100 Lunch Ideas on What the Heck to Pack for Work

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Many things in the office (virtual or otherwise) don’t go as planned. But coming up with excellent lunch ideas for work doesn’t have to be one of them. It’s just thinking ahead! That’s all lunch is. Keeping this list bookmarked, pinned to your corkboard, or saved as your desktop background (cute!) means that come midday…

Share with us

Many things in the office (virtual or otherwise) don’t go as planned. But coming up with excellent lunch ideas for work doesn’t have to be one of them. It’s just thinking ahead! That’s all lunch is. Keeping this list bookmarked, pinned to your corkboard, or saved as your desktop background (cute!) means that come midday you’ll have one less thing on your to-do list. Monday is a virtuous bowl of crunchy veg drizzled with peanut sauce eaten on a sunny stoop. Wednesday: an open-face caprese sandwich situation al desko. Friday: a warm glass of milk and a lie down. (Or a supremely easy-cheesy quesadilla and a cold one in the park.) If conjuring packed lunch ideas—yes, all of these recipes are geared to travel, or at least, stick around in the fridge and get better—isn’t part of your job description, consider this ‘upskilling.’

A Big Ol’ Bowl That’ll Keep You Full for Hours

Oh, yeah, there’s ranch dressing here.

Alex Lau

1. Chicken and rice bowl with gochujang ranch

2. Top rice with roasted broccoli and pesto. Roasted broccolini is also great in this Brassicas Bowl (there’s hummus in there!)

3. Brown rice and crunchy veggie bowl with peanut sauce.

4. Mixed roast vegetables with nutritional yeast + grains + miso-ginger turmeric dressing and plain Greek yogurt.

5. Lentils, garbanzo beans, and barley with garlic, shallots, and harissa.

Make a big batch of rice, farro, or quinoa—then have fried rice all week.

Alex Lau

20. Cold cut of your choice + cheese + too much mayonnaise + add the tomato at the office so it’s not soggy + potato chips inside + Tupperware of pickles on the side.

Snacky Things You Can Throw Together

Ricotta with herbs is like a single-serving cheese plate.

Photo by Alex Lau, Styling by Sue Li

21. Fluffy ricotta, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and some herbs or vegetables on top.

22. Full-on desk picnic! A little cheese (sharp cheddar or Parm), salami, a hunk of bread, and some apples or grapes.

23. Bulgogi + whatever you’re feeling: wrap, salad, rice bowl, bowl of meat, etc.

Wasa to the rescue.

Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

24. Wasa crackers + smashed avocado + salt + sriracha.

25. Curried peanut dip with whatever you have in the fridge (jammy eggs, rotisserie chicken, last-night’s sweet potato, cucumber wedges, etc.)

26. Lazy quesadilla: tortilla microwaved with cheese inside.

27. Inari sushi—little Japanese tofu pockets stuffed with seasoned rice and either fish, meat, or vegetables.

28. Hummus with olive oil drizzle and at least three minimally crunchy things for dipping.

29. Toast with whatever you keep at your desk, like nut butter, jam, or tahini.

30. Pita + yogurt with some microplaned garlic and salt + a mint for afterward.

Ways to Make Vegetables Seem Moderately Appealing

Eat chickpeas in a bowl, with vegetables, on toast, or even with noodles.

Alex Lau

31. Big batch of herby crispy chickpeas with yogurt and pita.

32. An entire bunch of Tuscan kale that you sautéed before work somehow, sprinkled liberally with garlic salt. Add rice and protein of choice.

33. Kale Caesar salad so it doesn’t get super soggy.

34. Panzanella, aka BREAD SALAD.

35. Just…a ton of roasted vegetables.

36. Whole roasted sweet potato + chorizo + rice. Or just butter + chives + salt.

37. Make-ahead marinated lentils with broccolini and feta that gets better in the fridge and lasts alllll week.

38. Chopped salad (dressed al desko so it doesn’t get soggy).

39. Green beans and cucumber with miso dressing.

40. Greek salad: cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, olives.

Leftovers That Don’t Taste Like Giving Up

Larb is crispy for dinner, but reheats well the next day.

Linda Xiao

41. Ground chicken (or beef or lamb) larb, but over rice instead of fragile lettuce cups.

42. Chorizo with tomatoes and chickpeas. Greek yogurt swirled in if you remember to pack it.

43. Pan-roasted chicken thighs. Simple salt and pepper, harissa, whatever you want. Serve with rice and greens.

44. Five-ingredient soboro beef. No rice? Use tortilla chips to dip in it.

45. TACO BOWLS!

46. Make a big ol’ lasagna. Cool, cut into squares, and freeze individual portions in Ziploc bags. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then microwave at the office.

47. Zucchini and eggplant bake, portioned and frozen like lasagna.

48. Mac and cheese works, too.

49. Make a ton of roasted pork shoulder and use in sandwiches, salads, soups, or bowls.

50. Enchiladas! Microwave at work and see who your real friends are.

Pasta! Noodles! We! Love! Carbs!

We’re halfway there, so it’s pasta time. Try veggie Cacio e Pepe.

Alex Lau

51. Roasted veggie Cacio e Pepe.

52. Pork and bean pasta.

53. Old-school pasta salad: Italian-style dressing, chopped veg, probably fusilli, maybe cubed cheese.

54. Korean japchae, made with glass sweet potato noodles.

55. Sausage, greens, and beans pasta.

These cold noodle salad recipes are envy-inducing.

Photo by Alex Lau, Styling by Monica Pierini

56. Cold noodle salads made with ramen, rice noodles, or soba.

57. Stir-fried udon with pork and vegetables.

74. All forms of tomato soup, like salmorejo or roasted tomato soup.

Miso life.

Laura Murray

75. Instant miso soup: 1 spoonful of miso, add hot water. Doctor up with any greens in the house, scallions, sautéed cabbage, silken tofu, six-minute egg, seaweed snacks, furikake, or corn.

76. Make any soup + pack in thermos + finish with lemon juice, olive oil, and something crispy.

77. Green minestrone with pesto.

78. Tortilla soup.

79. Borscht, but if you’re lazy, just cube beets and don’t purée.

80. Chicken stew with beans and dried cherries.

Eggs Aren’t Just for Breakfast

Hakuna frittata!

Alex Lau

81. A frittata with anything in your fridge. (We like this summer squash one.)

82. Hard-boiled eggs smashed onto crackers with salt.

83. Soft-boiled eggs—reheated in a cup of hot water so they’re still runny—on toast.

84. A breakfast sandwich that you’re okay eating cold.

85. Salmon niçoise salad.

86. ELT sandwich.

87. Quiche, which is good microwaved or cold.

We have so many overnight oats ideas.

Alex Lau

88. Savory overnight oats or grits with an egg on top.

89. A DIY protein pack with hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and some meats and cheeses.

90. Scrambled eggs + ham + cheese wrapped up in a tortilla and microwaved.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Lunches

What if you just ate these cashews for lunch?

Photo by Laura Murray

91. Tupperware of sambal cashews, an apple, and yogurt because you forgot to grocery shop.

92. A bag of Chex Mix and a banana.

93. Tortilla with canned refried beans you pry open at your desk + shredded cheese melted together in microwave.

94. Microwaveable packet of rice + olive oil + salt + pepper.

95. Lettuce wrapped around lunch meat, dipped in hummus.

96. An old doughnut sitting in the office shared kitchen.

97. A can of soup that you try to make better with a drizzle of olive oil.

98. Granola bar, wilted salad you brought in yesterday, and coffee.

99. Steamable frozen bag of vegetables with a Parmesan + red pepper flake sprinkle.

100. Triscuits and a block of cheddar. (Okay, no, that’s the dream.)

This sandwich will make lunch better:

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