Grain bowls are the hottest health food trend around, but if you're like me, you're tired of paying $18 to indulge your craving for perfectly cooked grains topped with delicious sauces, tender meats, toasted nuts, and roasted and raw veggies every afternoon. Sure, I love the ease of walking into Sweetgreen and building a grain bowl sky high - but with just a bit of prep work, I can cook up a grain bowl in the comfort of my own home, for a fraction of the cost. Plus, I don't charge myself extra for avocado.
Properly mixing flavors and textures to get just the right combination is key to a perfect grain bowl. Tender, roasted vegetables need to contrast with a bit of crunch - from a raw vegetable like cucumber, perhaps, or maybe from a crunchy toasted almond. Perfectly cooked quinoa provides a bit of crunch itself, while a grain like brown rice needs a crunchy element to stand up to it's softness. And of course, you have to top it all off with a super flavorful sauce.
Follow my formula below to start cooking and assembling your own Insta-worthy grain bowls at home.
1. GRAIN BASE
Start with - duh - your grain. Here, I use quinoa, but you can use farro, millet, freekeh, brown rice, wild rice, white rice, bulgur, spelt, or any other grain. Quinoa is my go-to grain base ever since I nailed this Pressure Cooker Quinoa recipe - I cook it in my MultiPot while I assemble the rest of the ingredients. Adjust your portion of quinoa according to what toppings you're going to add to your grain bowl - I usually use about 1/2 cup.
Next, I like to add about 1 cup of leafy greens such as a spring greens mix, kale, shredded cabbage, baby spinach, or arugula. If I'm using kale, I add it to my bowl, sprinkle a bit of salt over it, and then squeeze it ("massage" it) until it starts to break down and softens. In this bowl, I used the "Cruciferous Crunch" greens blend from Trader Joe's. It's a combination of shredded kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green cabbage, and red cabbage.
3. ROASTED VEGGIES
Roasting your veggies brings out their natural sugars and enhances their natural flavors. I like adding roasted asparagus, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted carrots, roasted beets, spicy roasted broccoli, curry roasted cauliflower, or any other roasted veggie that's in season. I like to cut my veggies into 1 inch cubes, toss them with olive oil and whatever seasoning I'm in the mood for, and roast them at 425°F until cooked through and golden brown, 15 to 30 minutes depending on the vegetable. Jarred roasted red peppers are a great option when you need a quick meal and don't feel like cooking.
Gotta get your protein in! I like using boneless, skinless chicken breasts for a quick and healthy protein addition. Crispy roasted tofu, chickpeas, all kinds of beans, flank steak, a grilled or pan-seared fish fillet, a frozen turkey burger, or a couple of meatballs from last night's dinner are all great options here.
5. HEALTHY FAT
Unsaturated fats like plant-based oils, avocado, nuts, nut butters, and olives help you stay full longer - putting an end to hanger once and for all. I use between 1/4 and 1/2 of an avocado depending on how much fat is in my sauce. In this bowl, I knew I was going to use a cashew-based pesto, so I only used 1/4 of an avocado.
6. SAUCE, SAUCE, BABY
BAM - throw some sauce on top! Your sauce can be anything from hummus to leftover pasta sauce to tzatziki to this absolutely delicious Green Goddess Sauce. Your favorite salad dressing works here, too. I like to serve my bowls with a fresh lemon or lime squeeze to really bring it all together. The pesto I used on this bowl was the Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto from Trader Joe's.
7. DIG IN!
Don't forget to share an overhead snap of your bowl! If there's one thing better than making your own grain bowls at home, it's making your entire social network jealous of your cooking skills! #domestic
Looking for more grain bowl ideas? Try some of our other favorite combinations: