Grain Bowls Are in Your Future – And That’s a Good Thing

It’s a new year, which begs the question: what’s the new vogue in food? No doubt you’ve seen one of the numerous lists from food trends prognosticators about what’s hot, what’s not (remember kale?), and what you can expect to see and eat in the near future. Air frying and plant proteins are definitely in, while spiralized vegetables are on their way out. But one trend that isn’t going away anytime soon has as much to do with the food as the vessel that it’s served in.


For lack of a better phrase, let’s call it the “bowl” trend. That’s right. The hemispherical, concave dish once relegated to use for soups and cereals continues to be a popular vehicle for serving up a smorgasbord of nutritious ingredients and complete meals.


From burrito bowls and poke bowls, to protein bowls and smoothie bowls, this trend is surging across the country with new recipes and restaurants regularly featuring food in dishes with depth. Yet, when it comes to bowlful meal trends, grain bowls are the new black.


As more consumers focus on plant-forward and plant-based eating, ancient grains have increased in popularity and are appearing in more meals and recipes thanks to their plant-based protein and superfood status. Grain bowls offer an excellent way to eat well by delivering high-protein ancient grains, like freekeh and farro, topped with other plant-based superfoods including leafy greens, berries, veggies and protein sources like tofu and peanuts. The ingredients are married together in a harmonious bowl with the addition of a tasty sauce for a satisfying and nutritious meal.


Restaurants like Whole Heart Provisions in Allston, Massachusetts offer vegan and vegetarian grain bowls with quinoa pilaf and the addition of plant-based protein toppings like a peanut crumble. While Upbeet in Atlanta, Georgia dishes out protein-rich, plant-forward grain bowls like their Thai Chia, which brings together purple rice, colorful vegetables, chia seeds and shrimp tossed together in a peanut sauce.


Chefs are even using the grain bowl concept to popularize porridge. A dish that once conjured up images of gruel that Pip received in Oliver Twist, chefs like Claus Meyer of Grain Bar at the Great Northen Food Hall in New York City are making porridge more desirable by adding savory elements that have customers saying, “can I have some more?” Bon Appetít recently took note of the porridge resurgence, and offered this mixed-grain recipe featuring coconut, another on-trend food that’s currently all the rage.


College foodservice programs, like University of Northern Iowa, are also starting to roll out all day grain bowl bars featuring ancient grains and warm porridges with an array of customizable toppings ranging from sweet to savory.


Regardless of whether it’s porridge, ancient grains, or a serving of wild rice, grain bowls are the latest in a series of on-trend foods served in the well of a rounded vessel. Get on the plant-forward grain bowl trend with this recipe for Sriracha Shrimp Peanut Bowl with farro cooked in coconut milk.

Or, build your own grain bowl by layering these five typical ingredients:

  • Grains (spelt, quinoa, farro, etc.)
  • Greens (Chard, cabbage, bok choy)
  • Veggies (peppers, mushrooms, carrots)
  • Protein (tofu, shrimp, chicken)
  • Nuts and seeds (peanuts, chia, flax)

Finish it off with a drizzle of tasty dressing like this spicy peanut sauce. Bowl appetite!

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