This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Healthful, flavor-packed grain bowl with short grain brown rice, quick pickled carrots and a sweet & salty walnut-miso dressing.
Ever since my first bite of an authentic banh mi — the Vietnamese sandwich stuffed with pickled vegetables, chilies, cucumber, pâté and fresh herbs on French bread —OMG.
I was instantly hooked!
All those things together create what I can only describe as an umami-bomb of taste and texture. I love it!
When I set out to create a healthy main dish salad inspired by the flavor-amped components of a banh mi sandwich, I decided to keep it fresh and simple.
I think of this bowl as a sister to Summer Roll Noodle Bowl, my other favorite salad these days.
It’s a riff on the classic Southern Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, with layers of crunchy vegetables, aromatic herbs, brown rice and a craveable sweet/spicy/salty dressing tying it all together.
Walnuts are the secret ingredient that brings this tasty (and rather irresistible) salad to life.
Because they already have a delectable sweet-and-salty thing going on, glazed walnuts are the perfect base for the dressing.
Combined with miso, spicy sriracha and other seasonings, the sweet glazed nuts make a smooth and super-delish dressing that practically sings with flavor.
Nutrition in walnuts:
You probably already know that nuts are really good for you (important when you’re stocking a basic healthy pantry), boasting all kinds of healthy benefits, but here’s a short list of what walnuts have going for them:
- High in protein and calcium
- Naturally low in sugar
The walnuts also make the best garnish, crumbled on top of the salad as a final flourish, bringing a delectable crunch that keeps you coming back for another taste.
So — are you excited about making a beyond-ordinary salad for upcoming get-togethers?
I promise this easy salad will make you and everyone around the table very happy.
How to make rice banh mi bowl
Putting the salad together is pretty straightforward, really a matter of whipping up the dressing and assembling the rest of the components.
Starting with the base of the salad, I chose a wholesome short grain brown rice. It has a nutty earthy flavor and a slightly sticky texture I really like.
Plus, brown rice is great to make in batches ahead of time, and just needs a brief reheating to serve.
But if you’re in more of a quinoa or rice noodle mood, please try it! Just use an equal amount (about 1 cup per serving) of whatever you go with.
Pickling the carrots is an extra step, but so totally worth it for the added tangy crunch and sweetness it adds to the bowl.
The pickle brine is simply a mixture of water, sugar and salt. All you have to do is plunk the raw carrots into it and let time (about 1 hour) works its magic.
Next step, blend the walnut-miso dressing using a mini-food processor or blender to achieve a smooth, emulsified dressing.
The dressing keeps well for up to a week, so think about doubling the recipe and using it on everything 😉
Sweet and Spicy Banh Mi Rice Bowl
Quick Pickled Carrots
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ cup (60 g) granulated cane sugar
- ¾ cup (185 ml) apple cider vinegar or plain white vinegar
- ¼ cup (60 ml) cold water
- 3 (225 g) large carrots, peeled and sliced into 3″ long matchsticks
Walnut Miso Salad Dressing
- 3 tablespoons (22 g) glazed walnuts (or plain walnuts)
- 2 tablespoons (12 g) grated fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon (15 g) white miso
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) neutral vegetable oil
- Fresh grated zest and juice from 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) apple cider or rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
- 1 teaspoon honey, or agave nectar or coconut sugar for vegan
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste
- 1 (200 g) European seedless cucumber, sliced into ribbons (use a swivel peeler)
- Pickled Carrots, drain and save the liquid for another batch of pickles
- 4 cups (120 g) baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup (40 g) each, loosely packed mint and basil leaves
- 2 green onions, white and light green parts sliced thin
- 4 cups (800 g) cooked short grain brown or white rice, warm or at room temperature
- 1 pitted and peeled avocado, sliced
- ½ cup (50 g) salad sprouts, any variety
- 3 tablespoons (22 g) glazed walnuts (or plain walnuts), crumbled
Prepare the carrots
- Whisk the salt, sugar, vinegar and water in a bowl or large glass jar until clear. Add the carrots and let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour (you can make up to 3 weeks ahead, covered and refrigerated).
Make the dressing
- Put all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
Assemble the salad
- Toss the cucumber, carrots. spinach, mint, basil and green onions in a large serving bowl or individual bowls. Top with the rice. Arrange the avocado and sprouts on the rice and drizzle with dressing. Toss gently to combine. Sprinkle the Glazed Walnuts on top and enjoy!
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- TIP: To save time, make the Pickled Carrots up to 3 weeks ahead. Save the brine in the refrigerator to pickle another batch of carrots or radishes. You can also skip that part of the recipe — just added thin sliced carrots to the salad instead.
- If you’re using precooked brown rice, place it in a microwave-safe bowl, cover and heat for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on high.
This recipe is sponsored by Emerald® Nuts. All thoughts and opinions are my own.