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These green goddess grain bowls are a vegan, customizable template worth repeating

(Laura Chase de Formigny for The Washington Post; food styling by Marie Ostrosky for The Washington Post)
Green Goddess Grain Bowls
Total time:30 mins
Total time:30 mins

I don’t typically use recipes for grain bowls. In fact, I usually don’t really set out to make all the components of one at once. Instead, my grain bowls are usually the result of various building blocks I’ve cooked in advance: grains, of course, plus beans, roasted vegetables, a dressing or sauce, and some crunchy topping I have around.

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I’ve often recommended such an approach, and I stick by that. But what if you haven’t done any of that advance work? Does that leave you out of the grain-bowl game?

Of course not. For this recipe, two of my favorite vegetarian cookbook authors — Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence — come to the rescue with a build-from-scratch grain bowl idea that you can make as is, with very satisfying results, or treat as a template. You cook greens with canned beans, brighten with a little lemon, then make a stripped-down version of green goddess dressing with avocado, mayo and scallions, sparked up with sriracha and balanced with agave nectar (or honey if you’re not vegan).

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When you’re ready to eat, you just build your bowls, starting with quinoa or another grain and ending with sunflower seeds. As they describe it, this is “some good, healthy fuel,” and it’s mighty tasty, too. This recipe serves four, but you might consider doubling each element — and getting a head start on your week.

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  • 1 small bunch (8 ounces) kale or other greens
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion (5 ounces), chopped (1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans, drained and rinsed (1 3/4 cups)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 2 medium ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 2 cups cooked grains, such as quinoa, barley or brown rice, warmed
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, raw or roasted

Step 1

Wash and dry the kale, and strip it from its stems. Coarsely chop the leaves and thinly slice the stems, keeping them separate.

Step 2

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion, kale stems and salt and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Step 3

Add the kale leaves, beans and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Cook, stirring, until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Taste, and season with more salt, if needed.

Step 4

In a medium bowl, mash the avocados with the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the scallions, mayonnaise, sriracha and agave.

Step 5

Divide the warmed grains among four bowls, and top with the bean mixture, avocado dressing and sunflower seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (1/2 cup grains, 1 cup bean mixture, 6 tablespoons dressing)

Calories: 550; Total Fat: 31 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 497 mg; Carbohydrates: 58 g; Dietary Fiber: 17 g; Sugar: 7 g; Protein: 17 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “Vegetarian Cooking for Two” by Justin Fox Burks and Amy Lawrence (Rockridge Press, 2021).

Tested by Joe Yonan; email questions to

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