vegan bowls

Vegan Bowls: Enticing Ideas for Breakfast and Dinner

Bowls are the perfect starting point for anyone new to vegan cooking. They are one of the eight “core foods” I feature on—the others are stir-fries, salads, roasted vegetables, smoothies, soups, sandwiches, and wraps.

What do all these foods have in common?

  • They’re easy meals for beginner cooks.
  • They can include lots of wholesome ingredients.
  • You can prepare any of these dishes in an endless assortment of ways.

There are two types of bowls: savory bowls for hearty meals and fruit-based bowls typically served as a breakfast. No matter what kind of bowl you’re preparing, make a point of using several differently-colored vegetables or fruits. More colors invariably makes the final product more appealing.

Bowls are a fantastic vehicle by which to develop your vegan cooking skills, since they push you to think in terms of appealing flavor and color combinations.

Savory Bowls

A bowl can feature as many different items as you want. I consider three a minimum, and five or more items as special.

Here are some ideas:

Working from the above list, you can make a different sort of bowl every time. I always include at least one protein-rich item, such as beans, tofu, or tempeh. That not only boosts nutrition, but also helps me to stay full for several hours after eating.

Featuring protein-rich black beans and hummus, plus roasted peppers and sweet potatoes, this bowl delivers a nutritional knockout. Note the garnish of gingered carrots, black sesame, and pumpkin seeds.


Once you’ve put together your bowl, you can amp up its flavor by adding:

Don’t feel like you’re limited to the above options. If there’s a sauce or dressing your particularly love, it should go wonderfully with just about any savory bowl you can prepare.

Garnishes & Seasonings

  • Kimchi or sour kraut
  • Vegan sour cream
  • Roasted sesame oil
  • Mustard
  • Jarred Indian pickle
  • Fresh or browned chopped onions
  • Ground pepper or your favorite spice seasoning mix
  • Soy sauce or tamari
  • Pickled cucumbers (sliced or whole)
  • Chopped cilantro (better when mixed into beans than added as a garnish)
  • Minced garlic and/or ginger, heated in oil for 30 seconds
  • Chopped nuts or peanuts
  • Corn kernels
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Roasted sesame seeds or gomasio
  • Parsley
  • Pickled ginger slices

Regional Bowls

You can also think of bowls as an appealing way to serve three or four classic items from your favorite cuisine. You’ll get an altogether different presentation than if you served the very same items on a dinner plate.

  • Mexican: Beans, rice, salsa, guacamole AKA a “burrito bowl”
  • Italian: Pasta, sauce, vegan meatballs, salad greens
  • Middle Eastern: Falafel, tabouli, dolmas, hummus
  • Korean: Vegan beef, chopped veggies, kimchi, and garnished with cilantro
  • Indian: Dal, basmati rice, samosa or pakora, lime pickle
  • Southern: Baked sliced peeled sweet potato, black eyed peas, cornbread, grilled marinated tempeh
A veganized Korean-style bibimbap bowl, with seitan replacing the traditional beef.

Breakfast Bowls

Even though a breakfast bowl might contain just four or five ingredients, these meals can look positively gourmet. There might be no other dish that so easily impresses, given that you can create a breakfast bowl in minutes.

Breakfast bowls typically contain fewer ingredients than savory bowls. Here are the main ones:

Choose peak-of-season fruits whenever possible. Any sort of tropical fruit goes beautifully in a breakfast bowl—these include: mangoes, papaya, banana, passion-fruit, and dragon fruit.

Dragon fruit dolphins swim in a fruit smoothie ocean colored blue with a little edible algae, in this unsurpassed breakfast bowl served up in Bali, Indonesia.

If your bowl will include frozen blended fruit, make it as thick as your blender will permit—that means using as little vegan milk as possible. A high-end blender like a Blendtec or Vitamix, or a good food processor, will do a much better job than an inexpensive blender. Ideally, your blended frozen fruit will have the texture of soft-serve ice cream.

Breakfast Bowl Toppings & Garnishes

A few well-chosen toppings can elevate your breakfast bowl from tasty to memorable. Here are some excellent ones

  • Cacao nibs
  • Chopped nuts
  • Roasted hemp seeds
  • Vegan whipped cream
  • Soaked goji berries
  • Raisins
  • Shredded coconut
  • Chopped dates or figs
  • Maple syrup
  • Vegan yogurt
  • Sprig of mint
  • Nasturtiums or other edible flowers
  • Nut butters

Vegan Bowl Cookbooks

Would you like a cookbook totally devoted to vegan bowls? You’ve got at least three different titles to consider:

Buy Yourself a Bowl You Love

One of the defining qualities of monks is their minimalism. A bowl plus a robe is sometimes all they own. The fewer things you own, the more cherished each of your possessions becomes. And nothing grows more personally sacred than what you eat from day in and day out. So if you become accustomed to a daily bowl of hot-steamy-something, consider buying yourself an extra-special bowl to eat from every day.

I relentlessly purge clutter from my life. But I want the bowl I eat from each day to be special, and carry sentimental value. Two bowls long ago drifted into my life and are now my prized possessions. Each makes me think of the endless variety of meals they’ve served me over the years—Japanese noodles and peanut sauce; refrieds and melted vegan cheese with corn chips; a big serving of dal with a dollop of unsweetened yogurt; brightly-colored salads of every sort.

How do you find the bowl that’s meant for you? You probably won’t see it on I recommend shopping around for a ceramic bowl that has the shape and color you love. Art festivals often feature at least one potter offering a selection of hand-thrown bowls, and the uniqueness of each makes it the perfect fit for a lifetime of use. If you intend to heat your food in a microwave, remember to confirm that whichever ceramic bowl you buy is microwavable!

Glass bowls can also be lovely. I own an old half-liter Corning decorated white tempered glass bowl made the 1950s that I use for many meals. Corning sadly doesn’t make this category of kitchenware anymore but you can still find them in perfect condition at thrift shops and on eBay. Numerous companies make large inexpensive tempered glass bowls, but the designs I’ve seen strike me as sterile and lacking in soul.

Wooden bowls are inexpensive and widely available. They carry a warm and lovely feel, and might seem the ideal choice for your everyday vegan bowl, but I don’t recommend them since they’re hard to keep clean.

For further reading: Please see our guide to vegan cooking and our comprehensive coverage on how to go vegan.
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