Poke bowls can be a healthy splurge when we order takeout. You might not order them every time you order, but, when you do, you feel really great about the decision.
Poke bowls consist of diced protein mixed with vegetables and fruits and served with an umami-based sauce (usually on top of rice). Poke bowls are healthy, travel well, and are delicious. You can make poke bowls at home or continue to order takeout.
But there are some downfalls to ordering poke bowls.
They can get really expensive (especially here in Vermont where fresh seafood isn’t cheap!)
They’re not necessarily designed for the picky young palates you are feeding at home. So, why would you want to spend money on something that your kids might not eat?
I can show you how to make poke bowls at home. DIY poke bowls are 100% customizable. You (or your kids) are in control of every ingredient. Additionally, your kids can get in on the prep fun, too. This is a really fun dish that the whole family can make together.
In this post, you’ll find information on the basic ingredients of a poke bowl, some delicious recipes, and then a few tips to get you started.
What goes into a poke bowl?
Your local grocery store likely carries everything you need to make a delicious poke bowl. There is no need to be afraid of handling or buying raw fish. Sometimes, you don’t even need the fish and can find a delicious assortment of other ingredients.
Pick your protein
Sushi Grade Ahi Tuna
Always buy sushi-grade when buying raw fish that will be consumed raw. Ahi tuna is high in protein, healthy fats (omega-3), and magnesium. Don’t be afraid to ask your fish department about handling and storing raw fish. Buying previously frozen tuna will eliminate the chance of harmful parasites in your fish. If consuming raw fish at home still freaks you out a little, you can always sear the tuna first. Local buying options: City Market, Healthy Living, Vermont Meat and Seafood.
Smoked salmon is easier to come by in your standard grocery store and has a longer shelf life. Check in the fish department to find thin slices (i.e. lox) or packed salmon trimmings. Try to go with wild-caught instead of farm-raised, if possible. Wild salmon has more calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium from feeding on a natural diet. It also has fewer calories and about half the fat content, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Again, try to go with wild-caught shrimp. However, some farmed shrimp are higher in omega 3s and other nutrients due to their feeding practices. Check for certifications that certify the fisheries are sustainable and well-managed. Go ahead and buy frozen, most shrimp that are found in the fish counter have already been frozen and thawed.
Mushrooms are a great, meaty substitute if fish isn’t your thing. They are high in fiber, protein, and vitamin B. You can roast them or sear them, even serve them raw, but my favorite is the pickled mushroom recipe that I’ll share below.
Other protein options
You don’t need to limit yourself to the options above. You can also use other protein options like cooked marinated chicken, seared or raw tofu, or even grilled beef tips. You could get really creative and use last night’s leftovers. Any protein can work in a poke bowl. Remember, you’re in charge when you’re making them at home.
Pick your base
There are a lot of options here. If none of them suit you, you can easily go without and just increase your vegetables. My favorite bases are white rice, coconut jasmine rice, brown rice (high fiber), cauliflower rice (low carb), and quinoa (gluten-free).
Pick your fruit and vegetables
A really great thing about poke bowls is that they can be made in less than 15 minutes (due to little or no cooking). If you do want to put in a little extra effort, you can do some really fun things with your vegetables to add some extra flavor.
Pickled Vegetables – Pickling doesn’t always mean cucumbers and it doesn’t always mean canning or having veggies sitting in vinegar for weeks until they’re ready. Some of my favorite vegetables to “quick pickle” for poke bowls are jalapenos, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and red onions.
Fresh Fruit – Poke bowls are a great summer meal option and they are even better when you can add fresh fruit in a variety of ways. Some great fruit options that I love are mango, watermelon, pineapple, strawberries, and oranges.
Fresh Vegetables – The options are endless. You can go with standard items like carrots and radishes (I recommend slicing them into thin strips for easy eating), cucumbers, edamame, avocado, sprouts, etc. Whatever you like, you can add!
Pick your toppings
Adding Crunch – A variety of textures make a poke bowl delicious. Some ideas for crunch include seaweed sheets (the little snack packages you find in a grocery store), cashews, sesame seeds, crushed wasabi peas, fried garlic, and toasted panko.
Sauces – Soy-based and vinegar sauces are popular choices for poke bowls. So are spicy mayos. Sometimes you can work with things straight out of the bottle if you are crunched for time. Soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, and fresh-squeezed citrus will top off your bowls well. If you have time to make sauces, three really great options are honey soy glaze, spicy mayo, and ponzu (recipes below).
Prep ahead recipes
Note: all recipes are written for approximately 4 servings, unless otherwise noted.
1 pound 16/20 wild-caught shrimp (tail on, cleaned, and thawed)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, sliced thin
1 cup ginger juice (or ½ cup lime juice + ½ cup rice wine vinegar)
¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
- Bring a pot of water to a boil. Carefully drop the shrimp into the pot and cook for 2 minutes or until no longer translucent and white/pink in color.
- While the shrimp is cooking, prepare a bowl full of ice and water (an ice bath).
- Remove the shrimp from the pot of water and immediately drop into the ice bath to chill.
- Once shrimp have cooled (no longer than a few minutes) remove from the ice bath.
- In an air-tight container, mix together the ginger juice, honey, and salt. Place the shrimp and ginger slices in the mixture and seal closed, making sure that the shrimp is completely submerged in the pickling liquid.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Remove the shrimp from the pickling liquid and serve. Shrimp can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 day in the pickling liquid.
2 cups dried shitake mushrooms, stems removed (you can find these at Costco or an Asian market)
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sherry vinegar
⅓ cup sugar
1” piece of fresh ginger, sliced into thin ⅛” coins
- Bring a pot of water to a simmer and drop the mushrooms carefully into the water. Stirring occasionally, let the mushrooms simmer for about 15-20 minutes until they are soft and chewable.
- Strain the mushrooms into another bowl and reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water. In the same pot that was used to cook the mushrooms combine the cooking water, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and ginger. Stir so the sugar dissolves.
- Once the mushrooms are cool enough to handle, slice into ¼” slices. Drop the mushrooms into the pickling liquid. Let the mushrooms and liquid simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and bring to room temperature.
- Remove the mushrooms and place them into a storage container, like a large mason jar. Pour enough of the pickling liquid to cover the mushrooms in the jar.
- Cover the jar and refrigerate. It is best that they sit for at least 12 hours. Mushrooms are best served chilled and can be stored for up to two weeks.
8 jalapeno peppers, sliced thin (remove the seeds if you don’t like them too hot, suggested size is ⅛-¼” thick)
1 ½ cup seasoned rice vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
2 lemons, juiced
4 limes, juiced
Pinch of salt
- Place the sliced jalapenos into a pint-sized canning jar.
- Add the vinegar and sugar to a small saucepot. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.
- Add the citrus juices and salt. Stir to combine.
- Pour over the peppers so that they are completely submerged.
- Allow the jar to cool completely and then place it in the refrigerator. Let the peppers pickle for at least 24 hours. They can be stored for up to 1 week.
Mango Pineapple Salsa
1 cup mango, ¼” diced
1 cup pineapple, ¼” diced
½ cup red onion, ¼” diced
½ cup red bell pepper, ¼” diced
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
1 tsp sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
- Serve immediately or can be stored for up to two days.
Spicy Avocado Mayo
1 cup avocado mayonnaise (substitute any mayonnaise that you like)
¼ cup sriracha sauce
1 lime, juiced
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.
- Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container or squeeze bottle. Can be stored for the shelf life of the mayonnaise (about 1-2 months).
Honey Soy Glaze
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup honey
1 cup brown sugar
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepot. Bring to a simmer and stir gently.
- Once the liquid bubbles, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Pour into a storage container. Can be stored for up to 6 months.
½ cup soy sauce
¼ rice vinegar
¼ cup citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange, yuzu – use one or combine)
- Mix all ingredients together and strain any seeds.
- Use immediately or can be stored for up to 5 days.
Kimchi Cucumber Salad
2-3 large cucumbers (English) or 5-6 small cucumbers (Kirby, pickling, seedless)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Korean chili powder or chipotle powder
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 green onions, white and green part, sliced thin
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
¼ cup yellow or white onions, halved and sliced thin
¼ cup carrots, peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
- Slice the cucumbers into ¼” discs. Toss with the salt in a bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- While the cucumbers are sitting, combine the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and soy sauce in a medium bowl.
- Drain the cucumbers and add to the medium bowl. Add the carrots and onions.
- Toss well and let sit for about 15 minutes before serving. Can be held in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Smoked “Salmon” / Carrots
2 cups coarse sea salt
2-3 large carrots, unpeeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a shallow baking pan, sprinkle salt so that it covers the bottom of the pan. Place the unpeeled carrots on top of the salt and pour the remaining salt over them so that they are completely covered.
- Roast in the oven for about 90 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let cool long enough so that you can handle the carrots. Remove the carrots and scrape off any salt.
- Peel the carrots (it’s ok if some of the skin remains).
- Slice the carrots into thin slices.
- Prepare the marinade by mixing the oil, liquid smoke, and vinegar.
- Put the carrots in an airtight container and pour the liquid over the carrots.
- Allow the carrots to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 days. Shake a few times a day to keep the carrots covered in liquid.
I want to avoid a hard-written recipe here because this is the fun part. Take my information and recipes and learn to make poke bowls at home.
Below are some basic tips to get you started.
- Large, shallow bowls work best for building individual poke bowls. You have more room for all of your toppings and mixing and matching flavors within the bowl.
- Your base (rice, cauliflower rice, quinoa, etc.) can (and should) be cooked ahead of time. It doesn’t need to be hot or warm to eat. You can cook it and cover it with plastic wrap and then set it aside until you are ready to eat.
- Lay out all of your chosen proteins and toppings on the counter for easy choosing and building.
- Start by putting your base option in the bottom of the bowl. I like to use about ½ to 1 cup.
- Add your toppings as you please. I like to divide up each topping to cover the rice kind of like a pie chart. Then you can add sauce to particular items or you can drizzle over everything. Another option is to just pile everything on top and mix it all together.
- Serve with chopsticks or a fork – whichever you prefer.
Notes and tips
- Be mindful when handling raw seafood. Wash your hands before and after handling. I recommend using a plastic cutting board (different from the one used to prepare vegetables, etc.) for fish handling.
- Fish should be consumed the same day of purchase. Raw or undercooked seafood should not be kept for leftovers. Cooked shrimp will be safe to eat for 2-3 days.
- Raw fish should not have a “fishy” smell. It should smell fresh and “like seawater”. If in doubt, do not use. Again, don’t be afraid to talk to your fish market about handling and storing the fish. They know best and love to share their knowledge.
- Pregnant and nursing women should consult with their physicians before consuming raw fish.
- Children under the age of 6 should not consume raw fish and parents should also consult with their physician before consuming. Cooked shrimp and cooked fish are typically OK to consume after 6 months of age (in small amounts).
- Be mindful of friends and family members with seafood and shellfish allergies. Some of these recipes, while not highlighting seafood, have fish sauce as an ingredient.
If you decide to make poke bowls at home, let us know! We would love to know what you think.
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