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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Toler

Buddha Bowls: Easy Lunch

Buddha Bowls are an easy formula to ensure a balanced meal, full of nourishment. They are made with a grain, protein, starchy vegetable, non-starchy vegetable, a healthy fat, and a fermented vegetable to support digestion and immunity by keeping your gut full of healthy bacteria.

It’s easy to swap out ingredients for variety and to use up whatever leftovers and pantry items you have at home already. I almost always have leftover grains and veggies on hand, along with avocados and ferments, so for me this tends to be a super easy lunch that requires just a little assembly.

These bowls can be beautifully arranged using a variety of shapes, colors, and textures to make it more visually appealing. And, the more colors you have in your bowl, the more nutrients you’re taking in. They are typically vegan and based on the macrobiotic diet, which has been credited with lowering the risk of chronic diseases.

I've wavered between vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore for most of my life but have realized that my body sometimes needs animal protein. I sometimes use the basic formula below, using chicken or meat for the protein but I suppose that particular concoction should be called something else, like a hearty lunch bowl. It is believed by some that Buddha was vegetarian, hence the name.

The Formula

  • Grains: rice, quinoa, corn, millet

  • Protein: beans, peas, lentils, tofu

  • Starchy Vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots

  • Non-Starchy Vegetables: greens like kale, spinach, and bok choy, broccoli, onions, mushrooms, salsa

  • Healthy Fat: Extra-virgin olive oil, tahini, avocado/guacamole, olives, cashew or coconut cream, peanut sauce

  • Ferments: beets, beans, sauerkraut, pickles, jalapenos, vinegars

I like to make themed-bowls based on type of cuisine, ie. Greek, Italian, Indian, Thai, American, etc. For example…

Themed Buddha Bowls

Thai Bowl

My Thai bowl might consist of jasmine rice (grain), tofu (protein), roasted carrots (starchy), sauteed onions & broccoli (non-starchy), peanut sauce (made from peanut butter + coconut milk + a touch of maple syrup + a touch of hot sauce) (fat) and pickled ginger (ferment).

Indian Bowl

An Indian bowl might be brown rice (grain), mung beans (protein), potato (starch), spinach (non-starchy), curry sauce (made from tomato + coconut milk & spices) (fat), and pickled dilly beans (fermented).

American Bowl

An American bowl might consist of leftover quinoa (grain), leftover lentil patty (grain + legume) roasted sweet potatoes (starch), tomatoes & greens (non-starch), avocado (fat), and pickles (ferment).

Italian Bowl

An Italian bowl might have rice (grain), chickpeas (protein), eggplant (starchy), pan-roasted tomato and onion (non-starchy), olive oil (fat), balsamic vinegar (ferment)

Mexican Bowl

Leftover beans & rice (grain + protein), sweet potato (starch), salsa (non-starchy), guacamole (fat), and jalapenos (fermented).

But of course, you can also just throw together whatever you have on hand! It’s hard to go wrong here.

Buddha bowl with wild rice, sweet potato, garbanzos, greens, olive oil, cilantro and jalapenos.

Greek-themed Buddha Bowl with rice, falafel (garbanzo bean base), leftover Greek salad (tomato, onion, cucumber), olives, olive oil, vegan feta, and hummus. Topped with a leftover dolma.

And just to break some rules, this uses animal protein and the starchy vegetable & ferment are one of the same: Leftover rice, leftover quinoa, leftover chicken, topped with a quick tahini sauce (tahini + coconut oil melted + a little maple syrup + a squeeze of lemon), wood sorrel (a common wild edible with a lemony tart flavor) picked from my yard, and pickled carrots.

And there you go... an easy way to make a new lunch from your leftovers & pantry staples.

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