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Grain bowls are a healthy and nutritious meal that are perfect for easy weeknight meals and meal prep for the week. They’re simple to make and loaded with fresh ingredients and a homemade cilantro sauce. Grain bowls are easy to adapt to your specific tastes, and I have three fun ways to try below!
What is a grain?
A grain is a small hard seed, and includes millet, maize, barley, oats, farro and rice. Whole grains tend to be high in nutrients like fiber, magnesium and B vitamins. They are filling and are great to include in a healthy diet.
What makes up a grain bowl?
It’s so easy to build your own grain bowls, just follow these simple steps!
- Grains: Options include rice, farro, quinoa, millet or barley – experiment and find your favorite! Cook a batch on the weekend and reheat before serving, or use store-bought cooked grains that are widely available to save on time. For this recipe, I’m using three kinds of popular grains: brown rice, farro and quinoa.
- Protein: This makes the meal nutritionally complete, and can be made ahead. (Grain bowls are also a great way to use up leftovers.) Use chicken, steak, duck, or fish, or go vegetarian with eggs, or vegan like I did with my three bowls with tofu, beans, or lentils.
- Vegetables: Use more than one vegetable to get a variety of flavors, textures, and colors. Roasted, steamed, or grilled eggplant, broccolini, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, carrots, or parsnips are all good and can be made ahead. Raw vegetables are also great options. Salad greens or something crunchier like carrots, radishes, or bell peppers add a bright, fresh-tasting element. Use as many as you like.
- Dressing/Sauce: Grains like a little moisture, but the sauce also ties the whole dish together. Vinaigrette (which can be made ahead), yogurt, warm broth, hot sauce, soy sauce, or any combination will do the job. For these three vegan grain bowls, the cilantro dressing is the perfect complement.
- Garnish: I like to finish my bowls with a sprinkling of herbs or micro greens, it adds a pop of extra color and flavor to make them even more enticing. You could also try a crunchy topping like seeds or nuts for more texture.
How to make the cilantro sauce
It’s so easy to make the homemade dressing for these grain bowls with a handful of simple ingredients. The sauce is vegan and gluten-free. i use cilantro, avocado, garlic, oat milk, olive oil and salt/pepper.
Simply combine all of the ingredients, except for the olive oil in a food processor. Once blended, keep the processor running and slowly drizzle in the oil until completely combined. You’ll get a bright green homogenous cilantro sauce that is ready for topping your grain bowl.
Grain bowl recipes
I call them recipes, but they are really just ideas to inspire you. I’ve played around with so many flavor combinations and these three really stand out for me if you’re looking for something vegan. Plus, they pair really well with my cilantro sauce.
Start with some type of raw vegetables that can withhold warm grain without getting soggy. Cabbages work really well. Greens like kale and spinach also work well because they still taste great when they soften.
Using Brown Rice: Cook the brown rice by adding it to a pot of water with salt, bring to the boil and let it simmer for 40 minutes and then stand for 10 minutes. Add the rice to a bowl along with:
- sliced green cabbage (get my tips to how to cut cabbage quickly and easily).
- canned black beans
Drizzle with some of the garlic cilantro dressing and serve the grain bowl.
Using Farro: Cook the farro in a pot of water with some salt, and simmer for 20 minutes before draining. Add to your bowl along with:
- baby spinach
- cherry tomatoes
- Persian cucumbers
- blanched almonds
Finish the dish with the homemade dressing and serve.
Using Quinoa: Cook the quinoa in water and salt for 15 minutes until the water has evaporated. Add the grains to the bowl along with:
- purple cabbage
- shelled edamame
- red pepper
- salted peanuts
Spoon over some of the cilantro sauce for serving.
Tips for making grain bowls
- Cook the grains al dente. This is to ensure that the grains don’t get soggy in the grain bowl as you add the other ingredients and the sauce.
- Fluff the grains after cooking. Whether you’re making the grains from scratch or using the ready-to-heat kind, it’s important to fluff them after cooking by using a fork to separate the grains.
- Use warm grains. Even though we often think of salads as cold meals, there’s something very comforting about the rice being served warm. It keeps the grains moist, and blends more equally into the salad.
- Avoid using lettuce. Grain bowls tend to be more hearty and are great for leftovers. Including lettuce in the bowls though may create a soggy situation the next day. If you want to use greens, opt for spinach or kale that don’t release too much moisture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you eat grain bowls hot or cold?
These grain bowls can be enjoyed warm or cold. I really enjoy them warm the first day when the grains are fresh off the pot. But you can easily make several and keep them covered in the fridge and have them to grab for easy cold lunches the next day.
How far in advance can you make grain bowls?
These bowls are great for meal prep to enjoy throughout the week. Make them up in individual containers and keep them covered in the fridge. They will be good for about 4 to 5 days. The dressing however will only keep for 1-2 days since int includes avocado, so keep that in mind.
Other vegetarian meals:
- Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
- Baked Eggplant Parmesan
- Vegetarian Lemon Rice Soup
- Easy Vegetable Frittata
- Vegetarian Cobb Salad Jars
These grain bowls offer well balanced meals that are full of nutrition, flavor and texture. I hope the recipes spark some ideas for creating your own grain bowls, whether they’re vegan or not. Get the whole family involved and create a DIY grain bowl station to have everyone build their own bowls.
If you’ve tried these healthy-ish feel good Grain Bowls or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories
Grain Bowls – 3 Ways
With Brown Rice
- ½ cup uncooked brown rice
- 2 cups green cabbage thinly sliced
- ½ cup canned black beans rinsed/drained
- 1 large tomato chopped
- ½ cup corn
- ½ avocado sliced
- ½ cup uncooked quinoa
- 2 cups purple cabbage thinly sliced
- ½ cup shelled edamame
- 1 red pepper thinly sliced
- 2 carrot diced
- ½ cup salted peanuts
- To cook the brown rice, add the brown rice, 1 ¼ cups water and salt to a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes until all the water is evaporated. Remove from heat, but keep the pot covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.
- To cook the farro, add the farro, ¾ cup water and salt to a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until all the water is evaporated. Remove from heat, but keep the pot covered for 5 minutes. Drain any excess water, if any, fluff with a fork and serve.
- To cook the quinoa, add the quinoa, ¾ cup water and salt to a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until all the water is evaporated. Remove from heat, but keep the pot covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve.
- To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor. While the food processor is running, slowly drizzle the oil until completely emulsified and combined. Adjust the thickness by adding more oat milk or water. And taste to adjust for more salt.
- To assemble the grain bowls, place the desired ingredients together in a bowl, drizzle with the garlic cilantro sauce and enjoy at room temperature or cold.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.