March 6, 2012

Roasty Soba Bowl With Miso Tahini

by IsaChandra

Serves 4
Time: 30 mins (or 45 minutes if you don’t have lentils prepared)

Miso Bowl

If you’ve been vegetarian for any amount of time, or ever even just casually glanced at the menu of your friendly neighborhood co-op cafe, you’ll surely be familiar with “The Bowl.” That upside down hardhat brimming with healthy and yummy ingredients. But what sets a bowl apart from other types of entrees? Let’s go over some of the unique characteristics that give a bowl its bowlness.

At its most basic, a bowl is made up of a grain, a green, a ‘tein and a sauce. In general, all of the components are prepared very simply, except for the sauce, which is the main flavor component. Of course rules are made to be bent if not broken, but just because you put a bunch of stuff in a bowl, doesn’t make it a bowl proper. Let’s examine each component.

The grain is usually brown rice or quinoa, but it doesn’t even have to be a grain per se, just something wholesome and starchy, that will soak up lots of sauce. I use buckwheat soba noodles in this example. Barley, millet, amaranth, and bulgur are all great choices and I’ve even had whole wheat cous cous find its way into my bowls.

The greens are usually abundant and they don’t have to be green, any veggie will do. They’re often steamed, but roasted with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper is a great choice, too. A simple saute with garlic is about as elaborate as it gets when bowling, though. Common veggie candidates are cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dark leafies like kale, zucchini… and often, especially at restaurants, you’ll get a nice mix of all of the above. Sometimes they’ll try and skimp by making the veggie mix half carrots, so if I’m ordering out I’ll often say “No carrots!” Nice try, cheapskate bowl makers of the world! I’ve roasted some cauliflower for this bowl because it brings a deep toastiness to the bowl, which is beautifully offset by the tangy sauce and mellow soba noodles and lentils.

The protein, again, is often very simple. If it’s a bean, it’s simmered just until tender and that’s about it. For tofu, a fairly dry run in the skillet is all it needs, a little salt and pepper. At most, it’s marinaded and baked and at the very least it’s steamed. Tempeh is treated fairly similarly. There are times when the protein and the sauce are combined. Maybe it’s a BBQ tempeh or a curried lentil. I think that’s getting into iffy territory, sneaking away from the definition of a bowl. But again, still permissible depending on what the other ingredients are. I’ve used my favorite…plain old brown lentils in this bowl. They’re unfussy, full of nutrition and tasty as all get out. I keep a container of cooked lentils in my fridge at all times, and there are even a few canned or frozen varieties out there. If you need to cook them on the spot, no biggie, they take only 45 minutes or so.

Now the sauce is what it’s all about. Here you can go for the gusto. In a way, the rest of the bowl is really just a vehicle for the sauce, which should be bursting with flavor, overflowing and smothering everything in its path. Still, though, the ingredients should be relatively simple. Instead of using 10 different things to get the flavor you crave, use a little finesse. Go for minimal ingredients that have strong flavors. Here I employed a classic duo: miso and tahini. Miso with its aged, tangy saltiness and the ethereal nuttiness of tahini make a creamy dreamy sauce that’s barely any work and requires no cooking. Bowl heaven!

So that’s what we talk about when we talk about bowls. The possibilities are endless. And so are the puns. Bowl me over.

 Miso Bowl

8 oz buckwheat soba noodles
2 cups cooked brown or green lentils
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Severeal dashes Fresh black pepper

For the dressing:
1/4 cup mellow white miso
1/4 cup tahini
1 cloves garlic
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup water

Optional: fresh herbs for garnish (dill, cilantro and parsley are all good choices.)

Cook the lentils if you don’t already have prepared ones (1 cup dry is about 2 cups cooked.) While the water for the soba is boiling, preheat the oven to 425 F and chop the cauliflower into large florets. It’s easy to do this by chopping it in half lengthwise, pulling of the leafy base and then pulling off the florets with your hands.

When the water boils, prepare soba according to package directions. Once cooked, drain and set aside, rinsing with cold water to prevent sticking.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non stick cooking spray. Toss the cauliflower on the with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for about 20 minutes, flipping once, until aromatic nicely toasted.

In the meantime, place all dressing ingredients in a small blender. A Magic Bullet works great here. Start with 1/2 cup water, and then add another 1/4 to thin, if you like.

Assemble the bowl:
Divide soba noodles into big bowls. Top with lentils, cauliflower and plenty of sauce. Garnish with herbs and serve!

  • March 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm: Dawn

    Isa I wish I was eating this right now! I love bowls because I love eating with chopsticks and the two go well together! How do you cook your lentils? They look so light and airy, not stuck together at all. I am definitely trying this.

  • March 6, 2012 at 9:29 pm: Lester

    Yeah, I want to know how you got the lentils like that too! Looks awesome!

  • March 6, 2012 at 9:35 pm: virtual.jess

    I am making this immediately. Except with brown rice, cause I have no noodles. And spinach, cause I have no cauliflower. It’s all good though, it’s still a bowl!

    • March 6, 2012 at 10:43 pm: IsaChandra

      Yup, that’s the spirit!

  • March 6, 2012 at 9:54 pm: Lisa

    I have been making bowls with the dressings from appetite for reduction! I love that book. I like the peanut lime dragon dressing the best with quinoa,charred seitan,kale, and bean sprouts. I will definately be making this one too! I also made the Caesar Chavez dressing and my 17 year old daughter told me she had a religious experience when she tried it! It’s that good! Thankyou for keeping vegan food fun and yummy:)

    • March 6, 2012 at 10:43 pm: IsaChandra


  • March 6, 2012 at 11:50 pm: izzy


  • March 7, 2012 at 1:47 am: Audrey

    That first photo is GORGEOUS! I love how all the textures and colors really shine. Beautiful. Oh, and I love the upside-down hard hat analogy. :)

    I’m with those who are wondering about the lentils. I’ve never seen them look so airy like that.

  • March 7, 2012 at 2:50 am: Lisa

    Such lovely bowlness! So pretty and yummy looking.

    And yes, we must know what kind of magic lentils those are!

  • March 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm: Kevin (Closet Cooking)

    I am really liking the sound of this! Nice and healthy and tasty!

  • March 7, 2012 at 6:08 pm: judi

    whats the difference with Miso types? I’m quite keen to make this but have brown rice miso, would that work?

    • March 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm: IsaChandra

      Yes, I should have added that any miso you have will work, but some are much more salty than others so you may have to adjust ratios a bit.

  • March 7, 2012 at 8:03 pm: Keith

    So Good! Will you marry me?

  • March 7, 2012 at 8:47 pm: Sweetie Bean

    My lentils stay whole and distinct when I cook them with a little salt – maybe 1 tsp per pound of lentils. They still get tender, just not mushy.

    • March 7, 2012 at 8:50 pm: IsaChandra

      The trick is to bring them to a full boil in plenty of water, and then lower the heat to as low a simmer as possible, just until they’re tender, then drain immediately. I do salt the water a little, too. But not sure if that has anything to do with keeping them intact. It makes them more flavorful though.

  • March 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm: Susan

    Where do you buy buckwheat soba noodles? Can’t wait to try this recipe!

    • March 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm: IsaChandra

      I got mine at Whole Foods but if you have a Japanese supermarket you can probably find them there, too.

  • March 7, 2012 at 11:25 pm: Jessica

    I made this tonight. I had everything on hand, except my noodles were brown rice and I only had brown rice miso. It was so good!!! The kids liked it too, the 1 1/2 year old gobbled hers right up, the 4 1/2 year old chose to have her bowl with plain noodles topped with only cauliflower (4 1/2 year olds!!!), but she loved hers too. Thanks!

  • March 8, 2012 at 2:12 am: Lauren

    I followed this recipe exactly and it was AMAAAAAAAAAAAAZING! Will definitely make again :o)

  • March 8, 2012 at 5:54 am: Emily Jean

    Made this with Quinoa and Kale, so yummmay!

  • March 8, 2012 at 9:54 pm: wes

    Asparagus and rice–could have sworn I had soba noodles in the pantry! opted for just a single bowl, so had asparagus instead of the cauliflower. Yum! I now have a jar of lentils in the refrigerator for more bowls.

  • March 9, 2012 at 6:48 am: hoveringdog

    This sauce … tried it with buckwheat soba, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and some oyster mushrooms sauteed in a little sesame oil, and it’s awesome. I’m kinda kicking myself because I’ve attempted much more complicated tahini-based sauces, and this wins by far. I kinda hate you right now.

  • March 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm: ileana

    Mm, I just had a bowl for lunch. Lentils, brown basmati rice, spinach, and orange bell pepper.

  • March 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm: Jaime

    Never found a recipe on here I don’t like! I just ordered a huge box of soba noodles online so I can make this over and over again. Another sauce that has a lot of punch is the copy-cat “yum sauce” based on the signature sauce from Cafe Yum in Portland. Love all this new sauce option, think it is time to buy “appetite for reduction”!!

  • March 10, 2012 at 11:38 am: Connie Fletcher

    You won’t be sorry with Appetite For Reduction

  • March 10, 2012 at 11:39 am: Connie Fletcher

    Oops, Jaime

  • March 10, 2012 at 5:50 pm: Linda


    Isa your recipes are always delicious but this one really knocks it out of the park! I’ve been in such a food blah lately but this really, really hit the spot. Thank you so much for the recipe and I, too, think I’m going to have to take the AFR plunge after this!! :)

    • March 12, 2012 at 5:04 pm: IsaChandra


  • March 11, 2012 at 2:55 am: Hillary

    In. Bowl. Heaven……

  • March 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm: koolkat

    All the flavours mixed so well!

  • March 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm: Katie

    I would not want to live in a world without you, Isa Chandra Moskowitz! I am eating this for breakfast with a head bowed in reverence.

  • March 12, 2012 at 1:33 am: Heather

    Katie, I ate my leftovers for breakfast, too! Nom nom nom nom!!

  • March 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm: Sahra

    what can I say? Just…. WOW!

  • March 13, 2012 at 10:38 pm: ZedralZ

    I want to make this dish. I want to play around with the ingredients, yet still get something this photogenic. Can this picture go on Pinterest, por favor?

  • March 15, 2012 at 1:16 am: Tracy

    This was so good! The sauce is amazing! We had left over lentils, so I cooked some rice noodles and roasted Brussels sprouts and it was delicious!!

  • March 15, 2012 at 5:33 am: Katie G

    This sauce is out of control AMAZING!

  • March 15, 2012 at 11:11 pm: Pat L

    Currently eating a variant on this, substituted the lentils with soybeans (thought it might pair up nicely with the miso) and the soba with brown rice ’cause it’s what we happened to have on hand. Also added some chopped asparagus ( because heaven) and bean sprouts for a texture contrast.

    Delicious. Thank you much for the inspiration.

  • March 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm: sc

    Thank you for all of your fabulous recipes. Your sharing them has lead me to buy your cookbooks. You Rule!

    • March 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm: IsaChandra

      Cool, thanks!

  • March 17, 2012 at 9:48 pm: Kindra @

    MMM this looks soooo good and easy! Ill have to try this recipe. Thanks!

  • March 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm: Sam (the Quantum Vegan)

    Of course now I must buy more cauliflower and lentils so I can make this very soon. HOLY TOFU IT LOOKS SO GOOD.

  • March 21, 2012 at 12:50 am: Betty

    Seared tofu, kale, cauliflower, noodles, yum. However, I found the dressing to be more tahini-y than I thought it would be. I accidentally bought “lower sodium” white miso. Maybe that’s why?

  • March 23, 2012 at 4:51 pm: Carmen

    Scrumptious sauce! Really hit the spot, thank you!

  • March 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm: Kate

    Made this last night… wonderful. The sauce will be going into rotation — thank you! Incidentally, my immersion blender with it’s little “smoothie cup” container worked great for making the sauce.

  • March 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm: Amanda

    Um, yeah, super delicious! I also used the immersion blender for the sauce (before seeing Kate’s post above!) and it did work great. I used canned brown lentils (not WF brand – can’t remember the brand – but I got them at Whole Foods) and they are a great consistency.

  • March 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm: LSK

    Not only does this sound delicious, but it looks super healthy too!

    It just goes to show that vegetarian food is more than just nutritious, it’s downright delicious too!

    I’ve just started my own vegetarian/vegan blog at

    Check it out if you have time – I hope you find something you enjoy =)

  • April 3, 2012 at 2:30 am: jo

    Oh lord. This is the stuff of gods. I’ve been ppk’ing for the last two weeks but the second this little piece of heaven hit my mouth. Ahhhhh! So good. Keep up the amazing Isa.

  • April 3, 2012 at 6:31 pm: Eiko

    We make this all the time (with different variations depending on what’s on hand). It’s such a tasty, complete meal! I love the simplicity, and there’s nothing better in the world than roasted cauliflower. Also great with seared zucchini and onions, and baked tofu in place of lentils. Thanks so much for a lovely recipe.

  • April 24, 2012 at 2:00 am: COURTNEY

    First time poster here, but I am compelled to comment on this deliciousness. I mean… really DELICIOUS. $25 bowl at Cafe Gratitude be damned!

  • April 24, 2012 at 7:54 pm: lisa

    this is so amazing. i crave bowls all the time now (they are new for me). now all i need is different sauces to put on the bowls..hint hint, wink wink!!! ;)

  • May 6, 2012 at 2:35 am: Jessie Pettit

    I haven’t cooked this yet, with the exception of roasting cauliflower. SO GOOD. Thanks for turning me on to this–many more friends and family are also now roasting cauliflower, too!

  • May 22, 2012 at 10:43 pm: Tana

    Coming back to say that we made this and LOVED it. So yum. :o)

  • May 29, 2012 at 11:36 pm: Leah

    NOM! The sauce was a little bit salty, so I’ll definitely use low-sodium miso next time. I also subbed broccoli for cauliflower, because my boyfriend thinks cauliflower is “broccoli touched by death”. Will make again!

  • June 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm: Theresa

    I made this last night and it was soooo tasty–that easy and oh-so-delicious sauce really tied it all together like a charm. I’m eating leftovers for lunch right now:)

  • July 9, 2012 at 11:58 pm: Nicole Swena

    this was soooooooo good and i loved that it was sooooooo fast! the fam loved it too!

  • July 25, 2012 at 1:12 am: Renee

    This is my second time making this dish in two weeks – I think we are addicted! Thank you for such a delicious recipe that even my meat loving fiancé will eat!

  • July 25, 2012 at 8:53 am: vivzilla

    this was great. I just made it for dinner. I’m lazy so I used canned lentils and I also put a bit of gochujang (spicy korean chilli paste) in the sauce to give it a bit of a kick.

  • August 15, 2012 at 1:57 am: Becky

    You’ve managed to change my mind about miso! Thank you. Great recipe, as always. Simple enough to make but complex and impressive enough to feel proud. No matter what I’m going to make, I always check to see if you have a recipe for it first.

  • November 18, 2012 at 12:14 am: Megan

    I made this tonight and it was great! I cooked the lentils with a little lemon juice and salt added at the end.

    I used some safflower oil infused with lemongrass made for stirfying for tossing the cauliflower. It was SO good!

    I also sauteed the lentils in a little bit of oil with a chopped thai chile and a chopped yellow bell pepper, just before serving.

  • January 3, 2013 at 11:53 pm: Heather

    I´m making this for dinner this evening.. I didnt know what I wanted to make… but I bought a huge head of Cauliflower and I didnt feel like just having roasted cauliflower or the caulipots from appetite for reduction.. Thank you for having some recipes posted for other options. I cant wait to see how this turns out.. Yummmmy from Mexicoooo <3

  • January 4, 2013 at 4:19 am: Pete

    Wow the dressing was awesome I loved it I added some sriracha to make it taste extra awesome. Thanks!!

  • January 25, 2013 at 12:35 am: Caiti

    I have a recent obsession with all things miso + tahini. This recipe is so simple, yet so full of flavor and amazing.

  • February 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm: Lauren

    love this! delicious but a little steep $$ wise to make. But worth it!

  • February 7, 2013 at 4:00 am: Melissa

    Yes yes very good! I added a Serrano and cilantro to the sauce it added the perfect amount of heat thanks Isa super satisfying.

  • March 9, 2013 at 5:07 pm: squashy

    If you make this with a giant pile of sautéed baby spinach, it takes less than ten minutes! For the past year since this went up, I’ve made a single serving of that combo using really awesome canned lentils once or twice per week. There is no excuse for not eating real food when it takes 10 minutes. Singlehandedly has saved me from the malnourishment that must come from eating nothing but pancakes.

  • May 4, 2013 at 12:49 am: Resa

    Am I missing something? All the buckwheat soba noodles I’ve checked since I’ve given up gluten were a wheat/buckwheat combo; therefore not gluten-free.

    Does someone know where one can get 100% buckwheat noodles?


    • May 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm: IsaChandra

      Yep, they exist. I’ve gotten them in Asian markets and WHole Foods, but I’d just google or order them on Amazon if you can’t find em.

  • May 14, 2013 at 1:02 am: Nicole

    Just had this for dinner tonight and loved it. Super easy to make with really inexpensive ingredients. Now that I have miso on hand this will be a go-to weeknight meal for my boyfriend and I. I’m already looking forward to lunch!

  • August 24, 2013 at 11:36 pm: Robin F.

    I made this dish last night and all I have to say is WOW!!! The only minor modification I did was reduce the oil to roast the cauliflower to 1tsp versus 1 Tbsp and it still turned out perfect! The dressing was amazing and simple and the lentils gave it the bulk it needed to keep you full for the evening. This meal was not only inexpensive but it came together pretty quick. I will be making this meal again REALLY SOON!!! Another winner, Isa :)

  • August 29, 2013 at 5:13 am: Nathan

    I just wanted you to know that this is my first time making miso/tahini sauce thingy. It is amazing. I accidentally spilled some on the counter. I put as much back in the container as I could, then I used my finger to wipe up the rest and lick it off my finger. Then I seriously considered licking the counter clean instead of just wiping it down with a scrubby.

    Thank you.

    • August 29, 2013 at 3:10 pm: IsaChandra

      Haha, thanks for the smile!

  • September 6, 2013 at 12:34 am: WhoseEar Hoosier

    I bought a little blender solely for the purpose of trying this, and OH MY GOD! So happy I did. Anyone who says vegan cooking can’t be delicious needs to have this shoved in their face at once. Delicious!

  • September 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm: Robin F.

    Freakin’ AMAZING!!! I’ve been on a Cauliflower kick lately and this was definitely a winner! The dressing is so addictive that you can put it on virtually anything!!!

  • September 27, 2013 at 1:33 pm: Rebecca

    Made this last night and it was delicious! It’s perfect as is, but I want to try it again with your tahini sauce recipe from ‘garlickly kale with tahini sauce’, sorry I don’t remember which book it is in because I have them all :)

  • September 30, 2013 at 11:21 pm: Leah

    Just made this for the first time. Way Yum! Such an interesting combination. The sauce is delicious. My garlic clove was on the large size, so that flavor came through pretty strongly. But it was great. Thanks,

  • October 1, 2013 at 2:09 am: Flora

    Just made this. I admit I had my doubts, and the taupe-on-taupe-on-taupe color scheme didn’t help, but it was SCRUMPTIOUS. The simply-prepared ingredients add up to so much more than I expected.

  • November 7, 2013 at 3:04 am: Kristin Joy

    I made this tonight only with roasted broccoli instead of cauliflower (since that’s what the hubby likes). I was very surprised! It was much lighter in flavor and fare than expected but I believe that was too it’s benefit. Very tasty! And, as an added bonus, its super easy! I’m also very pleased with the variety and quantity of protein: tahini, soba noodles, and lentils. This may, perhaps, became a weeknight stable. :)

  • December 10, 2013 at 2:28 am: Mona

    I used red miso paste in this because it’s all I had in the fridge. I also used canned pinto beans because I was too lazy to boil lentils.

    This is too good not to try. And too easy not to. Thank you!

  • January 4, 2014 at 5:33 pm: ldb

    hi all, Happy New Year. I don’t like tahini, any good substitutes you all recommend for this recipe? Thanks!

  • February 12, 2014 at 3:47 pm: Arah

    We served this for friends – the very first time we cooked it – and got rave reviews. It was fantastic! The edits to the book version that you show here are helpful: I had to scramble a little to find the correct dry lentil volume & a recipe for cooking them, as the package had neither.

    Love the new book. Keep ’em coming!

  • May 21, 2014 at 7:57 pm: Anna

    This in an amazing meal!! I cooked it and it is great!!! Thank´s a lot!!!

  • July 14, 2014 at 1:57 am: Danielle

    GREAT recipe! I changed this up a lot, though, by using brown rice spinach spaghetti, adding sauteed shiitake mushrooms and kale, and then for the sauce I added grated ginger, chilli oil and sesame oil. I am an omnivore but this dish might turn me vegan!