Categories: Camping RecipesLunch

A Vanlifer’s Cookbook Camping Recipe: Vegan Buddha Bowls with Spicy Goddess Dressing

When I was a weekend warrior, I’d eat all kinds of fast food during those quick road trips—burgers, sandwiches, burritos—until Monday morning when my gut was positively craving fresh greens. Once I started living on the road full-time, I realized I had to start making camp food that was sustainable for me and my partner to eat, day in and day out. Cue Buddha bowls, which look like they belong at an NYC café but are a cinch to prep without much cooking. This recipe is designed for those rest days when you’re in town to raid the produce aisle or browse local farmstands. I like to pick something in every color—green, purple, red, yellow, and orange—so it’s a feast as much for your eyes as for your belly. And best of all, this meal can stretch for days: just cook a bigger pot of grains, chop up more fresh veggies, and repeat.

Servings: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Vanlifers and roadtrippers, take note: For the dressing in this recipe, you’ll need a hand blender (Target has one for $19.99) and electricity, but if you’re on the road long enough to be eating salad, those two essential items will level up your van cooking! Instead of filling your precious cooler space with store-bought sauces that never seem to get finished, you can make exactly as much as you want for one recipe. Plus, it’s so much more fresh.

Photo by Connie Shang


For the bowl:

  • 1 cup dry grains (or ~3 cups cooked) (I like this quinoa, jasmine rice, and chickpea blend from Whole Foods that cooks in 10 minutes)
  • Vegetable stock
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cups kale, de-stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
  • large avocados, sliced
  • 8 oz multicolor grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup baked chickpeas (You can find Biena sea salt chickpeas at Whole Foods)
  • Hemp seeds, for garnish

For the dressing:

  • 3 tomatillos, hulled
  • 1 jalapeño, de-seeded and coarsely chopped
  • ½ large avocado
  • 1 heaping cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ tsp salt, to taste
Photo by Connie Shang
Photo by Connie Shang


  1. Cook grains with vegetable stock and a generous drizzle of olive oil according to package directions, along with both cloves of garlic from the dressing recipe. You’ll use the cooked garlic for the dressing later.
  2. While grains and garlic are cooking, prepare the bowl ingredients. Slice kale, cabbage, and tomatoes, saving the avocados for the very end.
  3. Prepare the dressing ingredients, except the tomatillos. Chop jalapeño, cilantro, and the remaining avocado half, then combine with lime juice and salt in a tall cup container. (Save those leftover Thai curry takeout containers—they work great as blending cups!
  4. Once they’re tender, portion the grains out into bowls, reserving the cooked garlic for the dressing. Using the same pot, bring 2 cups of water and tomatillos to a boil. Cook on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until the tomatillos are soft and bursting to the touch.
  5. Smash the cooked tomatillos and garlic into the tall container with the hand blender and blend the dressing for 30 seconds until smooth. Hand blending tip: Make sure the holes at the tip of the blender attachment are fully immersed in liquid, or you will get dressing on your face.
  6. Portion out the bowl ingredients. Slice avocados directly into bowls. Top with chickpeas and a sprinkle of hemp seeds. Enjoy!

For a little something extra: The recipe gets its protein from quinoa and hemp seeds, but I also love topping these bowls with a fried egg or some crispy tofu!

Photo by Connie Shang

Connie is a hungry rock climber, tech risk product manager, former private chef, and youth coach who is currently remote working around North America.

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