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Cooking Tips

How Should I Build a Grain Bowl?

Follow our tips for a meal that’s better than takeout.

Published Jan. 22, 2024.

How do you feel about the concept of grain bowls? Transient fad or timeless dinner staple? 

(In case you don’t know what I mean, I’m talking about meals made popular by fast-casual restaurants where you pile your protein and vegetables over a bowl of cooked grains and then dress it all with a tasty sauce and garnishes. In fact, we have an entire book dedicated to the concept—check it out!)

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Personally, I’m a big fan. Grain bowls are a satisfying, cohesive meal and a fun way to serve up lots of whole grains and vegetables. One of my favorite versions is this bulgur bowl topped with a savory mixture of roasted cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, red onions, and white beans. It also features a lemony arugula salad for bites of peppery freshness and a spicy yogurt sauce to tie it all together. 


Bulgur with Roasted Vegetables, White Beans, and Arugula Salad

Beans and roasted vegetables make this grain bowl hearty enough for dinner.
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But the best thing about this recipe? It’s infinitely customizable. Stick with the basic formula of cooked grains (seasoned well and dressed with olive oil or a little bit of salad dressing) plus thoughtful toppings and a killer sauce and it’s hard to go wrong. Here are some ways to make it your own.

  • Change up the grain base. I love quick-cooking bulgur, but rice, quinoa, couscous, or farro are great too. Use what you have leftover or in the pantry.
  • Roast whatever vegetables you have. Eggplant, summer squash, and mushrooms make great additions or swaps to the tomato-pepper mixture. Toss in some leftover chicken, steak, or tofu in place of the beans, if you’d rather.
  • Try a different sauce. The spicy sambal-yogurt drizzle is my favorite (swap sriracha for the sambal oelek, if you’d like), but a lemony tahini sauce or buttermilk dressing are also so delicious.
  • Go wild with garnishes. The meal is plenty hearty with tons of texture on its own, but you can take it over the top with fun finishes: Think olives, sliced avocado, cubed or grated cheese, toasted nuts, or even a soft-cooked egg.

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