Hearty & healthy grain bowls filled with kale, wild rice, quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, apple, smoked gouda & a cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette. These autumn grain bowls are perfect for a healthy dinner, a meal prep lunch to pack for the week, or to serve as a hearty side dish at any holiday meal this season.
SALAD HUGS, people. Today we’re making salad hugs.
Which, I’ll be the first to admit, sounds a little odd. But I promise…once you taste this autumn grain bowl, you’ll get it.
With all of the best fall flavors loaded up in one big, cozy grain bowl, this bowl is exactly the kind of thing that feels like a hug in salad form.
Autumn grain bowls with roasted sweet potatoes, apples, & cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette.
I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: I’m a salad girl, through & through. It sounds so super lame, but really, when you do salads right, they’re hard to beat: tons of fresh flavor, TONS of great texture, & they’re so, so good for you.
I’ll gladly eat a good salad any day of the year, but once fall rolls around, the cravings for something a little more comforting start to creep in. & That’s exactly when it’s time to bust out a cozy autumn grain bowl.
Say hello to your new favorite fall salad, because this autumn grain bowl is honestly THAT good. It’s filled with all of the best fall flavors, & they come together, forming the most perfect smoky, sweet, crunchy, chewy, oh-so-satisfying bowl.
The cast of characters?
- Wild rice
- Quinoa – – I’ve written about it many times before, but I really love the Simply Nature Organic Quinoa from ALDI. It’s affordable & high-quality (my favorite combination!), & I always keep it stocked in my pantry.
- Spiced roasted sweet potatoes
- Honeycrisp apple
- Shredded smoked gouda
- oh, & the very best part: Cinnamon. Maple. Balsamic. Vinaigrette.
Total fall perfection.
First, the combination of finely shredded kale, wild rice, and quinoa serves as the heartiest base of this autumn grain bowl. Kale adds just the right amount of crunch & wild rice adds the perfect amount of chew to each bite.
If you don’t love kale, feel free to swap it out with baby kale, which offers the same great health benefits in a much more delicate green. Same goes for the combination of wild rice & quinoa – use whatever grains you love most. Brown rice or farro are both great hearty options, too!
Next goes some sweet potatoes that have been roasted with chili powder, cumin, & cinnamon. They’re roasted perfection, & the spices add so much freakin’ fall flavor to this autumn grain bowl. So simple, but so good.
After that, you top it off with whatever you love most. For me, it’s some pulled rotisserie chicken (the easiest way to add some extra protein), some diced honeycrisp apple, chopped walnuts for extra crunch, & shredded smoked gouda.
& Lastly? That cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette.
Oh my GAWD, guys, this vinaigrette is one of my favorite creations of all time. It’s a twist on my maple balsamic vinaigrette, with just a teaspoon of ground cinnamon added to the mix, & I could literally eat it by the spoonful. It’s THAT good. My maple balsamic vinaigrette has the perfect balance of tanginess & sweet caramelly notes, & when you add that cinnamon to the mix, it tastes just the way fall should.
When you put it all together, you get the perfect fall bite:
Chewy, crunchy kale, wild rice, & quinoa that soak up all that cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette; roasty, toasty spiced sweet potatoes for tons of flavor; honeycrisp apples for a little bit of sweetness; chopped walnuts for extra crunch; & lastly, that shredded gouda, which adds a little smoky creaminess in every single bite.
I mean, honestly, what more could you want?
Prep tips for easy & healthy grain bowls
As good as they are, I’ll be the first to admit that grain bowls can be a little high maintenance. You have to cook a couple of different grains, chop up tons of different veggies, & it can quickly feel a little overwhelming. I get that. But (& there’s a major BUT here!), all of the steps are really, really easy, & there are definitely some shortcuts you can take. Here are a few of my fave grain bowl shortcuts:
First & foremost, meal prep. When it comes to grain bowls, a little bit of meal prep goes a looooong way. That doesn’t mean you have to spend your whole Sunday in the kitchen – here’s a few things to complete in 30 minutes active time or less…by the time you want to make an autumn grain bowl during the week, all you have to do is throw it together!:
- Cook the wild rice & quinoa separately, according to package directions. (5 minutes active)
- Roast the sweet potatoes according to recipe directions below. (5 minutes active)
- Make cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette by adding 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to this recipe. (5 minutes active)
- Shred some chicken…more on this in a second… (10 minutes active)
- Finely chop a bunch of kale. (5 minutes active)
- Optional: dice a small red onion. (1 minute active)
- Optional: shred some gouda (5 minutes active)
Speaking of chicken…use rotisserie chicken. Let the grocery store do the work for you! Grocery store rotisserie chickens are affordable, tasty, & so convenient. All you have to do is grab one at the store & pick the meat once you get home. Or, even easier? Just leave it out. These autumn grain bowls will be super hearty & filling without it…promise.
& Lastly? If you’re feeling super lazy, buy a grain blend. So many stores these days carry quick-cooking blends of grains. I love wild rice in these autumn grain bowls, of course, but any blend of grains, like brown rice + quinoa, would be great. Make it your own by using whatever you love most, & if quick-cooking rice is your jam…go for it!
Before you know it, you’ll have the coziest, comforting autumn grain bowl imaginable…
…told ya. Salad hugs.
I cannot wait for you to try these Autumn Grain Bowls. They are packed with fall flavors & are the perfect meal-prep friendly fall lunch or light dinner!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let me know!: Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. I LOVE hearing about & seeing your PWWB creations! Happy cooking! ♡Print
Hearty & healthy grain bowls filled with kale, wild rice, quinoa, roasted sweet potatoes, apple, smoked gouda & a cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette, these autumn grain bowls are perfect for a healthy dinner, a meal prep lunch to pack for the week, or to serve as a hearty side dish at any holiday meal this season.
- 2 cups cooked wild rice (see Recipe Notes)
- 2 cups cooked quinoa (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 large sweet potato, diced into ½-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 bunch kale, destemmed & finely chopped
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- 1 large apple, diced into ½-inch cubes (I like Honeycrisp best!)
- 1–2 cups shredded chicken (from Rotisserie chicken, see Recipe Notes)
- 1 cup shredded smoked gouda
- ½ cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
- maple balsamic vinaigrette, for serving (see Recipe Notes)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Cook the wild rice and quinoa according to package directions and set aside.
- Roast the sweet potatoes: Place the diced sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil over top, and sprinkle with the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and Kosher salt. Toss to combine. Roast for 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Assemble the grain bowls! Add the wild rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, kale, red onion, apple, chicken, smoked gouda, and walnuts to a large bowl. Drizzle maple balsamic vinaigrette over top, then toss to combine. Serve immediately, or portion into individual containers for meal prep for the week. Enjoy!
- Grains: If you want a major shortcut, feel free to buy a grain blend! So many stores carry quick-cooking blends of grains. I love wild rice + quinoa in these autumn grain bowls, of course, but any blend of grains, like brown rice + quinoa, would be great. Make it your own by using whatever you love most, & if quick-cooking rice is your jam…go for it!
- Chicken: I like to let the grocery store do the work for me and use rotisserie chicken in these autumn grain bowls! Grocery store rotisserie chickens are affordable, tasty, & so convenient. All you have to do is grab one at the store & pick the meat once you get home.
- Maple balsamic vinaigrette is one of my all-time favorite recipes! It takes any salad to the next level, & it takes only 5 minutes to whip together. For extra cozy autumn vibes, add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the mix, which is exactly what I suggest for these grain bowls!
- Meal prep: When it comes to grain bowls, a little bit of meal prep goes a looooong way. Here are a few things to complete in 30 minutes active time or less.
- cook the wild rice according to package directions. (5 minutes active)
- roast the sweet potatoes according to recipe directions below. (5 minutes active)
- make cinnamon maple balsamic vinaigrette by adding 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to this recipe. (5 minutes active)
- shred some chicken…more on this in a second… (10 minutes active)
- finely chop a bunch of kale. (5 minutes active)
- optional: dice a small red onion. (1 minute active)
- optional: shred some gouda (5 minutes active)
Keywords: autumn grain bowl, chicken grain bowl, healthy grain bowl, maple balsamic vinaigrette
If you love this autumn grain bowls recipe, here are a few other amazing salad recipes you have to try!
- Strawberry salad with herb grilled chicken & goat cheese
- Kale salad with herb grilled chicken & goat cheese
- Spring goddess grain bowl
- Summer salad with israeli couscous & heirloom tomatoes
- All PWWB Salads
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