Project Zomboid – The Incredible Bowl Guide (Survival Item Spotlight)

Guide to Incredible Bowl


I’ve read and watched a lot of beginner guides for surviving in Project Zomboid, but to my surprise I’ve never once heard anyone mention the benefits of the humble and amazing Bowl. I decided to change that and also create an archive for useful bits of information that I’ve gathered while playing.

Getting a Bowl

Bowls are actually very easy to get. They have a relatively high spawn rate in kitchens and eateries around the maps. Even if you can’t simply loot one, you can also use most any sharp objects (such as a knife or even a sharp stone) to carve a couple of bowls out of a plank of wood (which you can get by sawing logs, breaking down a door, disassembling most furniture items, etc).

Okay, Got a Bowl, Why’s It so Great?

The bowl is actually one of the more useful survival implements for the following reasons.

  • It’s relatively light when empty (0.5 units) so fits inside most loadouts.
  • It can be used to cook or carry a variety of survival foods (see Bowl Cooking Below).
  • It can be used to boil water with a head source (thus making it drinkable).
  • It can extend the lifespan of most food items and fight depression (see below).

Food Depression What?

You heard me. The bowl is one of the best items for the traveling survivor because it allows you to eat stale food without issue and you’ll enjoy it too! The bowl can use most any basic ingredient items (meats, fruits, veggies, condiments, mushrooms, etc) to create a salad. Salads require no tools other than the bowl and the ingredients and require no cooking skill (but they do earn cooking XP).

Salads do not increase the hunger values of items like cooking items in frying pans, pots, or pans does but it does count as a prepared dish, meaning you get a +5 happiness bonus for every new ingredient added to the mix and becomes a new “Fresh” item when made. This makes salads an amazing tool for a survivor.

Let’s say you raid a nearby supermarket and you come across some fruits or produce that have gone stale (but not yet rotten). Here is a standard apple in its stages of freshness for comparison (Fresh, Stale, and Rotten).

You’ll notice that you can only safely eat the Fresh and Stale one, but the stale food has a +10 boredom and +10 unhappiness. Even worse for the Rotten food (and it can make you sick). This is where the humble salad bowl comes into play. You can dump the stale apple into the bowl and suddenly it restores hunger AND gives a +5 happiness boost and the new salad is now “fresh” and will begin to decay on its own all over again (which means that even if you don’t mind eating stale food, you can force the food to last longer by waiting until the salad has gone stale to finally eat it).

If you happen to be an absolute Chad when it comes to cooking (level 7+) you can actually make salads with Rotten foods, albeit at almost no hunger benefits. It still counts as an ingredient though, so if you mix a few different rotten ingredients, you can get a rather huge happiness buff on the go (three different rotten ingredients is +15 happiness). You can stave off starvation and depression at the same time.

Since Salads don’t require a heat source to make, you can make them on the go wherever you are, whether the power is on or not. They are also a very useful tool for wilderness survivors as each type of berry and mushroom is considered a new ingredient for the salad (so mix a few different color berries for a huge happiness boost), which can offset the happiness penalties for eating things like worms (eat a few bugs and wash them down with a berry salad and you keep smiling while surviving). Just remember to have taken the Herbalist trait or read the Herbalism skill book before you go eating random stuff you find in the woods!

Bowl Cooking

Bowls are used in a variety of useful cooking recipes beyond just making salads. You’ll notice that most of these dishes are naturally suited to the wanderer during his or her initial days of looting.

  • Bowl of Beans Dump a can of beans into the bowl and heat it (microwave, oven, fire) to remove the +10 unhappiness penalty from the beans and increase the hunger restoration bonus to boot!
  • Oatmeal You can dump 10 points of Hunger from a Can of Oats into a Bowl to make Oatmeal. While it doesn’t give you any extra hunger, thirst, or happiness, it does give 3 cooking experience each time you do so, which effectively turns a Can of Oats into +15 Cooking XP.
  • Bowl of Cereal Just like oatmeal this is mainly for free cooking XP. You can make this with a bowl as long as you have cereal and a carton of milk in your inventory. If you were going to eat and drink the stuff anyway, might as well level cooking while you’re at it.
  • Bowl of Soup/Stew Cooking pots are really amazing for cooking stuff at your base, but not so amazing for carrying around with you. A full pot of soup or stew weighs a whopping 4.0 units until it’s completely empty (consuming less than 100% doesn’t reduce the weight). Bowls can fix this problem. You can split a pot of soup into 2 bowls (you can do 4 but there’s a reason not to, see Notes below), which only weigh 1.0 units (including the bowl) each and have half the benefits of the full pot of soup or stew. This can allow you to cook at your base and then prepare “field rations” to take with you on outings. You were going to be taking your bowl anyway, so why not take 1/2 a whole soup pot with you for only 0.5 units of weight? This also works for Rice and Pasta dishes.


The reason I say don’t bother making more than 2 bowls of pasta/rice/soup/stew is because you don’t get any real benefit from doing so. The benefits of the soup are divided between the bowls and all the bowls weigh 1 unit and all spoil at the same speed because they were made at the same time. All you end up with up with is four bad food items instead of two amazing food items.

For example. Let’s say you cook a nice pot of stew and it recovers 40 hunger, 20 boredom, and 20 happiness because it’s a darn awesome soup. You could split it into 2 bowls that each restore 20 hunger, 10 boredom, and 10 happiness, weighing only 2 units total, or you could split it into 4 bowls that only restored 10/5/5 for 4 units of weight.

Since you can always choose to simply consume only half or quarter portions of a food at a time, there really is no appreciable benefit for dividing it further than 2 bowls outside of maybe serving multiple people dinner in a RP server.

Bowls are also used in more advanced recipes such as baking a Cake, but I’ve never made one because that’s a lot of boxes to check just to make a single food item that doesn’t last forever, and depending on difficulty settings and limited time that items like milk can remain unspoiled, it seems more of a novelty unless you have a mod that lets you make your own dairy products (usually by making replacements from nuts or powdered milk).

For a simple woman like me, going through all that to bake a cake in the Zombieocalypse just ain’t going to cut it when I can walk around happy eating crickets, berries, and canned beans through the awesome power of my mighty Bowl.

Suggested Mods

Do you like mods that add intuitive recipes and options that feel like they should be in the game? I do. And here’s a number of great mods that happen to make use of Bowls in all their glory. As of writing this guide (IWBUMS build 41+) these mods are working.

Survival Bread

Adds the ability to make hardtack bread (that stuff that you can still find in a vaguely edible state from the American Civil War) using water, flour, and of course, bowls.

Craftable Dairy Items (v41)

Adds a bunch of ways to create dairy items from things like powdered milk. Useful if you ever want to use your bowl to actually try baking that cake.

Def’s Longterm Survival

This one is pretty new to me but I’ve completely fallen in love with it. It adds a lot of neat things to do in your game and seems well suited for those with a DIY/Bushcraft spirit. It has become a must-have for me now, and of course it just makes the incredible bowl all the more wondrous.

For example, if you carry a knife, you can chop up things like meat, berries, fruits, and herbs into bits to use as ingredients in recipes, including salads. Converting poisonous mushrooms and berries this way also makes them safe to eat (uncooked meat or rotten food is still bad though), which can be great if you’re a nooblet forager.

You can also use a bowl to cultivate yeast for making breads. With a mortar and pestle (the bowl’s cousin) and foraged nuts and honeycombs you can make things like milk, butter, and sugar. This might be a way to bake that cake.

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