Buddha bowls, sometimes referred to as hippie bowls, are hearty – and heart-friendly – all-in-one dishes made of a variety of greens, raw or roasted vegetables, a serving of protein, and a healthy grain like quinoa or brown rice. They are often topped with crunchy nuts or seeds and layered with some kind of sauce or dressing for added flavor and texture. There is plenty of room for improvisation when it comes to Buddha bowls but the basic formula stays pretty much the same. It’s a meal-in-a bowl dish that is filled with vitamins and nutrients, and it has become one of the biggest trends of the year.
Who Launched the Buddha Bowl?
The consensus among Buddha bowl aficionados is that their first mention was in the cookbook, Meatless, a collection of vegetarian recipes published in 2013 by Martha Stewart. In the book, Buddha bowls are described as “plant-based bowls of glory” (and the bowls are still sometimes referred to as glory bowls). As the editor of Meatless says, “With whole grains, plant proteins, and vegetables, this is the ideal vegan one-bowl dish.” In other words, the original Buddha bowl was vegan but the book goes on to explain that the recipe is “… more of a general formula than a hard-and-fast recipe, since you can swap out different ingredients for variety and make use of whatever you have on hand.”
Why Are They Called Buddha Bowls?
The book doesn’t go so far as to label these grain-and-veggie dishes Buddha bowls, so the Epicurious website asked Dan Zigmond and Tara Cottrell, the authors of Buddha’s Diet: The Ancient Art of Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind, to explain the origin of the name. “Food for Buddha was very low-key,” said Cottrell. Or, as she explained, Buddha didn’t want food to “take over our whole life.” In addition, Buddha did eat from a bowl, which may have led to today’s use of the term. “Buddha woke up before dawn every morning and carried his bowl through the roads or paths wherever he was staying. Local people would place food in the bowl as a donation, and at the end he would eat whatever he had been given.” That, apparently, was the very first (and most authentic) Buddha Bowl: “A big bowl of whatever food the villagers had available and could afford to share.”
Why Buddha Bowls Are Great
Alexandra Lein, the creator of the popular Instagram account, @veggininthecity, talks about the Buddha bowl as the perfect dish. “It’s a nourishing meal that’s just little bites of everything,” Lein says, adding, “The more varied the colors in the food that you eat, the more nutrients you’re getting, so I like to get a little bit of orange, red, and green.”
Today, the Buddha bowl has picked up steam as one car in a train of trends that emphasize healthy living and that lean towards whole grains and plant-based foods. Also, you can’t knock the convenience of an all-in-one meal. Finally, there is, as Lein says, the Instagram factor. Given the colors and textures of the foods in a Buddha bowl, they are perfect subjects for a spectacular photograph, and many wellness fans can be spotted snapping photos of their vibrantly hued lunches and showing them off on their favorite app.
How to Put Together a Buddha Bowl
As mentioned, there’s no real recipe for a Buddha bowl (though suggestions abound on the Internet) and creativity is the name of the game. The bowl is highly customizable, but if you’re looking for guidance, InStyle Magazine breaks it down as “15 percent lean protein, 25 percent whole grains, 35 percent vegetables, 10 percent sauce, and 15 percent extras, like nuts, seeds, or sprouts.”
Grains make a great base, and you can opt for any health grain: quinoa, farro, wheat berries, barley, or brown rice, to name a few, cooked just until tender. (These can also be cooked in advance and stashed in the fridge for last-minute Buddha bowl assembly.)
Next Layer: Veggies
Leftover or fresh; steamed, roasted, or raw; every type of vegetable can be included in a Buddha bowl. The more colorful the better so consider diced roasted sweet potato, steamed broccoli, or roasted rings of orange squash. Raw veggies also add texture, so try grated carrots, kohlrabi or beets; thinly sliced purple cabbage; shelled edamame; zucchini ribbons, and so on. Anything goes and in any combination.
For vegans, lentils, canned kidney beans, and chickpeas are usually included; but Buddha bowls have come a long way since their inception and it’s okay to add diced chicken or cubed salmon to the mix, as well.
Add Crunch, and Dress
For a pleasant change of textural pace, sprinkle on seeds or nuts: pumpkin seeds, chopped almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or cashews are just what your bowl is looking for. Finally, to keep the whole thing from being too dry, dress your Buddha bowl with a drizzle of vinaigrette, a splash of tahini sauce, or any dressing that your heart desires, and your imagination comes up with.
And there’s your Buddha bowl – ready to be devoured.
Are They Just Revamped Grain Bowls?
Back in 2014 The New York Times offered a tutorial called “Grain Bowls: How to Make Your Own,” and what is striking is how these “grain bowls” of four years ago seem to be just an earlier incarnation of the Buddha bowl of 2018. And that’s fine, because Buddha bowls can mean all things to all people, as long as they’re healthful and “packaged” in a bowl. In a more recent Times article, author Francis Lam reassures readers that, “There is no one way to make a grain bowl. There is no one recipe. There are paths, a varying series of little things to do in the kitchen that will add up to a delicious thing of many textures and flavors.”
A Buddha Bowl by Any Other Name
No matter what you call your bowls of goodness and color – Buddha bowls, grain bowls, hippie bowls, sunshine bowls, or glory bowls – the bottom line is grains, vegetables, protein, and toppings, all combined in a bowl, make for the perfect, healthful meal that is trendy and delicious at the same time. Snap a photo and add it to your Instagram account, or just scarf it down and leave the pics to others; either way, this meal-in-a-bowl is a trend that’s here to stay.