In the age of slow cookers and one-pan wonders, monochrome meals have automated how we enjoy our meals. While the ability to get dinner out in one washable dish is worthy consolation, we often forget that comfort is baked — not only into the food — but also into the design of a bowl.
From holding its warmth to feasting on the deliciousness laid inside, eating out of a bowl is like cracking open a globe and savoring all the spiced complexity this world has to offer.
And as Francis Lam wrote for the New York Times, a grain bowl isn’t about the recipe — it’s about the formula of grain, protein, vegetable, and dressing that creates a perfect, balanced bite.
It’s also about the formula of family
Partaking in a grain bowl is also much more than eating a meal: the simple setup reflects a more forgotten type of communion.
Besides a bowl for each person and an array of healthy food choices, there’s an exchange of getting to know who you’re eating with. Whether it’s just an average night with the kids or the roommates, each person gets to build a bowl truly composed of their personality.
You get to know their likes and dislikes, momentary quirks, and emotions of that day… and as they stick around the table for seconds, the more comfortable everyone becomes.
Grain bowls also have less prep and stress than a full-on meal because all the sides (and thus flavor combos) are laid out for people to choose on their own. From the dressing to the protein, flavor isn’t dependent on the skill of the chef.
In a rush? Use leftovers or have the vegetables ready meal-prep style. At a loss for ideas? The parts make up the whole — so don’t be afraid to mix and match!
You truly can’t go wrong (unless you burn the food).
But if you’re still new to the grain bowl world, we’ve picked our favorite eight food combos that’ll fiber-tastically satisfy everyone.
1. Scallops + avocados + hemp seeds + kale
If there was ever a date night-worthy grain bowl, this would be it. Topped with decadent seared scallops, roasted sweet potatoes and red peppers, hemp seeds, and creamy avocado, this power bowl is an excellent source of healthy fats, fiber, and B vitamins. Get the recipe!
2. Smoky tempeh + sprouts + carrots + beets + brown rice
The star of this ultra-savory rice bowl is, without a doubt, the smoky tempeh. Marinated in liquid smoke, hoisin sauce, and maple syrup, this delicious protein-packed tempeh ensures you won’t miss the meat. Brown rice is cooked with aromatics and topped with the tempeh, sprouts, plenty of veggies, and a perfectly soft-cooked egg. This colorful bowl will be ready and on the table in a little over an hour. Get the recipe!
3. Ground turkey + peppers + black beans + tortilla chips
Weelicious creates delicious, easy, kid-friendly dishes. This taco bowl is no exception. The grain in this bowl comes in the form of corn tortillas, which adds crunch, texture, and the fun-factor for kids (and adults). Layers of fresh lettuce, black beans, fresh vegetables, lean turkey, and cheese combine to make a taco bowl that’s packed with fiber and protein and ready in about 15 minutes. Get the recipe!
4. Smoked salmon + cucumber + avocado + brown rice
Craving sushi but don’t want to deal with the hassle of rolling it? Insert this salmon sushi Buddha bowl. This deconstructed bowl incorporates all of the fresh, umami flavors of sushi in half the time. Boasting brown rice, crunchy cucumber, creamy avocado, and smoked salmon, this bowl has 20 grams of protein and will be ready in just 15 minutes. Get the recipe!
5. Smoky chicken + grilled corn + kale coleslaw + white rice
Light the grill once for this BBQ bowl and you’ll have meal-prepped lunches all week. With 39 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber, these chicken grain bowls are a healthier spin on finger-licking barbeque. Smoky chicken, grilled corn, and a crunchy kale coleslaw knock this grain bowl out of the park. Get the recipe!
6. Teriyaki chicken + grilled pineapple + zucchini + coconut rice
For a taste of summer anytime you’d like, this Hawaiian grain bowl has your back. Layered with coconut rice, grilled pineapple, and teriyaki-glazed chicken, this bowl covers all of the tropical bases to create a protein-packed bowl loaded with flavor. Don’t be intimidated by making your own teriyaki sauce — this version is easy and so worth it. Get the recipe!
7. Egg + avocado + kraut + buckwheat groats
Who said grain bowls are restricted to the second half of the day? Here, buckwheat is cooked in a bit of coconut oil and Himalayan pink salt to create a basis for a bowl that’s anything but your typical morning oatmeal. Top with jalapeño kraut, spinach, and a fried egg for a bowl that will power you through your whole day. Get the recipe!
8. Almonds + broccoli + edamame + quinoa
We all know how great quinoa is for you. But this bowl doesn’t stop there. Loaded with almonds, chia seeds, broccoli, and kale, this feel-good grain bowl incorporates tons of superfoods and doesn’t sacrifice any flavor. Swap the honey for agave in the dressing and this bowl is vegan, too. Get the recipe!
Don’t pre-build the bowls
Outside of meal-prepping your veggies and proteins, don’t pre-build the bowls before dinner starts. Instead, you’ll want to lay out empty bowls (or place the cooked grains in the bowl) and let each person grab their own portions.
You may have to guide younger kids to balance their pickings with a little more variety, but we’ve noticed that the presentation of choice encourages older ones to eat more balanced meals.
Plus, when the flavor lies in the dressing, it’s much easier to integrate (and hide) everything and anything.