This Buddha bowl starts with a base of ancient grains and gets topped with tofu, sweet potatoes, miso sauce and cilantro pesto for a healthy vegetarian meal!
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Have you ever had a dish in a restaurant that you just loved and wished you could have at home? One of my favorite things to do is recreate recipes that I have in restaurants. It's a fun way to get an understanding of how chefs use different ingredients together. It's also a great opportunity to talk to the chef and/or waitstaff about the dish. While they generally won't give you the recipe (and I probably wouldn't ask anyway) many chefs are very happy to talk about what goes into a dish.
This vegetarian buddha bowl is inspired by a dish I've had many times at True Food Kitchen in Chicago. True Food's menu is seasonal and designed to inspire a healthy lifestyle, so depending on when you visit you'll have a number of different options to choose from to get the freshest taste of the season.
When I'm creating or re-creating a unique recipe I try to on using ingredients that will result in a fabulous flavor profile but that you can actually find in your average grocery store. This dish will have you looking for other ways to use the tahini sauce and cilantro pesto.
This is the perfect recipe to add to your weeknight meals recipe collection. Read on to learn more about how to make this Vegetarian Ancient Grains Bowl, or jump straight to the recipe to start cooking!
This bowl is....
- filled with healthy ingredients like tofu, sweet potato and avocado
- perfect for meal prep since most of the components can be made ahead of time
- topped with several tasty sauces to give you an extra punch of flavor!
- a great vegetarian dish that works for lunch or dinner
To make these buddha bowls you'll need:
- Extra-firm tofu: I like to keep my pantry stocked with tofu, so tend to use a self-stable version, which I think is easier to get crisp on the outside than some of the refrigerated versions.
- Miso paste: I recommend using white miso for this sauce. Most large grocery stores now carry miso, but you might have to ask where to find it. It's often in a refrigerated area in the produce section.
- Produce: You'll need Baby Bella mushrooms, yellow onion, sweet potato, avocado, a lime and a lemon, and cilantro.
- Pearled farro: There are several different types of farro available so make sure to get pearled.
- Pepitas: I recommend using roasted pepitas for this recipe.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated parmesan is my recommendation, however, since it's going into the pesto pre-grated is an option.
- Tahini: You need a small amount for the sauce. The rest can be used in hummus or as the base for a tahini salad dressing
- Spices: dried thyme, garlic salt, ground turmeric
- Pantry staples: Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic clove, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, maple syrup
What goes in a Buddha or Grain bowl?
A buddha bowl is really just a grain-based bowl that combines healthy ingredients. Many are vegan though they have evolved into a way to get your grains, veggies, and protein all in one easy, delicious dish with a little taste of everything!
A bowl starts with a base of healthy, cooked grains. This particular bowl uses farro as its base but you could use quinoa, bulgur, barley, or a combination if you like.
I decided to use tofu in this bowl to make it vegetarian, however, you could use chicken, shrimp, or other seafood. Just be sure it's a lean protein to keep your bowl healthy.
Since the idea is to make the bowl a veggie-forward dish, I used two separate veggies - mushrooms and sweet potatoes. You could also add a green such as kale if you want to include some leafy veggies.
To give the bowl some extra flavor and fun you want to add a few more toppings or extras. For this bowl, it's a combo of miso-based sauce, cilantro pesto, some caramelized onions, and a turmeric-tahini sauce. YUM!
How to assemble the bowls
To make these grains bowls you'll:
Start by draining the tofu, which is just about getting as much water out before you start cooking it. A plate and a couple of paper towels are all you'll need for this step.
Roast all the veggies: First you season them and then add them all to a rimmed baking sheet and roast them together.
Cook the farro: Do this while the veggies are roasting.
Make the pesto and the sauces: Start these while the veggies are in the oven and finish up while you are waiting for the tofu to bake.
Bake the tofu: This step is to remove any remaining water from the tofu, and helps to give you a crisper result when you sear it in the next step. Slice the drained tofu into 1" thick slices and add to the baking sheet you used for the veggies. You're going to bake it for about 30 minutes.
Sear the tofu: When the tofu is done baking you'll take it out of the oven and cut it into 1" cubes. Then into the hot pan it goes. I recommend using a non-stick pan for this step. It will save you from clean-up headaches later. Your goal in this step is to brown all sides of the tofu cubes.
Put it all together! Divide the farro between two salad or soup bowls and top with the tofu and veggies. Add the onions, avocado, pepitas and sauces. Enjoy!
Meal Prep Tips
Including the cooking time, this recipe takes over an hour to prepare, which can make it tough as a weeknight meal. So if you’d like to do just a little prep in advance you can cut down on the active prep and cooking times when you make your bowls. There are a couple of different ways you can approach meal prep for this recipe:
- Cook the farro: Cook the farro a couple of days ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- Make the miso and tahini sauces: Prep the two sauces according to the recipe instructions below. Store each in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Chop the veggies: The sweet potatoes and onions can be chopped a couple of days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
- Make the pesto: This can be done a day or two in advance. It won't retain its bright green color but it will taste the same. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
- Roast the veggies: If you can make the time, I really recommend this be done right before serving as the mushrooms will get a bit soggy when reheating, however, you can do this a day or two in advance and put them back in the oven to reheat them while the tofu is baking. If you're going this route, wrap them in foil before you put them in the oven.
Additional notes from the kitchen
Substituting caramelized onions
If you want to take the time to caramelize onions you can use those instead of the roasted onions. This adds a little extra punch to the dish. I promise it's worth it and caramelized onions are not very complicated to make.
Other uses for miso
This makes a great packable lunch. If taking this to work, or storing any leftovers, leave the sauces separate from the farro and veggies until after you reheat them.
Tools you'll want for this recipe
Rimmed baking sheets – I always say these rimmed baking sheets are a kitchen must-have. You can use them for roasting veggies, baking chicken or fish, and for making cookies. They work great for bacon too! Since they are rimmed you don't have to worry about juices or grease running off the edges and getting all over your oven. I have them in a couple of sizes to accommodate various baking and roasting needs!
More bowl recipes
If you are looking for more bowl recipes check out these reader favorites:
- Greek Lamb Gyro Bowl. These Greek-inspired gyro bowls are packed with flavor from the combination of lamb meatballs, feta, cauliflower rice, and tzatziki sauce!
- Turkey Banh Mi Bowls. This recipe gives you beloved Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich flavors in grain bowl form! They are easy to make, packed with crunchy veggies, and deliver tons of delicious flavor in every bite.
Ancient Grains Buddha Bowl Recipe
For the bowl:
- 6 ounces extra-firm tofu
- 4 ounces baby bella mushrooms, stems removed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 ½ cups peeled and cubed sweet potato
- ¼ of an onion, cut into vertical slices
- ½ cup pearled farro
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
- half an avocado, sliced
For the cilantro pesto:
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, stems removed
- ¼ cup toasted pepitas
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup olive oil
For the miso sauce:
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons white miso
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
For the Turmeric-Tahini sauce:
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon maple syrup
- Heat the oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Drain the tofu. Place the tofu on a plate and cover with a paper towel. Gently press down to help drain the excess water from the tofu. Let sit and repeat after 10 minutes.
- Roast the mushrooms. Toss the mushrooms with 2 tablespoons olive oil, thyme, garlic salt and balsamic. Place them stem side down on one half of a baking sheet.
- Roast the sweet potatoes and onions. Toss the sweet potatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place on the other half of baking sheet. Add the onions to the baking sheet with the sweet potatoes. Bake for 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.
- Cook the farro. While the mushrooms & sweet potatoes are baking add the farro and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Keep warm.
- Bake the tofu. Once the veggies are done baking, remove from oven and keep warm. Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Slice the tofu into 1" thick slices and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes to drain any remaining water.
- Make the pesto. While the tofu is cooking add the cilantro leaves, pepitas and garlic to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a standard blade. Pulse 4 times. Add the lime juice and parmesan and pulse again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the motor running slowly pour in the olive oil and continue to process until fully combined.
- Make the miso sauce. To make the miso sauce combine vinegar, honey, lime juice and miso in a small bowl and whisk together. Whisk in the sesame oil until a smooth sauce forms.
- Make the tahini sauce. To make the tahini sauce combine all of the ingredients in small bowl and mix together until a smooth sauce forms.
- Sear the tofu. After the tofu has finished baking remove it from the oven and cut into 1" cubes. Heat the remaining oil in a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook for 4-5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove the tofu from the pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
- Assemble the bowls. Divide the farro between two bowls. Top with tofu, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onions and avocado. Add half the cilantro pesto to each bowl. Drizzle each both with the desired amount of miso sauce and tahini sauce. Serve immediately.
- If you are saving part of this for leftovers leave the miso and tahini sauces off until just before serving.
- If you have them on hand, you can replace the roasted onions with caramelized onions.
This post was originally published in December 2017. It was updated in June 2022 with some new information and photos. No changes were made to the original recipe.