Buddha bowls: how to prepare a week's worth of vegan dinners in 60 minutes or less
One of the things health- and fitness-minded vegans struggle with the most is food prep. That’s fitness nut language for preparing food for the days – or even the week – to come, so you’re not making all your food last-minute.
Vegan food prep is way easier and faster than non-vegan food prep; you don't even need to cook your protein sources! So if you think your food prep needs to take hours and hours, think again. With the right approach, you can get an entire week's worth of meals in just an hour.
Enter the Buddha bowl.
They’re versatile, mind-blowingly delicious, extremely nutritious, and simple to make. They’re basically a bunch of awesome ingredients piled into a bowl on top of a bed of your choice of grain (e.g. quinoa, brown rice), drizzled with a ridiculously amazing dressing and topped with all sorts of flavourful toppings. You’d get these at restaurants in Vancouver for anywhere from $11-$18. You'll be making your own for a fraction of that cost, with the exact ingredients you want.
A finished Buddha bowl. It took me 55 minutes to prepare ingredients for a whole week's worth of 'em, and 5 minutes to assemble this one for dinner.
A dedicated hour of food prep gets you a whole week of mind-blowingly delicious dinners (or lunches). Here’s the full how-to.
Your overall action plan
You’re going to prepare several different ingredients and store them in separate containers. Your food will have a longer shelf life this way, instead of storing fully assembled Buddha bowls. When you’re ready to eat, it’ll take about 5 minutes to assemble your bowl. You can then eat it as is, or heat in a microwave for 3 minutes.
Plan ahead so you can have an hour available to focus only on food prep for the coming week. Start with a clean kitchen, have all your equipment ready to go and your ingredients purchased, and be sure to read through these instructions beforehand.
You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you like. I went pretty hardcore and used a total of 16 ingredients (you can certainly use fewer), but it still took me only 55 minutes to prepare. Also keep in mind that the more often you make Buddha bowls, the faster you’ll get at preparing them (full disclosure: I make them a lot so I’ve got lots of practice!)
Before we get crackin’, here are 4 important notes for you
Important note #1:
My 60-minute timeframe assumes that you’ll be using a food processor. If you don’t have one and need to chop your veggies by hand, it’ll take a bit longer.
My food processor slices 2 whole carrots in 4 seconds. Try doing that by hand! Not gonna happen (unless you're some kind of vegan veggie-slicing ninja...)
Important note #2:
All amounts are for one person. If you’re preparing meals for two, double all amounts.
Important note #3:
Consider this guide as just that – a guide. It’s not an exact recipe to follow, and you can use any plant-based protein source and any veggies you fancy. I’m showing you what I do and the ingredients I use merely as a starting point.
Important note #4:
With only an hour of food prep for the whole week, we’re making the assumption that you’re OK with eating the same thing for dinner for a week. However, unlike other pre-made meals, you have lots of opportunity to switch things up throughout the week if you use slightly different toppings each day. For example, alternate between tofu and tempeh for your main protein, use cashews + almonds as a topping one day and hemp hearts + crispy onion the next, etc. Or you can enjoy the exact same Buddha bowl 7 times in a row if you’re a serious creature of routine. Up to you!
Kitchen equipment you’ll need
» Large pot with well-fitting lid
» Blender [You’ll need this to make smooth dressing.]
» Large smoothie cup or screw-top jar
» 5-8 large airtight storage containers
» 1 small airtight storage container
» 1 medium bowl
» Food processor [You don’t have to have a food processor to make this meal, but it greatly cuts down the time involved. I use a simple Cuisinart 8-cup food processor.]
» Cutting board and chef’s knife
Your grocery list
» 3 cups uncooked quinoa or brown rice
» 2 large cans beans of your choice
» 1 jar salsa
» 1 bunch green onion
» 1 package cherry tomatoes
» 1 large cucumber, or 5 mini cucumbers
» Smoked tofu, tofu puffs, and/or tempeh (7 servings total)
» 6 carrots
» 4 beets
» 1/2 small Napa cabbage
» 1/2 head cauliflower
» 1 package pre-washed greens (e.g. arugula, baby kale, spinach)
Staples to have on hand (add to grocery list if you don’t)
» Nutritional yeast
» Tamari or soy sauce
» Apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
» Garlic (3 cloves)
» Olive oil
» Black pepper
Your easy food prep steps
1. In a large pot, cook 3 cups (dry) quinoa or brown rice as per package directions. This will give you just under a cup of grain per meal for the week. If you need larger serving sizes, use 4 cups of dry grain instead.
2. While quinoa or brown rice is cooking, prepare Buddha bowl dressing. Just throw all these ingredients into a blender, and blend! I make mine in a smoothie container with a handheld immersion blender. The smoothie container is an easy way to store this dressing for the week; it’s the perfect size and pours easily.
[Adapted from Whitewater Cooks]
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup tahini
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
3. Rinse canned beans. Place in large storage container and mix with salsa.
4. Chop green onion and store in small storage container.
5. Rinse cherry tomatoes and store in a bowl (they don’t need to be refrigerated). You may want them handy to snack on, anyway!
6. Slice cucumbers into rounds and store in large storage container. Note: cucumbers don't last as long as other veggies, so you may need to slice up a second batch halfway through the week.
7. If you’re using smoked tofu, dice it into cubes. Tempeh strips and tofu puffs can be stored in their original packaging, placed into a plastic bag or large Ziploc.
8. Now you’ll prepare your main veggie ingredients. Use your food processor to grate or slice carrots, beets, Napa cabbage, cauliflower, or any other veggies you’d like to use. I don’t bother to peel my carrots or beets, and first cut them into medium-sized chunks so they fit into the food processor’s chute.
Store veggies separately in large airtight storage containers.
YOUR PREP IS DONE!
Here are the 16 ingredients I used last time I made Buddha bowls. I never make the same Buddha bowls 2 weeks in a row! With countless options for grain bases, veggies, protein sources, and toppings, you’ll never get bored of this meal.
5-minute Buddha bowl assembly for meals
1. Place brown rice or quinoa in bottom of bowl.
2. Top with prepared carrots, beets, cauliflower, black beans with salsa, and tofu/tempeh of choice.
3. If you want a warm meal, add dressing and heat in microwave, then top with green onion, your greens of choice, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber slices. Otherwise pile everything into your bowl and your feast is ready.
If you’re packing Buddha bowls for lunches at work, take 5 minutes in the morning to assemble one in a portable container. I pack my dressing separately in a small screw-top container and add right before eating.
» Crispy onions
» Green radish or daikon radish
» Hemp hearts
» Slivered almonds
» Shredded nori seaweed
» Pumpkin seeds
» Sunflower seeds
Other protein sources to try
» Pan fried seitan
» Veggie meatballs (e.g. Yves brand)
» Veggie ground round
» Gardein brand faux meat (e.g. “Mandarin Chick’n”)
» Edamame beans
» Brown, green, or red lentils
Other bases (instead of quinoa or brown rice) to try
Other veggies to try
» Purple cabbage
» Daikon radish
» Red/green/yellow peppers
» Snow peas
Pics of my own Buddha bowl food prep
Using an immersion blender + smoothie container makes dressing preparation super easy. Only one blender component to clean, and the smoothie cup is great for dressing storage + pouring.
I recently tried green radish for the first time. What a weird-lookin' (but delicious!) vegetable. Once shredded, it doesn't last a full week in the fridge though.
My preferred brands of smoked tofu and smoked tempeh.
All Buddha bowl ingredients ready and hanging out in my fridge for the week.
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