Nutty barley tossed in a zippy green tahini sauce, lemony sumac-roasted cauliflower combined with shrimp, and pops of crunchy pine nuts are the makings of our Green Tahini Shrimp Bowls – our new favorite way to do healthy. Make everything and serve the day of or pack it up and keep in the fridge to serve thought the week.
Tahini Shrimp Bowls
I find serious satisfaction when I peruse my pantry and despite the bare contents, find a way to come up with a delicious and nutritious meal. Thus was the case with our Tahini Shrimp Bowls. These healthy little bowls are packed with so many delicious little nuggets, it’s hard to pinpoint my favorite part about them. At first bite, it’s the zippy green tahini sauce packed with cilantro, a hint of jalapeño, and plenty of garlic. But then you dig in and taste the caramelized pieces of cauliflower and think maybe the combination of those two items is the star. However, upon further investigation we get into sweet, plump shrimp dusted with smoky sumac, little bits of texture from pine nuts, and chewy barley tossed in the green tahini. In short, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts.
The idea for these is actually derived from our favorite roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce, we’ve simply added in a protein and some grains to make it a more well-balanced, filling meal.
Of course I realize not everyone considers tahini, barley, and some of these other ingredients “pantry” items and I don’t either, but as a food blogger, these are items I often have on hand. If you’re not a food blogger, these are items you can easily (and inexpensively) pick up at the grocery store. And I highly suggest you do.
I prefer these shrimp bowls to be served right away, but they’re easily something you can prep ahead of time to pull out throughout the week for lunches or dinner. They’re even lovely served cold.
Oh, and that tahini sauce?? Perfect for crudités, grilled chicken, salads, and everything in between.
Ingredients Green Tahini
Tahini. I’m slightly obsessed with tahini. I use it in salads, simple dressings, and in marinades and sauces for various chicken and Mediterranean dishes. It’s even a hidden ingredient in our Dan Dan Noodles. Tahini is a ground toasted sesame paste, and on its own is quite bitter, but when you dress it up with various acids and other ingredients it becomes rich, nutty and delicious. It’s also a key ingredient in most hummus recipes, so the taste should be familiar to you even if you think you haven’t had it. It can be pretty pricey depending on where you go, but I find Trader Joe’s brand to be very affordable.
Jalapeno. We love a little spice in our green tahini, but it’s not necessary if you want to keep the sauce mild. Use a portion of the jalapeño or the whole thing for a heavier spice level.
Cilantro. I know some people have a tumultuous relationship with cilantro, but it’s a key ingredient here and I wouldn’t recommend leaving it out. With all the other ingredients, it doesn’t overpower the sauce, I promise. You’ll need a whole cup.
Garlic. One medium-sized garlic clove is all you’ll need.
Lime juice. You could use any citrus here – lemon or lime. I had limes on hand, so that’s what I went with.
Olive oil. I like to add in a little bit of olive oil to add some luxuriousness to the sauce, but if you want to save some fat and calories, you can use water instead.
Water. You will need a little bit of water to thin out the sauce. Use what’s stated in recipe, and if you would like the sauce to be a little bit looser, you can add more.
Salt and pepper. As always, you want to season with plenty of salt and pepper. Don’t be shy!
What you’ll need for the shrimp bowls
Shrimp. I like to use frozen Argentinean shrimp. They’re super plump, sweet and similar in texture to lobster. If you can’t find it, no big deal, just use large or jumbo shrimp. I also always try to buy shrimp that have already been peeled and deveined to save time on meal prep. It’s a little bit more expensive, but worth it in my opinion.
Cauliflower. The combination of cauliflower and tahini is a no brainer. When the cauliflower is roasted at a high temperature it gets super caramelized and brown, taking on an almost nutty flavor which compliments the tahini wonderfully. You’ll need one medium head. Also, a little trick I learned from Cookie and Kate, make sure to cut your cauliflower so you have a flat surface instead of a rounded floret. This is going to help the cauliflower caramelize in the oven.
Olive oil. While we don’t drown the cauliflower in olive oil, you also don’t want to be shy. Use enough olive oil to coat it nicely.
Spices. After we toss the shrimp and cauliflower in olive oil, we toss the shrimp and cauliflower in a mixture of smoked paprika and sumac. Since sumac isn’t a super common ingredient, we’ll dig into it a little bit. It’s made from a berry found primarily in the Mediterranean and has a very prominent lemon flavor. It’s a common ingredient in z’atar seasoning, so if you can’t find it, you can use that in place of it. I love it because you can add pretty powerful lemon flavor without adding lemon juice. In addition to the sumac, we pair it with smoked paprika to coat the shrimp and cauliflower.
Barley. You could really use any grain, but we love the nutty, chewy texture of barley. Quinoa, Israeli couscous, or farro would also be a great option.
Let’s make Tahini Shrimp Bowls.
Roast the cauliflower. I like to throw everything on the same pan, so make sure you have pan large enough to fit everything comfortably. You don’t want any of the shrimp or cauliflower to be touching so if you have to use two pans, please do. I start by tossing the cauliflower with olive oil, followed by the salt, pepper, sumac and paprika. Because the cauliflower will take longer to cook than the shrimp, it goes in first.
While the cauliflower is in the oven, pat the shrimp dry and toss with the remaining olive oil, sumac, and paprika. After 15 minutes or so in the oven, pull the pan out, slide the cauliflower over and nestle the shrimp on the pan.
Make the tahini. Throw everything in the blender. Blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. That’s it!
Toss. Once the barley is cooked, toss with a little bit of the tahini sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon some of the cauliflower and shrimp on top. Drizzle with plenty of green tahini sauce and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and extra cilantro.
Can I meal prep shrimp bowls?
Yes. As we mentioned before, you can definitely make these shrimp bowls ahead of time to eat through the week. Here’s what I do:
- Roast the cauliflower and shrimp. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
- Make the barley. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
- Make the green tahini. Store in an airtight container.
- Toast the pine nuts and store in a container or plastic baggie.
- When you’re ready to eat, take a little barley and toss with the green tahini. Top with shrimp and cauliflower. Drizzle with green tahini. Sprinkle with pine nuts.
- You can also portion out individual servings and store the green tahini in a little container to serve when you’re ready.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Don’t overcook your barley. You want it to be chewy with plenty of texture and not soft.
- Swap out barley for cooked quinoa, farro or brown rice.
- If you don’t like spice, leave out the jalapeño.
- Roast the jalapeño for a smokier, milder flavor.
- Swap out the shrimp for chicken or salmon.
- You can use lemon juice in place of lime juice.
- Don’t overcook the shrimp. They should only need about five minutes in the oven.
Other healthy meals you can prep ahead of time
- Make the dressing, roast the potatoes, and prep the greens ahead o time or this super flavorful Warm Quinoa Salad. One of our favorites!
- This Crispy Salmon with Pesto and Cauliflower is so good, and only requires five ingredients!
- Another great make-ahead salad option that double up as an entree is our Chicken Larb Salad. All the classic flavors of chicken larb on top of lettuce with a zippy vinaigrette.
- 1 cup cooked barley, farro, quinoa or brown rice
- 1 medium head cauiflower, cut into medium florets (see notes)
- 3 tbsp + 2tsp olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 tbsp sumac, divided
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, divide
- 1/4 tsp black pepper, divided
- 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/8 cup + 1 tbsp water
- 2 tsp honey
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 medium jalapeno, seeds and stems removed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove
- 3/4 cup cilantro
- sheet pan
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. First cook the barley, farro or quinoa.
- In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt, sumac, paprika, and black pepper.
- While you prep the cauliflower, add the pine nuts to a large rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven tor 1-3 minutes until toasted, DO NOT BURN. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- While the barley cooks, cut the cauliflower in medium florets if you haven't already. You want each floret to have a flat surface so they can roast properly on the pan. Add the cauliflower to a large bowl. Drizzle with two tablespoons plus two teaspoons of olive oil. Use hands to coat the cauliflower evenly.
- Sprinkle the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture. Use hands to evenly coat the cauliflower. Spread the cauliflower out flat side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Make sure the florets aren't too close together. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes until they are caramelized on the bottom.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, season the shrimp and make the tahini sauce. Add shrimp to the same bowl you use to coat the cauilflower in oil and seasoning. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil to the shrimp. Toss until coated. Sprinkle with remaining spice mixture. Toss until evenly coated.
- To make the tahini sauce. Place all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add more water if you want a looser sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- When the cauliflower has roasted for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven. Push the cauliflower to one side and add the shrimp to the empty side. Place back in the oven for five minutes or until shrimp are cooked through.
- To assemble. Toss the warm or room temperature barley with spinach, 1/4 cup of the tahini sauce, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon some of the barley in a bowl. Top with cauliflower and shrimp. Drizzle with tahini sauce. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Garnish with extra cilantro.