Take your lunch break! You earned it. These lunch ideas will make lunchtime the main event of any afternoon. From classics like tuna salad to protein packed banh mi – to soba noodles and avocado toast. Treat yourself to the best simple to make, kid friendly, adult approved (and highly portable) sandwiches, salads and pasta.
When a workday gets hectic, lunch can be one of the first things that gets forgotten in the chaos. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Also, you shouldn’t have to spend $22 at the deli for a wilted desk-salad.
Healthy Lunch Ideas That Are Delicious, Portable and Kid-Friendly
I’m a soup and sandwich girl. But I also realize that a jug of soup isn’t always the easiest thing to cart to the office. So these lunch recipes lean hard on salads, sandwiches and pastas. But if you’re OK with a little meal prep, I’ve got soup for you too! Go from fridge to hot lunch (with a quick stop at the microwave) with these easy, healthy soup recipes – as well as these savory Asian soup recipes.
And whether you need to spice up your own mid-day meal, or hoping to elevate your kid’s school lunch, the 20 flavor packed lunch ideas that follow are real crowd pleasers.
The Best Tuna Sandwich
I have a confession. I can plow through three of these tuna pitas without breaking a sweat. Part of that is because this recipe reminds me of my mom’s sack lunches from when I was a kid at school. The key to the tuna salad is using plenty of finely chopped celery and gherkins. Mayo, mustard and turmeric round out the flavor nicely. I like avocado and tomato slices on my sandwiches, but feel free to add lettuce for crunch. And the pita is delicious, but optional. You could also use flour tortillas and create tuna wraps!
While this classic French salad typically comes with a lightly seared tuna steak, I’ve found that canned tuna works super well also. This is definitely a protein packed salad that eats like a full meal. Food preppers take note: you can totally bring this to work with you as long as you cook and cool the potatoes, eggs and green beans at home. Store in separate containers and assemble in 30 seconds at work or school. Drizzle the dressing on and you’re eating a French brasserie favorite at a third of the cost.
California Veggie Sandwich
Move over cheese sandwich! This good looking fella has all the vegetables: pickled carrots, sprouts, baby spinach and mashed avocado to be exact. And the whole grain bread is treated to a lemony goat cheese spread. You’ll hear the crunch from this sunny and bright veggie sandwich from down the hall. Warning: you might also see jealous eyes staring at you from the opposite cubicle.
Italian Pasta Salad
This Italian pasta salad is one of those easy lunch ideas that transcends work and play. Because it goes down just as nicely at the office as it does at a weekend cookout at the park. Cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives deliver bright and savory goodness, while turkey and mozzarella cheese introduce some heft. Use fresh herbs in the Italian dressing if you’ve got them handy – and don’t forget the basil and Parmesan cheese!
Onigiri / Musubi (Japanese Rice Balls) おにぎり
Japanese onigiri are the original portable take-it-to-work lunchbox stuffer. And it’s easy to see why. Delicious, fluffy short grain Japanese rice balls filled with savory surprises make fairly compelling lunch ideas for adults and for kids. I’ve got recipes for salmon onigiri (my favorite) as well as umami mushrooms / scallions – and okaka musubi. And if you’re concerned about making Japanese rice, don’t be! Check out the simple instructions for making Japanese rice on the stove top or in a rice cooker here. Itadakimasu!
The Best Three Bean Salad
Do you have 15 minutes to whip up lunch? Whether you’re eating at home or taking it to work, this three bean salad is packed with vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. I’m using garbanzo beans, kidney beans and green beans – but feel free to use that can of black beans that’s always in the pantry. This particular mixture of beans, veggies, garlic and tart vinaigrette is at home at the office, or at your next backyard BBQ. Your choice!
Japanese Egg Sandwich (Tamago Sando)
Japanese egg salad sandwiches are simple but lovely. There are two secrets to making them (other than going to a convenience store in Japan for lunch). 1) Use Kewpie-style Japanese mayo. 2) Serve on shokupan – or Japanese milk bread. Now, in reality, the egg salad is delicious on any bread you choose – but in my opinion, the softer the bread, the better. While this is totally recognizable as egg salad – it just manages to be somehow creamier, tangier, and lighter that you might remember. Must try.
Hawaiian Macaroni Salad
This humble, sunny salad is creamy in all the right ways. The Hawaiian version is slightly sweeter than the macaroni salad from the corner deli, but that sweetness is countered by the tanginess of Greek yogurt and a savory dose of salt and pepper. Use olive oil based mayonnaise if you want to work some heart healthy fats into this pasta salad. No matter how you make it though, the first bite will transport you to that sunny vacation you can’t wait to take again!
Zaru Soba (Cold Soba Noodles -ざるそば)
This is one of my favorite summertime lunches of all time. And, since zaru soba is served cold, you can prepare the buckwheat noodles and savory tsuyu dipping sauce ahead of time – and just refrigerate until you’re ready to dig in. No microwave required. I’ve got an easy recipe for the soup – or you can just pick up a pre-made soup base on Amazon. Just a word of warning though: once you try these delicious Japanese noodles, there’s no going back. You’ll crave them all the time!
Avocado Toast With Gochugaru and Miso
Newsflash: You don’t have to spend $16 on avocado toast. Seriously, buy the ingredients and you’ll see just how marked up this brunch favorite tends to be at your local coffee shop. This simple recipe is hiding some serious flavor in plain sight. First, I use Japanese miso paste on the toasted bread itself. Second, I use smoky gochugaru (Korean chili flakes) to impart a subtle heat to the finished dish. Now, you can mash or slice the ripe and creamy avocado, your choice. Want to make it a bit heartier? Add a sunny-side up egg on top. OMG, yum.
Sure, it looks fiery. But this slaw is savory, sweet and mild. Mandarin orange segments are the soft counterpoint to the crunchier cabbage, red bell pepper, wonton strips and sliced almonds. And the dressing is a flavor forward mixture of toasted sesame oil, soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar (with a little grated ginger for the slightest of slow burns). If you want to keep it super easy in the kitchen, just use a bag of coleslaw mix instead of shredding everything by hand. It’s delicious – and way cheaper than ordering this lunchtime classic at a restaurant.
Cucumber Sandwiches With Tzatziki Sauce
Wondering what tzatziki is? Well, it’s a delightful Southeast European dip made of Greek yogurt, dill and extra virgin olive oil. And it’s the main flavoring agent in this dead simple cucumber sandwich recipe. In fact, aside from soft bread and a little salt and pepper, it’s all you’ll need to make these tea sandwiches for lunch. Wanna get fancy? Cut the crusts off and devour with abandon.
Lemon Chicken Salad
This one is TART. Both lemon juice in the vinaigrette and lemon segments in the salad make this simple chicken salad ahem… bright. But this is that most rare of lunches. One that fills me up with delicious savory chicken breast and greens – but leaves me feeling lighter than before I ate. It’s healthy lunchtime perfection.
Inari Sushi (Inarizushi – いなり寿司)
Snack, side dish or as a full on meal, there’s a nostalgic feeling I get biting into sushi rice wrapped in slightly sweet fried tofu pockets. And that’s because this simple lunch idea is steeped in childhood memories of eating with my mother’s family in Japan. But even if you’re not reliving the good old days, there’s no denying these highly mobile rice parcels are delicious. And if you’re wondering how to make perfect sushi rice, I’ve got you right here. A word of advice: don’t forget the sesame seeds.
Red Potato Salad
Tangy red potato salad with green peas, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil is never a bad idea. And when you mix in a bright mustard vinaigrette, now you’re cooking with gas! I’ve typically been more drawn to creamy potato salad in the past. But the first time I tried this chunky potato salad, I was forced to question everything. Yum. And if you’d like to have a look at exactly how easy potato salad is to make, check out this step by step video. Delicious and ready in 15 minutes from start to finish.
Asparagus, Radish and Ricotta Toast
While I’ve typically prepared this creamy, salty, sweet and crunchy ricotta toast for breakfast and brunch, I took it to a picnic recently and immediately realized there’s no reason not to make this for lunch as well. It hits all the flavor and texture notes of a crostini with triple the calories – and manages to look impressive in the process. If you take it to work, just make sure to keep the honey separate until you’re ready to eat.
Creamy Cucumber Tomato Salad
Whether you’re eating lunch outside on a sunny patio – or hunkered down during a blizzard, this simple to make cucumber salad hits the spot. Try using English cucumber for the best crunch (and way fewer seeds than the hothouse variety). Cherry tomatoes impart pops of fiery color and mellow sweetness. Avocado brings some creaminess to the party – and is counterbalanced by the salty, briny feta cheese. So simple to make, it’s practically ready the moment you think about it.
Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich
Chicken marinated in lime juice, fish sauce, shallots and garlic: check. Pickled carrots and daikon radish: check. Flaky baguette with mayo and sriracha… well, you get the idea. This full flavor banh mi sandwich is a nod to the Vietnamese original, while opting for a leaner protein than the typical trinity of pork. Make this flavor bomb on a lazy day around the house – or wrap it up and take it to work. This is one of those lunch ideas that pops up and always makes me wonder, why didn’t I make this sooner?
Edamame Quinoa Salad
If you’re a fan of grain bowls, this simple, protein packed quinoa salad has flavor and texture for days. Ingredients like red bell pepper, chickpeas, red onion and edamame beans contribute texture in every bite. And the easy olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper dressing is tart, savory and perfect. Not only is this heart healthy salad vegan, it’s gluten free as well. Better bring a bigger Tupperware for the work fridge!
Penne With Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (+ Bonus Recipe: Panzanella Salad)
One of the best things about pasta is how delicious leftovers tend to be. This penne is coated in a tangy sun dried tomato and olive pesto and topped with fresh Italian parsley. So whether you’re diving into a bowl of freshly made pasta at home, or a plastic container of leftovers at work, that full flavor goodness will be there, guaranteed. And I’ve got an easy recipe for panzanella salad on the same page – so this easy lunch idea is literally a two for one deal!
So what’s for lunch at your house? Have you tried any of these easy lunch ideas? Are there changes you made that you’d like to share? Share your recommendations, tips and tricks in the comments section below.Print
Easy Three Bean Salad
A nutritious and easy three bean salad ready to serve in just 20 minutes.
- Prep Time: 16 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: salads
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Low Fat
- 1 15–ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15–ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 8 ounces fresh green beans, ends trimmed
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 6 jarred sun-dried tomatoes in oil, patted dry and finely chopped
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 endive, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped (optional)
- 1/4 cup flat Italian parsley or curly parsley, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon creamy dijon mustard
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Fill a medium size pot with water and add 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and add green beans.
- Boil for 4 minutes, turn the heat off and drain. Rinse under cold water until the green beans are room temperature and drain well.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for the salad.
- In a glass or plastic container that comes with a lid, add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette. Put the lid on and close tightly. Shake until vinaigrette has emulsified and pour over the salad.
- Toss well until the ingredients are evenly coated.
- Season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve.
This three bean salad will keep refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 231
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 262.3 mg
- Fat: 11.7 g
- Saturated Fat: 1.6 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 1.7 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 25.9 g
- Fiber: 9.1 g
- Protein: 8.5 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
Keywords: Side dish, pot luck