7 Lunches You Pack in a Thermos: Recipes Warming Up Your Work Week

Chilly weather causes many of us to crave warm and hearty dishes, and lunchtime is no exception. While the idea of enjoying a hot lunch during the work week may seem like an impossible feat, there is an easy way to ensure you have a toasty midday meal. The solution? A thermos, which has the innate ability to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Interestingly, The Kitchn explains that a thermos also works as a microwave, meaning you can conveniently use it to cook up your lunches — it typically works best with legumes, pasta, and whole grains.

Whether you are simply looking for a way to keep your lunches piping hot or you want a meal that will cook in your thermos while you’re working, there is an abundance of delicious dishes to choose from. Here are 7 thermos recipes that will serve you up hot lunches to eat at the office.

Source: iStock

1. Whole Wheat Chili

Filling, healthy, and perfect for chilly days, Thermos Cooking’s Whole Wheat Chili will keep wonderfully warm in your thermos. You can either whip this recipe up the night before and reheat it in the morning, or you can make it right before work, placing it in your thermos while it’s still nice and hot. Either way, it’ll be a welcome dish to enjoy during lunch.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1-2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15 ounce) can beans drained and rinsed (black, kidney, or pinto beans)
  • 1-2 cups cooked whole wheat
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Directions: In a medium saucepan, heat oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until softened. Once the onion is cooked, add garlic, chili powder, and cumin and cook just until fragrant,about 20 seconds. Add the chilies, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, wheat, and pepper and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Source: iStock

2. Dr. Mark’s Thermos Lunch

LA Yoga’s recipe creates a filling and nutritious lunch that consists of legumes, whole grains, veggies, and plenty of fresh and zesty seasonings. This dish is fairly low maintenance and only requires a bit of prep time in the morning. Your ingredients will then cook in your thermos, ensuring you have a fresh-tasting midday meal to eat at the office.


  • ¼ cup legumes (black beluga lentils, French lentils, or red lentils)
  • ¼ cup whole grains (basmati rice, quinoa, amaranth, or millet)
  • Water (⅔-¾ of the thermos’ capacity)
  • 3-4 cups chopped vegetables
  • 2-3 cups green leafy vegetables
  • ½ inch fresh ginger root chopped into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces fresh paneer (cheese), cut into 1-inch squares (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black cumin
  • 6 whole fresh curry leaves
  • ⅓ cup raisins
  • ⅓ cup raw cashews (optional)
  • 2-3 teaspoons of a seasonal spice blend

Directions: Place the legumes and grains into a large pot and rinse with cold water 3 times and drain. Add water and ginger root and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low, and add cut vegetables, paneer, raisins, cashews, spice blend, black cumin, curry leaves, and oil. Cover and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Note that cooking time will vary depending upon how soon the food will be eaten. If you plan to consume the meal in 2-3 hours, then 5 minutes is enough. If it will be 4-5 hours before you have lunch, then only 2-3 minutes will be required. Then stir in salt and green leafy vegetables and immediately add the boiling mixture to your thermos. You can preheat the thermos by filling it with very hot tap water for several minutes before adding the mixture.

Source: iStock

3. Mexican Chicken and Rice

Unless you’ve got plenty of spare time in the morning, we suggest making The Big Book of Easy Suppers’ recipe via Tampa Bay Times the night before and reheating it before you head to work. Make sure you cut the chicken pieces up small enough so they fit in your thermos.


  • 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use
  • 6 boned and skinned chicken thighs (1½-2 pounds)
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • ½ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¾ cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 can (14½ ounces) whole tomatoes, with juice, cut up
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup fresh tomato salsa
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a plate. In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, warm remaining ½ tablespoon oil. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and saute until tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in rice. Add tomatoes with juice, broth, salsa, cumin, salt, and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Return chicken to pot and mix well. Cover and bake until rice is tender and chicken is no longer pink in the center, 45-50 minutes.

Source: iStock

4. Cumin-Scented Quinoa and Black Rice

Preparedness Mama explains that quinoa keeps really well in a thermos and can easily be cooked in one too. If you’re looking for a simple dish to make in your thermos, add one part uncooked quinoa to two parts liquid, add in any additional seasonings you’d like, and let it cook. If you have time to whip something up that’s a little more extravagant, we suggest making Bon Appétit’s Cumin-Scented Quinoa and Black Rice — the flavorful meal will stay nice and hot all morning long.


  • ½ cup short-grain black rice
  • 1 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Directions: Bring rice and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine quinoa, bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon, salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf, fluff quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add to quinoa. Add rice; mix well. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil, fresh lemon juice, cilantro, parsley, and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut avocado into wedges. Serve salad with avocado and lemon wedges.

Source: iStock

5. Thermos Noodle Soup

It has never been easier to make a warm bowl of soup. To prepare Food.com’s dish, all you need to do is toss a few ingredients into your thermos in the morning, and when lunch arrives you’ll have a hearty and well-blended bowl of savory soup to sit down to.


  • 1½ cups spaghetti
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons beef bouillon or 2 teaspoons vegetable bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon instant minced onion
  • ½ teaspoon parsley

Directions: Add all ingredients to 1-quart thermos that has been heated with additional boiling water. Seal and tilt jar for 15 minutes. This stays warm for 24 hours in a glass or metal thermos, so it can be made in the morning for lunch or dinner. Egg noodles would hold up better during longer cooking times. Enjoy!

Source: iStock

6. Thermos Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and cheese is comfort food at its finest. You can now enjoy it at work, thanks to Once a Month Meals’ recipe. For an easy thermos lunch, prepare this dish ahead of time, freeze it in individual servings, and reheat it in the morning before you leave for work.


  • ½ pound small pasta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions: Cook pasta according to directions, drain, and set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until bubbly. Whisk in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking constantly until golden brown. Slowly whisk in milk until incorporated. Cook until thick, 1-2 minutes. Stir in cream cheese until melted. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, ½ cup at a time, mixing until melted. Pack into thermos, or freeze for later use.

Source: iStock

7. Mini Meatball Subs

As the temperature continues to drop, a cold turkey sandwich sounds less and less appealing. Instead, use your thermos to make sure you have a marvelously hot sandwich for lunch. Today’s Parent suggests keeping your meatballs warm in your thermos, bringing your bread in a separate container, and assembling your sub just before you’re ready to eat.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • ⅓ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1  large egg
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 (680 milliliter) bottle strained Italian tomatoes (passata)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 4 crusty Italian buns
  • 4 slices mozzarella or provolone cheese
  • 2 cups baby arugula (optional)

Directions: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large frying pan on medium high. Add onions and sauté for 4 minutes or until lightly golden. Scrape onto a plate. Reserve pan. Combine ground beef, bread crumbs, Parmesan, egg, ketchup, thyme, salt, pepper and half of the sautéed onions in a large bowl and mix well. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, then add meatballs and sear for 4-5 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon fat from pan, add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.

Add remaining sautéed onion, strained tomatoes, basil, and sugar, bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to combine flavors. Return meatballs and any juices that have gathered to pan, lower temperature to medium and simmer for 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened and meatballs are cooked through. When ready to eat, spoon meatballs into buns and top with a slice of cheese and a handful of baby arugula, if desired.

More from Life Cheat Sheet: