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Here’s how to make a grain bowl! Pair a whole grain, protein and veggies with this amazing tahini sauce to make a healthy, fast and easy dinner.

Easy grain bowl

Want to make a grain bowl? Bowl meals are so popular these days, and often they’re on our table because it’s one of the easiest ways to turn random ingredients into a healthy dinner! But here’s the thing: you can’t just throw anything into a bowl. A good grain bowl has to be well-seasoned, and play up contrasts in color, texture and flavor. It’s got to have enough protein to keep you full, and a great sauce to bring it all together. Yes, there are rules to grain bowls! (Kind of.) We’ll talk you through a few steps, and then show you our favorite grain bowl that makes a fast and easy dinner in 30 minutes.

How to make a grain bowl

A good grain bowl has four main elements, and plays up the contrasts between these ingredients. If you’d like, you can top with some extras (see below). A grain bowl features these major elements:

How to make a grain bowl

Accentuate contrasts in flavor, texture and color

When you choose the elements for your grain bowl, you’ll have to keep contrasts in mind! Think about textures, colors, and flavors as you pick out each of the elements. You don’t want a bowl that’s all mushy, drab, or all the same flavor profile. Here are a few notes:

  • Texture contrasts: Whole grains are fluffy, beans and chickpeas can be soft. Think about adding a crunch with raw veggies, needs or seeds.
  • Color contrasts: We eat with our eyes! No one wants a brown or yellow bowl. Add colorful fresh or cooked veggies to round out the bowl! The more colors, the better.
  • Flavor contrasts: Using several components naturally makes flavor contrasts. Think about contrasts in elements that are savory, naturally sweet, tangy, salty, and even lightly bitter.

Use a theme to tie the grain bowl together

Using a vague theme can be helpful for tying a grain bowl together. It’s not necessary, but using flavors that go from a specific cuisine can make for harmony in the bowl! Here are a few ideas:

  • Mediterranean style: That’s the style of this easy grain bowl! It’s got Mediterranean or Greek style elements like tahini sauce, chickpeas, cucumber and tomatoes.
  • Mexican style: Try a bowl like this Rice Bowl with rice, black beans, and cilantro sauce.
  • Hawaiian style: Go for a Poke Bowl vibe (or Vegan Poke Bowl).
  • Moroccan style: Roast up a bunch of veggies for a Roasted Vegetable Bowl with freekah and lemon yogurt sauce.
  • Japanese style: Try a Sushi Bowl with sushi rice, ahi tuna, and healthy veggies.
Grain Bowl

Make this easy grain bowl…in 30 minutes!

This easy grain bowl is Mediterranean-inspired and takes just 30 minutes to make into a healthy lunch or dinner! Because some grains can take longer to cook, this concept can often take longer than 30 minutes if you make them all at once. This recipe is quick and easy! Make it even faster with our make-ahead tips below. It’s a plant based and vegan quinoa recipe that’s great for weeknight cooking. Here are the elements that make this grain bowl so quick:

  • Easy chickpeas: These Easy Canned Chickpeas are our trick on how to make a bland can of beans taste great in just 5 minutes! We use this trick all the time in the kitchen.
  • Seasoned quinoa: This Perfect Seasoned Quinoa is another trick to make quinoa taste fantastic. Put on a pot and make the rest of your components.
  • Mediterranean-style veggies: Grab your tomatoes, cucumber, and some Kalamata olives if you’d like.
  • Tahini sauce: This Tahini Sauce works for lots of different bowls: and it’s perfect for this one with a Mediterranean flair.
Mediterranean quinoa bowl

Make ahead tips & meal prep ideas

Want to make a grain bowl ahead of time? Great! Because it can take a while to prepare all the components. To make the fastest healthy dinner or lunch, think about doing a few things in advance. Here are a few ideas:

  • Cook the grain in advance. Refrigerate until serving. Reheat on the stovetop lightly, or just serve it at room temperature. Rice can dry out, so when you reheat it on the stovetop, add a splash of water and then cover it so it can steam.
  • Cook the protein in advance. If you’re making a bowl with chicken, fish, or tofu, you can cook that in advance and refrigerate until serving.
  • Use a grain bowl to use up leftovers! The best part about bowl meals? They’re great for leftovers. Use the bowl concept to eat up leftover items you’ve cooked throughout the week.

Let us know how you enjoy this grain bowl in the comments below! And here are 10 more ideas to get your wheels turning.

Variations: 10 more grain bowl recipes

Here are more of our favorite grain bowl ideas! There are so many to choose from: and you can mix and match the grains and components in each.

This grain bowl recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Vegan quinoa bowl

Easy Grain Bowl

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


Here’s how to make a grain bowl! Pair a whole grain, protein and veggies with this amazing tahini sauce to make a healthy, fast and easy dinner.



For the grain

For the grain bowl

  • 2 15-ounce can chickpeas*
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or regular paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 recipe Tahini Sauce
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives (optional)
  • 1/4 red onion


  1. Make the grain: Go to Seasoned Quinoa to make the quinoa, or follow the other whole grain recipes listed above. The quinoa takes about 25 minutes total, so use the cook time to prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. Make the chickpeas: Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Mince the garlic. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant but before it browns. Add the chickpeas, smoked paprika, salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cook 2 minutes until warmed through.
  3. Make the sauce: Make the Tahini Sauce. (Or, try Lemon Dill Sauce or Creamy Cilantro Sauce.)
  4. Prep the veggies: Slice the tomatoes in half. Slice the cucumber. Slice the red onion.
  5. Assemble the bowls: Place the quinoa and chickpeas in the bowl. Add the fresh veggies and drizzle with the sauce. (Meal prep notes: You can make quinoa, chickpeas, and dressing in advance: quinoa stores refrigerated 5 days and chickpeas store 3 to 4 days, and the dressing stores 1 month.)


*This makes a solid 4 to 6 servings of protein. If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, make half this recipe (or go to Easy Canned Chickpeas.)

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Keywords: Grain Bowl, How to make a grain bowl

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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    1. Great question! I added this to the recipe to clarify: “You can make quinoa, chickpeas, and dressing in advance: quinoa stores refrigerated 5 days and chickpeas store 3 to 4 days, and the dressing stores 1 month.” Thanks for asking!