Mouthwatering Lunch Recipes That Are Perfect for Taking to Work

Most of us, from school kids right on up, know all about the struggle of the packed lunch. If you bring your lunch to work, you may think of brown bag lunches as boring. Not anymore. We’ve rounded up some of the best lunch recipes that are perfect for taking to work, to school, or wherever you want to chow down. Bon Appetit provides an exhaustive 100 options, but we pulled out some of the most delicious, easiest recipes to make your work lunch amazing.

1. Leftover salmon salad with grains is the perfect protein hit

salmon with salad fixings

Turn your leftovers into a mouthwatering lunch. | Plateresca/iStock/Getty Images

If you think leftovers for lunch mean sad, warmed-up sequels to a delicious dinner, think again. Leftover salmon with grains and greens will change everything you know about reheating last night’s star of the show. Just toss some shredded leftover salmon on top of some kale, leftover grains, and you have a mouthwatering lunch to make your co-workers green with envy.

Next: Boring salads, be gone. Check out this chopped version.

2. Change your concept of salad and go chopped

Turkish shepherd salad

Cut all ingredients into similar bite-sized pieces. | Ozgur Coskun/iStock/Getty Images

We all hate when the best parts of a salad end up at the bottom of the bowl, leaving a plain pile of lettuce on top. Solve that problem with this chopped chickpea and chicken salad. Roughly cutting all of the ingredients into similar-sized pieces keeps everything distributed and ensures a mouthwatering variety in every bite. Go ahead and improvise with whatever protein, beans, or other salad ingredients you have on hand. This baby’s versatile.

Next: Your slow cooker can help create this desk lunch masterpiece.

3. Pulled pork with cheese will give your co-workers FOMO

Bring a sandwich that will make everyone jealous. | iStock/Getty Images

This slow-cooker pulled pork sandwich gives the age-old PB&J a serious run for its money. Combine succulent pulled pork, ooey-gooey cheese, and the pickle of your choice for a real workplace winner. The best part about this recipe? Just set your pork shoulder in the slow cooker and go about your life — you can even leave it overnight. In the morning, you’ve got a desk lunch to rival your favorite BBQ joint.

Next: A noodle salad keeps your workplace nosh interesting.

4. Noodle salads make carbs cool again

Tasty Italian fettuccine pasta

Try a noodle salad. | Dzevoniia/iStock/Getty Images

Low-carb lunchers need not apply for these amazing noodle salad options. While lettuce-based salads can get soggy, these noodle lunch recipes marinate as they sit. That means you can make a big batch on Sunday then portion it out to last all week. Many of them also offer endless customization, so if you want to switch out chicken for pork, or beef for tofu, go for it. Can you say easiest lunch ever?

Next: This riff on a classic will make you feel like a kid again.

5. Make a peanut butter banana ‘dilla for a sweet treat

Throw some peanut butter on a banana. | iStock/Getty Images

Let’s face it: We don’t always want healthy for lunch. On those days chock full of drudgery, our inner child just needs some chocolate. Whip up one of these peanut butter and banana quesadillas to satisfy your cravings, with a hit of protein too. While the recipe calls for cooking it in a skillet, you can toast it ahead of time and warm it up at the office, if your workplace lacks a kitchen.

Next: You’ll want to take a picture of this salad before eating it.

6. Make mason jar salads for serious staying power

Greek salad

Try some Greek salad. | robynmac/iStock/Getty Images

This awesome take on a Greek salad tastes as good as it looks, and packs a pretty good protein punch, too. Grilled vegetables provide an interesting twist on the usual fresh versions, and farro gives it a hearty texture. Spring for high-quality olive oil for dressing it — yes, it really makes a big difference. Can’t find farro? Substitute barley, quinoa, or any other hearty grain.

Next: Eat eggs for lunch in this super-portable form.

7. Clean out your fridge with this frittata

Italian Frittata

Make any kind of frittata you like. | Olha_Afanasieva/iStock/Getty Images

The super versatile frittata makes a great breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We like it for lunch because it tastes just as good hot or cold and it travels well from home to the office. This egg casserole also makes a very adaptable dish — toss in any leftover vegetables, cheese, or herbs you need to use up. Best of all, it takes virtually no skill and very little equipment to make.

Next: Especially on a cold day, this desk lunch will warm you right up.

8. Pack a thermos of soup for a super lunch

Indonesian Oxtail Soup or Sop Buntut

Bring a warming cup of soup. | hanieriani/iStock/Getty Images

Even working through lunch can feel comforting if you have a warming cup of soup to get you through. Any type will do, but you will save sodium and customize it completely by making your own. This hearty chili recipe features enough spice to get your tongue tingling and the meat adds heft. Bring a side of shredded cheese, a few crackers or slice of bread for dipping, and you will spend all day looking forward to lunch.

Next: This next option was good enough for Tom Sawyer.

9. Cold fried chicken makes a mouthwatering meal

Cold fried chicken

You might like it cold. | hungryworks/iStock/Getty Images

In the American South, cold fried chicken has appeared in lunch boxes for decades. Why not add it to yours? With crispy outsides and tender inside, this lunch will give the office serious FOMO. Use bone-in chicken for the juiciest results. Feel free to close that office door and eat with your hands to feel like summer came into your workplace. Mark Twain would approve.

Next: Pack this old-school salad two ways.

10. A Waldorf salad makes a great sandwich or works well plain

A plate of Waldorf salad

Try it in a sandwich. | MSPhotographic/iStock/Getty Images

Grab a rotisserie chicken or use leftover chicken breast for a Waldorf Salad. This upgraded classic lunch recipe combines savory meat with sweet grapes and apples, plus walnuts for crunch in an easy, fresh-tasting salad. This one works great as a sandwich on a croissant, in a wrap, or stuffed into a pita, for a handheld lunch on the go. If you prefer to watch your carbs, it also tastes good on its own or over a bed of mixed greens.

Next: If you like Chipotle, you’ll love this idea.

11. Make your own burrito bowl even better than the chains

Chicken burrito bowl

Throw in everything you like. | AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images

Celebrate taco Tuesday on any day of the week by making your own burrito bowl. Popular chain restaurants have made this unrolled Mexican standard ubiquitous over recent years. Take control your toppings and portions by making them at home! You can even mix up a big batch of each element and portion them out all week, saving time and empty calories in one shot.

Next: We have two words for you: bacon cups.

12. Treat yourself with bacon cups for an exciting twist

Fried Bacon (selective focus) on an old vintage wooden table

Replace bread with bacon. | HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

Think outside the bread by putting BLT ingredients inside a bacon cup. These little bowls of delicious are easier to make than you think. Just mold uncooked bacon over some inverted muffin tins and you have a creative carrier for your work lunch. Fill them up with BLT fixings or get creative with your favorite sandwich filler instead.

Next: This fish-free sushi idea keeps things fresh.

13. Try zucchini sushi for a veggie-forward lunch

Organic Baby Zucchini

The zucchini makes it perfect for vegetarians and vegans. | bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images

Not a fish fan? Not a problem! These easy, healthy, and delicious zucchini “sushi” rollups make a fantastic desk lunch finger food. Vegetarians and vegans can easily adapt the recipe to fit their needs, as well. If you have to eat on the go, these easy, low-carb rolls will keep your lunch light, healthy, and enjoyable.

Next: Speaking of sushi, these bowls will take your taste buds under the sea.

14. Sushi bowls will make you forget takeout exists

White rice with salmon

Use high-quality seafood. | AlexPro9500/iStock/Getty Images

If you like your meals deconstructed, these quick and healthy sushi bowls will earn heavy rotation in your menu. Feel free to substitute whichever sushi-grade fish you like for the shrimp, but make sure you get high-quality seafood to avoid food-borne illness. This recipe also works best for those of us who can keep our food consistently cold. If your office lacks a fridge, get a good, insulated lunch bag and an ice pack to keep your sushi safe.

Next: For a truly portable work lunch, try these little packets of delight.

15. Hand pies taste new and old-school all at once

They’re perfect for lunch on the go. | iStock/Getty Images

Almost every culture makes some kind of hand pie or tart for a reason: They’re portable, versatile, and delicious. Whether you call them empanadas, pasties, or something else, these make perfect lunches on the run. This broccoli cheddar recipe will get you off to a great start, but feel free to modify the filling to fit your family’s taste buds.

Next: This pasta dish reheats well, so make a ton.

16. Lasagna is really worth the work

Lasagna with spinach

It’s a lunch that reheats well. | -lvinst-/iStock/Getty Images

We’re pretty sure you can’t make a small lasagna, so good thing the mother of all pasta casseroles reheats well. Spend a Sunday afternoon crafting this monster, and then portion it up into single servings. The whole family can bring it to work and school all week, or it freezes wonderfully, as well. Vegetarians can also swap out the meat for eggplant, tofu, or your favorite meat substitute too!

Next: Make sure your salad does not sog with this pro tip.

17. Hack the Caesar salad with hearty kale

Caesar salad with chicken

Throw some kale into a regular Caesar salad. | iStock/Getty Images

Everyone loves an iconic Caesar salad, but that delicious creamy dressing can lead to a soggy mess with regular lettuce. Kale to the rescue! Swap in the stronger, darker leafy green for a slightly more fortifying taste that will last all the way until lunch hour. Kale also comes with the added benefit of high iron content, so it boosts your salad up a nutritional notch, as well.

Next: For a sweet take on a simple sandwich, try this change.

18. Apple sandwiches with granola work any time of day

Green apple bagel

An apple sandwich will get you out of an afternoon slump. | snyferok/iStock/Getty Images

If you hit a mid-afternoon slump, sometimes your body just needs a snack. For a light breakfast, an easy lunch, or that 3 p.m. lull, try these breadless apple sandwiches. By using slices of apple for the “bread,” you will cut carbs and make your sandwiches that much more interesting. Add a schmear of the nut butter of your choice, a sprinkling of granola, and you have yourself a sweet and salty treat with enough protein to last until dinner.

Next: This hybrid will help when you can’t decide what to eat.

19. A salad-wich gives you the best of both worlds

"A Creamy Chicken Salad Sandwich with Red Peppers, Cucumber, Lettuce and Tomato on a Croissant -

Pack veggies into a sandwich. |LauriPatterson/ iStock/Getty Images

Sometimes you want a salad, but it doesn’t seem hearty enough. Other times, you feel like a sandwich but crave some fresh veggies, too. This is where the salad-wich comes in. No recipe required: Just top your favorite bread — the more whole grains, the better — with your favorite salad fixins. Lettuce with a little bit of heft works best here, and you may want to assemble it at your desk. This one can get soggy.

Next: If you really hate to cook, give this a try.

20. Hummus and dippers makes a tasty desk picnic

Carrots and hummus make a delicious and healthy snack.

It’s a fun, picnic-style lunch. | Robyn Mac/iStock/Getty Images

Go ahead, have a healthy snack platter for lunch. For those of us who love to munch, a bowl of hummus and some carrot, celery, and pretzel sticks just hit the spot. Make your own hummus to give yourself maximum control over the salt content, and mix in a little garlic, hot sauce, or other herbs just for fun. If you really want to make it fancy, try cubes of cheese, slices of fancy ham and prosciutto, and pickled vegetables for a full-on desk picnic.

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