The Building Blocks of Grain Bowls

The Building Blocks of Grain Bowls

Posted by Amy on Mar 22nd 2023

If you’re working toward eating a more plant-based diet, but the thought of eating one more salad makes you sadder than a mushy avocado, we have a solution: grain bowls!

Grain bowls are a perfect prep-ahead, no-recipe-required meal. They can be customized to fit any taste or diet. To begin, we recommend drawing inspiration from a geographic region, as we did with charcuterie boards, and following the formula below to build a cohesive grain bowl.


You can begin with something as straightforward as rice. Feel free to explore dozens of other options for a base to your grain bowl. Think steel cut oats for a breakfast bowl, or try barley, farro or bulgur for a Mediterranean bowl. We’ve seen several bowls that combine grains; rice and quinoa are very popular.

Keep in mind that different grains have different textures, cook times, and flavors. Choose grains that will complement the other elements in your bowl.


The beauty of the grain bowl is its versatility. You can make them equally friendly to both vegans and meat-eaters. For a filling, flavorful vegan bowl, use tofu, roasted chickpeas, or even meat-free substitutes like soyrizo. Fried or hard boiled eggs are fast and vegetarian-friendly.

For our pescatarian friends, we recommend salmon or shrimp. Hawaiian poke also offers inspiration, with bite-size cubes of raw fish like ahi tuna. We think this recipe from Keeping it Relle sounds amazing. Shredded chicken, grilled sausage, and even steak play nicely in a grain bowl for meat lovers.


Vegetables in a grain bowl can be fresh, frozen, or even canned. Serve them bite-sized. Oven roast vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness. Add leafy greens for extra fiber and nutrients. We love adding seasonal vegetables for peak flavor and freshness. Grain bowls are a great way to work your way through a daunting CSA box, or use up the final bits of whatever is on its last leg in your fridge.

Finishing Touches

Think about finishing your grain bowl as you would a salad, with a splash of your favorite vinegar or citrus juice for a bright, acidic flavor, or your favorite dressing for even more substance and flavor. We also love pesto, peanut sauce, yogurt and tahini depending on the other elements of the bowl.

Finally, add fresh herbs, toasted nuts, pickled vegetables or avocado slices for a finishing garnish.

Recipe Inspiration

If you’d love to try your hand at making grain bowls, but you’d still like a little help getting started, we’ve found three recipes that turned out delicious.

This Roasted Veggie Grain Bowl from Food Network features spicy curry powder, chickpeas and tahini. It’s vegan and packed with flavor -- ideal for a meatless Monday.

The Steak Grain Bowl from Delish made for a delicious weeknight meal. We substituted crumbled queso fresco for the feta to play into this bowl’s southwestern flair.

We prepared the Avocado Breakfast bowl from Delish for a morning when we needed something hearty to keep us going, and it did not disappoint. We substituted steel cut oats for the quinoa, and we loved the Everything Bagel seasoning as a finishing touch.