I just saw a request for meals for families that can be prepped ahead. Grain bowls are definitely a go-to for me and I’ve shared a bunch! I liiiive for meals prepped ahead to speed dinner time up and eat foods we like. They’re so conducive to leftovers and allow for some individual customization. To celebrate this busy time of year or this busy stage of life, here are my fav grain bowls plus my formula!
Grain + protein + veggies + sauce + something fun = the best grain bowls! I start with a theme and strive to hit a bunch of the following elements.
Grains: I tend to go with brown rice. I strive for a healthy one especially since it isn’t the highlight in these anyway. Brown rice in the pressure cooker is so fast, and is fluffier than I can even describe. I also like cracked wheat or bulgur. I’ve also done couscous, rice pilaf, orzo, and quinoa.
Protein: Pre-cooked ones speed it up like meatballs or chicken sausages. We’ve done his & hers by using some shrimp since they cook so quickly (hers) and reheated leftover steak (his). Falafel baked in advance is handy to just warm too!
Veggies: go for some raw and some cooked. These bowls are a good use for any leftover or small amounts. The raw ones allow for come warm/cold contrast and freshness and the cooked ones make these bowls filling. Herbs are great in these two if you have some around from anything else!
Sauce: I love a drizzle across the top of sauce or dressing. I’ve done pesto, honey mustard salad dressing, teriyaki, salsa, hummus, creamy caesar dressing, etc. Make your own or buy it. Sometimes I doctor up another condiment (like ranch + cilantro + taco seasoning or like sriracha + mayo). It ties it all together or can be good as a little dip.
Something fun: my best grain bowls have something extra. Something we don’t have every day, or always with dinner makes it exciting like crispy wontons, toasted nuts, black sesame seeds, etc. Fruit can be great or some special cheese is always appreciated.
I find them more filling than salads and more fun than the same things on a plate as separate entities. These are also a go-to since the little one loves rice and when chopping stuff for him, it is easy to do the same for all of us. He’s 3 so we give him all the foods we’re eating, though he tends to eat them separately and sauce is sometimes for dipping versus drizzled on top.
Sausage, Arugula, Walnuts, and Apple Rice Bowls
Teriyaki Chicken, Edamame & Pineapple Rice Bowls
Pork Bahn Mi Bowls
Chicken, Bacon, Avocado Rice Bowls
Burrito Bowls with Mexican Street Corn
Italian Meatball Rice Bowls
Falafel Rice Bowls
Some runners up:
This one could have used more ingredients, but had good flavors: Ground Turkey Teriyaki Rice Bowls
This one could use a touch more variation in texture, but gave great variation: Chicken & Sweet Potato with Peanut Sauce Rice Bowls
I may incorporate weekly grain bowls into the rotation once we have an infant and toddler in just about 10 weeks! These might be a fun way to intro some lesser-consumed veggies at your house. If this format feels daunting, start with favorite flavors- think: BBQ chicken; cobb salad ingredients with ranch or blue cheese dressing; or taco fillings to start!
These are kind of the anti-casserole. While I enjoy a lasagna, pot pie, layered casserole, these are easier for me, and don’t need a hour in the oven. Plus, they feel appropriate for any season instead of winter-worthy foods. Our toddler doesn’t love foods all cooked together…it also feels like all my eggs in one basket so I reserve those for my favs: chili or pot pie.