Main Course/ Vegetarian

Vegan Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing

May 27, 2020 (Last Updated: June 5, 2020) by Chef Molly

This Vegan Buddha Bowl features quinoa topped with roasted sweet potatoes, cauliflower, and asparagus along with crispy tofu cubes. Drizzled with an easy lemon tahini dressing, this dish is super-healthy and delicious!

overhead shot of bowl of vegan buddha bowl with fork

Buddha bowls have a bit of buzz going on right now. Maybe more people are experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Maybe the rise in home baking now has bakers searching for healthy recipes to balance out their cake consumption. 🙋‍♀️ Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for a super-healthy way to get your vegetables and healthy grains on, this Vegan Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing has you covered. 

You’ll start with a batch of quinoa, and while that’s cooking, turn your attention to prepping cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and asparagus in order to roast them in a hot oven. While they’re roasting, you’re pan-frying tofu cubes and whisking together an easy lemon tahini dressing. Put it all together, and you’ve got a healthy grain bowl that also happens to taste amazing. Any leftovers will rock your lunch game the next day, promise.

quinoa, asparagus, lemon tahini paste, tofu, half a cauliflower, sweet potato, and olive oil

How do you cook quinoa?

This is my favorite method for cooking quinoa. First rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. (This will help take the bitterness out of the quinoa’s outer coating.) Then, pour quinoa into a small saucepan with 1 3/4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. When the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then uncover it and fluff with a fork. 

small saucepan with cooked quinoa

How do you make this Vegan Buddha Bowl?

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius).

2. While quinoa is cooking, prep your vegetables. Rinse 1 small head of cauliflower, pat dry, then cut out its core. Then cut the rest of the cauliflower into large, bite-sized florets.

cored cauliflower being cut into florets on cutting board

3. Peel 1 pound of sweet potatoes, then cut into 3/4-inch cubes.

4. Rinse 1 pound of asparagus, pat dry gently, and snap or cut off the bottom inch of the stalk. If your asparagus stalks are as thick as your finger, peel the bottom 2/3 of the stalk with a vegetable peeler.

5. Next, line two large sheet pans with parchment paper or foil.

6. On one pan, toss asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Asparagus on sheet pan ready to be roasted

7. Combine the cauliflower florets and sweet potato chunks in a large bowl, and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Then spread out over second sheet pan, keeping the vegetables to just one layer. Keeping them on one layer will ensure that they will brown slightly and not just steam.

chopped sweet potatoes and cauliflower florets tossed in olive oil on parchment-lined sheet pan

8. Put the sheet pan with the cauliflower and sweet potato into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

9. Then open the oven, stir vegetables with a spatula, and add the sheet pan with the asparagus to another rack in the oven.

10. Roast for another 10 minutes, then stir again and check to see if vegetables are tender by piercing with a fork or the tip of a knife. If necessary, roast for another 5 minutes. Vegetables should be lightly browned.

roasted sweet potato chunks and cauliflower florets on parchment-lined sheet pan

11. Meanwhile, prepare the tofu.

12. Drain tofu and pat very dry with a paper towel. Slice into 3/4-inch cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes and sauté until lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes.

Browned tofu in medium nonstick skillet

13. Make the lemon tahini dressing by whisking together 2.5 tablespoons of tahini paste, 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of water to thin the dressing as you like. Note that tahini varies quite a bit in consistency, so you will need to adjust accordingly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. You can also whisk in a 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup to add a little sweetness to the dressing, if you like. 

small bowl of lemon tahini dressing with whisk

14. To serve, put a scoop of quinoa into your bowl or on a plate with raised edges. Add servings of roasted cauliflower, sweet potato, asparagus, and tofu. Drizzle with lemon tahini dressing. For extra texture, you could also top off your bowl with sunflower seeds or chopped nuts. 

vegan buddha bowl with fork with small bowl of vinaigrette and towel in background

What is a Buddha Bowl?

A Buddha bowl is a vegetarian version of a grain bowl. Buddha bowls typically include a wholesome grain like quinoa, farro, or brown rice along with fillings like roasted or raw vegetables, greens, and a protein (often tofu, beans, or lentils). They often include a dressing and sometimes a topping of nuts or seeds. Buddha bowls can be served hot or cold, so they make great packed lunches. They are also perfect for leftovers, since you just need a little bit of each component. 

Are Vegan Buddha bowls healthy?

Yes! They are packed with healthy protein and vegetables, with a good amount of heart-healthy fats. If you’re striving to get more servings of vegetables in your diet, a dish like this is perfect. You get almost your entire daily 5 in one meal! Like all types of grain bowls, choosing whole grains as your base will make your dish even healthier. Brown rice, farro, barley, and quinoa all have much higher nutritional value than white rice or pasta, and will keep you feeling full for longer.

How long will Vegan Buddha Bowl leftovers keep in the refrigerator?

This is a great meal for make-ahead or for Sunday meal prep, as the ingredients will all last several days in the refrigerator. Package the quinoa, vegetables, tofu, and dressing separately if storing for more than a few hours. To pack a lunch, combine everything but the dressing, then bring the dressing in a separate container (or, in a pinch, a ziplock baggie—just cut off a small bit of one corner and drizzle the dressing out through that!).

almost overhead shot of vegan buddha bowl with small bowl of lemon tahini dressing and napkin in background

What is tahini?

Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. Tahini is high in fat but mostly in the form of heart-healthy fats (similar to olive oil). It’s high in protein as well as vitamin E, magnesium, iron, calcium, and several B vitamins. Tahini should be kept in the refrigerator once you have opened it. Otherwise, it can become rancid. Take it out of the refrigerator an hour or so before you want to use it, so that you’ll be able to stir it easily (it’s hard to mix when fully chilled).

Also, keep in mind that brands of tahini differ in consistency and differ in how much the solids separate from the oils. Make sure you mix the tahini together as much as possible before using, if it has separated. And you may need to adjust the amount of water or other ingredients in your recipe depending on whether your tahini is very thick or not. My favorite brand is Soom Tahini, which you can often find in Whole Foods, though there are many other delicious brands as well. 

What else can you use Lemon Tahini Dressing for?

This dressing has lots of delicious uses. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Use as a dressing for salads of any kind, both green salads and grain salads. 
  • Drizzle it on any kind of grain bowl, vegetarian or not. 
  • Serve with any kind of roasted vegetables.
  • Make a batch for the next time you are grilling peppers, mushrooms, or asparagus on the grill and add the lemon tahini sauce on the side when you serve! 
  • Serve it on top of sautéed greens like kale, Swiss chard, or collard greens.

How long does Tahini Dressing last in the fridge?

This lemon tahini salad dressing will last for around 5 days in the refrigerator. It thickens up when cold, so you may want to whisk in more water when you’re ready to serve, to thin it to your preferred consistency. 

Is quinoa healthy?

Quinoa is one of the healthiest grains around, and a complete protein. To explain what that means, here’s a quick science lesson. There are 20 different amino acids that form the building blocks of protein. Nine of these amino acids humans can obtain only through their diet. These are called the essential amino acids, and a complete protein contains all nine of them.

Eating complete proteins is important for vegetarians and vegans in particular, because while meats, eggs, fish, and yogurt are complete proteins, nuts and beans are not. So quinoa is a great addition to the vegetarian diet, and in fact, for anyone who is looking to reduce their meat consumption. It’s important to note that you don’t need to eat a complete protein at every meal—you can combine foods that contain different amino acids over the course of the day and still get everything you need for your diet. But it’s nice to have it all in one place!

Quinoa is also high in fiber, magnesium, B vitamins, potassium, and iron, as well as antioxidants. It’s as easy to cook as rice, so should really make it to more dinner tables than it does right now. Interesting side note: NASA is currently looking at growing quinoa in space because of its high nutritional value and relative ease of cultivating and cooking!

Is quinoa vegan?

Yes, it is. Quinoa is actually a plant in the amaranth family, which is primarily grown for its seeds (which are what we are eating in this recipe). Quinoa originated in South America, where it was first used as a food for humans 3-4 thousand years ago. It is completely vegan, and also gluten-free, making it a great base for many different types of diets.

Other Delicious Vegan Recipes

If you enjoyed this vegan buddha bowl recipe, you might want to check out my favorite vegan recipe of all time: Vegan Chickpea Curry with Spinach. I also love to make vegan soups year-round. If you do too, you might enjoy my Vegan Potato Leek Soup or my French Lentil Soup. For a vegan version of a traditionally meat-based dish, my Red Lentil Bolognese is just as delicious as the original. And don’t miss my go-to summer dish of Orzo Pasta Salad with Black Beans and Corn—it is a perfect main course or side dish, and is frequently in my refrigerator!  

If you’re craving a warm drink that doesn’t require dairy milk, check out my recipe for this delicious and healthy Turmeric Latte.

Other Recipes Featuring Quinoa

If you’re new to quinoa, and want to find more ways to enjoy it, check out my Quinoa Grain Bowl with Sesame-Ginger Dressing. You might also enjoy my Quinoa Chickpea Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

close up of vegan buddha bowl being held by one hand
close up of vegan buddha bowl showing asparagus, tofu, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and quinoa

Vegan Buddha Bowl with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

This Vegan Buddha Bowl features quinoa topped with crispy tofu along with roasted sweet potatoes, cauliflower, asparagus, and an easy lemon tahini dressing.

Ingredients

Buddha bowl

  • 1 cup (180g) quinoa
  • 1 1/2 lbs (680g)cauliflower (1 small or 1/2 large head)
  • 1 lb (450g) sweet potato
  • 1 lb (450g) asparagus
  • 5 T. olive oil, divided
  • 14 oz. (400g) package of firm tofu (or whatever size package you have)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Lemon Tahini Dressing

  • 2.5 T. tahini paste
  • 1.5 T. lemon juice
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius).
    2. To cook quinoa, first rinse in a fine-mesh strainer. (This will help take the bitterness out of the quinoa’s outer coating.)
    3. Then, pour quinoa into a small saucepan with 1 3/4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
    4. When the water comes to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Let it sit for 5 few minutes and then fluff with a fork.
    5. While quinoa is cooking, prep your vegetables. Rinse cauliflower, pat dry, then cut out its core. Then cut the rest of the cauliflower into large, bite-sized florets. Peel sweet potato, then cut into 3/4-inch cubes. Rinse asparagus, pat dry gently, and snap or cut off the bottom inch of the stalk. If your asparagus stalks are as thick as your finger, peel the bottom 2/3 of the stalk with a vegetable peeler.
    6. Next, line two large sheet pans with parchment paper or foil.
    7. On one pan, toss asparagus with a tablespoon of olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.
    8. Combine the cauliflower florets and sweet potato chunks in a large bowl, and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper.
    9. Then spread out over second sheet pan, keeping the vegetables to just one layer.
    10. Put the sheet pan with the cauliflower and sweet potato into the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
    11. Then open the oven, stir vegetables with a spatula, and add the sheet pan with the asparagus to another rack in the oven. Roast for another 10 minutes, then stir again and check to see if vegetables are tender by piercing with a fork or the tip of a knife. If necessary, roast for another 5 minutes. Vegetables should be lightly browned.
    12. Meanwhile, prepare the tofu.
    13. Drain tofu and pat very dry with a paper towel. Slice into 3/4-inch cubes.
    14. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
    15. Add tofu cubes and sauté until lightly browned, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes.
    16. Make the lemon tahini dressing by whisking together tahini paste, lemon juice, and olive oil.
    17. Whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of water to thin the dressing as you like. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    18. To serve, put a scoop of quinoa into your bowl or on a plate with raised edges. Add servings of roasted cauliflower, sweet potato, asparagus, and tofu. Drizzle with lemon tahini dressing.

Notes

    • Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for at least 3 days. Store dressing separately from quinoa, tofu, and vegetables if possible.
    • This recipe is very flexible—feel free to switch out vegetables or protein for what you have on hand. A non-vegan version using pan-roasted chicken breasts is delicious, or sautéed shrimp. If you change vegetables, just take care to roast things together that have a similar cook time. And/or cut the vegetables into different sized chunks—larger potato chunks will take longer to cook, for example, than smaller ones.
    • Keep in mind that brands of tahini differ in consistency and differ in how much the solids separate from the oils. Make sure you mix the tahini together as much as possible before using, if it has separated. And you may need to adjust the amount of water or other ingredients in your recipe depending on whether your tahini is very thick or not.
    • To add a little sweetness to the dressing, you can also whisk in a 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup, if you like.
    • For extra texture, you could top off your bowl with sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or chopped nuts.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 301mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 2gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g

Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Jeff the Chef
    May 30, 2020 at 2:22 am

    I love this dressing. I’ll bet it would be good on so many things.

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      June 2, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      Thanks Jeff! I totally agree! Fantastic just drizzled on vegetables.

  • Reply
    Alex
    June 1, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Mmm, I am loving the flavours in this! Such a nutritious meal and so tasty!

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      June 2, 2020 at 1:20 pm

      Yes, wonderful to have a really healthy meal that still tastes delicious. I really need that these days!

  • Reply
    Heidi | The Frugal Girls
    June 2, 2020 at 11:38 pm

    This looks AMAZING… I love all of the fresh veggies you packed in, and the lemon tahini dressing sounds incredible!

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      June 5, 2020 at 1:56 pm

      Thanks so much, Heidi! That dressing is yummy, and so easy to make. I’m loving it on whatever veggies I have around at the moment!

  • Reply
    Katerina
    June 3, 2020 at 10:16 am

    Thanks for sharing your favourite way to cook quinoa, Molly – I will definitely give that a go! And I must say, I love the look and sound of all of these healthy and delicious ingredients and would love this buddha bowl for dinner! Yum – thanks so much for the inspiration.

    • Reply
      Chef Molly
      June 5, 2020 at 1:58 pm

      You’re very welcome! Hope you try it–it’s great when a super-healthy meal tastes delicious too! 🙂

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