I remember hearing a statistic that most women — something like 90% — don’t know what they’re going to make for dinner at 4pm. As in, at 4pm they’re still trying to figure out what they’ll be feeding their families in two hours’ time. Don’t think I’m anti-feminist here. Yes, I realize dudes can meal plan, too. The stat was part of a consumer research study I came across back when I…studied…the research of…consumers? #deskjob Anyway, my point is, the majority of the time, I don’t have a clue what I’m going to make for dinner, and despite alllll the meal planning schtick on Pinterest, it seems I’m not alone. So what do we make probably three nights a week?
A whole grain base, a protein, some kind of roasted/grilled/steamed veggie, something pickled, maybe an herby little sauce. Easy. (And just as easy to plate in individual compartments for little ones who might be strict about their food groups getting too friendly. At 4-years-old, ours is juuuust coming around to the idea that things can actually taste better together, but I know that’s not the case for all.)
So, below I’ve rounded up 10 gorgeous, balanced vegetarian bowls to provide inspiration for that 4pm dinner crisis. The lovely thing about bowls is their adaptability, so take what you love from one recipe and combine it with another — or just mix up a new sauce to jazz up any leftovers you may have that already lend themselves to a bowl. An eater of meat? You can easily add leftover steak, rotisserie chicken or even meatballs to any of these guys. (And grilled shrimp are always fast. If you’re feeling ’em, this recipe for Sesame Shrimp Sushi Bowls is one of my favorites.)
1 // Fried Egg Cauliflower Grain Bowl with Farro (from Naturally Ella) — I trust Erin with all things veggies. She is a goddess of taking farmer’s market finds and turning them into restaurant worthy dishes that are actually very achievable in your own kitchen. Love the base of hummus here (store-bought is totally fine), and crispy roasted cauliflower gets me every time.
2 // Roasted Plantain + Black Bean Vegan Bowl (from Minimalist Baker) — Plantains are one of those things I LOVE to eat out, but they seem intimidating to me to make at home. Until this recipe. They get a quick roast for 15 mins, and they’re beautifully caramelized. The rice and beans that go alongside, plus a quick slaw — all no-brainers.
3 // Sesame Balsamic Tofu Bowls with Chile Mango + Sunflower-Cilantro Pesto (from The Pig & Quill) — I can’t overstate my adoration of tofu, and 9 times outta 10 we prepare it much in this fashion. (It’s great for snacking on cold or in sandwiches, too.) The mango is slightly tart and pickled, super-refreshing, and the sunflower-cilantro pesto is dairy-free, so the whole dish is vegan. You could easily sub the mango for peaches or nectarines at this time of year, too. And Lana loves it.
4 // Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Grain Bowl (from Joyful Healthy Eats) — I was going to keep this line-up just to savory items, but who doesn’t love a little breakie-for-dinner? I always forget how easily quinoa can be adapted to sweet dishes. And the toppings on this could totally be swapped up to make the most of whatever seasonal produce is around. (Thinking figs and blackberries would be kinda lovely for summer!)
5 // Browned Butter Grits Bowls with Sweet Potato Hash, Blistered Tomatoes + Fried Eggs (from The Pig & Quill) — I’m going to acknowledge right outta the gate that this recipe isn’t the lightest of dishes. There’s one for the grits, the hash the tomatoes and the eggs. That said, together they’re a knock-out. And what we’re really talking about here is inspo, right? So maybe you have some leftover roasted sweet potatoes hanging out already, or maybe you opt not to blister the tomatoes. Even simplified, the flavors here are where it’s at. Also: browned butter grits. I mean…
6 // Sesame Brussels Sprout Soba Bowl (from Naturally Ella) — Another dish where the flavors are familiar and accessible, and yet you feel like you’re eating something off a fancy spa menu in no time. The kiddo adores soba noodles, too, and yet somehow I always forget about them. (Maybe the fact that we eat them so infrequently is what makes this dish seem special despite its simplicity? Who knows, but I’m about it.)
7 // Detox Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Glow Bowl (from Pinch of Yum) — I absolutely love chickpeas as a vegetarian protein, and you guys already know how I feel about Israeli couscous. (It’s hidden under all those veggies — and, of course, you could always swap it for quinoa if you’re avoiding gluten.) Just one glimpse of the ingredient list here and you can already tell it’s going to be a knockout. Love the refreshing contrast of fresh cukes against the fiercely flavorful sauce, too.
8 // Halloumi Hummus Bowls (from How Sweet Eats) — All hail halloumi!! If you’ve never cooked with halloumi, it’s a trip. It’s a super-salty, dense, almost squeaky cheese that retains it shape when heated, so it’s perfect for grilling or pan-frying. We throw it on top of salads, and it stacks up super-nicely in a sandwich, too. (It can be pricey in speciality markets, but it’s usually stocked super-affordably at our Trader Joe’s.) The combo here with hummus, cucumbers and tiny tomatoes just screams summer.
9 // Mezze Bowls with Hummus, Tzatziki and Basil-Mint Pesto (from Kale & Caramel) — Obviously I’m on a bit of a Mediterranean kick here, because these mezze bowls from my friend Lily are beckoning to me, too. Dinner that feels like a personal appetizer platter is always going to win big in this house, and the basil-mint pesto here is refreshing beyond belief. (We put it on grilled veggies and tri-tip, too. So good.)
10 // Easy Vegan Spring Roll Bowls with Crispy Tofu (from Crowded Kitchen) — If you don’t want to swim in that avocado, you might need to check your pulse. (Or maybe you just don’t dig avocados, but for this California girl, they’re part of the religion.) Lexi + Beth make the most stunning vegan, gluten-free dishes that truly don’t suck (as in, their gluten- and meat-eating partners endorse all of it), so I 100% trust that these bowls are legit. Crispy tofu + sesame miso dressing is more or less my love language, but grilled shrimp or some easy charbroiled lemongrass chicken would be so tasty here, too.
We’ve got everything on hand to make #3, #7 and #9 over the next few days, and I’ve got the fixins for #10 on ye olde shopping liste for next week. What are you most excited about? (And tell me: are you a meal planner, or are you winging it at 4pm like the rest of us? Please confirm the statistic is true and I’m not alone…)
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This one’s for the pinners!