50 Cold Lunch Ideas To Pack for Work
Whether you're working from home, in an office, or any other location, no-reheat lunches are always going to be the most convenient option. They can be made ahead of time in batches and enjoyed throughout the week — no microwave required. So grab your lunch box and get inspired with 50 favorite cold lunch ideas to pack for work or school.
Chef John's Fresh Spring Rolls
Fresh spring rolls (also called summer rolls...confusing right?) are a favorite Vietnamese dish in which rice noodles, veggies, and meat (either chicken, shrimp, or pork) are wrapped in a translucent, rice-paper wrapper. Watch the video to learn Chef John's technique for filling and rolling fresh spring rolls.
Fruity Curry Chicken Salad
This lunchtime favorite is even better the next day: "This salad is best if eaten the day after preparation," says recipe creator Karen L. Baker. "This allows the ingredients time to mingle, giving a fuller flavor. If desired, use nonfat mayonnaise." Curry powder adds its mildly sweet and earthy notes to this chicken salad.
Gazpacho is an easy, no-cook soup that is always served cold. Here, it gets a makeover — instead of the usual tomato base, it's made with cucumbers, avocado, and honeydew melon.
Amazingly Good and Healthy Tuna Salad
Antipasto Salad II
This classic Italian appetizer also makes a hearty lunch that can be made ahead of time and served cold.
Cheese Tortellini Salad
When it comes to cold lunch ideas, pasta salad is a no-brainer. It's filling, delicious, and is best made ahead of time and refrigerated to allow the flavors to mingle. This rendition includes cheese tortellini, pepperoni, provolone cheese, olives, and artichoke hearts with Italian-style salad dressing.
Marinated Cucumber, Onion, and Tomato Salad
Amy's Kidney Bean Salad
Don't be deceived by the term "salad," this dish is protein-packed thanks to the kidney beans and hard-boiled eggs. Everything is tossed in a mayonnaise-based dressing to give it a creamy finish.
BLT Bow Tie Salad
Sandwiches can be tricky to pack for lunch because the bread gets soggy when it's in such close quarters with a freezer pack. This recipe presents the solution to this problem: Swap pasta in for the bread and you have BLT pasta salad! Bow-tie pasta, fresh tomatoes, crumbled bacon, and lettuce are tossed in ranch dressing for a seriously satisfying lunch.
Marinated Black-Eyed Pea Salad
This is a colorful combination of peppers, onions, black-eyed peas, and fresh herbs all tossed in a tangy vinaigrette. It only gets better the longer you refrigerate it.
Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Quinoa makes a protein- and fiber-rich base for any salad. This iteration adds bell peppers, red onions, corn, black black beans, cilantro, tomatoes, feta cheese, fresh lime, and a simple vinaigrette.
Lemon Grass and Chicken Summer Rolls
Chicken Berry Salad
Tortellini Bacon Broccoli Salad
Loaded Egg Salad
Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Sesame
Soba noodles, or Japanese buckwheat noodles, are available at Asian supermarkets or in the international aisle at your grocery store. They're naturally gluten-free (but be sure to check the label to see if wheat flour has been added).
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Bright, Mediterranean flavors mingle in this easy quinoa salad that can (and should) be made ahead of time. Leave out the chicken to make it vegetarian if you prefer.
Southern Dill Potato Salad
This Southern-style potato salad pulls out all the stops: Red potatoes and eggs are stirred into a mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, onion, and celery, and topped with dried dill.
"This is a wonderful cold soup bursting with garden freshness in every bite," says recipe creator Lucky Noodles. "Adjust the ingredients to suit your tastes or to use the bounty in your garden. And it doesn't heat up the kitchen on those hot summer days!" This is a classic gazpacho recipe that puts fresh summer tomatoes on display.
Buffalo Chicken Salad
Kristen's Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
Get the flavors of a loaded baked potato in salad form with ingredients like sour cream, ranch dressing mix, bacon crumbles, Cheddar cheese, and green onions. Reviewer Sarah Jo says, "This was very easy to make which I appreciated on a chaotic day like today--I just combined the ingredients quickly this morning and let it sit all day in the fridge. And I'll tell you, the longer it sits, the better it gets!"
Greek-alicious Pasta Salad
The combination of red onion, edamame, black beans, chickpeas, bell peppers, and fresh ginger root adds more than just stunning color to this salad; it also makes for a nutrient-rich, protein-packed, and delicious make-ahead lunch.
Grandma Bellows' Lemony Shrimp Macaroni Salad with Herbs
Kale, Swiss Chard, Chicken, and Feta Salad
Nippy Pork Salad
This recipe turns last night's pork roast into today's lunch. Peppery horseradish gives bite to this otherwise mild and creamy salad.
Trees, Seeds, and Beans (Broccoli Slaw)
Broccoli salad gets a few additions for the better in this innovative recipe: chickpeas, carrots, and sunflower seeds.
Refreshing Lentil Salad
Protein-rich lentils tend to take on the flavor of the ingredients they're cooked and marinated in — in this case, garlic, tomatoes, red onion, bell pepper, chile pepper, lemon, olives, and cilantro.
Cape Cod Turkey Salad
Recipe creator Gin created this recipe as a way to use up leftover turkey: "Every year when we visit friends on Cape Cod we celebrate Thanksgiving in July. I incorporated some of the fresh herbs from my friend's garden and came up with this recipe as a way to use up leftover turkey. Serve the salad on croissants, crusty rolls, or a bed of lettuce."
Cranberry and Cilantro Quinoa Salad
Full of flavor and color, this salad is the midday pick-me-up you need. Reviewer CooperCook suggests using chicken broth to cook the quinoa for more flavor if you happen to have some on hand: "...I think it gives more flavor, but there are so many amazing flavors in this salad that it would probably be fine just in water."
Sesame Noodle Salad
This recipe can be served warm or cold — enjoy it warm immediately after cooking and store the leftovers in the fridge to eat throughout the week without reheating.
Refreshing Mint and Tuna Salad
Easy Asian Pasta Salad
Carole's Sesame Chicken Salad
Cabbage, cubed chicken, green onions, toasted sesame seeds, and shredded carrots are tossed in a mayonnaise-based dressing and topped with crispy rice noodles in this vibrant chicken salad. "I marinated the chicken in soysauce/ginger/brown sugar/garlic and oil then pan fried it - it added a lot of flavor - this is a great main dish salad for luncheons," says reviewer LIZARD_FRENCH.
Kelly's Black Bean Salad
Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad
In this healthy, vegetarian lunch, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, and cucumbers are combined with quinoa and tossed in a maple-citrus dressing.
Chicken Avocado Salad
Only five ingredients are needed to prepare this filling salad: avocados, grilled chicken, red onion, cilantro, and balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing. If you're packing it for a work or school lunch, store the salad dressing separately and add just before serving.
Lentil Salad with a Persian Twist
Chef John's White Gazpacho
Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo
Fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes are a match made in heaven. Here they're combined in a food processor and tossed with orzo and Parmesan cheese.
Grandma's Easy Turkey Taco Salad
Turkey and Provolone Sandwiches
Sautéed mushroom and onions, fresh tomato, iceberg lettuce, and olives take traditional turkey and cheese up a notch. And unlike other sandwich breads, hearty hoagie rolls hold up well in a lunch box or cooler.
John's Pimento Cheese Spread
Roasted Potato Salad with Balsamic Dressing
For folks looking to avoid the creamy, mayonnaise-based dressing of more traditional potato salads, this recipe uses a balsamic vinaigrette that lends itself well to many different vegetables, "Variations abound with this basic recipe…" says recipe creator Josh Mika.
Mexican Bean and Rice Salad
Ranch, Bacon, and Parmesan Pasta Salad
Tuna Fish Pea Salad
Five ingredients — canned tuna, canned peas, reduced-fat mayonnaise, garlic powder, and ground black pepper — are all that's needed to make this budget-friendly dish. Serve with crackers or as a sandwich.
Norris' Sesame Pasta Salad
Bold flavors abound in this unique recipe: Spaghetti is tossed in a combination of sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, corn oil, red pepper flakes, and salt, and topped with cilantro, green onions, peanuts, and sesame seeds.