Build a Perfect Meal Bowl (+ 18 Vegetarian Meal Bowl Recipes!)

Build a Perfect Meal Bowl + 18 Vegetarian Meal Bowl Recipes We love meal bowls! They’re an easy, versatile and nutritious way to think about breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just follow the basic formula of grain + green + protein, and the possible combinations are endless. Putting together a meal bowl is easy, and we’ve assembled some tips and inspiration to make it even easier.

How to Build a Perfect Meal Bowl + 18 Vegetarian Meal Bowl Recipes

The Base

Start building your bowl with a sturdy foundation. Whole grains, seeds, noodles and starchy vegetables are all good choices. The base should make up about a third of your bowl or less. Try whole grains such as brown rice, wheat berries, spelt berries, barley or oats. Seeds such as amaranth, millet and quinoa also work well, and are good choices for grain-free meals. Similarly, starchy root vegetables such as yams, sweet potatoes and parsnips make a great base when roasted, steamed or mashed. If you’re going with noodles, try buckwheat, rice or kelp noodles for something different.

Tip: If you’re cooking whole grains for your meal bowl, cook extra and freeze the extra in individual portions. And, if you’d prefer a lighter meal bowl, you can always skip the base and go straight to the greens! Speaking of…

The Greens

They don’t necessarily have to be green, but try to make vegetables at least one-third of your bowl. Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and chard can be quite bulky, so they make for a good middle layer to be topped with other vegetables. Try adding vegetables in various forms: raw, shredded, steamed and stir-fried are all great options.

Tip: Sturdier greens like kale will soften up a bit when they are added to a hot grain base. A more delicate green (like arugula) may wilt more than you like, so it might be better added to a cold or room-temperature base.

The Protein

The world is your vegetarian oyster when it comes adding protein – the remaining third of your meal bowl. If you’re keeping it vegan, try baked, stir-fried or roasted tofu, tempeh or seitan. Beans and pulses also work, either whole or whirled into a hummus or dip. Other protein options include cheeses such as feta, halloumi, paneer or cottage cheese. Or you could top your meal bowl with a poached or fried egg.

The Extras

A good dressing can really make your bowl sing. There are so many choices, from hummus and tahini, to salsa and hot sauce, to a salty soy-based sauce. You can also sprinkle your bowl with nuts and seeds, which add both crunch and extra protein. Or, try crumbling fresh herbs or dried seaweed over the top of your bowl for something a little different.

Looking for meal bowl inspiration? Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite nutritionally balanced vegetarian bowls:

Thai Peanut Empowered Noodle Bowl

Thai Peanut Empowered Noodle Bowl

This noodle bowl from Oh She Glows gets a protein boost from edamame. It's dressed in a delicious, savory peanut sauce.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Kale Breakfast Bowls

Kale Breakfast Bowls

Kale for breakfast? Yes, please. Savory meal bowls are perfect for any time of day—including this one from The Roasted Root.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Meze Bowl

Meze Bowl

So many favorite flavors in these Meze Bowls from The Muffin Myth.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Buddha Bowl with Spinach & Marinated Tofu

Buddha Bowl with Spinach & Marinated Tofu

Kimchi and a tangy miso dressing add a kick to this veggie-laden bowl from An Avocado a Day.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Slow Cooker Brown Rice & Veggie Bowl

Slow Cooker Brown Rice & Veggie Bowl

Use up garden or farmers market veggies with this feta-topped bowl from Kalyn's Kitchen.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Macro Bowl

Macro Bowl

The carrot-ginger-almond sauce in this bowl from Coconut and Berries is a nice twist on a classic rice + beans + greens combo.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Sweet Potato, Hemp Seed & Quinoa Bowls

Sweet Potato, Hemp Seed & Quinoa Bowls

Vegan and earthy, this bowl from Making Thyme for Health features a bright lime-cilantro sauce.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Southwestern Veggie Bowl

Southwestern Veggie Bowl

Consider this bowl from The Messy Baker Blog Taco Salad 2.0.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Balancing Buddha Bowl

Balancing Buddha Bowl

The curry-pecan dressing in this tempeh-based Buddha bowl from Clean Wellness sounds like a dream.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Peanutty Quinoa Bowls with Baked Tofu

Peanutty Quinoa Bowls with Baked Tofu

Use store-bought or homemade tofu in this satisfying, peanutty quinoa bowl.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Peruvian Bean Bowl with Red Pepper Sauce

Peruvian Bean Bowl with Red Pepper Sauce

Joanne of Eats Well With Others created this bean-y bowl of goodness with millet base, plantains and a lime-coconut-cashew red pepper sauce.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Honey Lime Quinoa Salad Bowl with BBQ Chickpeas

Honey Lime Quinoa Salad Bowl with BBQ Chickpeas

Get a taste of the tropics with this honey-lime quinoa bowl topped with sweet, smoky BBQ chickpeas. (via Jessiker Bakes)

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Veggie Sushi Bowls with Creamy Wasabi Sauce

Veggie Sushi Bowls with Creamy Wasabi Sauce

Dishing Up the Dirt's take on sushi is to throw it all into a bowl and top with a creamy wasabi sauce. Done and done.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Spicy Harissa Greens & Roasted Carrot Rice Bowl

Spicy Harissa Greens & Roasted Carrot Rice Bowl

Harissa is a perfect addition to, well, everything. But especially greens. Beard and Bonnet's rice bowl with spicy greens and roasted carrots is no exception.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Curried Red Lentil & Quinoa Bowls with Cilantro-Mint Chutney

Curried Red Lentil & Quinoa Bowls with Cilantro-Mint Chutney

Lentils, quinoa, cilantro and mint. What's not to like?

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Soba Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes, Mushrooms & Eggs

Soba Noodles with Roasted Tomatoes, Mushrooms & Eggs

Eggs play well in meal bowls, too. Especially when paired with tomatoes, mushrooms and tasty soba noodles. (via Cookie Monster Cooking)

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Raw Root Vegetable Bowls with Zesty Orange Dressing

Raw Root Vegetable Bowls with Zesty Orange Dressing

Raw kohlrabi, beets and carrots add a perfect amount of crunch to The Roasted Root's bowl recipe.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

Hallelujah Bowl

Hallelujah Bowl

This super-easy recipe allows you to mix and match veggies, protein and grains. Hallelujah indeed.

Get the recipe here →


More from this Round-Up:

About Katie

Katie is a university-trained nutritionist and professional writer based in Stockholm, Sweden. She is a vegetarian of more than two decades, and is passionate about real food. Her blog The Muffin Myth is all about approachable nutrition.   Read more from Katie →

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Comments

  1. says

    Bowl meals are my ultimate lazy dinner! So easy to put together, tasty and satisfying. Great how-to. I pretty much follow the same “guidelines” and agree that a good dressing/sauce is essential!
    Thanks for sharing my Macro Bowl recipe 😀

    • says

      Skip the sides and just have meal bowls! They’ve got everything you need for a healthy meal, and are delicious to boot. I hope you’ve found some inspiration here 🙂

  2. says

    I love meal bowls! They can be difficult to wrap your head around though because they are so far outside the standard “meat and potatoes” notion of what a meal should be. You look at it and think “this isn’t dinner” and then you eat it and it’s delicious and you feel amazing. This article is really helpful! I’m pinning the Meze Bowl and the Raw Root Vegetable Bowl to try later. Thanks!

    • says

      The Meze Bowl is one of my favourites! I guess meal bowls are a far cry from a meat and potatoes meal, but so much more delicious and nourishing. Bowls for the win!

  3. Jane Carter says

    These are delicious ideas. I am a ‘Bowl” lover & have made 5 of these recipes so far. My best tip would be to spend an hour or 2 for an ingredient prep session. Then store all in marked containers. So many yummy possibilities. Thank You

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