This vegan farro bowl is a wholesome, flavorful, and filling meal that can be prepared ahead of time for a busy schedule. It’s full of nutrient-dense plant-based ingredients, including vegetables, grains, and legumes. Pickled red onion and a lemony tahini dressing add bright flavor, while chopped pistachios add crunch!
This recipe was originally going to be titled “fall farro bowl.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I started to write about it on December 14th.
In fairness, I did actually make it and eat it back in the fall. Yet publishing this post has been a different story.
All of this is a perfect expression of the chaos and perpetual behind-on-things feeling that has characterized the last quarter of 2022.
But this period of a few months has also taught me that the best I can do is, really and truly, the best I can do.
And the good news is that the farro bowl that I originally intended for fall isn’t only a fall recipe. It can be enjoyed all through the cooler months or adapted to work for the warm ones. One of the nice things about vegan bowl recipes is that they travel well through the seasons.
So, why fret about the timing? The bowl was a delight when I had it a couple months ago, and it still is. So happy to be sharing today.
What is farro?
Farro is the star of this grain bowl. But what is farro? And why do I love it as much as I do?
My favorite thing about farro is its texture. I love how chewy it becomes with cooking, and I like the robust size of the grains.
Farro reminds me a bit of wheat or spelt berries, but it takes less time to cook.
Farro is a great source of fiber, and it’s relatively rich in plant protein. It’s also an excellent source of niacin, a B vitamin associated with nerve system, skin, and digestive health.
In addition, farro provides both iron and zinc.
From what I understand, true farro is a form of Triticum dicoccum, which is a type of emmer. Emmer, in turn, is an ancient form of wheat.
There’s another grain, Triticum monococcum, or faricella, that’s sometimes sold as farro. Forms of spelt can be sold as farro, too. Yet the “true” farro is emmer.
Farro can be sold in both hulled and pearled varieties. The hulled variety has had its tough outer husk removed. The pearled variety (also known as a “polished” grain) has had some of the bran removed.
Removing the bran from the grain does remove a little of farro’s nutrition as well. However, pearled farro is quicker cooking than hulled (usually 20-25 minutes compared to 40-45). I opt for the pearled variety for convenience most of the time.
Is farro gluten free?
No, it isn’t! Since farro comes from a member of the wheat family, it is a gluten-containing grain.
Other farro bowl ingredients
Along with the farro, this bowl contains vegetables and fruit, legumes, a creamy dressing, and some toppings for flavor and crunch.
The salad base for the bowl is a mix of arugula and radicchio.
Peppery and bitter flavors are the name of the game here! As you’ll see, those are offset by the sweet addition of grapes.
I love the slightly bitter flavor of radicchio; it’s one of the vegetables that I most eagerly look forward to in the fall. And lemony peppery arugula might be my go-to salad green.
These base leafy ingredients can be modified based on what you have. I’ve used shredded red cabbage in the bowls in place of the arugula. Baby kale, escarole, chopped spinach, and spring mix will all work in place of the arugula.
Why did I add broccoli to the bowl? Probably because it’s my favorite vegetable, and I always have steamed broccoli florets and pieces someplace in my fridge. They turn up in a lot of my bowls for that reason.
But I think that the broccoli really works here. It adds texture, and it feels like a more substantial green vegetable than the salad greens.
Bright green, majestic browns of broccoli pop up abundantly at farmers markets in the fall months. Where I live, they’re available through winter, too.
At other times of year, you can use zucchini, green beans, or another green vegetable of choice.
If you love brassicas, but broccoli isn’t a favorite, you can try steamed cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or cabbage instead.
Chickpeas are sort of my go-to bean in general, and that’s especially true when it comes to bowls.
- Chickpea burrito bowls
- Turmeric rice bowls
- Soba noodle & spicy chickpea bowls
So maybe I ought to have used a different legume here for variety. And for the record, you could: cannellini beans and lentils, for example, would work well in the recipe.
But, I love what I love, and I really love chickpeas.
Chickpeas lend their plump shape, creamy texture, plant-protein, fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium, and many more nutrients to the farro bowls.
It’s funny, I’m not a huge fruit-in-salad person. Yet, at the time when I was first preparing these bowls, I had red grapes in the fridge. They come into season in the fall, and I always grab them when I can find them at that time.
I’m so glad I decided to throw some of them into the farro bowl! I love how their sweet flavor contrasts with the nutty farro, tangy pickled onions, and bitter, peppery greens.
Dijon lemon tahini dressing
The dressing here is a Dijon lemon tahini dressing. It’s tangy and zingy, and I think that it enlivens the bowls a lot.
Plus, the dressing requires 5 ingredients, minus water, and it’s so easy to make.
If this particular dressing doesn’t speak to you, then there are many others that you could try. Some of my picks would be:
- Tahini beet dressing
- Turmeric tahini dressing
- Caesar dressing
- Greek vinaigrette
- Sweet Dijon vinaigrette
Pickled red onions
Quick pickled red onions are one of those “superstar” ingredients that you can keep in the fridge and rely on to add a big flavor punch to any salad or bowl.
Yes, you could just use finely chopped or thinly sliced red onions for the farro bowls instead of pickled. But quick pickling red onions really only takes 10 minutes of time, and the payoff is so rewarding.
Chopped, shelled pistachios
The cherry on top of this farro bowl, so to speak?
Chopped, crunchy, salty shelled pistachios.
Why? Mostly for the crunch. And I think that the nutty flavor is a great overall compliment to the other ingredients that are in the bowl.
But pistachios also add some healthful fat to this recipe, as well as Vitamin B6 and thiamine.
If you don’t have pistachios and love another nut or seed a whole lot more, feel free to make a swap. I also like chopped walnuts, pecans, and pepitas in the farro bowl.
How to make farro bowls
The steps in making the farro bowls are very straightforward.
The longest part of the process will be to cook your farro. This will take 25-45 minutes, depending on whether you use pearled or hulled grains.
While the farro cooks, you’ll also steam your broccoli (or vegetable of choice).
Once both of those steps are done, serving the bowls is just a matter of assembling ingredients together.
By the time you finish, you’ll have a hearty, abundant, and wonderfully colorful vegan grain bowl to dive into.
Can the recipe be made gluten free?
Absolutely. To make this bowl without use of a gluten-containing grain, you can simply swap your favorite gluten-free grain into the recipe.
I’d opt for brown rice or quinoa.
Meal prep & storage
The farro bowls are a great option for a weekly vegan meal prep routine. Cooked farro can be stored for up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge or frozen for up to 8 weeks.
The broccoli can be steamed up to 4 days ahead of making the bowls. You also have the option of using frozen broccoli for convenience, microwaving it directly before you serve the bowls.
The Dijon lemon tahini dressing will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge, and the quick pickled onions can keep for 4-6 weeks.
Preparing only one or two of the components here ahead of time will make assembling the bowls quick and easy when it’s time to eat!
More vegan bowl love
If you love the looks of this farro bowl, and if the variety and color and satisfaction of one-bowl meals makes your heart beat faster, then here are a few more ideas:
- Lemon pepper tempeh vegetable pasta bowls
- Chili roasted cauliflower, brown rice and kimchi bowls
- Turmeric rice bowls with quick pickled onions
- Macro bowls
- Cuban black bean and cilantro rice bowls
- Vegan harvest bowls with tempeh and root vegetables
- Seitan sofrito bowls
- Red curry rice noodle bowls
- Sweet potato hash brown & black bean breakfast bowls
- Tandoori cauliflower chickpea bowls
- 1 cup pearled or hulled farro (200g)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-2 heaping cups broccoli florets (substitute cauliflower florets, zucchini pieces, green beans cut into 2-inch/5cm pieces, or another bite-sized vegetable of choice)
- 4 heaping cups baby arugula, roughly torn or chopped
- 2 cups chopped or torn radicchio leaves
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (240g; 1 15-oz/425g can, drained and rinsed)
- 1 1/3 cups red grapes, halved (215g)
- 1 cup pickled red onions
- 1/2 cup shelled, roasted, and salted pistachios, whole or roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup Dijon lemon tahini dressing
Fill a medium/3 quart sauce pot with water and add the salt. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. Add the farro. When the water reaches a boil again, reduce the heat to medium low. Boil the farro—uncovered, just like pasta!—for 25 minutes. Drain the farro and return it to the sauce pot to cool. Allow the farro to come to room temperature before assembling bowls. You can prepare the farro up to 4 days ahead of preparing the bowls and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
While the farro cooks, bring another pot of water to boil and fit it with a steamer attachment. Add the broccoli. Steam for 3-5 minutes, or until the florets are crisp tender. Alternatively, you can microwave cook them till crisp tender. Allow the broccoli florets to come to room temperature before assembling your bowls.
To assemble the bowls, divide the arugula and radicchio between 4 bowls (or storage container bowls). Top each with 1/4 of the cooked farro, chickpeas, broccoli florets, and grapes.
Add 2-4 tablespoons of pickled red onion to the top of each, then sprinkle the bowl with 2 tablespoons of the pistachios. Drizzle each bowl with 2-3 tablespoons of the Easy Lemon Dijon Tahini dressing and serve.
Alternatively, assemble the bowls and store them in airtight containers in the fridge for up to 4 days. Store the dressing separately and dress the bowls right before eating.
Oftentimes what I love most about a vegan bowl is its simplicity. I can easily prepare lunch bowls with the leftover odds and ends in my fridge, which makes them a low-key meal option.
There’s nothing fussy or elaborate about this farro bowl, but it does feel a little festive! It has so much layering of flavor (salty, sweet, tangy, earthy) and texture (crispness, crunch, chew).
I can vouch for the fact that the farro bowl will make lunch on a chilly day feel like a treat, something to look forward to. I can even imagine the bowl becoming a nice option for quiet, small holiday celebrations.
Hope it’ll give you the same pleasure that it’s given me!