This nutritious grain bowl recipe makes a delicious meal that’s perfect for any night of the week or for a healthy meal prep idea.

Overhead view of a colourful quinoa grain bowl with avocado, mango, tempeh, cucumber, cilantro, tomato and green onion.

Why You’ll Love Grain Bowls

Grain bowls are healthy, delicious and easy to adapt to your preference as they can be endlessly customized with different toppings, proteins and dressings.

If you’re looking to include more plant foods and veggies in your diet, they make a great option too!

They usually feature a green like spinach or kale, plus a combination of raw and cooked veggies, a legume and a yummy sauce. You can even add fruit – these bowls feature mango!

With all the plant-based ingredients in grain bowls, they’re high in dietary fiber and plant-based protein, which makes them nice and filling. In combination with all the different flavours and textures, they make a satisfying whole food meal.

You’ll love these bowls for meal prep or a nourishing weeknight meal.

You can use any grain you like, such as brown rice, farro or quinoa and switch up the rest of the ingredients to go for a more Mediterranean, Mexican or Asian-inspired bowl.

Recipe Highlights

  • They’re super flavorful and satisfying with plenty of texture.
  • The maple chili dressing is amazing mixed with tempeh, quinoa and fresh ingredients.
  • They’re easily adaptable with different toppings and dressings.
  • They’re perfect for using up leftovers.
  • They’re vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
  • They’re high in plant-based protein and fibre.

What’s in a Grain Bowl

A colourful quinoa grain bowl with avocado, mango, tempeh, cucumber, cilantro, tomato, kale and green onion.

It’s easy to build your own yummy grain bowl! Just choose your favourite ingredient from each of these categories:

  • Grain: Try white rice, brown rice, farro, quinoa, millet, barley, freekeh, etc. I like to make a large batch for meal prep so it’s ready to throw into bowls during the week. For a low-carb option, you can use cauliflower rice or try this cabbage “rice”.
  • Protein: For vegan grain bowls, try tempeh, tofu, beans, roasted chickpeas, lentils or edamame. For vegetarian grain bowls, you can add eggs. Otherwise, any protein works.
  • Cooked Vegetables: Try steamed, roasted or grilled broccoli, mushroom, carrot, cabbage, sweet potato, squash, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, parsnips, roasted red pepper, etc.
  • Raw Vegetables: I like to choose one fresh green like spinach or kale, then mix and match cabbage (try this slaw), cucumber, onion, corn, tomato, radish, olives, bell pepper, etc. Cabbage and carrot work well both raw and cooked.
  • Dressing: Your choice! I’ve listed some grain bowl dressing ideas below.
  • Toppings: To finish your bowl, add avocado, sauerkraut, kimchi, cheese (try tofu ricotta or tofu feta), fresh herbs, sprouts, nutritional yeast, nuts, seeds, pickled red onion, or tortilla chips for crunch, flavor and texture. You can also use fresh or dried fruit like cranberries or raisins. This bowl features some mango for a sweet, tangy addition!

When building your grain bowl, think about using contrasting flavours, colours and textures. Whole grains and beans are soft, so add crunch with raw veggies, nuts and seeds. Use fresh and cooked veggies for different colours and try to combine flavours like tangy, salty, sour, bitter and sweet.

Ingredients & Substitutions

The following sections cover notes about the ingredients, possible substitutions and a visual step-by-step overview of making the recipe.

Scroll down to the end of the post to find the full written and printable recipe card.

All of the ingredients for making a quinoa grain bowl recipe gathered in bowls. Each ingredient is labelled with text.
  • Sesame Oil: This is used to fry the shallot, garlic and ginger and provides a delicious, nutty, sesame flavour to the dressing.
  • Shallot: You can use white or red onion if you don’t have shallot.
  • Garlic & Ginger: You’ll need fresh garlic and ginger for this recipe though you’ll also need some ground garlic powder for the tempeh.
  • Rice Vinegar: You can use seasoned or unseasoned rice vinegar.
  • Tamari: If you don’t have tamari, soy sauce works as well (for dressing & tempeh). You’ll need tamari for a gluten-free bowl though.
  • Maple Syrup: Suitable substitutions would be honey or agave syrup.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil is best for the base of the dressing. For an oil-free bowl, see the alternative dressing section.
  • Tempeh: Use plain tempeh with no added seasonings. It’s fairly common in well-stocked grocery stores and often found refrigerated with tofu. Read more about tempeh here.
  • Quinoa: You can use white, red or tri-colour quinoa or substitute any other cooked grain. Farro or brown rice would be good!
  • Kale: Use any variety of kale.
  • Smoked Paprika: If you don’t have smoked paprika, regular paprika is ok but smoked paprika does add a yummy smokiness to the tempeh.
  • Fresh Ingredients: The rest of the bowls are easily customizable but feature avocado, green onion, cherry tomato, cilantro and mango. We’ll cover some alternative ingredients below.
  • Sesame Seeds: You can use white or black sesame seeds. Try toasting them for extra flavour and crunch! You can do this in just a few minutes over low heat on the stovetop.

Recipe Step-by-Step

Step 1: Cook the Quinoa

The recipe calls for cooked quinoa but you could substitute brown rice, farro, wheat berries, freekeh or any other whole grain.

For quinoa, use a 2:1 ration of water to quinoa. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan.

Add the quinoa, cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

A pot of fluffy cooked quinoa with a fork resting in it. The pot is sitting on a folded dish cloth.

Step 2: Make the Chili-Maple Dressing

Once you get the quinoa going, heat the sesame oil over medium-low heat in a small saucepan.

Add the shallot, ginger and garlic and season with a pinch of salt. Cook them for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and softened.

Reduce the heat to low and stir in the vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce and chili flakes, along with another pinch of salt. Slowly whisk in the oil until it’s fully emulsified and combined. Remove from heat.

Hot chili maple sauce with shallot, ginger and garlic cooking in small saucepan.

Step 3: Make the Tempeh

Heat 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.

Crumble up the tempeh into little pieces using your hands then add the tempeh to the skillet and cook for 4-6 minutes until it’s getting browned and crispy.

Add the smoked paprika and garlic powder and mix then add the tamari and maple syrup and cook for another minute.

Crumbled crispy tempeh bits with paprika and garlic powder cooking in a skillet with a wooden spoon.

Step 4: Dress the Kale

To prepare the kale for the bowl, remove the leaves from the tough stems and chop them up.

Drizzle 2 tsp of olive oil over the kale and massage it with your hands until softened.

Two hands massaging chopped kale in a glass mixing bowl.

Step 5: Assemble the Grain Bowls

Time to assemble your grain bowl! You can do a base of kale or quinoa. I did a base of kale, dividing it between 4 servings and then topping equal amounts of the rest of the ingredients.

Spoon the dressing over the bowls and dig in!

Drizzling maple chili dressing from a spoon over a grain bowl with tempeh, tomato, avocado and cucumber.

Variations

Alternatives to Crumbled Tempeh

Swaps

  • Instead of cilantro try chives, parsley or basil.
  • Instead of mango try dried cranberries, orange slices, diced apple or just leave it off.
  • Instead of kale, use fresh spinach or lightly steamed collard greens or swiss chard.
  • Instead of fresh tomato and cucumber, try grated carrot, shredded green cabbage or red cabbage, red onion, bell pepper or any other raw veggie you enjoy.
  • Instead of toasted sesame seeds, try pepitas, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pine nuts, almonds or pecans.
  • Instead of avocado, something creamy like hummus or ricotta would be good.
A healthy vegetarian quinoa grain bowl with avocado, mango, tempeh, cucumber, cilantro, tomato, green onion and shallot garlic dressing. A second grain bowl is in the background.

More Topping Ideas

FAQs

Are grain bowls gluten-free?

It depends on the grain used. This grain bowl features quinoa so it’s naturally gluten-free. Other gluten-free grains include rice and millet. Do not use farro, freekeh or wheat berries.

Are grain bowls good for you?

Definitely! Grain bowls are rich in fibre, protein, healthy fats, energizing carbohydrates and micronutrients making them a well-balanced meal.

These bowls are about 600 calories per serving so would fit into

If you need a lower-calorie option, reduce the amount of quinoa, omit the avocado and sesame seeds and/or choose a different dressing such as this maple dijon dressing. If you need more calories, increase the amount of avocado and/or grains or add more toppings from the suggestion list above.

Close up of quinoa, tempeh, mango, cucumber, tomato and avocado.

Storing Instructions

  • The dressing can be made up in advance and stored in the fridge. Shake or whisk well after storing.
  • The tempeh is best hot from the stovetop but it can also be made up to 4 days in advance and stored in the fridge.
  • The grain can be cooked in advance and stored in the fridge.
  • The assembled bowls can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 4 days. Leave the avocado off and consider leaving the tomato and mango off until serving.
  • Grain bowls can be enjoyed cold or reheated in the microwave.

Did you try this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a review.

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A colourful quinoa grain bowl with avocado, mango, tempeh, cucumber, cilantro, tomato, kale and green onion.

Grain Bowl Recipe

  • Author: Deryn Macey
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Healthy and delicious vegetarian grain bowls that are packed with nutrition and flavour!


Ingredients

Scale

For the Hot Chili Maple Dressing

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (15 mL)
  • 1 small shallot, minced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar  (30 mL)
  • 2 tsp tamari (10 mL)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (15 g)
  • ¼ tsp chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (71 g)

For the Crumbled Tempeh

For the Grain Bowl

  • 1 ½2 cups cooked quinoa, or other grain of choice
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and thinly sliced (6-8 cups/200 g)
  • 1 avocado, peeled and cubed
  • ½ cucumber, cut into half-moons (160 g/1.5 cups)
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved (195 g)
  • 8 green onions, thinly sliced 
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped (15 g)
  • 1 large mango, peeled and cubed (175 g/1 cup cubed)
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Cook Quinoa or Other Grain of Choice: Cook your choice of grain according to package instructions. 
  2. Make the Dressing: In a small pan, heat sesame oil over medium-low heat. Add shallot, ginger and garlic. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook for 1-2 min, stirring often, until fragrant and softened. Reduce heat to low. Whisk in vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce and chili flakes. Season with another pinch of salt. Gradually whisk in oil, until emulsified and combined. Remove from heat.
  3. Make the Crumbled Tempeh: In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tsp oil over medium-high heat. While the pan heats, crumble tempeh, using your fingers, into little pieces. Add tempeh to the skillet. Cook for 4-6 mins, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp. Sprinkle in smoked paprika and garlic powder, and stir to coat. Add the tamari and maple syrup. Cook for 1 min, stirring constantly until absorbed and edges are crisped. 
  4. Prepare Kale: While tempeh cooks, place kale in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing again then drizzle 2 tbsp dressing over the kale. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Using your hands, massage kale for a couple of minutes, until all leaves are coated. This helps tenderize the kale.
  5. Assemble Bowls: Divide the kale between 4 bowls. Divide the quinoa evenly between bowls. Add equal amounts of tempeh, cilantro, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, green onion and mango to each bowl. Spoon the remaining dressing over the bowls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Notes

See post above for alternative dressings, toppings and swaps.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 bowl
  • Calories: 622
  • Fat: 34 g
  • Carbohydrates: 64 g
  • Fiber: 12 g
  • Protein: 17 g

Keywords: grain bowl, quinoa grain bowl