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7 Plant-Based Buddha Bowls to Try Now

So long, salads! These bowls are a simple and delicious way to pack nutrients and flavor into a single meal.

Medically reviewed in September 2020

Updated on March 1, 2021

Plant-based Buddha bowl
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Chances are you’ve seen images of beautiful, veggie-packed Buddha bowls while scrolling through your Instagram feed. And unlike some other food trends, these colorful meals are actually good for you. They're way more filling than your typical lunchtime salad, too.

The formula is simple: Lay down your complex carbohydrate (such as quinoa or lentils), add a serving of protein (like tofu) and load in a bunch of fresh vegetables. These bowls are a great way to use leftover veggies, too; the more variety, the better.

"Buddha bowls are colorful, vibrant bowls that are just as beautiful to eat as they are delicious," says Christine Patorniti, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and owner of Nutrition Center of Colorado in Centennial, Colorado.

Here’s how to build the perfect bowls with seasonal ingredients like sweet potatoes, mushrooms, green beans and crisp, juicy apples.

Fiesta sweet potato bowl
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Fiesta sweet potato bowl

Change up your taco Tuesday routine by adding these fiesta bowls to the menu. They're grain-free, served on a bed of seasoned and roasted sweet potatoes and topped with dietitian-approved foods, like black beans and avocado.

To build your meal, coat 2 cups of diced sweet potatoes with 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of olive, canola or vegetable oil. Next, add a few tablespoons of store-bought taco seasoning or a mix of cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes at 400°F. Then, top with "a whole can of black beans, kernels from two ears of corn, a pint of cherry tomatoes and one avocado to make three to four bowls at once," Patorniti recommends.

She also browns up a 12-ounce package of meatless beef-style crumbles with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the same Mexican seasoning blend. Divide your veggie mixture into four servings (or three if you're really hungry) and top with 3/4 cup of vegan crumbles for a meal with loads of flavor, protein and healthy fats. Enjoy one 573-calorie meal now and the others for lunch later in the week.

Roasted rainbow bowl
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Roasted rainbow bowl

A diet filled with colorful fruits and vegetables is a nutritious one. Each hue adds a different nutrient to your plate. This prismatic meal is simple to make, even easier to clean up and totally customizable.

First, line a few baking sheets with aluminum foil or parchment paper and arrange your chopped veggies in even layers. On one sheet pan, Patorniti roasts peeled and sliced red and yellow beets; on another, sliced baby portabella mushrooms. The third is reserved for cubed acorn squash, a seasonal gourd with a tough green exterior and tender amber flesh.

Before roasting her veggies in a 350°F oven, Patorniti drizzles them with 1 or 2 teaspoons of vegetable, canola or olive oil and sprinkles them with salt and pepper. A helpful tip: Put your beets and squash in first since they take a little longer to cook—about 20 minutes—and toss the mushrooms in with about 10 minutes left.

Add 1/2 cup of each veggie to a bowl along with 1/2 cup of long grain wild rice. Top with a quarter of an avocado. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon each of tahini and lemon juice, and grab your fork. The bowl contains just 426 calories but is rich in vitamins C, potassium and fiber.

Save yourself some time on weeknight prep by cooking a large batch of veggies and rice ahead of time and storing them in your fridge or freezer. You can also vary your veggie choices and seasonings each week, so you never get bored of the same lunch.

Asian inspired tofu bowl
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Asian-inspired tofu bowl

This dish delivers the flair of Asian cuisine without the fat, calories and sodium of a traditional takeout meal. Start by adding 1/2 cup of your favorite grain to the bottom of your bowl. Brown rice is a standout choice with just 108 calories per serving.

Next, add 3 ounces of marinated and baked tofu. To get crispy tofu chunks, Patorniti recommends wrapping your block of tofu in a paper towel and applying pressure. Once you've squeezed out most of the moisture, cut it into bite-sized pieces, each about the size of your thumb. Then toss the tofu in a light coating of your favorite Asian-inspired sauce or a few tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce, minced garlic and fresh ginger. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until crisp.

Next, load in about 2 cups of raw, roasted or grilled veggies. Try a combination of red bell pepper strips, shredded carrots, broccoli and scallions. A quarter of an avocado is another flavorful addition and brings heart-healthy fats to the mix. Finally, drizzle Patorniti's go-to blend over your bowl: 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of rice wine vinegar. This meal will satisfy your takeout craving at only 390 calories.

Mediterranean quinoa bowl
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Mediterranean quinoa bowl

Foods and flavors can take you places, and this dish is sure to transport you to a Mediterranean island. The best part is that it requires little prep and almost no cooking.

Lay down 1/2 cup of quinoa, a whole grain with a respectable amount of fiber and protein. Many supermarkets sell fully-cooked varieties that can be heated in your microwave. If you'd rather prepare your own, Patorniti recommends cooking a big batch early in the week.

Next, load in 1/2 cup each of halved cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices and chickpeas, drained and rinsed if you're using the canned kind. Chickpeas are a great source of plant-based protein, about 7 grams per 1/2 cup. Toss on a few slices of red onion and a small handful of pitted Kalamata olives.

To top it off: "Make a little mixture of lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley and olive oil, and drizzle that over your Buddha bowl," Patorniti recommends. Modify the dressing to your taste, but start with 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of the other ingredients. Dig in for 450 effortless calories.

Green goddess bowl
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Green goddess bowl

Don't get enough green veggies in your diet? Adding this vibrant plate to your day is a good place to start.

First, choose your grain, like quinoa, barley or farro. Then gather up your favorite greens, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts or green beans. Most grains and veggies add protein to your plate, but if you're looking for more, Patorniti recommends tossing in soybeans, also known as edamame. They match the color scheme, too.

Half a cup of organic, shelled edamame contains about 8.5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. Some supermarkets also carry fully cooked and frozen varieties, which make prep a breeze.

Pick four greens and measure 1/2 cup of each into your bowl, along with the same serving of edamame and 1/2 cup of grains.

"Veggies really add a lot of bulk and volume to your bowl," Patorniti says. They're going to make your meal filling and hydrating since vegetables are made of 70 percent or more water, she adds.

Some of your ingredients, like spinach and bell peppers, can be added to your bowl raw. Prepare your green beans and Brussels sprouts by chopping them in half and roasting with a thin coating of cooking spray (virtually calorie-free) at 400°F for about 20 minutes.

Top with a serving of heavenly dressing, a combination of 1 tablespoon each plain nonfat Greek yogurt and lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of fresh dill and minced garlic. In all, the meal contains just 264 vitamin-rich calories, perfect for an in-between meal or a big snack.

Stuffed sweet potato bowl
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Stuffed sweet potato bowl

Sweet spuds are the star in this grain-free meal. Pierce one large sweet potato all over with a fork and bake at 400°F for around 45 minutes. Once it’s cool enough to handle, scoop the sweet orange insides into a bowl. Then, sauté 1 cup of chopped kale and 1 cup of broccoli rabe with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and a small pinch of salt. Once wilted, add the mixture to the top of your sweet mash. Finish your dish with a 1/2 cup of chickpeas and 1 tablespoon of tahini for 470 total calories. Tahini is a nutty spread made from sesame seeds, and although it delivers some healthy fats, a single tablespoon has about 90 calories—so don't overdo it.

Patorniti has some recommendations for cooking flavorful meals without going overboard on toppings. "Season your vegetables very well, so you don't need to waste your dressing on the veggies," she notes. You can marinate and season your protein, too. She also says the acidity in lemon juice brings out the natural flavors of your veggies and adding a little can heighten the flavor of your whole meal.

Autumn harvest bowl
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Autumn harvest bowl

To get this fall-friendly meal started, pick your hearty grain and add a 1/2 cup to your bowl. Farro and quinoa are two options that go great with this recipe’s toppings. Then, punch up the protein by mixing in a half cup of lentils.

Next, drizzle 1 cup of cubed butternut squash with 1 teaspoon olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and roast it at 400°F until tender, between 30 and 40 minutes, flipping the cubes with a spatula halfway through. Add to your bowl 1 cup of sautéed green kale and half of a sliced apple. Gala apples are a sweet choice.

A drizzle of apple cider vinegar and olive oil almost completes the meal. Before you grab your fork, add 1 tablespoon of nuts or seeds. Not sure which to choose? "Mix it up," Patorniti recommends. "Different nuts and seeds give you different vitamins and minerals, so I usually suggest using two or three different nuts and seeds a week."

One tablespoon of chopped walnuts completes this meal with about 495 filling and festive calories.

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