This Japanese Buddha bowl meal prep guide is here to help you work more Japanese flavors and textures into your plant-based meals. The example bowl features tofu, sweet potato, mixed grains, and seaweed salad, It includes a tangy, nutty toasted sesame dressing that is really versatile.
Japanese Buddha bowl meal prep?
The term “Buddha bowl” is thrown around a lot these days. You might say it’s a buzzword. Maybe even an annoying one. But what it stands for is really the core of my everyday plant-based meals. It means a great variety – of color, of texture, of flavor, and of nutrients. It embodies all the things that make plant-based eating enjoyable.
It’s hard to make a recipe for everyday things like this because every day is slightly different. You don’t want to eat exactly the same thing every day, but there are components that you want to use more often than not. For us, sweet potatoes and mixed grains are such staples. Beyond those, though, there’s a natural tendency to experiment and try different combinations. At the same time, striving for variety while also keeping a high level of simplicity and nutrition.
The inspiration for the Japanese Buddha bowl meal prep guide
I chose Japanese as the theme for this Buddha bowl because Japanese cuisine continues to amaze me, even as I’ve moved into the plant-based space. The attention to detail and the desire to bring out the pure essence of a single ingredient apply to all foods. Try a pickled umeboshi plum. It has the flavor intensity of a hundred cherries and might blow your mind. Other Japanese plant ingredients have impressed me as well. Fueru wakame, the seaweed included in this recipe, has a texture like cooked spinach but tastes just faintly of the sea.
These “pure essence” ingredients, while they’re enjoyable on their own, also play well with other ingredients. Everyday items such as lettuce, cucumber, and avocado are included and the whole thing is tied together by a sesame dressing.
The goal of this guide, then, is to introduce some really tasty and versatile Japanese plant-based ingredients that go well with things you’re already familiar with. You may not recreate exactly this same bowl, but you may find the seaweed salad or sesame dressing a great addition to your repertoire.
The grain base of the bowl
The base of many Buddha bowls, mixed grains add nice texture and a variety of fiber, carbs, and protein. Our standard is brown rice, wild rice, and quinoa in a ratio of 2:1:1. A rice cooker that can make brown rice is massively useful and will cook this combination to a perfect consistency on the brown rice setting. You can use any combination of grains you prefer. There are many packaged mixes (or single grains) that can be made on the stovetop and do include instructions.
The fresh components
There are several fresh elements in the bowl that you’re certainly familiar with – lettuce, carrot, cucumber, radish, avocado, and corn. These ingredients are also widely used in Japan. They serve to add some texture, flavor, and nutrition. You can exchange these with other similar ingredients, for example, raw spinach, kale, tomatoes, bell peppers, chickpeas, or black beans.
The cooked components
Baked tofu and sweet potato are included. I have external recipes for each of these, which work well with the other ingredients. If you are short on time, though, you can buy pre-baked tofu and bake the sweet potatoes whole as per the directions in the recipe notes (my recipe involves cutting and flipping during roasting). You can sub baked tempeh and winter squash here if you like.
Fueru wakame is a secret ingredient here. This may not be exactly the wakame you are thinking of. It is not the light green translucent type, but rather the dark green opaque type. It comes dried. Rehydrating it takes six minutes. It has a pleasant but not overwhelming taste of the sea and a firm tender texture. It tastes great with anything sesame.
You can include other types of seaweed in the bowl instead of, or in addition to, this one. Roasted, salted nori is always a good garnish.
Seaweed, in general, is great nutritionally and contains high amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium.
The sesame dressing
Kewpie, a Japanese company known for its sweet mayo, produces a bottled sesame dressing that I wanted to recreate. It is both nutty from the sesame and tangy from rice vinegar. I created a plant-based version of it that actually tastes better. It goes well on everything in the bowl (and many things not in the bowl) but it is just golden when paired with the seaweed.
A few notes before you begin
The portions provided in the recipe are given as an example, for five meals for one person. Based on your own eating habits and nutritional needs, feel free to tweak the quantities.
If you make the bowl for meal prep and want your veggies (including the avocado) to be as fresh as possible, you should cut the same day you plan to eat them.
The fueru wakame comes dehydrated and a small amount goes a very long way. The amount shown in the photos here (5 servings) is less than a tablespoon of the dehydrated seaweed. Be careful when portioning this out for the first time.
You can substitute cooked spinach for the fueru wakame.
It’s easy to use a lot of the sauce (not to brag, but it’s really tasty). Feel free to double the amount of the sauce if you’d like more.
The bowl tastes great cold and can be served that way. If you do want to reheat, remove the raw avocado, lettuce, and cucumber before doing so, and add it back afterward.
Packaged salad greens make a good substitute for the lettuce.
If you can get your hands on some umeboshi plums, try a few slices of one with the Buddha bowl. It’s a garnish unlike any other.
The recipe will likely produce more sauce than you need. It will keep for a week in the fridge and can be used on practically anything.
Japanese Buddha Bowl Meal Prep
- 1 pound sweet potato roasted
- 3/4 cup mixed grains
- 1 pound tofu baked
- 1 Tablespoon fueru wakame rehydrated and drained
- 3 cups lettuce romaine, chopped
- 2 carrots shredded
- 1 cucumber sliced
- 2 avocados sliced
- 2 red radishes sliced
- 1 cup corn kernels canned, drained
- 1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise
- 4 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
- Cook mixed grains according to the instructions on the package or per your preferred recipe.
- You may buy the tofu pre-baked or cook it according to the recipe listed in the notes. Slice the tofu once baked.
Make the sesame dressing
- Toast the sesame seeds for 2 minutes in a 425-degree oven, just enough so that the seeds start to release their oil. You can do this while the sweet potato is cooking.
- Grind the sesame seeds in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. Be sure to clean any coffee residue out of the grinder beforehand.
- Combine the ground sesame seeds and other ingredients for the dressing in a bowl. Mix well.
Assemble the meal prep bowls
- If you intend to use meal prep containers, divide each of the cooked ingredients (sweet potato, grains, and tofu) and the raw ones (lettuce, fueru wakame, cucumber, corn, carrot, and avocado) evenly among the containers. Divide sauce into small cups and store the cups inside the meal prep containers.
- Alternatively, you can wait until just before you plan to eat. Prepare a bowl with sweet potato, grains, and tofu. Reheat in the microwave until warm, about 2 minutes. Add the cold ingredients, then top with sauce.