grain bowl with vegetables like radishes, chickpeas, greens, avocado, and cauliflower

Grain Bowls Made Easy: Tips and Recipes to Try

Last Updated on October 19, 2021

Grain bowls are full of possibilities. You can make one anything you want it to be—sweet or savory, crunchy or soft, green or filled with the colors of the rainbow. And if you can’t decide, you can double staple ingredients to make a variety of grain bowls throughout the week.

This guide will teach you how to make grain bowls from the time-saving equipment you’ll need to recipes worth trying. Get ready to make incredibly easy meals that come in handy when you’re in a rush or looking for a fun, flavor-packed recipe!

What Equipment Do You Need?

Luckily, you don’t need to pull out a ton of pans to whip up all the components of a grain bowl. Here are the three things you’ll need to make cooking and clean-up incredibly easy:

  • Sheet Pan: Roast your vegetables, fruit, and protein all in one pan.
  • Rice Cooker: Cook your grain in a machine that you can simply turn on and let it do its thing.
  • 12” Sauté Pan or Skillet: Make your toppings and crisp up leftovers for a new grain bowl creation like in the recipes below.

Essential Components of a Grain Bowl

The beauty of grain bowls is that you can customize them based on your preferences, diet, or even what ingredients you already have on hand. Below are the components that will make up your bowl.

  • Grain: Rice and quinoa, yes, but you can expand your horizons into teff, amaranth, fonio, and much more.
  • Vegetables: What’s in your fridge? Start there.
  • Fruit: Think about fruit that’s really good roasted that pairs well with savory ingredients like peaches, strawberries, and figs.
  • Protein: Meat, fish, eggs, beans, tofu… you know the drill.
  • Crunch: Get creative with this one. Crispy shallots, candied nuts, and crushed potato chips (yes I said it!) are all great choices.
  • Sauce: This can be as simple as a spritz of lemon and an extra drizzle of olive oil or something more complex like a vinaigrette or flavored mayo.

3 Grain Bowl Recipes to Get You Started

Ready to build your own grain bowl? Try the following recipes or use them as inspiration for creating your own variation.

Roasted Kale and Prosciutto Bowl with Pesto and Hot Honey Hazelnuts

rice topped with roasted kale, carrots, proscuitto, hazelnuts, and basil pesto in a bowl

Bursting with nutritious ingredients, this Roasted Kale and Prosciutto Bowl is perfect for when you want to feel good about what you’re eating. That’s not to say that this bowl sacrifices taste either. The basil pesto and hot honey hazelnuts add tons of flavor without too much extra effort. Try the bowl with roasted chicken breast, grilled steak tips, or crispy tofu for a heartier bite.

Autumn Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Chicken

roasted chicken, fennel, cranberries, figs, and quinoa in a bowl

If you can’t get enough of fall flavors, this Autumn Quinoa Bowl is just the thing to satisfy your cravings. This recipe is filled with fall harvest ingredients like cranberries, figs, and fennel. The fruits brighten up the dish with a hint of sweetness, while the fennel adds a crunchy texture. Feel free to go heavy on these mix-ins or add in some of the veggies, grains, and proteins you love.

Crispy Rice Bowl with Fried Egg, Vegetables, and Chili Mayo

roasted kale, carrots, chili mayo, and a fried egg over crispy rice in a bowl

Want an easy meal prep option? Then look no further than this Crispy Rice Bowl. Using leftover rice from another grain bowl recipe adds a delightful crunch, while the runny yolk and chili mayo give each bite a delicious creaminess. Add an additional protein like seared salmon to keep you feeling full throughout the day.

This recipe includes togarashi, a hot Japanese chili that people use to create a variety of spice blends. Look out for the most common blend, shichimi togarashi, at your local supermarket or online. You’ll use it to finish off your dish, but be careful as it really brings the heat.

Kristina DeMichele is the Digital Content Strategist at Harvard Magazine. She is also a freelance copyeditor who has worked for America's Test Kitchen as the Senior Content Editor of Cook's Illustrated Magazine.