Easy one bowl meals

Whether it's lunch or dinner, try the convenience of a one-bowl meal. Use what you have on hand to pack in plenty of heart-healthy ingredients.

A bowl with fresh vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains

A “one bowl meal” offers an opportunity to combine layers of different ingredients including whole grains, vegetables, protein foods and heart-healthy fats. These are the key building blocks to a nourishing and satisfying heart-healthy meal.

There are plenty of ways to build your own one-bowl meals. The trick is to mix and match a variety of delicious ingredients and fresh flavours. Then finish with either lemon juice, olive oil, a sauce or dressing to tie all your ingredients together and create the right texture. We’ve got plenty of ideas below.  

The good news is you don’t have to use a recipe. Have fun getting creative and using foods you need to use up or leftovers from earlier in the week. A one-bowl meal is a great option when you’re due to go shopping as it helps to prevent food from going to waste.

Get your whole family involved in assembling their own bowls. Lay out all your ingredients (buffet style) so that each person in your house, including kids, can personalise their own meal and layers of flavour. To save on dishes place ingredients on a large chopping board in the centre of your table.

Here are a few tasty ideas to get you started.

Falafel bowl

Falafel is common in Middle Eastern countries and makes a great meat-free meal any night of the week! Make falafel yourself using our homemade falafel recipe or buy pre-made falafel mix and roll it into balls.

A bowl with falafels and fresh salad ingredients

Poke bowl

Originally a dish from Hawaii, poke is traditionally made from diced raw fish that has been marinated in a similar way to other Pacific raw fish dishes like ota ika or Kokoda.  Here's our version of a chicken poke bowl.

A bowl of marinated raw fish and other ingredients

Rice or noodle bowl

Many Asian cultures have dishes that start with rice or noodles. With a variety of tasty toppings and an Asian-inspired dressing, you can make a delicious one-bowl meal. Here's our version of Korean bibimbap (‘mixed rice’). A Mexican burrito bowl is another great way to use rice. 

A bowl of rice, noodles and other ingredients

If some of those ingredients don’t work for you, feel free to adapt to your preferences.  Below are a few suggestions to make planning your own one-bowl meal easy.

Build your own easy one bowl meal

Start with a base of grain foods:

  • brown rice
  • quinoa
  • couscous
  • noodles
  • bulghur wheat 
  • or leave the grains out and fill the space with more vegetables such as cauliflower couscous.

Tip: Freeze any leftover cooked grains so that you have some ready for your next one- bowl meal.

Load up with vegetables

Any raw, canned, frozen or cooked vegetables will work. Use what you have available and like. We recommend using a variety of different vegetables for colour, texture and taste. You can flavour them or have them plain:

  • salad leaves
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • carrot
  • capsicum
  • cooked or canned beetroot
  • avocado
  • red onion
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • steamed vegetables
  • bean sprouts
  • roasted pumpkin or kumara
  • cooked corn kernels – got time for something a little fancy? Try this.

Tip: Grate, peel into ribbons, slice or finely chop each different vegetable so that you have a wide range of textures to enjoy.

Choose your protein:

  • raw marinated salmon or white fish
  • cooked fish fillets
  • canned fish like tuna or salmon
  • cooked chicken
  • grilled tofu
  • edamame beans
  • cooked prawns
  • chickpeas
  • lentils
  • poached or boiled egg
  • lean beef strips or mince.

Tip: Canned fish or legumes (i.e. chickpeas) are good for quick one-bowl meals because they don’t have to be cooked.

Add heart-healthy fats

Choose heart-healthy fats that work with the overall flavour and feel of the dish:

  • avocado
  • guacamole
  • nuts - peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts
  • seeds - sunflower, sesame, pumpkin seeds
  • peanut butter
  • tahini
  • sesame oil
  • olive oil.

Tip: Toast your nuts and seeds before adding them to your bowl for extra flavour.

Extras

Extras will help to give your bowl a distinct flavour. Here you can add any combination of delicious flavours you like:

  • sauces - hummus, pesto, salsa, sweet chilli, soy sauce
  • dressings - vinaigrettesalad dressing 
  • spices - pepper, sumac, chilli flakes
  • lemon or lime juice
  • herbs - basil, parsley, chives
  • sour cream or plain yoghurt
  • cheese - cheddar, feta, parmesan
  • shredded nori or seaweed salad
  • fresh chilli or chilli flakes
  • spring onion
  • pickled vegetables or kimchi.

Tip: Choose a cuisine for your bowl such as Asian, Mediterranean or Mexican to help you pick flavours and toppings that will work well together.

A bowl of fresh vegetables, whole grains and protiens

Make it your way

Food is there to be enjoyed and it shouldn’t feel like a big task to cook a meal at the end of a busy day. Whether you’re a vegetarian, flexitarian or meat eater, a one-bowl meal is a flexible way to whip up a heart-healthy meal without following a recipe or ensuring you have all the right ingredients at home.

Lily Henderson, NZRD

Lily Henderson, NZRD

National Nutrition Advisor

I am passionate about improving the health of all Kiwis from young through to old. I have enjoyed working in nutrition in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.