Homemade Poke Bowls Recipe and Technique- DIY Instruction with All Sorts of Varieties

Delicious poke bowl- but needed more sauce!

A friend of mine is a caterer in the US and a while back he mentioned making poke bowls for his clients, and it was something I'd never heard of before. Then more recently on some local foodies groups, people were asking where they can get poke bowls, which rekindled my interest in them. Poke bowls, pronounced either pokay or pokeh, are a derivative of a traditional Hawaiian marinated raw fish dish called poke. Poke bowls, though, are something more recent and a bit more international, with Asian influence due to Asian workers on pineapple plantations, and then with rice added to make it more filling.

So essentially, a poke bowl is generally rice covered in raw fish and vegetables, and maybe other toppings,  placed separately on the rice, with its origins in Hawaii. This is an interesting article on the history and evolution of poke bowls.

Once I heard this, I had a bunch of questions. I know all about bibimbap, a mixed rice dish from Korea. It basically sounded the same as a poke bowl. So what actually is the difference? Add in Buddha bowls and it's even more confusing.

The answer I picked up is more or less like this. Traditional bibimbap is made overall with hot and cooked vegetable toppings and traditionally has a sunny side up egg on it. Poke bowls are generally made with raw fish and raw cold toppings (but the rice can be hot) and sometimes have fruit in them. Then Budhha bowls are vegan and don't necessarily have rice on the bottom, but can be any other grains. But once you veer from the standard ingredients and ways of making it, they do sort of morph and become somewhat interchangeable. 

You can make less traditional poke bowls without fish, using meat instead of fish, or leaving it out entirely. You can put raw or cooked fruit or cooked vegetables in your poke bowls if you want. You can put in peanuts or almonds to add a crunch. There's no official rules with poke bowls, which makes them extra fun. Your options are only as limited as your imagination. And you can make it to suit a variety of different diets.

Once I introduced poke bowls to my family, they fell in love. They asked me to make them on a regular basis for dinner. And the best thing is- they're so easy and versatile and can be made with whatever you want and is in season or you have at home that there's not to make them. Because everyone can pick whichever toppings they want, it works perfectly for picky people and for people on various diets. Even if you're low carb, you can do this without rice and just use the toppings and make a traditional poke. Vegan people can stick to vegan proteins. People with allergies just choose the topings that work for them. And I find that other than making the rice and the marinated fish, if using, it's super simple and can be made within a few minutes, no advance prep work required.

The last and final ingredient for your poke bowl is the sauce. There are many different types of sauce you can put on, from soy sauce to teriyaki to spicy mayo to sweet chili sauce to sriracha, and even more. My favorite is a combination of spicy mayo and sweet chili sauce. Or you can leave it off if you're like one of my pickier kids.

I tend to use short grain rice, which I wash first and then bake. You can make the rice as you would sushi rice (but without the vinegar) but that is more work. Or you can just use any type of rice you like, prepared any way you like. 

I've included the recipe I use for my marinated salmon, which you can serve on its own as traditional poke, or you can use it as a topping for your traditional poke bowl.

I've included all the different toppings I've included in mine, but don't feel limited by what I included- use whatever you think will taste good together! Let's put it this way- if you can possibly imagine it in sushi, or if you've ever seen it included in a sushi menu, it fits!

Homemade Poke Bowls Recipe and Technique- DIY Instruction with All Sorts of Varieties

Ingredients for Poke
2 cups chopped raw salmon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2-3 teaspoon sesame seeds
2 scallions
Base Options:
Short grain rice
Long grain rice
Brown rice
Topping Options
Marinated raw fish (above)
Cubed/sliced chicken breast
Tofu (we like sweet and sticky tofu)
Surimi mock crab or shrimp
Ground beef crumbles
Minute steak
Shelled edamame
Chopped cucumbers (made into Asian cucumber salad is also awesome)
Chopped bell peppers
Grated carrots (ideally made into sesame carrots)
Bean sprouts
Chopped cabbage
Chopped fennel
Cooked or raw broccoli
Sweet potato chunks (cooked)
Canned or fresh pineapple chunks
Sesame seeds
Sauce Options
Gluten free soy sauce
Sweet chili sauce
Sweet and sour sauce
Terriyaki sauce
Toasted sesame oil
Spicy mayonnaise (I mix mayonnaise with sriracha, sweetener and soy sauce)
Wasabi mayonnaise 
Ponzu sauce (I've never had it but this is what they offer at poke restaurants)
Hoisin sauce (watered down)


1. If using marinated fish, chop the ingredients and marinate for an hour.

2. Put rice (hot or cold) on the bottom of a bowl.

3. Chop or grate your toppings into small pieces that will be easy to eat with a spoon.

4. Put on the toppings individually, so they're each portioned separately in separate parts of the bowl. If you can make it pretty and avoid putting similar colors together, even better.

5. Sprinkle on the sauces. You might want to be generous here.

Dig in and enjoy!

Have you ever had poke bowls before? If so, what toppings were on yours? What are your favorite poke bowl toppings? What is your favorite poke bowl sauce? If you've never had poke before, does this look like something you'd want to try? What toppings do you think you'd use?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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