How to Build a Perfect Grain Bowl

Learn my formula for creating the perfect grain bowl, a simple, filling and delicious lunch option. It's a great way to use up leftovers, making each bowl different. 

how to build a perfect grain bowl
California grain bowl - instructions listed below

It's exciting when something I've been doing awhile suddenly becomes a thing. Like when Mumford and Sons became popular after I had been listening to them for almost a year or when everyone started selling owl necklaces similar to the vintage one passed down by my grandma. It all made me feel much more hip than I actually am, which is not very.

I got a similar sense of excitement when The New York Times published an article on How to Build a Grain Bowl. Basically a big, hearty salad built on grains, rather than greens, it has been my go-to lunch for quite some time. It's filling, portable, doesn't wilt, and is endlessly adaptable.

Since starting my little ole' blog, I've realized just how well-liked grain bowls are. Looking back at my most popular recipes, most are variations on grain bowls - Buddha bowl with marinated tofu, broccoli and brown rice bowl, Jamaican Jerk tofu bowl. Even my first post, the horrendously photographed but amazingly delicious sushi salad, was technically a grain bowl. The grain bowls I've included with personalized meal plans have received such rave reviews as "this is genius!" and "finally I found a salad that doesn't leave me hungry an hour later!"

perfect grain bowl with broccoli chickpea
Roasted Broccoli, Chickpea and Brown Rice Bowl with Soy-Miso Dressing

Clearly, everyone loves a good grain bowl. Well, everyone except paleo and low carb dieters. But hey, I've got an option for you too!

There's no right or wrong way to create a grain bowl. Often times, I'll simply throw leftover roasted vegetables over a small batch of grains and add canned beans or wild salmon. Drizzle it with a little olive oil and lemon juice and call it a day!

Over the years, I've come up with a basic formula for creating the perfect filling and healthy grain bowl. It ensures that you will get a good balance of fat, protein and carbs, and allows you to mix and match to your hearts content. To build your grain bowl, start with a serving of your grain of choice at the bottom of a bowl or tupperware container. Then chose a protein and however many and however much roasted and raw vegetables, fermented foods and extras you like. Drizzle or scatter your choice of fat over the top and pack half a lemon, lime or a bottle of vinegar for dressing. Serve cold or at room temperature and either mix it all up, or do like I do and make each bite different!
Build a Mexican grain bowl
Mexican Millet Bowl


PICK A GRAIN // ½ cup brown rice, quinoa, farro, black rice, barley, millet, spelt, wheat berries, rye berries, cauliflower rice (low carb/paleo option), sweet potato rice (paleo option)
PROTEIN // 1/3 – ½ cup tofu or tempeh, 1/3-1/2 cup beans or lentils, 2-3 ounces wild fish, 2-3 ounces organic meat or poultry, 1 1/2 ounce grassfed or organic cheese, 1-2 hard boiled pastured or organic eggs, 2 tablespoons hemp hearts, 1 ounce nuts or seeds
ROASTED VEGETABLES* // zucchini, winter squash, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, bell peppers, green beans, mushrooms, bell peppers
RAW VEGETABLES // radish, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, fennel, corn, cucumber, snap peas, sprouts, salad greens
FAT // 2 tablespoons nuts or seeds, ¼ cup olives, ¼ avocado, 2 tablespoons guacamole, 2 tablespoons hummus, 1 tablespoon tahini, 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, walnut oil or other nut oil
FERMENTED (optional) // kimchi, miso, naturally brewed soy sauce, fermented relish, sauerkraut
EXTRAS // sun-dried tomatoes, nori, nutritional yeast, salsa, spices, herbs, flax seeds, chia seeds, capers, Bragg's liquid aminos, black olives
DRESSING // lemon juice, lime juice, vinegar*To roast vegetables, I simply toss them with about a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, spread evenly over a large baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until lightly browned and tender. Most vegetables take 20-30 minutes, but smaller, thinner ones may take less time while denser vegetables may take longer.
California grain bowl how to
California Grain Bowl - recipe below


MEXICAN MILLET BOWL // Millet + black beans + roasted zucchini + cherry tomatoes + radish + guacamole + salsa + chili powder + chia seeds + lime juice
SUSHI BOWL // Brown rice + smoked salmon + roasted mushrooms + snap peas + carrots + sesame oil + soy sauce + nori + rice vinegar
NISCOISE BOWL // Farro + tuna in olive oil + roasted haricot verts + cherry tomatoes + olives + capers + parsley + lemon juice
CALIFORNIA BOWL (PICTURED) // Quinoa + chickpeas + roasted Brussels sprouts + shredded carrot + avocado + hummus + black olives + sauerkraut + flax seeds + lemon juice