If you spend any time at all in the vegan food scene on Instagram, you’ve most likely come across big, colourful bowls of beautifully arranged foods. Whether you call one a Buddha bowl, a nourish bowl, or simply a vegan bowl of goodness, everyone seems to love them, myself included.
Before we start discussing how to craft one, we need to establish what a nourish bowl actually is and what makes it so great. Put simply, all you have to do to make one is throw together a bunch of plants and serve with a yummy dressing. To me, a nourish bowl represents eating in abundance while staying far, far away from portion control and restriction, which will get you nowhere in the long run. Certain media sources try to make us believe that we have to be miserable to achieve our health and fitness goals. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, healthy living is a lifestyle: something you can sustain and love over the long run.
Aside from that, I can think of quite a few reasons for why nourish bowls are a big deal in the foodie world.
- Healthy and super easy to make. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult. For those who struggle to eat enough plants, a well-crafted Buddha Bowl can be a perfect solution because by throwing together all the fruits, veggies and grains you can find, you’re getting in those crucial vitamins and minerals with little thought.
- Satisfying and energising -perfect for those of us who love big portions. I certainly do, and often eat my nourish bowls to refuel post-workout.
- A great way to clean out the fridge and use up leftovers. We should all be doing our best to minimise food waste. If you have any leftover ingredients or produce laying around, this is pretty much a foolproof method of using them up in a delicious way.
- Perfect for beginners on a vegan/plantbased diet. Whether you’re jumping into veganism or simply want to eat more plantbased meals, nourish bowls make a perfect solution for when you don’t know what to cool. No fancy ingredients or complex preparation required!
As a guideline for anyone who wants to give this recipe a try (or even switch up their usual formula), I’ve compiled a step-by-step guide to help you put together your own bowl of deliciousness for lunch or dinner. You can make yours as simple or as complicated as you wish, skipping some of these steps and/or adding new ones along the way. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to making a nourish bowl. Mix ‘n’ match your ingredients, try out weird combinations, because who knows – you might end up surprising yourself!
1. Pick your nourish bowl base.
This is your carbohydrate, if you like. Cook it according to your personal preference or packaging instructions, adding in spices and flavourings. Some options are:
- Potatoes: you simply can’t go wrong with these, regardless of the variety and preparation method you choose. My personal favourite is sweet potato fries sprinkled with paprika, cumin and dried basil, and then roasted on 200 degrees C for 25-30 minutes.
- Rice: basmati, jasmine, brown, fried in coconut oil, steamed, risotto, sushi rice (deconstructed sushi bowls are another go-to dinner for me). Rice up to the challenge because the possibilities are endless (that was not a typo, that was a very poor attempt at this whole craft of being funny).
- Noodles or pasta. If you follow my Instagram you’ll know I’m obsessed with all kinds of noodles: soba, buckwheat, rice, wholewheat. And for good reasons – they are super filling and can be stir fried with your favourite spices/oil for extra flavour.
- As mentioned above, potatoes! In my opinion, these are a superfood because the possibilities are endless when it comes to these bad boys, both in terms of varieties and preparation methods.
- Quinoa, especially if you want to double up on the protein.
- Grains such as buckwheat, barley and amaranth.
2. Add a protein. At times, I like to mix and match because I live life on the edge and you can’t constrain me to just lima beans or just lentils. They make a pretty dynamic duo. Here are some options for you to try:
- Chickpeas. This is a classic. For some crunch, season a can with paprika to taste, a tsp of curry powder and a tbsp of agave nectar, before roasting on 180 C for 15 minutes.
- Falafels, either homemade (recipe coming soon so stay tuned!) or store brought.
- Beans such as black beans, black eyes peas (why are these foods called peas when they’re beans?!), cannellini, red kidney, lima, pinto.
- Tofu. I’ve never understood the ‘tofu is boring’ rumour: of course, plain tofu isn’t equivalent to ice cream sandwiches but its natural blandness leaves room for versatility. You can flavour it however your heart desires, or even make scrambled tofu as a great egg substitute.
- Tempeh. I tried tempeh for the first time a few weeks ago and it changed my life. Chop around 100g of this into thin strips, marinade in a tsp of ketchup, 1/2 tsp coconut sugar, 1 tbsp of soy sauce and then fry on a hot skillet for 10-15 minutes, flipping occasionally.
3. Add some healthy fats. I feel like no Buddha Bowl is complete without avocado, but other great sources include edamame, nuts, olives/olive oil, seeds, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a dollop of nut butter.
4. Throw together all the veggies. And by all the veggies, I mean I literally do not hold back when it comes to this step. Go for at least two or three if you’re a beginner, switching up raw and cooked to add a variety of textures to your bowl while packing in those vitamins and minerals. Pick one from each of these categories and feel yourself transform into a healthy living guru:
- Base/leafy greens: spinach, kale, swiss chard, lettuce, cabbage, bok choy (can also be stir fried), arugula.
- Raw vegetables: tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, raw courgette, carrots, even more avocado, watercress, different varieties of pepper, raddish, onions.
- Cooked option: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, fried courgette, fried aubergine/eggplant, beetroot (which can also be added to hummus for a beautiful pink colour), mushrooms, boiled peas, sauteed kale, corn, artichokes.
5. For some sweetness, add fruit, but do not go overboard as it could interfere with everything else. A couple of strawberries or blueberries works just fine.
6. Sprinkle in some extra crunch and variety. This step is all about experimentation, and you can’t go wrong unless you completely overdo the amount. If you haven’t already, it’s time to bring out the cashews, walnuts, pistachios, pecans. In Russia, everyone is always eating sunflower seeds, so to me this is a perfect opportunity to embrace my cultural heritage. Other options include pumpkin seeds, chia, goji berries, mulberries, sesame seeds, raw herbs such as mint and parsley, pomegranate, nutritional yeast, watercress and alfalfa sprouts.
TIP: have you guys tried sauerkraut? This is a type of fermented cabbage that is full of beneficial bacteria and active enzymes. I’ve been adding it to most of my dinners as of recent because its distinctive sour flavour can enhance any recipe, hence I’d recommend topping your Buddha bowl with a small serving to improve the taste while receiving the health benefits.
7. Finally, get creative with your dressing. Okay, I lied, you don’t have to be creative if you don’t want to. I’m guilty of sticking to good old balsamic vinegar/low salt soy sauce or skipping this step entirely because the nutritional yeast I mentioned above is essentially my best friend. I’m sure my fellow vegans can agree. Anyway, for this step, you’re entitled to stick with a store-brought dressing, or if you have some extra time on your hands, give some of my homemade options a try:
- 1 tsp of tahini, 1 tbsp of soy milk and lemon juice to taste. That’s literally it. Stir everything together, and thank me later.
- 1 tbsp nut butter (almond, peanut and cashew are my favourite), 1 tsp agave nectar, a sprinkle of chilli powder, 1 tsp soy sauce.
- Hummus. You can buy this, but I find homemade always tastes so much better. I’ve included a basic recipe and step by step instructions in my most recent YouTube video, but adding around half of a small boiled beetroot is a true blessing (I don’t think the fact that dressing rhymes with blessing is a coincidence): the taste is quite subtle, but the colour in itself massively enhances the gastronomic experience.
- Guacamole! Even more avocado is never a bad idea. I use around half a ripe avocado, a tbsp of lemon juice and 1/4 of a small chopped onion.
I hope you all enjoyed my guide to the (hopefully) perfect Buddha Bowl, and for the sake of teaching through example, I’ve included a sample recipe below. As I’m always searching for feedback, do let me know in the comments if you try this out and share some of your creations! Also, if you haven’t already, check out my Instagram where I often share recipes and little snippets of my life as a healthy vegan. I would love to connect with you guys on there.
Nourishing Sweet Potato Tahini Bowl
Nourishing, vegan and delicious. Full of plantbased protein and interesting flavours, this bowl shows the fun side of healthy eating.
Credit: Maria Alexandra
- 1 large sweet potato
- 200g firm tofu
- half an avocado, chopped
- 1 cup broccoli, boiled
- 1 large handful of spinach and arugula
- 1/4 cup cashews
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1 small cucumber, chopped
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 1 tsp tahini
- 2 tsp soya milk
- lemon juice to taste
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Chop sweet potato into thin wedges, lay out on a baking tray and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp cumin. If you wish, you can coat the chips in coconut oil but I prefer mine oil free and use a cooking spray to ensure they don’t stick. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, chop the tofu into small cubes. Mix together with the agave nectar, soy sauce and the rest of the spices. Transfer to a skillet and stir on a medium to high heat for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and firm.
- For the dressing, mix the tahini with the soya milk and the lemon juice, adding more tahini if the texture is too runny.
- Once the potatoes are ready, throw them together into a huge bowl alongside tofu, chopped vegetables, leafy greens, broccoli and cashew nuts. Drizzle over with the dressing and enjoy.
Lots of love, Maria ♡0