Never had a Buddha Bowl? They are delicious and nutritious and make the perfect lunch at home or at work. Learn how to build one and what goes into them here… And no! They don’t have to be vegetarian.
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The Buddha Bowl – Nutritious, even if it is Trendy
The Buddha Bowl (aka protein bowl/nourish bowl/macrobiotic bowl/Quinoa Bowl) has become very trendy in recent years. It’s often on the menu in cafe’s and restaurants. It can even be bought from the chiller as a lunch-offering in M&S. It’s not surprising. Full of little ‘tasters’ of different bites of loveliness, a Buddha Bowl is both nutritious and delicious.
But it also has a reputation for being a little ‘up itself’ and specifically associated with Veganism. Search the internet and you will find bowl upon bowl of instagrammable colourfulness, nearly all of which is determinedly plant-based.
Actually, I’m a big fan of a veggie bowl and seriously got into making them for my lunch in Veganuary. Indeed, it’s one of the things that I have particularly taken forward when including more plant-based meals in my diet. But they shouldn’t be (in my humble opinion) ‘sanctimoniously’ Vegan.
Are ALL Buddha Bowls Vegan?
So does a Buddha Bowl have to be vegan? The answer is absolutely not! They can contain pretty much anything really… be it plant-based, dairy, eggs, meat or fish. Vegan bowls may have a rather supercilious reputation, but they are by no means the only variant. Indeed, my biggest concern is that by reputation, the Buddha Bowl has ruled itself out of most people’s thinking and become limited to a ‘worthy’ few. Which is more than sad. Because Buddha Bowls are one of the healthiest meals out there!
Why is it Called a Buddha Bowl?
It’s a question I often ask. And it seems there is more than one answer.
One explanation seems to be that because a Buddha Bowl is really healthy and good, it has been so called in symbolic recognition of the clean, spiritual nutrition it represents.
The most common answer you find if you google it however, is that a Buddha Bowl (and it is always an individual bowl for one), is so named because of its shape. The traditional Buddha figure is often portrayed as a jovial and scantily-clad man with a large rounded belly. It is said that the shape of the filled bowl is similar to the Buddha belly and thus, it is named as such.
Dig a little deeper however and you find that in fact, ‘Buddha’ was not a fat man at all. And the ‘when’ he ate was perhaps more important than the ‘what’. The story goes that Buddha would wake at dawn and would walk. As he walked, he would carry his bowl in his hands. His followers in the villages he walked through would fill his bowl with whatever they could spare… A little of this and a little of that. When at the end of the day it was time to eat, Buddha would gratefully take his meal straight from the bowl. Given the times when he lived, the food he ate was likely to have been very healthy, regardless of what it was.
I actually think this last answer to the question is more likely. It is certainly more romantic. But I will leave you to ponder your own conclusion. If you want to read more on the last explanation, this article from Epicurious makes interesting reading.
What Goes into a Buddha Bowl?
A Question of Balance
At its heart, the Buddha Bowl is about balance. Why? Because it is built on a little of everything that is important in a healthy meal… Nutrition, food type and colour. And the more colourful the dish is, the better. Because lots of colour means lots of different nutrients and that’s good for us… right? The added benefit of a carefully arranged and pretty bowl is that it will also be more appetising to look at… as well as being more photogenic. Yup… that’s the blogger in me talking!
A good balanced bowl should therefore contain :
- A serving of greens (preferably raw)
- some grains or starch
- a good portion of vegetables (both raw and cooked)
- a little protein (whether animal or plant based)
- some healthy fat
And yes… (because I know some of you are wondering… ) a Buddha Bowl can be served cold, hot or a combination of both!
Ingredients You Can Use
A Bed of Greens
Think spinach; lettuce; leaves; rocket; watercress; kale; some seasonal herbs, etc.
A Couple of Spoons of Grains or Starch
For the gluten free amongst us, quinoa, rice (red or black are yummy), millet, buckwheat, gluten free cous cous, lentils or polenta are all good. Alternatively add some delicious roasted sweet potato wedges. I love to have a little of both!
Click the link for a handy guide on how to cook Quinoa perfectly (with a downloadable infographic).
Plenty of Vegetables – Raw & Cooked
You can really go to town here, but try to have a variation of both raw and cooked.
My favourites are a combination of roasted or steamed vegetables picked from : Butternut squash, carrots; colourful peppers, onions (red and white); baby corn; bright red tomatoes on the vine; soft brown mushrooms (any variety); courgette (zucchini); broccoli; French beans; artichokes; asparagus; Brussels sprouts; aubergines; red cabbage and parsnips.
For the raw vegetable element, I tend to choose from cherry tomatoes: cucumber; raw broccoli or cauliflower; peas; baby corn; red or spring onion; peppers; celery; baby mushrooms; some crunchy carrot and even a little radish. You can even add a little fruit… Some pineapple, a little orange, or maybe some melon are good.
The choice and combination are absolutely yours. But if you can think seasonal, so much the better.
A Little Protein
On the non-vegan list, it’s fine to add a little hard-boiled or poached egg; some cooked fish (salmon or tuna are perfect); or even a little lean meat such as roasted or grilled, seasoned chicken breast.
Some Healthy Fat
Absolute favourites include the superfood avocado (yup… it always has to feature in my Buddha Bowl), as well as a sprinkling of nuts and seeds, a few fat olives, some houmous (hummus), and a drizzle of olive or walnut oil (plus a little balsamic syrup and seasoning).
So there you have it. How to Build a Buddha Bowl. Easy, flexible, as you please, nutritious, sustaining and delicious.
Although I’ve given you a ‘recipe’ for my favourite combination of ingredients, a Buddha Bowl is really a very individual thing. So to make it easier, I’ve also given you a handy Infographic that you can download. Why not print it out and keep it handy. Experiment with whatever you fancy and work out your own favourite Buddha Bowl additions.
For a bit more in inspiration, here’s a couple more bowl ideas from my fellow bloggers :
- Vegan Rice Bowl with Maple Tofu & Smoked Tomato Sauce – Tin & Thyme
- Roasted Veggie & Halloumi Quinoa Bowl – Crunch & Cream
I’d love to know what goes in your bowl…. So please leave a comment below, or come find me on social media. Tag me with your lovely Buddha Bowl photos!! And enjoy xxx
For lots of other vegan-gluten free ideas, check out our dedicated Vegan Recipe Index.
- knife & fork
- handful salad leaves washed
- ½ cup roasted vegetables (various) cooked in advance
- ¼ cup cooked quinoa see Notes below
- ½ ripe avocado sliced
- 2 tbsp hummus (houmous) any
- 6 cherry tomatoes approx. Can be roasted.
- 6 olives approx
- ½ tbsp pumpkin seeds toasted as preferred
- drizzle balsamic vinegar
- drizzle olive oil
- Arrange your greens (eg salad leaves) in a serving bowl.
- Add some grains or starch (such as quinoa) and some vegetables (cooked or raw).
- Top with a little protein and some healthy fat (avocado; hummus, etc).