Few things become more mundane than eating the exact same salad for lunch every day at work (trust us—we've been there). While some routines allow you to be more efficient, chowing down on the same combination of five ingredients every day come lunchtime shouldn't be one of them. If you're hoping to save a buck by making your meals at home, why not have a little fun with your mid-day grub?
Admittedly, your options for ideal work lunches that can withstand a hectic commute, stay fresh in the refrigerator, or reheat well in the community microwave may be challenging, but it's totally doable; and there's still room for a bit of creativity and innovation. You can turn kitchen staples like quinoa, vegetables, and chicken into a tasty grain bowl. Or experiment with a homemade soup that comes to life simply by adding boiled water. Or add a twist on a traditional sandwich by adding a standout ingredient like berry preserves.
Find a chic lunch bag and pull out the Tupperware, you're going to want to try all of these 12 work lunch ideas we rounded up below.
Santa Fe Grilled Chicken Sandwich
The Recipe: Santa Fe Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Why We Love It: Trade in typical bread for a healthy flatbread and throw together a yummy grilled chicken sandwich from The Modern Proper that's bursting with southwest flavors. Whip up an easy, homemade herb mayo in advance to give this basic sandwich the kick of seasoning your usual work lunches may lack. Grilled chicken breast, bell peppers, avocado, and cheese melt together perfectly.
Pro Tip: Cook peppers till they begin to char, and chicken until it cooks through, "About 4 minutes each side," advises The Modern Proper.
Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Harvest Bowl
The Recipe: Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Harvest Bowl
Why We Love It: For something nutritious and satisfying, bring a roasted vegetable and quinoa harvest bowl from Minimalist Baker to work. Spend some time meal prepping during the weekend so your veggies, quinoa, and sauce are ready to pack up in the morning.
Pro Tip: This recipe will keep for 2–3 days.
Mediterranean Avocado Chicken Salad
The Recipe: Mediterranean Avocado Chicken Salad
Why We Love It: Half Baked Harvest's twist on a traditional chicken salad sandwich is one work lunch you'll want to make on repeat. It's made with avocados, shredded chicken, hard-boiled eggs, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese.
Pro Tip: Make the base ahead of time and spread it on your choice of toasted whole grain bread, and top with fresh arugula in the morning before you head into the office.
Thai Curry Noodle Soup
The Recipe: Thai Curry Noodle Soup
Why We Love It: If you think homemade soup has no place in the office kitchen, this recipe will change your mind. This Thai curry noodle soup from Hello Glow is easy to make and transport with you on your commute. All you have to do is add all the ingredients (including rice noodles, kale ribbons, shredded carrots, coconut cream) into a sealable jar or container and pour in boiling water when you're ready to eat. After a few minutes, you'll be left with a tasty, fresh meal.
Pro Tip: Since this recipe makes 1 serving, double, triple, or quadruple the recipe to make enough lunches for the week.
Mediterranean Quinoa Bowls
The Recipe: Mediterranean Quinoa Bowls
Why We Love It: The key to creating the perfect Mediterranean quinoa bowl from Sugar Salted is cooking the quinoa with tomato paste for extra flavor. Then combine this kitchen staple with fresh baby spinach, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, eggs, and feta cheese.
Pro Tip: Sugar Salted prefers not to season with salt as the tomato paste and feta cheese typically provide enough flavor.
Chicken Salad Sandwich With Rhubarb-Raspberry Preserves
Why We Love It: You'll think you've ordered in when you bite into this gourmet chicken salad sandwich topped with rhubarb-raspberry preserves from The Modern Proper. For easy prep, use a rotisserie chicken from the market and combine with ingredients like mayo, mustard, and celery. Take this simple sandwich to the next level by spreading on a layer of preserves and baby arugula.
Pro Tip: Add roughly chopped pecans for crunchy texture.
Mediterranean Chickpea and Egg Salad Jars
The Recipe: Mediterranean Chickpea and Egg Salad Jars
Why We Love It: These Mediterranean chickpea and egg salad jars from Half Baked Harvest were made for work lunches. Simply gather ingredients like chickpeas, artichoke hearts, quinoa, carrots, cucumbers, hard-boiled eggs, and arugula; layer them in a jar, and remember to toss it in your work bag before you leave the house. When you're ready to eat, pour the contents of the jar in a bowl and toss in avocado and lemon.
Pro Tip: Season with salt as an option.
Kale, Apple, and Avocado Wraps
The Recipe: Kale, Apple, and Avocado Wraps
Why We Love It: Add an unexpected crunch to your workday lunch with this kale, apple, and avocado wrap from Hello Glow. It's full of vitamins and healthy fats, and is one work lunch idea that will keep you full and focused on the tasks at hand. Just spread a bit of goat cheese on a tortilla and top with a combination of kale leaves, avocado, apples, lime juice, and olive oil.
Pro Tip: Before tossing kale with olive oil and lime juice, massage the leaves "Until their texture softens," writes Hello Glow.
Sweet and Sour Tofu
The Recipe: Sweet and Sour Tofu
Why We Love It: This American Chinese classic takes 20 minutes to prepare, and the sweet and sour sauce is easy to whip up with soy sauce, ketchup, and rice or cider vinegar. Add chopped bell peppers, dust tofu cubes with corn starch before stir frying, and serve over rice.
Pro Tip: This recipe will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Kale Salad With Carrot Ginger Dressing
The Recipe: Kale Salad With Carrot Ginger Dressing
Why We Love It: A reliable and jazzed up kale salad might look like Love & Lemon's kale salad. Carrot ginger dressing is both sweet and tangy when tossed with roasted chickpeas, dried cranberries, pepitas, and shredded beets.
Pro Tip: Sturdy kale means salad can be stored dressed. However, writes Love & Lemons, "If you’re packing this for multiple days, I would keep the avocado separate and add it to the salad before you leave for work."
Honeyed Harissa Roast Chicken
The Recipe: Honeyed Harissa Roast Chicken
Why We Love It: If you're in the meal prep mindset, try Yes to Yolks' roast chicken recipe. Make it by basting a whole chicken in harissa and honey, and stuffing its insides with lemon and garlic. Roast in the oven for 1 hour, checking in on it to baste it in its pan juices and baking for another hour.
Pro Tip: Let chicken rest 20 minutes before slicing, recommends Yes to Yolks. Garnish with thyme.
Balsamic Steak Sandwich With Italian Salsa Verde
The Recipe: Balsamic Steak Sandwich With Italian Salsa Verde
Why We Love It: When we want steak, but we also need a quick and convenient way to eat it for lunch, we're making Salt & Wind's steak sandwich recipe with balsamic vinegar, beefsteak tomato slices, mozzarella, and Italian salsa verde.
Pro Tip: Be careful adding the balsamic to the heated pan. "It may sputter," writes Salt & Wind.