What Is a Buddha Bowl Anyway?

updated May 30, 2019
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If you’ve spent more than 30 seconds on Instagram, you’ve definitely scrolled past a Buddha Bowl (or 200). The brightly colored, artfully arranged bowls seem to be the go-to food source for every amateur yogi, the kind of people who alternate between taking pictures of their plates and pictures of their feet (because the rest of us wouldn’t be able to make it through the day without knowing #whereIstand).

But even if you know more about Count Chocula than you do about your chakras, you can still make and enjoy one of these single-serving meals. There are no hard-and-fast rules for what actually constitutes a Buddha Bowl, and despite what the 152,317 pics with the hashtag #buddhabowl would have you believe, it doesn’t even have to be attractive enough to warrant the Amaro filter.

So, What Is a Buddha Bowl?

That’s pretty much up to you. (And, because these things have more nicknames than Puff Daddy, you don’t even have to call them Buddha Bowls; they’re also known as grain bowls, hippie bowls, macro bowls, and power bowls.)

According to Dan Zigmond, a Zen priest and the author of Buddha’s Diet, the name Buddha Bowl might have a very literal origin. “Buddha woke up before dawn every morning and carried his bowl through the roads or paths wherever he was staying. Local people would place food in the bowl as a donation, and at the end he would eat whatever he had been given,” he told Epicurious. “That was the original Buddha Bowl: a big bowl of whatever food villagers had available and could afford to share.”

How to Make a Buddha Bowl

Since you probably won’t be knocking on your neighbors’ doors, the basic formula is to start with the base ingredient of your choice – often grains, leafy greens, or both – and then add a variety of toppings, which usually include diced and sliced vegetables. The final components are a source of protein, like chickpeas, tofu, or lean meat, and a light drizzle of dressing.

If that sounds vague, it’s OK. It’s also OK if you don’t feel blissed out or #blessed while you’re slicing avocados.

Although you can find plenty of Buddha Bowl recipes online (complete with perfectly lit pictures, obvs), this is really one meal that is made for improvisation and customization based on what you have on hand and what combination of ingredients you like. Now you just have to decide how to Instagram it.