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These simple rice bowls use any combination of rice, vegetables, and protein with a deliciously addictive sauce to make a meal easy. They are even freezer safe!
Remember those who built your own adventure books? They were my absolute favorite when I was a kid and these easy rice bowls remind me of those. You choose the grain, the vegetables, the protein, and I will help you prepare the most delicious Asian sauce to sprinkle on top. Easy, delicious and healthy.
The other great thing about this recipe is that you can basically make them with anything you have in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. This Asian rice bowl recipe is versatile and perfect for times like now when many of us have limited ingredients or are cooking from our pantry and freezer. The options here are endless.
One last reason this recipe should be on your weekly menu is because it makes a family dinner fun, easy, and versatile. Set out the cooked rice, protein, vegetables, and sauce and let everyone build their own.
Giving children options can help make mealtime easier and also helps ensure that they are eating multiple meals if people like different things. They all build theirs to suit their tastes. Pro tip: In our home, the only rule is that everyone should include at least one vegetable. After that, it's up to them!
Build your own bowls of Asian rice
1. Start your beans: Although I called these rice bowls, they can be made with any grain or base you want. You can make instant brown rice as a base, take frozen white rice, use cauliflower rice for something lighter, or make quinoa, barley, farro, couscous, or rice noodles. Because most beans take longer to cook (unless you're using stable, freeze, or snap options), I generally start this first.
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2. Cook your vegetables: Next, you'll want to start with your vegetables. You can cook your vegetables the way you want, use fresh or frozen vegetables, and you can even use raw vegetables if you want. Since my favorite way to cook vegetables is grilling, I almost always mix the vegetables in the fridge with sesame oil, garlic powder, and ground ginger. Roast them at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes and you're done.
You can also sauté your vegetables with the same combination of sesame oil, garlic powder, and ginger powder, or use cooked vegetable leftovers if you have them. Again, anything goes here! You just want some vegetables. For a really easy option, grab a bag of frozen veggies and cook them quickly in sesame oil and even thaw some edamame. Again, be flexible and use what you have!
Some of my favorite vegetarian options include this 10-minute stir fried fried cabbage, Asian roasted broccoli, or frozen roasted vegetables.
3. Make the sauce: Sauce is the essential ingredient to make a good Asian rice dish. We love the sweet and spicy Asian sauce that I shared in the recipe. It is made with soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, honey and garlic paste and Asian chili. It is tasty, sweet and spicy. We love it. For a homemade sauce, you can also make this homemade teriyaki sauce.
If you don't want to follow the home route, you can also use a store-bought sauce. Look for a thicker sauce like hoisin, a thick teriyaki sauce, sweet chili sauce, or any other Asian-style sauce that tastes good. Remember that sauce is key to flavoring the entire dish, so be sure to choose something that tastes good.
4. Brown your protein: Now that we've dealt with grains, vegetables, and gravy, it's time to make the protein. I usually use ground turkey, chicken, pork, or beef in this recipe as it cooks quickly and is affordable. However, you can use any protein you want. You can also use a plant-based protein like tofu, tempeh, vegetarian ground beef, edamame, or black soybeans.
Since the sauce is where you will get the flavor on the plate and have a little salt from the soy sauce, I don't recommend adding too much to the meat. You can flavor it with fresh or powdered garlic, onion, or ginger. If you need flavor later, you can always add a little soy sauce.
5. Assemble: You are now ready to assemble the Asian rice bowls. Start with the rice and then add the vegetables and protein. Sprinkle with the sauce and then mix everything together so that the sauce adds flavor to the entire dish. Top with sesame seeds, extra hot sauce, fresh coriander or basil, avocado, or whatever else you like.
How to prepare and store rice dishes
These are great for meal preparation and really easy to prepare and store for a quick meal or a weekday meal. If I am preparing these for lunches, I will simply assemble the bowls into individual portions and then keep them in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Then I reheat them in the microwave or in a pan for a few minutes. If I am using fresh vegetables, I pack the vegetables separately.
If I'm preparing them as a family meal, I store all the ingredients separately so that I can heat each dish on its own. Then I expose everything and everyone can build their own rice bowls.
Easy variations for cooking in bulk
While this recipe is great for preparing meals, you may not want to eat bowls of Asian rice every night. Here are some super easy ways to completely change the flavor of this recipe, but use the same base ingredients.
And since these are really freezer compatible, check below! I recommend making lots and storing them for when you don't feel like cooking. Just add one of the ingredients below (or the Asian sauce in this recipe) and you'll have plenty of food options.
- Pesto: Top with a tablespoon of homemade or store-bought pesto and melt some mozzarella cheese on top.
- Pizza style: Top with marinara sauce (or diced tomatoes), turkey pepperoni, and melted mozzarella cheese.
- Italian: Sprinkle with your favorite store bought or homemade Italian dressing, chopped black olives and some fresh vegetables.
- Buffalo ranch: Sprinkle with buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, and a little crumbled blue cheese.
- Mediterranean: Add a tablespoon of hummus, some olives, roasted red peppers, and cucumbers.
- Create your own: Take a quick look at any condiments, cheese, and dressing you have in the fridge and build yours.
Can I freeze bowls of Asian rice?
These rice bowls are freezer safe. Let everything cool completely and place it in individual containers. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months and reheat in the microwave or in a pan with a touch of oil. These can be frozen with or without the sauce, but if you think you can make different types of rice bowls (like the ones listed above), freeze them without sauce.
More easy rice recipes
- Healthy Fried Rice
- Fried Rice with Meat and Broccoli
- Mexican Brown Rice Casserole Frying Pan
- Lentil and brown rice soup with stuffed peppers
- Teriyaki Vegetarian Brown Rice Bowls
Asian Rice Bowls (Build Yours)
PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes COOKING TIME: 20 minutes TOTAL TIME: 30 minutes
- 2 cups cooked brown rice (or any grain)
- 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey (or any ground beef)
- 4 cups of vegetables (fresh, frozen, any mix)
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 1.5 tablespoons of rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of Asian chili paste with garlic (or Sriracha, red pepper flakes, optional and to taste)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the vegetables with sesame oil, garlic powder and ground ginger. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 12-25 minutes, depending on the vegetables. For fast-cooking vegetables like zucchini, asparagus, green beans, or sugar peas, you only need to cook for about 10-12 minutes. For more abundant vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, peppers, or onion, it will take 20-25 minutes. If you are using a mixture, simply check them from 15 minutes until they are cooked to your liking. You can also sauté the vegetables in the sesame oil if you prefer.
Prepare the sauce: Combine soy sauce, water, honey, rice vinegar, Asian chili paste with garlic, cornstarch, and garlic powder in a small saucepan. Simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes until thickened, whisking often for a smooth sauce, remove and set aside.
Browning the meat: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sesame oil. Once hot add the ground meat and brown, splitting it while cooking, until it is well cooked. If desired, cook meat with a little minced garlic, onion, or ginger to add extra flavor.
Make the rice bowls: start with the rice (or cooked grains) and add the vegetables and cooked meat. Sprinkle with sauce and stir to combine so that the sauce is evenly distributed.
I made my rice bowl with 2 cups quartered Brussels sprouts, 3 peeled and chopped carrots and red bell pepper. It took about 23 minutes to roast.