Next-Level Store-Bought Toppers for Bowls

The best garnish is probably already in your pantry.

Published Mar. 24, 2023.

If you’ve mastered your favorite bowl combinations, it’s time to get creative with the best part, toppings. 

You can top a bowl with almost anything—high on our list are herbs, cheese, and nuts. But it doesn’t stop there. There are plenty of store-bought toppings right in your pantry that you could be overlooking.

Here is a list of unexpected toppings to give your next bowl the satisfying crunch or pop of sweetness you’re really craving.

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1. Popcorn

That half-eaten bag of popcorn would make a great bowl topper. It could be a salty, buttery affair to pair with a Bulgur Bowl with Vegetables and Marinated Tofu or a sweet caramel corn to give your breakfast a little extra oomph.

2. Chips

No use limiting tortilla chips to salsa or queso dip. Use them to scoop everything up (who needs a fork?), or crunch a few on top as we did with our Taco Salad Bowl with Plant-Based Meat. Think outside the box and reach for some sweet potato chips or plantain chips.

Really want to up your snack game? Crumble some potato chips on top. Sure, you could pour the tiny fragments at the bottom of the chip bag into your mouth (come on, we all do it), but you could also use those chips on top of a Vegan Brown Rice Burrito Bowl as a tasty textural contrast. Maybe you even feel like going the extra mile and making your own Crunchy Kettle Potato Chips.

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3. Parmesan Crisps

Do you know what that Brown Rice Bowl with Roasted Carrots, Kale, and Fried Eggs could use? Some cheese. Add Parmesan crisps (homemade or store-bought) for an airy, crispy contrast that won’t take away from the sweetness of the carrots but will have you appreciating the crunchy skirt on those fried eggs. 

4. Nori

If your bowl has the flavors of an Air-Fryer Ramen Noodle Bowl with Eggplant and Five-Spice Tofu or Brown Rice Bowl with Vegetables and Salmon, a few strips of nori is a logical accompaniment. The salty seaweed will practically dissolve into a broth or elevate that bite of rice with an oceany tang.

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5. Crispy Chickpeas

Whipping up a Plant-Based Meaty Zoodle Bowl with Mango and Garam Masala? A generous portion of crispy chickpeas, which you can make or buy, will add extra protein and a zesty crunch. 

6. Nuts and Seeds

These are a no-brainer. Sunflower seeds, pepitas, roasted cashews, or even a leftover can of mixed nuts can be scattered on top of a Vegan Brown Sushi Rice Bowl with Tofu and Vegetables to spice up the flavors and add a little protein.

7. Chopped Dried Fruit

Raisins, dried cranberries, apricots, or even freeze-dried fruit will work on an Air-Fryer Overnight Breakfast Grain Bowl. Sprinkle more than fresh fruit onto your bowl for a chewy textural contrast.

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