The “bowl food” trend has caught on in health food circles and beyond. Even large chain restaurants have joined in on the craze. And why not? These bowls seem delicious and easy enough, but paying the $12 price tag just isn’t in the budget for most of us, even if it means a stunning Instagram photo. Here’s how you can easily make one of these all-natural, nourishing bowls that satisfy your body and taste buds, without a background in food styling.

Step One: Choose Your Base

First, think about whether you want the bowl to be warm or cold. Warm bowls work best with starches like quinoa, noodles, couscous, or black beans, while cold bowls work best with greens like kale, arugula, or romaine. Your base will take up the most real-estate in your bowl and should be something filling.

Step Two: Pick Your Flavor Profile

Now that you have your base, pin down what you’re in the mood for. Craving Thai? Grab your soy sauce, ginger, and peanuts. Think about what you would order if you were going out to eat that night but browse your pantry instead.

If you’re not sure where to start, think of the groups of flavors you often taste in dishes you love or browse some classic recipes in a given cuisine. You’ll begin to notice combinations of spices repeatedly come up. Here’s a general guide. Understand that the actual combinations differ by country and region:

Flavor ProfileIngredients Needed
AsianSoy sauce, sriracha, ginger, sesame, lime, lemongrass, chili powder, cumin
ItalianRosemary, thyme, sage, garlic, cilantro
FrenchHerbes de Provence, butter, lemon, bay leaf, parsley
IndianTurmeric, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, garam masala, ginger, cardamom
MediterraneanTahini sauce, cumin, za’atar, cardamom
MexicanCayenne pepper, chili powder, lime, cumin, cilantro
bowl food
Photography Jay Schober

Step Three: Add Your Veggies and Protein

Once you know what flavors you want to use, you can easily swap out the vegetables and protein with ones you have on hand. Fire up the oven and roast your vegetables with a little salt and pepper for extra flavor. Cooking times vary, but a good rule of thumb is 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees for sturdier veggies like broccoli and carrots; you’ll want to run closer to 40 minutes for starchier veggies like butternut squash or beets. Stir them at the halfway point, adding spices from your flavor profile while they cook.

If you’re time-strapped and want to add protein, stop by your local grocery store and grab a rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked sausages, or frozen shrimp. You can shred the chicken and quickly heat the shrimp or sausage in minutes — just make sure to defrost the shrimp ahead of time.

bowl food
Photography Jay Schober

Step Four: Pull It Together with Sauce

The sauce is what fuses all of the ingredients together. Balsamic dressing, a splash of soy sauce, or a little maple or honey mustard drizzle can go a long way for your flavors without hours over a pan. Revisit your flavor profile for sauce. Consider soy sauce for some Asian flare, Tahini for Mediterranean, or your favorite hot sauce for some Mexican heat.

Step Five: Garnish with Flair

Garnish takes your bowl to the next level. Lightly toast your favorite nut to add a little depth or grate a bit of lemon or lime rind for brightness. Chop up some scallions or green onions and add a bit of your favorite cheese if you want to get fancy.

Get Inspired

You can’t go wrong when you keep exploring new combinations. There are thousands of combinations you can choose from, so we’ve pulled together a few of our favorites for you to get started:

BaseFlavorVeggie and ProteinSauceGarnish
Noodles or RiceThaiBroccoli, sugar snap peas, tofu or shrimpPeanut or soy sauceScallions, lime, peanuts, fried egg, ginger
QuinoaAmericanButternut squash, beets, green beans, roasted chickenMaple or honey mustard vinaigretteToasted pumpkin seeds
Black Beans or RiceTex-MexPeppers, onions, steak tips, avocado or guacamoleSalsaSour cream, lime, cotija
KaleAmericanRoasted sweet potato, applesBalsamic vinaigretteGoat cheese, Toasted almonds
Lentils or RiceIndianChickpeas, potatoes, chickenCurry sauceYogurt
ArugulaItalianMozzarella, tomato, prosciuttoBalsamic glazeBasil
bowl food
Photography Jay Schober

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