Here’s an amazing array of beautiful vegan Buddha bowls you can make without a recipe. Keep a selection of fresh ingredients on hand, arrange, and enjoy!
Basically, Buddha bowls are compositions of raw and/or lightly cooked vegetables (and sometimes fruit), tofu, and/or legumes, pleasingly arranged. Sometimes they include cooked grains (and to less extent, noodles or zucchini noodles).
An ideal one-dish plant-based meal
There are no hard and fast rules for making Buddha bowls. There’s even a dispute as to why they’re referred to by that name.
The concept started out pretty much plant-based, so perhaps it’s a play off of “Buddha’s Delight,” a standard meatless option on Chinese restaurant menus.
Buddha bowls are perfect for solo eaters, since you get an array of different flavors, textures, and colors without a lot of prep. Yes, there’s a bit of chopping involved, but if you’re just preparing a fresh bowl for one or two eaters it doesn’t take much time at all.
What about vegan poke bowls?
Poke (pronounced po-keh) is a veg-centric kind of bowl, but it features raw fish, usually tuna. Obviously, we don’t want that. So someone clever, I know not who, came up with the idea of using chunks of watermelon, as you’ll see above, to replicate the look (though not the taste or texture or protein).
It’s almost silly to follow a recipe!
It all depends on the size of your actual bowls (a shallow, wide soup bowl is ideal), what ingredients you have on hand, and how hungry you are. Almost as important as using good ingredients is making the arrangement look almost too pretty to eat — though of course, you will!
This bowl, for example, features a few of the most widely used ingredients for vegan Buddha bowls — cucumbers, tofu, edamame, carrots, sprouts, seeds, and avocado. This one has a bit of an Asian spin, so a sesame-ginger dressing or teriyaki sauce pull everything together.
Good ingredients for vegan Buddha bowls
You’re not limited to these ingredients; these are basics, and likely, many are staples you keep on hand.
- Grains & noodles: Rice (any variety), quinoa, white rice and quinoa combo (can be cooked together), fine rice noodles, zucchini noodles”.
- Protein: Tofu (extra-firm and baked), chickpeas, lentils, beans, edamame (fresh green soybeans).
- Vegetables: Baby spinach (and other baby greens) bell peppers, beets, broccoli, carrot, celery, cucumber, potato, sweet potato, radish (including watermelon radish) tomatoes (especially cherry or grape tomatoes), winter squash or pumpkin.
- Fruits: Apple, avocado, mango, watermelon.
- Condiments & extras: Chili peppers and pickled peppers, lemons, limes, mushrooms, olives, pickled ginger, seaweed, sprouts.
- Nuts and Seeds: Sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, and hemp seeds; peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc.
- Fresh herbs: Basil, cilantro, parsley, scallion — any fresh herbs you like and have on hand.
- Dressings: Vinaigrette (including balsamic vinaigrette; bottled or homemade), sesame-ginger (bottled or homemade, tahini dressing (bottled or homemade), fresh herb dressing.
Here’s a gorgeous example of a simple bowl combining lightly cooked ingredients (mushrooms and broccoli) and raw (two different types of radish). No watermelon radish? No worries. Use thinly sliced jicama and/or turnip, plus slice cucumbers. Top with chopped fresh herbs and seeds of your choice.
Dressing suggestion: Sesame-ginger or vinaigrette.
This all-raw bowl is a rainbow of colors, with zucchini noodles, broccoli, pickled peppers, bell pepper, carrot, grape tomatoes olives, and red cabbage. You can vary it according to what you have on hand, but make sure to keep it colorful!
Dressing suggestion: vinaigrette, or a drizzle of good olive oil and red wine vinegar.
If you’re craving all things green, this is the bowl for you. Make a base of baby spinach (or other baby greens), then arrange zucchini noodles, edamame, sprouts, and half of an avocado per serving. top with a sprinkling of seeds (sesame or other).
Dressing suggestion: Fresh herb dressing, Avocado, Spinach, and Tahini Dip thinned out to dressing consistency, or another tahini-based dressing.
Here’s the vegan poke bowl we chatted about toward the top of this post. Watermelon is a visual ringer for the raw tuna used in this style of bowl, and it all comes together deliciously with avocado, sprouts, cucumber, pickled ginger, and black sesame seeds.
Dressing suggestion: A squeeze of lime might be all the dressing this needs.
Here’s another variation on a vegan poke bowl. This one adds protein with edamame (fresh green soybeans) and plenty of eye appeal using watermelon, watermelon radish, sprouts, and cucumber.
You can add a based of sushi rice if you’d like to make it more substantial. It does have a sushi-like theme!
Dressing suggestion: Like the previous poke bowl, a squeeze of lime might be enough, but sesame-ginger dressing also adds a nice touch.
Watermelon radish seems to be popping up everywhere. It adds a lovely color to bowls like this one, which also feature a rice blend, avocado, beets, pickled cabbage, and red cabbage. Seaweed, hot red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds are optional embellishments that can be passed around.
Dressing suggestion: A simple vinaigrette.
This Buddha bowl has autumn written all over it, but you can continue enjoying it all through the cool seasons. Roasted butternut squash, chickpeas (plain or spiced), and room-temperature quinoa are arranged on a bed of massaged kale. Top with sprouts, or chopped fresh herb (cilantro, parsley, or scallion).
Dressing suggestion: A tahini-based dressing or balsamic vinaigrette.
Chickpeas and quinoa are well-loved items in cool-weather bowls. Here’s another featuring these two ingredients, plus a sliced baked sweet potato and whatever salad ingredients you happen to have on hand. Here we have cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and mache (aka “corn salad”). Add a sprinkling of pumpkin or sunflower seeds and fresh herbs, if you’d like.
Dressing suggestion: Tahini-based dressing, vegan ranch, or vinaigrette.
Continuing the quinoa theme, this one has got the goods on the greens — avocado, cucumber, zucchini noodles, broccoli, sprouts, pumpkin seeds, and fresh herbs.
Dressing suggestion: Tahini-based dressing or sesame-ginger.
This one has some of the same elements — namely, quinoa, cucumber, and avocado, but introduces lentils to the Buddha bowl concept. Add some lettuce or spinach to the bowl along with fresh parsley or cilantro. Top with a sprinkling of seeds.
Dressing suggestion: Tahini-based dressing or vinaigrette.
Okay, now we start introducing tofu to our bowls. This is a cool-weather beauty combining tofu with quinoa, fresh figs, mashed avocado, olives, cucumber, and kale. Add a wedge of lemon or lime if you’d like. If you can’t find fresh fig, you might add a few dried figs, or substitute some diced apple or pear.
Dressing suggestion: Sesame-ginger for the quinoa and tofu portion of the bowl.
Here’s a bowl with four sources of protein — chickpeas, white beans (you can vary the beans if you’d like), tofu, and quinoa. Use baked tofu, if you’d like. Cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, radishes, and avocado round things out nicely, and it’s all quite flexible.
Dressing suggestion: Vinaigrette, vegan ranch, or tahini-based dressing.
Mango adds a sweet surprise to savory bowls. The usual suspects are in this plentiful bowl — rice, tofu (sautéed this time), carrots, radish, avocado, plus we go a bit further afield with seaweed and sprouts (both optional).
Dressing suggestion: Sesame-ginger.
Another protein-filled bowl, this one combines sautéed tofu with quinoa and chickpeas. Add lightly steamed broccoli (or other green veggie like Brussels sprouts), cucumber, and some lettuce or other tender greens. If you’re preparing this bowl as a cool-weather meal, you can add a little mashed or sliced sweet potato.
Dressing suggestion: Sesame-ginger dressing or a teriyaki marinade.
Here’s a tasty idea for a substantial bowl — sautéed new potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes, and avocado. A bed of arugula is quite compatible with the potatoes. Before adding the chickpeas and lentils to the bowl, toss each separately with vinaigrette.
This almost all-raw bowl is made more dramatic with watermelon radish, plus the more common chickpeas, radishes, cucumber, carrots, and celery. No watermelon radish? No problem. Just use extra radishes or sliced turnip.
Dressing suggestion: Sesame-ginger dressing or vinaigrette.
Another example of a bowl that offers ample protein, this one keeps things simple with grated carrot, bell pepper, edamame, and toasted cashews, all on a bed of quinoa.
Dressing suggestion: Sesame-ginger dressing or vinaigrette.
Do you want even more?
As you’ve seen, there’s no need to follow any recipe exactly to make beautiful Buddha bowls. They’re flexible and adaptable, so if you don’t have a suggested ingredient, swap it out for another, or just omit it.
That being said, if you’re the kind of cook who really needs to follow a recipe, follow this link to Classic Vegan Buddha Bowl (shown just above) by Cara Carin Cifelli, and explore her book, Vegan Buddha Bowls.
See lots more hearty vegan main dish salads.