The head-scratching history of Buddha bowls

vegan buddha bowl

So my new year’s resolution to blog twice a week has been…shall we say, a delayed success (a generation snowflake term if there ever was one). I haven’t been blogging much, but I have been cooking a lot, specifically lots of Buddha bowls.

So what is a Buddha bowl and what does it have to do with a monk who could never have imagined his bowls would feature on Oprah?

Sometime in the last 2 years or so, every bowl of wholefood goodness comprised of grains, veggies and a protein transformed from regular bowls of food into Buddha bowls. The transformation happened on Instagram, on vegetarian & vegan restaurant menus, all over Pinterest and it completely exploded on food blogs. Maybe people got bored of photographing their smoothie bowls, I don’t know.

While the construct of the bowl has very little to do with Buddhism, there is a tale doing the rounds of the Buddha’s journeys through villages with his bowl where poor villagers would offer him what little they could spare to eat. Since this was in the days before worldwide obesity and mass diabetes, one can assume the food was traditionally wholesome and healthy.

As with many simple trends, some foodie hipsters got hold of the concept and before you knew it, you couldn’t be a self-respecting health blogger if you didn’t have a post titled 20 Buddha Bowls To Satisfy Your Soul (erm…link coming soon?!).

People have moved onto the Next Big Thing since the first all-Buddha bowl restaurant opened in on-trend Los Angeles, but over here in chillaxed to the max Cape Town we are still making a Fairly Big Thing about them.

Buddha bowls are in fact a super quick and easy way to throw a bunch of ingredients together for dinner and they work especially well with leftovers. The construct of putting each ingredient in its own section of the bowl also makes them very pretty and infinitely Instagrammable. Just don’t mix before you post.

Here’s one that I made recently, but the format encourages creativity with whatever ingredients you have in the cupboard. Just add a nutritious grain, 3 or 4 varieties of veg and a preferably vegan protein to keep within the theme – the Buddha didn’t eat meat or dairy.*

Buddha Bowl with Butter Beans & Red Quinoa


  • One can butter beans sauteed in olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice
  • 1 cup red quinoa cooked according to packaging directions – or Google, in my case (tip: mine took a lot longer than what Google said!)
  • 3-4 handfuls of spinach sauteed in garlic and chilli
  • 1 pack thinly sliced baby marrows griddled in olive oil and paprika
  • 1 pack baby pak choi either raw or sauteed for 2 mins in a bit of olive oil – it has a natural peppery flavour which is lovely on its own without further seasoning


Cook each ingredient individually and arrange artfully in your prettiest bowl. Hashtag #buddhabowl for all the compliments!

* This is a generally accepted view, although it is disputed by some Buddhist scholars.

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