Numerous vegan and vegetarian restaurants serve their version of the Buddha/Dragon Bowl, or Market Plate. It usually consists of :
- A protein (beans in most places, but sometimes tofu or tempeh);
- A grain, for those who eat them (brown rice, quinoa, millet, one hundred percent buckwheat soba noodles);
- A rainbow array of raw and cooked vegetables, most often including green (dark, leafy greens, steamed or sautéed, steamed broccoli, roasted brussel sprouts,etc.) and orange/yellow (steamed squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers) vegetables;
- Some kind of raw sauce/dressing; and
- toppings (nuts, seeds, herbs, etc.).
At their simplest, Buddha Bowls can combine a multitude of simply steamed or roasted vegetables, cooked beans, and grains with a sauce, but they can also be more complex, as in the examples below, which are designed to spark your creativity and inspire you to create your own Buddha Bowls.
These healthy meals allow for meal prep early in the week, and several days of healthy lunches and dinners afterwards. Below are a few of my favorites.
Staples to include in Buddha Bowls (or munch on):
Toasted Nuts – Most nuts and seeds can be toasted on sheet pans in the oven at 385-400°F for 4 minutes (for seeds, pine-nuts) to 10 minutes (walnuts). Check roasting nuts and seeds frequently. They are done when they start to turn golden brown and become fragrant.
Roasted Vegetables – Most vegetables can be tossed with extra virgin olive oil, fleur du sel or coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper (optional) and roasted on sheet pans in the oven at 400°F. They generally take 20-30 minutes, with items like cherry tomatoes roasting more quickly and those like brussel sprouts roasting more slowly. Roast, turning occasionally, until they begin to soften, turn golden brown, and caramelize. Olive oil is healthiest for roasting vegetables, but some vegetables like butternut squash are excellent roasted with coconut oil. For the healthiest roasting, some people roast vegetables dry on parchment paper or silicon sheets, and add the EVOO, salt and pepper as soon as they come out of the oven.
Favorite Buddha Bowls
Basic Bowl with Walnut Sauce: Steamed baby kale, garlic & herb roasted tofu or Braised Eye of the Goat Beans, roasted brussel sprouts, steamed/roasted sweet potatoes or roasted butternut squash, short grain brown rice (optional) walnut sauce
Mediterranean Kale and Roasted Broccoli Bowl: Lightly dressed kale, roasted broccoli, roasted cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, thinly sliced radishes, toasted pine nuts
Thai Soba and Salad Bowl with “Peanut Sauce” – Mixed Shredded Cabbages (red with green/savoy/napa/slivered bok choy) and Carrots, Roughly Chopped Basil, Mint and Cilantro, Very Finely sliced or Diced Jalapeno or Serrano peppers, 100% buckwheat soba noodles, Edamame, “Peanut” Sauce (made with almond butter), toasted black sesame seeds, more cilantro leaves and thinly sliced scallions.
Black Bean and Avocado Bowl: Wilted spinach, quick cilantro/lime black beans, brown rice, roasted cherry tomatoes, Pickled red refrigerator onions, raw slivered cabbage, sliced avocado/guacamole, raw scallions, toasted pepitas
Basic Bowl with Walnut Sauce
Garlic Roasted Tofu
16 oz. extra firm tofu, cubed (approx. ½ – ¾ inch cubes)
2 teaspoons gluten-free, low-sodium tamari
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 teaspoon fleur du sel
1 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 sprig rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped (optional)
3 sprigs thyme/lemon thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take tofu out of package, place between two cutting boards, with a weight on top, and let drain for 10-15 minutes, pouring off water periodically. Then, but into cubes, and let drain for 5 more minutes on paper towels.
Mix all ingredients except for tofu together to form marinade at bottom of a large bowl. Add tofu cubes, toss to coat, cover, and let marinate for ½ hour – 1 hour if you have the time. Pour tofu cubes and marinade out onto a large sheet pan. Roast until nicely browned, for approximately 20 minutes to one half hour.
Braised Eye of the Goat Beans
Eye of the Goat Beans are heirloom beans available online from Rancho Gordo. They are similar to cranberry beans but hold together nicely when cooked for a long time and create a particularly rich, deep brown broth that almost tastes like it has meat in it…
One 12 oz. package dried Eye of the Goat Beans
2 cups organic vegetable broth, plus additional water
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large sweet onions, finely diced
1-2 large cloves of garlic, minced
6 large sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Sea salt or fleur du sel
1 three-inch strip of kombu
Soak 12 oz. of Eye of the Goat Beans in cold water, at least overnight but preferably for 24 hours; to do this, put beans in a bowl, and cover with at least 3 inches more water than the beans. You can drain and re-cover the beans with water once or twice, if you think of it, but it is not necessary; add additional water if all water in the bowl is absorbed by the beans. Eye of the Goat beans have a long cooking time, which can be reduced by soaking them longer. If you substitute other beans in this recipe, they generally need to soak only overnight.
Finely dice two large onions, and mince 1-2 large cloves of garlic. Put 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan or a pasta pot and heat until shimmering. Add onions and garlic, and saute on low heat until onions are soft and translucent; if onions dry up, add additional water (for those on an oil-free diet, the onions and garlic can be “Steam-fried” in water instead of oil). Drain and rinse the soaked beans, and add to the pot, along with 6 large sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 2 cups of organic vegetable broth, fresh cracked black pepper to taste, a three-inch strip of kombu seaweed (optional – helps beans cook faster), and sufficient water to cover beans by at least three inches. Bring to a boil, cover pot and simmer for one hour and fifteen minutes; simmer for an additional 15-45 minutes uncovered, or until beans are tender, adding more water as needed.
After beans are tender, remove thyme stems and bay leaf, and add sea salt or fleur du sel to taste, starting with one-quarter teaspoon.
(adapted from Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., MD)
½ cup walnuts
1 garlic clove
1-2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
½ cup water (or more if you want thinner sauce)
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend/process until smooth. Taste and add more walnuts, water, garlic or tamari to taste. This sauce is good on everything. I especially like it on steamed vegetables, grains and tofu.
I like this tofu or these beans served in a bowl with brown rice and steamed kale or vegetables (esp. broccoli and sweet potatoes or butternut squash). My favorite kales are Tuscan/dinosaur/lacinato kale – dark green, not curly, goes by lots of names – or prewashed baby kales or mixed baby kale and baby spinach. I fill the bottom of my steamer with salted water and the top with sweet potato or butternut squash chunks on the bottom and kale or broccoli on top; sometimes I use green vegetables only. I then bring the water to a boil and steam until tender (about 8 minutes for mature kale).
If you prefer to roast vegetables, the brussel sprouts can be tossed with EVOO, fleur du sel and fresh ground pepper, and the butternut squash with either EVOO or Coconut oil and a little fleur du sel. They can be roasted on sheet pans at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turning occasionally, until they soften and start to brown/caramelize.
For a richer bowl, the baby kale and spinach can also be sautéed. Slice three large garlic cloves, and saute in two tablespoons EVOO in a sautee pan on the stove until they just begin to brown. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and several pinches of fleur du sel to the garlic oil. Then add one 5 oz. package of mixed baby kale and spinach, along with a pinch of red pepper flakes and several pinches of fleur du sel. Sautee on medium low heat, stirring frequently, until all greens have wilted but are still a vibrant green.
Mediterranean Kale and Roasted Broccoli Bowl
Lightly Dressed Kale
Approximately 2 bunches (8+ cups) raw, washed and dried kale leaves, large stems removed, and cut into ¼ or ½ inch slivers (large slaw)
½ – 1 fresh serrano pepper, seeded and sliced very thinly
Coarsely grated sea salt or fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes
¼ cup garlic oil*
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3-4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemon, if available), to taste
1 ½ cups good quality grated parmesan, such as grana Padano (optional)
Whisk together in the bottom of a large bowl the olive oil, garlic oil, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Taste and add remaining lemon juice and an additional ½ teaspoon salt if needed. If too lemony for your taste, add additional olive oil or garlic oil.
Add the kale, mixing first with a big wooden spoon, and then using your hands to massage the dressing into the kale leaves, so that they begin to soften (this is more important if you use curly kale, which is tougher).
Add serrano pepper and parmesan (optional), mixing with a large wooden spoon until well distributed. If not using serrano pepper, add freshly grated black pepper and/or red pepper flakes, to taste.
*Slice or smash 4 large garlic cloves directly into a small saucepan, add one cup extra virgin olive oil, bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes (take off before garlic gets brown), let cool briefy and strain oil into small mason jar. Refrigerate and use as needed for up to one week.
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets, with stems peeled and sliced if you desire
2 tablespoons garlic oil
Freshly ground pepper and fleur du sel to taste
1 tablespoon good quality EVOO
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons to ¼ cup good quality grated parmesan, depending on taste
Toss initial ingredients together, arrange on a sheet pan, and roast at 400°F for 20 to 25 minutes, until florets are just starting to turn tender and some tips are browning.
Remove from oven, toss in a large bowl with the EVOO, lemon juice and zest, and parmesan.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Toss one or two packages cherry tomatoes with EVOO and fleur du sel. Roast on a baking sheet at 400F until shriveled, sweetened and beginning to brown. Cool.
Drain and rinse one 15 oz. can of chickpeas. Toss with 2 tablespoons EVOO, ¼ teaspoon fleur du sel and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes.
To compose individual bowls, arrange kale at the bottom, with roasted broccoli, roasted cherry tomatoes and dressed chickpeas on top. Top each bowl with thinly sliced radish and 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts.
Thai Soba and Salad Bowl with “Peanut Sauce”
Prepare one package of Eden brand 100% buckwheat soba noodles according to directions on label.
Steam (or microwave) one and one-half cups of shelled edamame.
Prepare a raw chopped salad made of the following:
6 cups finely shredded (like for cole slaw) napa cabbage, bok choy or a combination (this is the main green)
1 cup finely shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1/2 English cucumber, julienned
Leaves from one small bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (1/4 cup reserved for serving)
¼ cup shredded Basil
2 tablespoons shredded mint (optional)
1 finely chopped jalapeño (optional)
3 scallions, white and light green portions, finely sliced (reserved for serving)
To prepare the sauce, blend the following ingredients at high speed in a blender or Vitamix until smooth:
1 cup raw almond butter
¼ cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons gluten free tamari
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon white miso
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, partially chopped
½ -1 jalapeno chile (I love the kick this gives it – it is not too spicy if you use ½ a jalapeño)
1/3 cup water, or more as needed, to achieve desired consistency
Toast 4 tablespoons of black sesame seeds in a frying pan on the stove top set to medium heat, tossing until they are fragrant and just begin to brown.
Put one-half cup of cooked buckwheat soba at the bottom of each bowl. Top with one to two cups of the chopped salad and one-quarter cup of the edamame. Drizzle generously with the “peanut sauce” and serve, with a small bowl or pitcher of additional “peanut sauce” on the side. Sprinkle reserved cilantro and scallions over the top of each bowl, followed by black sesame seeds.
Black Bean and Avocado Bowl
Quick Black Beans with Lime and Cilantro
Two 15 oz. cans of black beans
1 to 2 limes, juiced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped into rings
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed, dried and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
Freshly ground black pepper and one-half teaspoon coarse sea salt, or more to taste
Empty two cans of drained black beans into a small saucepan.
Add freshly squeezed juice of one lime and remaining ingredients to a small saucepan. Simmer on the stove for 15 minutes to one-half hour, depending on the consistency you like (beans will get more of a mushy, refried texture, the longer you cook them). Taste after 5 minutes, adding additional fresh lime juice and sea salt as needed.
If you have more time, you can adjust this recipe as follows. Finely dice one large sweet onion and 4 cloves garlic, and saute in 2 tablespoons EVOO with the jalapeno, until onions are softened and completely translucent. Add remaining ingredients, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and follow instructions above.
Always Great Basic Guacamole
Two large avocadoes
One to two limes, juiced
One jalapeno, seeded and minced
One small bunch cilantro, leaves removed and finely chopped
Fleur du sel
Mash two fresh avocados with a fork. Add freshly squeezed juice from one to two limes, one minced fresh jalapeno, finely chopped fresh cilantro, and fleur du sel to taste. Mix well and serve.
Quick Pickled Red Onions (Refrigerator Pickles)
One large red onion, peeled and thinly sliced, with slices cut crosswise in half
1 cup white vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced into thin rounds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
Add one cup white vinegar, one-half cup sugar, juice of one lime, and one large pinch coarse salt to a 16 oz mason jar. Cover and shake, until most sugar is dissolved. Add the jalapeno, cumin seeds, and red onion. Cover, and shake to distribute ingredients evenly. Keep refrigerated for up to one week. Best if not used for at least two hours after pickling. You will know the onions are ready when they turn a beautiful bright pink.
To assemble this bowl, place two cups baby spinach in the bottom, and cover with hot brown rice (if using) and black beans, which should mostly wilt the spinach. Add roasted cherry tomatoes (see recipe above), some finely shredded red and white cabbage, and a few tablespoons of guacamole. Top with additional washed and dried cilantro leaves, toasted pumpkin seeds and pickled red onions if desired (these are delicious and beautiful but not necessary).