Call them grain bowls. Call them Buddha bowls. Call them macro bowls. Call them power bowls. I don’t care what you call them, just as long as you are making and eating them!
Grain bowls are exactly what they sound like—a base of healthy whole grains in a bowl with all kinds of delicious, nutritious toppings. When done well, a grain bowl is a beautiful quilt of textures, colors, and flavors that is an absolute joy to bite into. Typically, grain bowls are improvised. Sure, there are recipes out there for them (hello, Cauliflower and Quinoa Power Bowls), but the beauty and fun of grain bowls is how free you are to experiment with your meal.
Whatever you have coming off in your garden. Whatever you got in your CSA box. Whatever you have kicking around in your crisper drawer—you can make it into awesome grain bowls. It’s a great way to reduce food waste and help you use up any produce that might be on its last leg before it hits the compost bin.
Today, I’m partnering up with the awesome folks from Tasty Bite (more on them in a sec!) to teach you how to make your own (improvised) grain bowl. I’m going to teach you to fish by giving you the exact formula I use when I craft awesome and tasty grain bowls. Follow this method, and I promise you’re going to end up with something delicious in your bowl.
What’s a grain bowl without grains? You’ll want a nice base of healthy hearty whole grains as the foundation to your bowls. Feel free to experiment here. Use leftover rice from dinner last night. Cook up some farro. Sometimes, I even roast potatoes and consider them my “grain.” Anything hearty, starchy, and carb-tastic will work.
Some options to try: Brown or white rice, farro, quinoa, steel cut oats, wheat berries, polenta/grits, roasted potatoes.
Oftentimes, the grain part is actually what takes the longest when it comes to making grain bowls (hi, brown rice, why you gotta take 45 minutes to cook?). So pretty frequently, I take a shortcut here and use pre-cooked whole grains from Tasty Bite. You just heat them up in the microwave (or for those of us who are microwave-less, on the stove), and you save a ton of kitchen prep time. Tasty Bite also has some amazing flavored rices that add such an awesome layer of flavor to your grain bowls—the Basil Chili Rice is one of my faves.
There are a lot of brands of precooked whole grains out there, but I really think Tasty Bite is on a whole other level. All their products contain only “real” ingredients—no preservatives or additives—just recognizable food. And their company is dedicated to social responsibility.
Tasty Bite does a lot of work with disaster relief organizations (because their products require no refrigeration, they are perfect for disaster supplies). They also use sustainable farming practices and renewable energy to produce their products .
Even though all of this is awesome (it so is!), my favorite thing Tasty Bite has done is the Tasty Bite Good Seed Program—it appeals right to my gardener’s heart! They gave away 50,000 free vegetable seed packets and asked folks to plant the seeds and donate the crop to a local food pantry through AmpleHarvest.org.
I’ve worked with AmpleHarvest.org in the past before, and they are one of my favorite non-profits. They are really helping to connect gardeners and farmers with food pantries that desperately need fresh food. The Good Seed program was such a success that the free seeds were gone in a flash! I’m so happy to hear that so many folks are planning to grow a row of crops for those less fortunate. And Tasty Bite plans on making the Good Seed program an annual event!
To keep the good mojo going, Tasty Bite is giving away a YEAR SUPPLY of their products to one person who posts about their crop donation on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #GoodSeed. You don’t have to use the Tasty Bite seeds if you weren’t able to snag a pack—grab whatever seeds you can, grow a crop (lettuce or radishes grow fast!), and then snap a pic when you go to donate them to your local food pantry.
And even better, for every picture tagged #GoodSeed, Tasty Bite is donating $10 (up to $10,000) to AmpleHarvest.org. So basically, you can do good while you’re doing good doing good.
Tasty Bite is a company I feel really great about sharing my kitchen with! And they help make my grain bowl prep so much faster and easier!
To give your bowls a little heft, you’ll want some protein. I almost always use beans, lentils, or tofu, but if you’re an omnivore, you should definitely experiment with meat or seafood. I will say that if you’re using meat, think of it as a way to add flavor to your grain bowl—not as the star of the show. One slice of good bacon crumbled up will go a long way to adding a ton of savory flavor!
If you’re a fan of eggs, I will say that a perfectly poached egg on top of a grain bowl is one of my life’s greatest pleasures. It checks off both the protein requirement and the sauce requirement from step four. Yum. Here are some other ideas:
- Baked tofu
- Roasted or fried tempeh
- Chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, any beans!
- Shelled edamame
- Hummus (also checks off the sauce requirement!)
- Hard boiled or soft-boiled egg
- Poached egg (also checks off the sauce requirement!)
- Cheese (feta is especially awesome)
- Cooked lentils
- Roasted chicken
- Steak strips
- Roasted shrimp or scallops
- Salmon or other fish
Grain bowls are not the time to be shy about veggies! Load that baby up. I highly recommend using a mix of sautéed, roasted, and raw veggies for the best mix of flavors, textures, and colors. Here are some of my favorite veggie options (no veggie is off the table though):
- Roasted potatoes or sweet potatoes
- Sautéed onions and garlic
- Wilted greens (spinach and chard are at the top of my list)
- Shredded raw cabbage (it adds such a great crunch!)
- Roasted cauliflower or broccoli
- Halved cherry tomatoes (raw or roasted)
- Roasted beets
- Roasted Brussels sprouts
- Roasted squash (pumpkin, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, etc.)
- Zucchini or other vegetable noodles
- Sliced green onions
- Sprouts (bean or otherwise)
- Roasted red pepper
- Cucumber slices
- Radish slices or roasted radishes
- Fresh or roasted corn
Now, to bring all that deliciousness together, you’re going to want some sort of sauce or dressing to pour over top—it really helps to unite the bowl and make it one big ole mess of yumminess. The sauce options are endless (seriously, if it’s liquid-y, you can probably put it on a grain bowl), but here are some old stand-bys:
- Any salad dressing you love
- Hummus or other bean dip
- Tahini Sauce
- Soy sauce or tamari
- Hoisin sauce
- Poached egg (this one is my favorite)
- Olive oil and balsamic
- Lemon juice and lime juice (if you want to keep it simple!)
Now would also be a good time to add in any additional flavors that might tickle your fancy. Like:
- Extra salt and pepper
- Hot sauce
- Any other condiments
One of the most glorious things about a great grain bowl is the mix of textures. Chances are, your grain, protein, and most of your veggies are on the softer side—now it’s time to add some CRUNCH! There are a lot of ways to do this (including some of the veggies listed above), but here are my faves:
- Shelled pistachios
- Shelled sunflower seeds
- Sesame sticks
- Tortilla strips
- Pine nuts
- Hemp seeds (not really crunchy, but a different texture)
- Pomegranate arils
- Sesame seeds
- Roasted chickpeas
Finally, you might want to garnish that beautiful bowl of yours. Is it necessary? Nope. But a sprinkling of fresh chopped herbs or a lime wedge can go a long way to add a bright flavor and may your bowl look even more appealing.
Don’t forget: we eat with all of our senses—eyes included! In a strange way, I feel like taking the time to plate up my meals nicely and garnish them is an act of self-care. It’s like saying, “I am worthy of nice things!” in a small way each time I eat a meal. And that’s my perfect formula for rocking a grain bowl! If you want to learn more about Tasty Bite, you can check them out on Facebook or Instagram—and look for the bright yellow pouch the next time you’re in your grocer’s international food aisle.