Make family dinner at home simple with these healthy, home-cooked DIY Bowls! No more asking yourself what to cook for dinner after a long day.
This recipe is brought to you in partnership with Mizkan.
Many of us have been facing a new level of unpredictability this year. For those of us who have kids, it’s hard to keep up with the hustle and bustle of at-home school while preparing a home-cooked dinner that everyone will enjoy. So, I’ve set out to instill some control with Japanese-Style Meal Prep. This meal prepping strategy has saved my life and been incredibly helpful, so I can’t wait to share my tips and tricks with you!
Why Japanese-Style Meal Prep?
Meal prepping is the process of making food in advance and packing it into containers. When you meal prep, you set yourself up for an easier week ahead.
The Japanese-Style Meal Prep, or Tsukurioki (作り置き) or Jobisai (常備菜) as we call it, is slightly different from the typical meal prep; you still prep/cook ahead of time, but you keep each ingredient and dish in separate containers.
For dinner later that week, you can pick and choose from the made-ahead dishes and put them together into a meal! That’s where my DIY Bowls come in. All you need to do is to assemble your own DIY bowls with the ingredients you have already prepared. The best part about it? Your kids can pitch in by adding toppings to their own meals. It’s a customizable experience the whole family will love.
Why You’ll Love Meal Prep DIY Bowls
- Construct your bowl based on what you feel like eating that day.
- Great for students/working professionals who don’t want to cook after a long day at school/work, even if virtual.
- Ideal for family members with different dietary needs.
- Making a different bowl every day is refreshing and fun. Nobody needs to eat the same food every day.
- Keep the seasonings on the food simple and minimal, so you can enjoy different sauces to go with the food.
- No more “What should I cook for dinner?”
Up Your DIY Bowl Game with These Sauces
Because we keep the components of the bowl as simple as possible, you’ll want to have several sauces to elevate your meal.
Today I’ll share three of my favorite sauces: Sweet and Tangy Scallion Soy Sauce, Ponzu Sesame Sauce, and Mizkan Sesame Dipping Sauce.
Whenever I make vinegar-based sauces for Japanese dishes, I exclusively use Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar and Mizkan Ponzu Citrus Seasoned Soy Sauce. Using Mizkan Vinegars and Sauces while cooking at home is a simple way to integrate Japanese tradition, culture, and flavor into any family mealtime. Genuinely crafted with real organic ingredients, the rice vinegar has a mild tang, refreshing aroma, the right amount of acidity, and it does not overpower the dish. It is the perfect accent to any meal and makes it easy to create authentic recipes at home.
If you wish to replicate the uniquely delicious flavor of Japanese cooking, I cannot emphasize the importance of getting quality rice vinegar. It is one of the 6 must-have Japanese condiments after all! Whether you’re looking to bring the favor of Japan to your table with a modern recipe, like this Meal Prep DIY Bowl, or try your hand at a more traditional meal, I always recommend Mizkan.
How to Meal Prep DIY Bowls
Step 1: Choose Your Customizable Foods
① PICK CARBS (Base)
What I made:
- Brown Rice
- Leafy Greens [no-carb]
- Udon noodles
- White Rice
- Cauliflower rice [low carb]
- Soba Noodles
- Sweet potatoes
- Wild rice
Tip: Carbs go at the bottom of the bowl. If you’re not sure, start with rice or something you’re comfortable making with your eyes closed.
② PICK PROTEINS (Topping 1)
What I Made:
Tip: The protein is easily swappable.
③ PICK VEGETABLES & MUSHROOMS (Topping 2)
What I Made:
- Butternut squash [cooked] – cubes, roasted
- Carrot [raw/cooked] – julienned or rounds, blanched/sauteed/roasted
- Japanese Sweet Potatoes – boiled/roasted
- Tomatoes/Cherry tomatoes [raw] – wedges
- (Watermelon) radish [raw] – thinly-sliced
- Beets [cooked] – sliced, boiled/roasted
- Bell pepper [raw/cooked] – thin strips, roasted/stir-fried
- Corn [cooked] – boiled/roasted
- Kabocha squash [cooked] – thin slices, pan-fried/roasted
What I Made:
- Broccoli florette [raw/cooked] – blanched/roasted/stir-fried
- Cucumber [raw] – thinly sliced
- Edamame [cooked] – shucked
- Green beans [cooked] – blanched, roasted/sauteed
- Leafy greens [raw] – shredded/hand-torn
- Snap/snow peas [raw/cooked] – blanched/sauteed/stir-fried
- Asparagus [cooked] – sliced, roasted/sauteed/stir-fried
- Avocado [raw] – cubed/sliced
- (Baby) spinach [raw/cooked] – cut, blanched/sauteed/stir-fried
- Bell pepper [raw/cooked] – thin strips, roasted/stir-fried
- Bok choy [raw/cooked] – halved/quartered, blanched/stir-fried
- Broccolini [cooked] – stir-fried/roasted
- Brussel sprout [cooked] – stir-fried/roasted
- Cabbage (red, regular, napa) [raw/cooked] – shredded, stir-fried
- Chard [cooked] – stir-fried/roasted
- Cilantro – destemmed
- Green onion – sliced
- Kale [raw/cooked] – chopped, roasted/sauteed
- Microgreens [raw] – hand-torn
- Zucchini [cooked] – thin strips, roasted/pan-fried
What I Made:
- Bean sprout [cooked] – blanched/sauteed
- Mushrooms (button, cremini, enoki, king oyster, portobello, shiitake, shimeji) [raw/cooked] – sliced, roasted/sauteed
Tip: This is where you get to play with colors. The key is to balance the colors and textures so you won’t end up with mostly one color/texture.
④ PICK SAUCE (Topping 3)
What I Made/Used:
- Mizkan Sesame Dipping Sauce – great for vegetables
- Ponzu Sesame Sauce (recipe below) – great for vegetables
- Sweet and Tangy Scallion Soy Sauce (recipe below) – great for proteins
- All-purpose Miso Sauce – great for proteins
- Leek and Miso Sauce (Negi Miso) – great for proteins
- Sambal oelek, sriracha sauce, or any chili sauce – for spicing up
- Tartar Sauce – great for seafood or veggies
Tip: Don’t dress up your bowls with sauce yet! Make sure to store the sauce separately until you’re ready to eat!
⑤ PICK GARNISH (Topping 4)
What I Used:
- Roasted sesame seeds
- Furikake rice seasonings
- Green onions (chopped)
- Nori seaweed
- Pickles (Tsukemono)
Tip: Keep it simple!
Step 2: Start Meal Prepping!
① Prep (Wash, Cut, and Marinate)
- Preheat the oven (for the next step).
- Marinate the proteins.
- Wash and cut all the vegetables.
② Bake #1 (shorter cooking time) + Blanch
- Start baking food that takes a shorter cooking time (10-15 minutes)
- Meanwhile, blanch any vegetables that require cooking.
③ Bake #2 (longer cooking time) + Pan Fry
- Start baking food that takes a longer cooking time (30-45 minutes).
- Meanwhile, pan-fry vegetables and proteins that require cooking.
④ Bake #3 (if any) + Make Sauce
- If you have more food to bake, do so.
- Meanwhile, make/prepare the sauce.
⑤ Pack each dish into containers
- Start packing the food once it’s cool.
- Label and refrigerate.
Step 3: Create Your Own Bowls
- ① Leafy greens [no carb]
- ② Ramen egg
- ③ Julienned carrot, roasted butternut squash, roasted Japanese sweet potato, tomatoes, snap pea
- ④ Roasted sesame seeds
- ⑤ Mizkan Sesame Dipping Sauce
- ① White rice
- ② Pan-fried chicken
- ③ Leafy greens, sliced cucumber, tomatoes, Spicy Bean Sprout Salad, roasted butternut squash
- ④ No garnish
- ⑤ Sweet and Tangy Scallion Soy Sauce
As you can see, these DIY Bowls are filled with wholesome, nutrient-rich foods, and I no longer have to stress over what to make my family for dinner.
I hope you have found these tips helpful and enjoy incorporating Japanese meal prepping into your own meal-prep strategy. Any questions or feedback? Leave me your note in the comment box below!
Japanese Ingredient Substitution: If you want to look for substitutes for Japanese condiments and ingredients, click here.
Meal Prep DIY Bowls
⭑ Sweet & Tangy Scallion Soy Sauce
⭑ Ponzu Sesame Sauce
✻ Baked Salmon
- 1.5 lb salmon
- 1 Tbsp sake
- 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- freshly ground black pepper
✻ Baked Tofu
- 16 oz extra-firm tofu
- 2 Tbsp potato starch/cornstarch (for coating)
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
✻ Pan-Fried Chicken
✿ For DIY Bowls
- carb of your choice (Please see the blog post)
- veggies/mushrooms of your choice (Please see the blog post)
- sauce of your choice (Please see the blog post)
- garnish of your choice (Please see the blog post)
① PREP (WASH, CUT, and MARINATE)
- Veggies/Mushrooms: Rinse and cut vegetables to appropriate sizes. Clean and cut the mushrooms. This julienne peeler is helpful to save time julienning carrot and peeling cucumbers.
- Salmon: Prepare the salmon by cutting into individual pieces and drizzle sake to remove unwanted odor.
- Tofu: Wrap the tofu with a paper towel and press tofu with a heavy object on top.
- Chicken: In a large bowl, put in the chicken marinade ingredients (except for potato/cornstarch and oil). Add the chicken and marinate until you're ready to cook (at least 30 minutes).
② BAKE #1 (A SHORTER COOKING TIME) + BLANCH
- Salmon: Prepare a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. Drizzle olive oil over the salmon and season it with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 ºF (218 ºC) for 12-15 minutes.
- Veggies: Boil water in a large pot and boil the veggies until tender (2-4 mins).
③ BAKE #2 (A LONGER COOKING TIME) + PAN FRY
- Tofu: Cut the tofu into small cubes.
- Prepare potato/cornstarch and oil in each bowl. Dredge the tofu cubes, shake off excess starch, and coat with the oil.
- Prepare a baking sheet lined with a parchment paper. Place the tofu and bake at 425 ºF (218 ºC) for 25-30 minutes.
- Chicken: Coat the marinated chicken with corn starch and shake off any excess.
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat (or medium heat on the professional stove). Pan fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes on each side until crisp and golden on the outside and cooked through on the inside. Don't flip until one side is done. Drain off excess oil on a paper towel.
④ BAKE #3 (IF ANY) + MAKE SAUCES
- Veggies: Coat the vegetables of your choice with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 ºF (218 ºC) for approx. 15-20 minutes (cooking time varies depending on the vegetables).
- Ponzu Sesame Sauce: Combine all the ingredients in a mason jar.
- Sweet & Tangy Scallion Soy Sauce: Slice the green onions. Remove and discard seeds from the red chili pepper and cut into small rounds.
- Heat sesame oil and chili pepper in a small pot. When the oil is hot, add green onions and saute.
- Add the sugar, rice vinegar, and sake.
- Add the soy sauce and bring it to simmer to let the alcohol evaporate. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- You can save the sauces in mason jars.
⑤ PACK INTO CONTAINERS
- Pack each ingredient and dish in separate containers.
⑥ MAKE DIY BOWLS
- Make bowls based on the eater's preference and drizzle sauce of choice.