Build Your Own Buddha Bowl

how to make a buddha bowl

It’s February and in my neck of the woods the weather can be fickle. One day nearly 70, the next day in the 40s. Which makes getting dressed — and cooking dinner — something of a challenge.

Soups are still essential. Comfort food is yet calling my name. But right about now I am craving real, whole, healthy dishes. We’re talking dark leafy greens, nutrient-packed grains, plant-based proteins, life-giving legumes and lots of raw veggies all stirred together into one delicious dinner.

Turns out someone else is hankering for this very same meal. Because not only does it have a name and a recipe, this dinner I’m desiring is so popular, it’s become its own concept, maybe it’s own movement. I’m talking Buddha Bowls. Heard of them? A quick search on Pinterest reveals hundreds of Buddha Bowl variations. has declared 2017 “the year of the Buddha Bowl.” They go by other names as well: Healing Bowls, Power Bowls, Brown Rice Bowls, Veggie Bowls, Winter Bowls, Hippie Bowls, Sunshine Bowls. But “Buddha Bowl” works for me.

What is a Buddha Bowl, you ask?

Think of it as a creative dinner jigsaw puzzle where you can put the pieces together any way you like, as long as you follow a few simple guidelines. A Buddha Bowl is a bowl (some say it should be a favorite bowl or one with meaning so this meal feeds your spirit as well as your belly) that’s filled with one part grain, one part greens, one part protein. Top that layer with veggies (they can be grilled, sautéed, roasted, raw), and add nuts, fruit or herbs. Then tie the whole thing together with a clean, homemade dressing.

You’ve likely eaten a Buddha Bowl out somewhere — they’ve been big in the world of West Coast, Asian-inspired, vegetarian-leaning food for decades. But their moment on the home kitchen stage appears to be now.

Which makes sense. They’re plant-based (perfect for Meatless Mondays) and oh-so-accomodating. Need your meal to be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or paleo. Buddha Bowls can be all those — at the same time. They can even star some of the last local foods hanging around in February like potatoes, onions, garlic and butternut squash.

This dinner can also be kid-friendly. Just set out the various pieces (say, brown rice, roasted chickpeas, crispy tofu, steamed broccoli, shredded carrots and raisins) and let your kids fill up their bowls with what appeals. Top with kid-approved peanut sauce or a dollop of yogurt.

One other plus: Nearly every piece of the Buddha Bowl can be made ahead. Prep your grain,  your protein, some of your veggies and your dressing during the weekend then pull them out on a busy weeknight to put a super yummy, healthful dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.

So why call it a Buddha Bowl? This may be my favorite part of the whole meal. According to, a Buddha Bowl is: “a bowl which is packed so full that it has a rounded “belly” appearance on the top much like the belly of a buddha.” Isn’t that great? Well, not as a great as eating your Buddha Bowl. But almost.

Below is a basic Buddha Bowl guideline. Here is a link to a Mediterranean Buddha Bowl recipe that we made at my house this week.

And here is me stirring up a Buddha Bowl on Daytime Blue Ridge, my local mid-day TV show.

Basic Buddha Bowl

Makes 2 meal-sized servings


  • 1 cup cooked grain, like rice, quinoa, barley or couscous
  • 2 cups fresh leafy green, like spinach, kale, Swiss chard or collard or beet greens
  • 2 cups other vegetables. These can be anything from sautéed mushrooms and onions to a roasted root vegetable medley to marinated or fermented veggies such as roasted red peppers.
  • 1/2 cup protein, think lentils, black beans, hard-boiled eggs, pan-roasted tofu or even grilled chicken or fish
  • Toppings (like crumbled feta, sliced almonds or a sprinkling of herbs such as parsley or cilantro)
  • 1/3- 1/2 cup dressing (try this Honey Mustard Vinaigrette)


  1. Begin by cooking your grain and protein in the best preparation style suited for them. Set aside.
  2. Prepare vegetables by sautéing, roasting, grilling or any other appropriate method.
  3. Stir together dressing.
  4. Chop greens into ribbons.
  5. Gather and prep any toppings you’re using.
  6. Assemble the Buddha Bowl, starting with the grain, then greens, then protein, then vegetables, then toppings. Drizzle dressing over the entire bowl.

This post was shared on Virginia Bloggers’ Friday Favorites and Fiesta Friday’s linkup party, hosted by Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love. Check out these sites to find some amazing recipes!

virginia bloggers icon

Fiesta Friday icon


Published by christinanifong

A writer of stories. About kale and turnips. Seeds and dirt. And, you know, life. Find essays, recipes and writing samples at