27 Healthy Grain Bowls – Cooking Light


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Photo: Jennifer Causey

Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Bowl

If ketchup goes with every chicken dinner in your family, try these saucy, sweet, and tangy chicken thighs instead. The meat becomes incredibly tender in the slow cooker so you can easily slip out the bones and cut the chicken into bite-size pieces for kids. Bone-in chicken thighs are pan-seared before being basted with sticky-sweet sauce and slow cooked to fork-tender perfection. Sear the chicken thighs in batches to avoid over-crowding the pan and hindering browning. Though we swoon over the superiorly moist meat, the real magic lies within the sauce, which masters the balance of savory and sweet. For a burst of freshness, we add a simple cabbage slaw that rounds out the meal with a satisfying crunch. For an extra dose of veggies, pair it with sugar snap or snow peas. Our recipe requires little legwork and saves 300 calories and 250mg of sodium over the classic.

View Recipe: Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Bowl

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Photo: Caitln Bensel

Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl

This dish is all about clean flavors and distinct textures. Farro provides satisfying chew, while the raw shaved veggie soften slightly in the vinaigrette to become perfectly crisp-tender. To blanch the peas, cook in boiling water for 1 minute or until crisp-tender, then dunk in an ice bath for 1 minute to stop the cooking. A mandoline or vegetable peeler makes quick work of thinly slicing vegetables

View Recipe: Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl


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Photo: Alison Miksch

Farro Breakfast Bowl

This meal in a bowl takes its morning cue from soft-boiled eggs and a dollop of yogurt, and then goes savory with toasty cumin-scented farro and a creamy avocado. It’s also perfectly portioned for two. Boil the farro like pasta—in plenty of water that you’ll drain off—to cut the cook time in half. Toasting the farro in a little oil is a great way to revive any leftover cooked whole grains. Whole-milk Greek yogurt has a cool, luxurious mouthfeel that brings all the elements together. It also has more protein than reduced- or nonfat yogurt. Add Blistered Tomatoes with Kale on top for a final touch of veg.

View Recipe: Farro Breakfast Bowl

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Photo: Jennifer Causey

Chicken, Mushroom, and Bok Choy Bowls

If ground turkey is a staple protein in your kitchen, try ground chicken—the blend of light breast and rich thigh meat is just as flavorful and quick-cooking. A cast-iron skillet helps with browning, but any large skillet will do. True to most stir-frying techniques, we separate the tough stems of the bok choy from the tender leaves and cook them first so that everything has just the right doneness. One large bok choy can stand in for the baby ones; be sure to trim off the wide, fibrous ends and cut the stems into thin slices. Serve with Scallion-and-Cilantro Barley to make a hearty grain bowl.

View Recipe: Chicken, Mushroom, and Bok Choy Bowls


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Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Umami Broth with Buckwheat and Vegetables

The richness of the broth comes from what’s basically an Asian version of soffrito, the Italian “starter paste” that flavors so many delicious soups and sauces. Whereas the Italian version is a mixture of sautéed celery, onions, garlic, bell peppers, and sometimes tomato paste, this version uses miso, onion, ginger, and garlic sautéed in toasty sesame oil until browned and caramelized. We opt for red miso here, the saltiest and most pungent kind. If you only have white miso on hand, it will work, too; you just might want to add a splash of soy sauce to deepen the flavor.

View Recipe: Umami Broth with Buckwheat and Vegetables

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Photo: Jennifer Causey

Carne Asada Bowls

This gluten-free take on a taco salad uses seared flank steak in place of ground beef. Instead of a fried tortilla shell, crisp romaine lettuce forms the sturdy base for each salad with crunchy tortilla chips crumbled on top. Queso fresco is a firm, mild cheese—a great alternative to feta if you’re not a fan of the tang. Use as your go-to cheese for Mexican egg scrambles, burritos, or stuffed chiles. Keep the tortilla chips whole for scooping, or lightly crush them and sprinkle on top. Serve over Cilantro and Almond Pilaf.

View Recipe: Carne Asada Bowls


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Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Wheat Berry “Ribollita”

Traditional ribollita is a Tuscan specialty made of leftover minestrone warmed up with chunks of bread tossed into it. In this version, wheat berries stand in for bread, bulking up the soup with nutty flavor and pleasant texture. The Parmesan cheese rind that simmers in the broth enriches the whole pot with umami depth. It’s a great technique that’ll convince you to always save your Parmesan rinds, stashing them in the freezer for uses like this. If you don’t have any, check the cheese counter at your local gourmet grocer; you’ll often find rinds for sale there.

View Recipe: Wheat Berry “Ribollita”

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Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez


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Photo: Jenn Causey

Korean-Style Pork and Rice

Gochujang is a spicy, deeply savory sauce made from Korean chiles, fermented soybeans, and salt. It adds a mild heat to the finished dish so kids can still enjoy. Use the sauce as a marinade or baste for grilled meats, a dipping sauce for kebabs, or a stir-in for sandwich spreads. The pork mixture would also be fantastic in an East-meets-West sloppy joe: Pile on a toasted hoagie roll with a carrot and radish slaw, sliced green onions, and a squeeze of fresh lime.

View Recipe: Korean-Style Pork and Rice

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Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Blackberry-Citrus Granola Bowl

The best way to cook steel-cut oats during the week? Don’t cook them at all. Soak the oats overnight in your milk of choice: The oats will soften and plump in the liquid but remain slightly chewy. Enjoy cold, or heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Cocoa nibs add a little extra crunch and a wake-up jolt similar to coffee.

View Recipe: Blackberry-Citrus Granola Bowl


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Photo: Romulo Yanes

Nutty Fried Rice

This hearty vegetarian dish is a fun twist on the usual takeout version of fried rice, incorporating lots of nutty flavor from toasted sesame oil, roasted cashews, peanut butter, and sesame seeds. The rice is drizzled with a savory, creamy peanut sauce that takes the whole thing right into indulgence territory. If you have a peanut allergy, opt for cashew, almond, or sunflower butter instead of peanut butter. Look for toasted sesame seeds on the spice aisle of your supermarket; it’s a great ingredient to keep on hand for busy nights because it saves a step.

View Recipe: Nutty Fried Rice

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Photo: Colin Price

Tuna-Quinoa Toss

A whole-grain protein bowl is the perfect solution for when lunch needs to be quick—as well as tasty, filling, and healthy. Cook quinoa ahead of time (or buy precooked, available in pouches near the rice). To complete the lunch, serve with 1/2 cup steamed green beans as shown. Dairy-free option: Use 2 teaspoons toasted chopped walnuts instead of feta cheese.

View Recipe: Tuna-Quinoa Toss


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Photo: Jennifer Causey

One-Pot Chicken with Farro

This easy dish is perfect for a casual get-together with friends. Inspired by arroz con pollo, it is hearty with satisfying complexity. Cumin, saffron, and oregano season rich chicken thighs and nutty farro as the dish simmers. If using saffron, deploy it sparingly; those tiny threads bring subtle flavor and a little color to the dish, but too much will yield a medicinal taste. Serve with a side salad to complete the meal.

View Recipe: One-Pot Chicken with Farro

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Photo: Jennifer Causey

Thai Crunch Bowl with Salmon

Add bright, bold colors to your palate with this nutty dinner. The sesame-peanut sauce is so downright delicious, you’ll want to drizzle it over every meal.

View Recipe: Thai Crunch Bowl with Salmon


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Photo: Hector Sanchez

California Caprese Bowl

What’s more refreshing than cubed avocado, mozzarella, and sliced tomatoes? Absolutely nothing! Here, the classic Italian appetizer turns into a riff on the Korean rice dish bibimbap, with a whole-grain upgrade no one will complain about.

View Recipe: California Caprese Bowl

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Photo: Hector Sanchez

Korean Shrimp BBQ Bowl

This is a great way to make use of leftover veggies. Mushrooms, cabbage, spinach and carrots are topped with a fried egg and drizzled with a spicy aioli sauce for an irresistible meal.

View Recipe: Korean Shrimp BBQ Bowl


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Photo: Hector Sanchez

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Photo: Hector Sanchez

Grilled Hawaiian Bowl

Serve yourself the perfect summer bowl for one. Sweet grilled pineapple complements the juicy pork tenderloin perfectly.

View Recipe: Grilled Hawaiian Bowl


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Photo: Hector Sanchez

Peruvian Steak and Roasted Sweet Potato Bowl

A little meat travels far since there’s no center stage in a bowl. Here, a few ounces of Peruvian steak works wonders on top. Season well, and shred or finely chop to get a little in each bite. 

View Recipe: Peruvian Steak and Roasted Sweet Potato Bowl

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Photo: Iain Bagwell

Egg-Topped Quinoa Bowl

Here, the yolk of the fried egg serves as a dressing (without you having to do anything extra) to coat nutrient-dense quinoa. Pancetta adds a snap of savory satisfaction to earthy kale, while all-season cherry tomatoes, meaning you can make it whenever, lend a fresh pop of bright flavor. Sub steel-cut oats, bulgur, or leftover brown rice for quinoa. The hot sauce gives this simple dish a kick in the pants.

View Recipe: Egg-Topped Quinoa Bowl


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Photo: Squire Fox

Roasted Carrot, Chicken, and Grape Quinoa Bowl

This nutrient-packed quinoa and greens salad boasts roasted carrots for caramelized flavor, sliced grapes for a juicy burst, and almonds for crunch. The Greek yogurt dressing adds protein while making the dish irresistibly creamy. Pre-assemble the ingredients in a bowl to save time, but make sure to add the salad greens right before serving to keep them crisp. Feel free to switch out dried cranberries for grapes to get a tangy twist. 

View Recipe: Roasted Carrot, Chicken, and Grape Quinoa Bowl

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Photo: Jennifer Causey


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Photo: Jennifer Causey; Prop: Lindsey Lower

Whole-Grain Veggie Burrito Bowl

This is a Tex-Mex riff on the Korean rice dish bibimbap, in which various toppings are arranged over a bed of rice. Here, burrito bowl must-haves such as smoky black beans, fresh pico de gallo, and slaw top brown rice.

View Recipe: Whole-Grain Veggie Burrito Bowl

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Photo: Jennifer Causey

Tuna Poke Bowls with Brown Rice and Kale

Upgrade summer’s coolest dish, poke, with whole grains, heart-healthy fats, and crisp kale. Want to go beyond the bowl? Serve this 10-minute mixture over mixed greens or with crunchy brown rice crackers, or tuck into corn tortillas.

View Recipe: Tuna Poke Bowls with Brown Rice and Kale


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Photo: Jennifer Causey

Overnight Bulgur Bowls

A no-cook trick has breakfast and lunch ready when you roll out of bed. Combine 1 cup uncooked bulgur and 1½ cups 1% low-fat milk in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Fluff grains; then top and toss with one of our two tasty combos, ready in a snap.

View Recipe: Overnight Bulgur Bowls

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Photo: Jennifer Causey

Brown Rice Bowl with Miso, Poached Egg, and Kale-Radish Slaw

Nutrient-rich kale has a mild flavor and becomes tender very quickly, making it a snap to add to speedy meals like this one. Mix and match those greens and grains! Sub farro or quinoa for brown rice, and spinach, chard, or cabbage for kale.

View Recipe: Brown Rice Bowl with Miso, Poached Egg, and Kale-Radish Slaw


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Photo: Hector Sanchez

Chicken Gyro Bowls

Flip a gyro into a whole-grain bowl layered with kale, veggies, herbs and chickpeas. Then we top it with lean, spice-packed chicken, feta cheese, and tahini-spiked yogurt. It’s everything you want from the hearty Greek platter with less than 400 calories—a sum of parts you feel good about finishing.

View Recipe: Chicken Gyro Bowls

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Photo: Jennifer Causey


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