them is that there are no real rules. You can be as creative as you like when putting together your bowl. They are entirely customizable (for your picky eaters) and the combinations are plentiful, so you’ll never get bored. What’s not to love about that?
I like to have Buddha bowls as a regular part of the rotation at my house. They are quick and easy to make, especially if you have some components prepped in your fridge. They are also a great way to use up small bits of leftover meals or any produce that is approaching the ‘use it or lose it’ stage. So, keep this in mind as you build your bowl, use up those leftovers so you’re reducing food waste and saving money. So much winning!
Start with a Bed of Greens
Anytime you can add dark green leafy vegetables to your meal, you totally should. They are, without a doubt, a nutritional win, every time. Low in calories and dense with vital nutrients, you just can’t lose here. Pick a couple of your faves, and put a generous helping of each at the bottom of your bowl. Aim for a cup or two, or if you don’t feel like measuring, a giant handful or two should do it. If you aren’t into greens, check out this post on How to Eat More Leafy Greens When You Aren’t a Big Fan. Also, don’t sweat it, you’re going to be adding a lot of flavourful goodness to this bowl, so just go with it.
Some base ideas include: lettuces, spinach, kale, bok choy, swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens, turnip greens, arugula, rapini, cabbage and much much more.
This is your foundation, now let’s get building.
Add Some Hearty Stuff
This is where you add some filling components that will keep you satisfied for a while. Lots of options here from cooked grains, and starchy veggies to legumes, tofu or tempeh. When looking at your bowl full of greens, aim to cover 1/3 to 1/2 of those greens with a combination of hearty starches and proteins. This is where you move from ‘salad square’ right on into ‘badass bowl’ territory. Not that there’s anything wrong with salad (they are awesome in their own right), but adding these unrefined carbohydrate and protein sources will help to keep you from making that mid-afternoon trip to the vending machine.
Hearty options include:
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, etc. (roasted, mashed, baked, however you like ‘em)
- Cooked grains like brown, black or wild rice, millet, barley, quinoa, oats, farro, teff, amaranth, couscous, noodles, etc.
- Protein options like beans, lentils, chickpeas, roasted chickpeas, baked tofu, scrambled tofu, tempeh, edamame, falafel, or cut up veggie burger patties.
Add Some Colour
The easiest way to ensure you’re getting all of your nutrients in a day is to eat the rainbow. The idea behind this is that different coloured fruits and veggies contain different nutrients we need. So, have at it and add some serious colour to your Buddha bowl. As far as proportions go, you’re going to cover the remainder of those greens you see in the bottom with lots of colourful veggies and/or fruits. You can get creative here and use whatever works for you. Roasted or cooked veggies work really well, along with raw. Don’t be afraid to use a little of both for some interesting texture and depth of flavour. If your roasting, sautéing or cooking veggies to add to your bowl, feel free to use some herbs and spices to amp up the flavour.
Colourful options include:
- Roasted or cooked veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, carrots etc.
- Raw shredded veggies like cabbage, beets, carrots, slaw mix etc.
- Veggie noodles like zucchini, beet, carrot or sweet potato noodles.
- Other raw veggies like broccoli, cucumber, tomatoes (I know, technically a fruit), onions, green beans, snap peas, sprouts, corn, radish, daikon, hearts of palm, and more.
- Fruits like berries, diced apples, pears, mango, whatever you like.
The sky is the limit here and the more colour the better, so have at it.
Once you’re happy with all the colourful foods you’ve added, now it’s time to have some fun adding pops of flavour. This is where you tie together the elements of your bowl with a complimentary dressing, sauce or toppings. There are lots of options here so let your creativity soar.
Flavourful options include:
- Fresh herbs
- A squeeze of citrus, like lemon or lime juice
- Oil-free dressing or sauce
- Salsa or guacamole
- Add some heat with a little hot sauce, sriracha, or diced chilies.
- Add some texture with some slivered nuts or seeds sprinkled over the top
Buddha Bowl Building Tips:
- Watch your flavour combos – make sure the stuff you’re tossing together makes sense flavour-wise. Use foods that go well together so you don’t end up with some backwards bowl with no coherent flavour palate. That being said, don’t be afraid to have fun and experiment with combinations of flavours and textures.
- Have a theme in mind, to help keep your Buddha bowl cohesive and delicious. Maybe you’re craving Mexican or Asian, or maybe you’re dreaming of that breakfast burrito you ate last week. Use foods and flavours that fit with your theme.
- Try to include at least one cruciferous veggie in your bowl. Whether that’s from kale, collards, mustard greens or bok choy in the base, or some broccoli, cauliflower, shredded cabbage or brussels sprouts on top. Get those antioxidant-rich cancer fighters in your beautiful bod as often as you can!
Buddha bowls are such a quick and easy way to pack some serious nutrition into your day. There are no hard and fast rules as to what makes a bowl, this post is meant to be used as a guideline and inspiration, so be creative and think outside of the box. With infinite possibilities, there are so many options available to you. Explore them all and have fun with it.
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Feature image credit: Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash