Colorful, nutrition-packed breakfast bowls are becoming a morning go-to for many diners. They’re putting down the straws, picking up spoons and enjoying a whole new way to start the day.
It all started with açaí
Some trace the breakfast bowl phenomenon to the açaí bowls that became popular in Brazil in the 1970s. After frozen açaí pulp began to be imported to the United States, those traditional bowls got modern makeovers with blend-ins that included additional fruit, yogurt and granola.
The latest permutation is the smoothie bowl, which is simply the ingredients of a smoothie served in a bowl. It comes with a spoon, not a straw, and often has a colorful or creative garnish. Fun fact: A very thick smoothie bowl is called “nice cream.”
Bowl building blocks
Ready to get started? Here are some guidelines for creating delicious breakfast bowls.
BASE: Layered in first, the base will soak up juices and flavors. “Porridge-like grains, including oats, are very popular now,” says Robin Asbell, author of Great Bowls of Food: Grain Bowls, Buddha Bowls, Broth Bowls, and More. “You can make an eight-grain blend with inexpensive oats and a lesser quantity of more expensive grains like teff or amaranth.”
Here’s a pro-tip: “When you’re naming your breakfast bowl on the menu, I’ve learned it’s a good idea to lead with the rarer grain in the title,” Asbell says. So think “Teff & Amaranth Breakfast Bowl,” not “Oatmeal Bowl with Teff & Amaranth Sprinkle.”
Sturdier grains also make great bowls for morning menus. “Grains like farro, wheat berries and brown rice can be held for a few days or frozen in sheet pans and then bagged,” Asbell says. “The morning of service, it’s easy to reheat the grains right in each individual bowl or in batches in the steamer.”
MAIN EVENT: This can be layers of fresh fruit, dried fruit, yogurt or ricotta for a sweet bowl. Savory choices include cooked eggs, greens and avocado.
TOPPING: Drizzle on choices that complement your main event, such as swirls of jam or dried fruit for sweet bowls or nuts and herbs for savory bowls.
Seared Pork Belly Breakfast Bowl from chef Thomas Kim (Rabbit Hole, Minneapolis)
Roasted Root Vegetable Breakfast Bowl from chef Zoe Nathan (Huckleberry Café, Santa Monica)
Santa Fe Breakfast Bowl, the Washington Post