Buddha Bowl

Last week’s post on “Build Your Own Tacos” was a success! We talked about how to create meals for a family with various taste preferences and dietary needs. Each person at your table might:

  • Be in a different ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book (AH) Phase,
  • Enjoy different flavored dishes,
  • Dislike certain ingredients,
  • Have allergies, intolerances, or preferences for various foods.

No problem! We’ll continue to show you how to cater to these needs by giving new and exciting types of Build Your Own meals. Today, it’s a one bowl meal that sometimes looks like a big salad, however it doesn’t have to be salad for those who want something warm or even soupy. There’s something for everyone here!

The trendy name for a layered bowl that each person builds themselves is a Buddha bowl. Everything (veggies, spices, protein, etc.) is put over a base, usually greens or grains. Then a unique sauce is spooned over top and voila! A tasty meal for everyone at your table.

Buddha Bowl

A great example of this type of dining has long been a Korean tradition, called Bi bim bop, but there are many ways that one pot bowls have served families over the centuries. There are now fast food restaurants popping up everyday that center on the concept of a personalized salad bowl using fresh ingredients. Luckily for us (and you!) these easy meals are not only delicious and creative, but they also fit easily into any of the AH phases!

Served as a hot meal or a cold salad, you’ll find that Buddha Bowls work for any season, any climate, any ethnic dish that you choose. The key is in the ingredients and especially in the sauce you choose to go on top of it.

Base of the Buddha Bowl

The first step is the same as last week’s Build Your Own Tacos: you need a base, something hearty and delicious to create cohesiveness in your Buddha bowl. Here are a few things we love to start your bowl:

  • Various mixed raw greens like baby kale, spinach, arugula, spring greens, or radicchio
  • Lightly blanched or steamed greens like kale, collards, mustard greens or other hearty leafy greens – see Guide to Cooking Vegetables (ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book page 313)
  • Whole kernel grains like quinoa, brown rice, farro, barley, wheat berries, whole corn kernels or other grains – see Guide to Cooking Whole Grains (ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book page 317)
  • Root vegetables like roasted or steamed squashes (like kabocha, butternut, or buttercup), sweet potatoes (See Roasted Sweet Potatoes ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book page 279), or other roasted root veggies like parsnips, turnips, carrots, or beets.

Feel free to get a little more creative with your greens and vegetables than you did for tacos. This is a full meal bowl after all. Mix it up! Ultimately, it’s up to each individual’s needs and preferences.


Buddha Bowl

Beans are not necessary in every Buddha Bowl, but they add nice flavor, texture, color and some extra protein, good quality carbs, and some fat. Any beans will work (black, pinto, garbanzo etc.) whole or puréed (refried), and sometimes seasoned (simple or spicy – salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, powdered chiles or even a bit of fresh salsa cooked into them). Even a bit of hummus will do.



The choices are endless here – Choose any protein you like.

  • Rotisserie chicken; leftover Herb-Roasted Chicken (ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book page 241); marinated and grilled chicken, beef or pork strips; Mexican Shredded Chicken (page 241); pulled pork; strips of leftover steak
  • Vegetarian Proteins like Crumbled tempeh (page 244); Fried Tofu or Tempeh (page 243), Black Bean Tofu Hash (page 222);
  • Seafood options like Broiled Fish with Garlic and Lemon (page 232); cooked shrimp, calamari, scallops, or mussels; a can of sardines, tuna, salmon or smoked oysters; slices of smoked salmon or trout, or any other seafood

Additional Vegetables

Vegetables are nice for a base or as an additional topping in your Buddha Bowl. Here’s a short video tutorial on blanching vegetables. For a complete chart on how long to blanch, steam, sauté or roast a variety of different vegetables, see our Guide to Cooking Vegetables in the ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book, page 313.

In addition to other toppings, make sautéed or roasted onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini or other favorite vegetables to round out the Buddha Bowl.

Fresh toppings

  • Raw Veggies like chopped red onion, shredded carrots, sliced radishes, celery sticks, tomatoes or canned artichoke hearts
  • Fresh herb garnishes like cilantro, parsley, oregano, basil, chopped scallions or chives or other herbs
  • Slices of lime, lemon, orange, tangerine or grapefruit
  • Pickled vegetables like Sauerkraut, Kimchi, or Escabeche
  • Sprouts
  • Fresh fruit like apples, pears, figs or other fruit like pomegranate seeds, or small amounts of exotic tropical fruits like guava, papaya or pineapple
  • Dried fruit like currants, raisins, dried cherries or apricots, dates or other dried fruits.

Lightly pickled vegetables are also nice in these Buddha Bowls, like shredded carrots, onions, or cabbage, massaged with salt and a little vinegar then set aside in the refrigerator for a day or two to allow the flavors to meld and develop.

Fatty toppings


  • Cheese of any kind like feta, cheddar, blue cheese, mozzarella, provolone, parmesan or specialty cheeses, even
  • chunks of grilled haloumi
  • Sour cream, cottage cheese, or creme fraiche
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Nuts or seeds: pecans; walnuts; peanuts; pine nuts; pumpkin, sunflower or sesame seeds; pistachios; cashews; macadamia nuts – see Guide to Roasting Nuts (ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book page 319)
  • Shredded coconut
  • Olives or olive tapenade

The Sauce – The Most Important Step!

Finally, the sauce is what brings your Buddha Bowl together. From a simple drizzle of oil, to an elaborate and flavorful sauce, or a simple squeeze of lemon, each bowl will call for a different sauce to make it shine.

Dressings or Sauces like Mustard Vinaigrette (ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book page 264); Ginger Soy Vinaigrette (page 267); Thai Peanut Sauce (page 262); Lemon Tahini (page 269); Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing (page 271); Chipotle Mayo (page 268); Ranchero Sauce (page 272); Blue Cheese Dressing (page 263); Creamy Dill (page 269); or a spicy Korean pepper paste

Dry spices like Japanese Five Spice Powder; crushed red pepper; Zaatar, or other favorite spice blends

For the final sauce, you could even use a soup broth like a Japanese Dashi Broth, a vegetable soup stock, a bone broth, or a miso broth seasoned with any number of flavorings to make the bowl more of a one pot meal soup.

In the end, the key is to have fun and craft your healthy Buddha Bowl just the way you like it.

Buddha Bowl Combinations

We’d love to hear the creative combinations that you make! Think about flavors, colors, and textures to make your bowls beautiful as well as delicious.  Here are a few to inspire you. Let us know the combinations you like in the comments below!

Mediterranean or Greek


Mixed salad greens with baby kale, hummus, chunks of cooked chicken, shredded carrots, red onion and fresh oregano, pomegranate seeds, walnuts topped with Lemon Tahini Dressing (add a bit of quinoa for Phase 2)

Romaine lettuce with chickpeas, olive tapenade, red onion, red pepper, feta cheese, and sunflower seeds, slices of cooked lamb or chicken topped with a Mustard Vinaigrette and an extra squeeze of lemon (add a bit of quinoa for Phase 2)


Short grain brown rice with Pan-Fried Tofu (page 243) or Broiled Fish with Lemon and Garlic (use ginger slices in place of lemon), sautéed bok choy with shiitake mushrooms, adzuki beans, and sesame seeds topped with Ginger Soy Vinaigrette, garnished with chopped scallions

Phase 3 – Cold soba noodles with seasoned tofu, shiitake mushrooms, lightly blanched vegetables like shredded carrots, onions, napa cabbage, bok choy, topped with Ginger Soy Vinaigrette, garnished with chopped scallions and Ichimi red pepper



Long grain brown rice with Pan-Fried Tofu or Tempeh or slices of cooked meat, blanched Napa Cabbage, carrots, broccoli and snap peas, with Thai Peanut Dressings and peanuts to garnish


Salad Niciose with mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, olives, tuna, boiled eggs, anchovies and topped with Mustard Vinaigrette (add a bit of long grain brown rice for Phase 2)


Farro with tomatoes, artichoke hearts, olives, roasted asparagus and onions topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar


Lettuce greens, Ranchero Chicken (page 257), black beans, chopped tomatoes, red pepper and onions, sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheese, topped with Creamy Lime Cilantro Dressing

Other Complete Bowl Recipes from the ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book


Steak and Blue Cheese Salad (ALWAYS HUNGRY? Book page 253)

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Walnuts (page 252)

Cobb Salad (page 255)