Buddha bowls are all the rage now….and with good reason! With a little planning ahead they can be fast and easy to put together. Plus they contain all the nutrients you’re looking for in a healthy meal …. the macronutrients – carbohydrate, protein and fat; the micronutrients – antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals; and lots of fiber. Buddha Bowls are almost always completely plant-based.
The origin of the name is not known. Some say that it is because Buddha Bowls are eaten from a bowl with a wide top signifying Buddha’s belly. Others point out that monks and nuns have been eating this way for centuries. Whatever the case we can certainly enjoy the creation and eating of buddha bowls.
Buddha bowls are generally based on a combination of grains, greens and legumes with added vegetables as desired, topped with nuts, seeds or finely diced raw vegetables and finished with a “creamy” dressing. Your own creativity and tastes determine the ingredients you use. There are essentially infinite combinations so that you can eat a different buddha bowl every time you make one if that is what you desire.
Though it is not completely necessary, pre-planning is very helpful when it comes to buddha bowls. Many people take a bit of time on the weekend to do some batch cooking; cook up a grain or two, some beans and chickpeas, whip up a dressing and chop up a few raw veggies and stash them close at hand in your refrigerator. Then when it comes time to make your meal it will be a simple matter of layering in the ingredients you want. This is especially handy after a long day of work or a day spent on-the-town shopping and running errands. If you know that you have the makings of a delicious and healthy meal in your fridge at home it is easier to forgo the fast-food outlets that beckon anyone with a hungry stomach.
The following are some ideas to get you started on creating your own buddha bowl. Mix and match them with your own favourite recipes. When you are ready to eat, place your desired greens in the bottom of a large bowl. Add a layer of a grain, a legume and perhaps a cooked or raw vegetable. If you prefer a warm bowl, heat your grain, legume and vegetable in the microwave for a minute or two before placing them in the bowl. Sprinkle on your toppings and drizzle on your dressing. All done! You’re ready to eat.
Here are some preparation suggestions for buddha bowl ingredients.
Quinoa (Makes about 2 cups when cooked)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (Makes about 2 cups when cooked)
Bring quinoa and 2 cups of water or vegetable stock to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool and fluff with a fork.
Brown rice (Makes about 2 cups when cooked)
1 cup brown rice – long grain, short grain or basmati
10 to 12 cups cold water
Pinch of salt
Cilantro if desired
Rinse rice in water two or three times and add to a large pot. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer until tender. Drain and add chopped cilantro and mix. Let cool, then fluff with a fork. (Note: This cooking method allows any possible arsenic in the rice to leach out into the water and be discarded after cooking. See my video, “Is Rice Part of a Healthy Diet?” for more information.)
Use your favourite greens such as
Brown or green Lentils
1 cup dried brown or green lentils (or the contents of 1 can; drained, rinsed and patted dry)
Rinse lentils thoroughly. Cook dried lentils in a pot of boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes until tender but not mushy. Drain and toss with a bit of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
1 cup dried chickpeas (or the contents of 1 can; drained, rinsed and patted dry)
Vegetable stock or apple juice
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
¾ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp oregano
¼ tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp each salt and pepper
Soak dried chickpeas for a few hours, changing the water a couple of times then cook by boiling for 45 minutes until the chickpeas are fork-tender. Mix and toss chickpeas with seasonings. Heat a heavy skillet, add in a small amount of vegetable stock or apple juice and sauté chickpeas over medium heat, stirring frequently until they become browned and fragrant, about 10 minutes.
Follow the recipe above but change seasonings to;
2 tablespoonsful of your favourite curry paste
A squeeze of lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste.
Use a can of beans of your choice (black beans, kidney beans, white beans, etc). Drain, rinse well and pat dry. Sauté over medium heat with some lime juice, salt, pepper and a small amount of herbs such as oregano or Italian seasoning.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
2 cups Brussels sprouts
1 large sweet or red onion
1 tablespoonful of maple syrup
1 tablespoonful of balsamic vinegar
Pinch of rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut Brussels sprouts in half and onions into slices. Toss with seasonings. Spread on the baking sheets and bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove smaller pieces if they are becoming too brown.
Roasted Red Peppers
2 red sweet peppers
Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds. Place cut side down on the baking sheet and bake in the oven until skins are blistered. Remove from oven and let cool. Then peel off skins and roughly chop peppers.
Roasted mixed vegetables
Small amount of vegetable broth or apple juice
½ sweet or red onion, sliced in wedges
2 large sweet potatoes, cut in bite-sized pieces
1 bunch broccoli, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 large handfuls of kale or spinach, large stems removed
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place broccoli in a small bowl. Place greens in a small bowl. Place onions and sweet potatoes in a medium bowl. Toss all vegetables with some soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread onions and sweet potatoes on the baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove and flip sweet potatoes and stir onions. Add broccoli and bake for another 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven once again and add greens. Bake for 4 to 5 minutes more
Steamed sweet potatoes and kale
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into large bite-sized pieces
4 handfuls baby kale
Steam sweet potatoes over boiling water, covered, for about 10 minutes. Add kale when potatoes are just tender and steam until bright green. Chop kale into small pieces.
2 sweet bell peppers of any colour, cut in thin strips
1 small sweet or red onion, cut in thin strips
½ cup mushrooms, cut in thin slices
Vegetable stock or apple juice
1 tablespoonful balsamic vinegar
Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add in vegetable stock or apple juice. Sauté the peppers, onion and mushrooms, stirring regularly, until lightly browned.
Grated raw carrots and/or beets
These two items add wonderful colour and nutrition to your bowl
Use your favourite toppings such as…
Diced red, yellow, orange or green peppers
Diced green onion
Miniature tomatoes cut in half
Chopped walnuts or other nuts
Creamy Lemon Cashew Dressing
½ cup water
¼ cup raw cashews, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes to a couple of hours
1 garlic clove, minced
3 to 4 tablespoonsful juice from a fresh lemon
2 tablespoonsful nutritional yeast
1 tablespoonful fresh dill
1 tablespoonful maple syrup
Salt, to taste
Drain and rinse cashews. Place all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until completely smooth. Adjust to taste as desired.
Green Queen Cilantro Dressing
2 ½ tablespoonsful juice from a fresh lemon
¼ cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes
¼ cup loose cilantro
1 teaspoonful dried basil
1 tablespoonful tahini
2 teaspoonsful maple syrup
½ teaspoonful Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoonful salt
Soak cashews in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. Combine 1/3 cup water and ½ tablespoonful of the tahini with the rest of the ingredients in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add remaining tahini if desired for richer texture. Add water to thin if needed. Season to taste with additional salt or pepper.
Asian Peanut Butter Dressing
1 tablespoonful peanut butter
1 tablespoonful soy sauce
1 tablespoonful of honey or maple syrup
1 tablespoonful of fresh lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoonsful water
A pinch of chopped garlic
¼ cup tahini
2 tablespoonsful maple syrup
Juice from ½ of one lemon
2 to 3 tablespoonsful hot water to thin
Whisk ingredients, except for the water, together in a small bowl. Add hot water to thin to desired pouring consistency.