Protein bowls are often filled with meat and seafood, but registered dietitian nutritionist Mackenzie Burgess of Cheerful Choices decided to give this one a tasty plant-based twist. Packed with whole grain quinoa, crispy tofu, colorful vegetables, and teriyaki sauce, this protein bowl is sure to satisfy your taste buds.
Quinoa is considered an "ancient grain," meaning its roots date way back. It’s believed that quinoa was first grown in Lake Titicaca about 5000 years ago (via Oldways Whole Grain Council). Recent years have put quinoa in the spotlight in the heath food scene. In fact, quinoa’s market price has more than doubled from 2012 to 2014 (via Statista). To this day, quinoa remains an ingredient that’s widely beloved and used in a variety of recipes. Try adding it to everything from stuffed peppers to quinoa protein bowls. One cup of cooked quinoa packs in 8 grams of plant-based protein, making it the perfect addition to these grain bowls.
Gather your quinoa protein bowl ingredients
There are just nine simple ingredients used in this quinoa protein bowl recipe. The recipe as written makes enough for four servings. If you want to make more, simply use a larger pan and double the recipe.
This recipe calls for cooked quinoa. You can either buy quinoa pre-cooked and ready to microwave, or make it yourself. To cook quinoa, combine 1 cup of dry quinoa and 2 cups water in a medium-sized pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then decrease to a simmer. Cook until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water, which will take about 15 minutes. This will yield 3 cups of cooked quinoa.
Prepare the tofu
Tofu is a super versatile, nutrient-dense ingredient. According to Healthline, it’s packed with protein and other important vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, and manganese. It’s perfect for those following a vegan diet or wanting a satisfying meatless meal.
Tofu is packed in water, making it a crucial step to drain and press before cooking. Getting rid of the excess liquid helps create that desired crispy texture.
Carefully cut open the package of firm tofu, and drain out the water from the package. Then, remove the block of tofu and wrap it in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and place on a plate. Place a heavy object on top for 15 to 30 minutes to press out extra liquid. You can press the tofu overnight in the fridge as well. We like to use a cast iron pan or heavy cutting board on top. To skip this step of pressing, look for super firm, pre-pressed tofu.
Sauté the vegetables for your quinoa protein bowl
For this recipe, we decided to sauté fresh broccoli, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 red bell pepper. You could also use other vegetables like carrots, snap peas, or zucchini. Whatever vegetables you choose, you’ll want to make sure they are cut into bite-sized pieces before sautéing.
Sautéing the vegetables helps to soften the vegetables and warm them up for the bowl. However, you could also skip this step and add raw vegetables to your quinoa protein bowl.
Vegetables are an important part of a balanced diet. The different colors represent different nutrients that keep us healthy. Veggies are also packed with fiber, which is great for digestion and may lessen your chance of developing diabetes or heart disease.
Pan fry the tofu for your quinoa protein bowl
After pressing the tofu, you’ll cut it into equal-sized 1-inch cubes or another cut you prefer. Some popular ways to cut tofu include long strips, triangles, or crumbles.
Be sure to have the oil heated in your pan before adding the tofu. This helps achieve that golden brown, crispy texture. Try to cook all sides of the tofu, flipping the tofu every so often. You can use tongs to help turn the tofu cubes. If the tofu is sticking to the pan, wait a minute before trying to flip it.
It’s also important to not overcrowd the pan. If you find your pan is not large enough to fit all the tofu in an even layer, then work in batches.
Add the teriyaki sauce
You can definitely make your own teriyaki sauce, but for convenience sake, we find it easier to grab a store-bought one. When looking at the nutrition label, pay attention to the added sugars. For a healthier sauce, try to aim for 5 grams of added sugar or less per serving.
You’ll add this teriyaki sauce over the cooked tofu to add major flavor. Be sure to take the pan off the heat once you add the teriyaki sauce to avoid any burning. You’ll also want extra teriyaki sauce to drizzle over top for an extra burst of umami flavor.
Prepare your quinoa protein bowl, and enjoy
Once everything is cooked, you’ll assemble your protein bowl. Start by adding the cooked quinoa as a base layer into the bowl. Then, top this quinoa with your sautéed vegetables and crispy teriyaki cubed tofu. We also like to add avocado slices and sesame seeds over top for extra creaminess and crunch.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. Keep in mind that the tofu will soften as it sits. To achieve that crunchy texture, reheat in a toaster oven or air fryer. We love serving this plant-based quinoa protein bowl as a quick weeknight meal or impressive colorful bowl to share with friends!
- 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, drained
- 3 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 head broccoli, chopped (about 4 cups chopped)
- 2 bell peppers, sliced
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons oil, divided
- ¼ cup low sugar teriyaki sauce, plus more over top
- avocado slices
- sesame seeds
- Prepare the tofu. Wrap drained tofu block in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and place on a plate. Place a heavy object on top for 15 to 30 minutes to press out liquid. Cut pressed tofu into 1-inch cubes. Then, in a large bowl, toss tofu with cornstarch.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped broccoli and sliced bell peppers and sauté for about seven minutes, until tender and slightly charred, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Wipe out the pan if needed.
- Using the same pan, heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Carefully add cubed tofu in a single layer and pan-fry on all sides until golden, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add ¼ cup low sugar teriyaki sauce, and gently stir to coat tofu. Transfer the cooked teriyaki tofu to a plate.
- To assemble the bowls, add 3 cups of cooked quinoa, then top with tofu, sautéed vegetables, and more teriyaki sauce drizzled over top. Serve with avocado slices and sesame seeds if desired.