What’s a Buddha Bowl?

You might be thinking, "It's just a meal in a bowl—what's the big deal?" Actually, there's a lot more to a Buddha bowl than the fact that it's gorgeous. Here's why (and how) you should be making them at home.

Beef steak, rice and vegetable power bowl. Photo: Shutterstock / Kiian Oksana
Photo: Shutterstock / Kiian Oksana

You’ve seen them all over Pinterest, so aren’t you wondering by now…what exactly are these Buddha bowl things? Are they some Internet fad that’ll be gone in a few months, or an “eat with your eyes” way of cooking, because let’s face it—they’re gorgeous? Well, let’s dive into Buddha bowls together.

I’m around all things food every day, but until recently even I was unfamiliar with the Buddha bowl. Truth is, I see so many trends in the food industry, it can be hard to keep up! Named for its big, round Buddha belly shape, a “Buddha bowl” can mean different things to different people, but let’s define it here as a one-dish meal consisting of rice or whole grains, roasted veggies, a dressing and protein (by way of beans, tofu, lentils, or in some cases meat or fish). It’s considered clean eating and it incorporates principles of Chinese and Japanese medicine. Popular among vegans, the Buddha bowl is considered an ideal way to eat and is credited with the potential for lowering the risk of chronic diseases.

Now that you’re in the know, here are some tips on how to prepare the best Buddha bowl at home.

Start with grains

Use cooked brown rice, quinoa, barley or bulgur. These are all considered whole grains and will help you stay satisfied longer and give you more health benefits than processed grains.

Test Kitchen tip: Check out the freezer aisle for quick-prep brown rice or quinoa.

Add the veggies

Repurpose cooked veggies by tossing in oil and spices or roasted bounty from the seasonal farmers market. Here’s your opportunity to use those weekly leftovers. Don’t forget to artfully arrange for presentation!

Test Kitchen tip: Make it pretty and nutritious! Choose vegetables with different colors and textures.

Pile on the protein

Top the bowl with spicy roasted garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), tofu, or tender, sliced cooked fish or chicken.

Drizzle with dressing

Think outside the bottle—no store-bought ranch or Thousand Island dressing here. Make a homemade vinaigrette that incorporates spicy Sriracha or Dijon mustard. Here are a few of my favorite scratch-made salad dressings.

Sprinkle with seeds

Add a shower of sesame seeds, pepitas or chia seeds. It’s the perfect opportunity to use a little of this and a little of that, so if you have leftovers hanging out in your pantry, toss them on!

Test Kitchen tip: Toasting the seeds in a skillet adds depth of flavor.

Add bonus ingredients

Consider adding a perfectly ripe sliced avocado or a soft-boiled egg. There are no rules: Buddha bowls are wide open to anything you’re craving.

Still need some inspiration? Check out these healthy meals in a bowl.

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Rashanda Cobbins
When Rashanda’s not tasting and perfecting Taste of Home’s recipes, you’ll find this food editor sifting through our recipe collection, curating digital content or tracking the latest culinary trends. While studying for her bachelor’s degree in culinary arts, Rashanda interned in Southern Living’s test kitchen and later spent nearly a decade developing recipes and food content at ConAgra Brands. In her spare time, she loves scoping out local farmers markets and having picnics in the park.