50 Cold Lunch Ideas To Pack for Work

Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Photo: Buckwheat Queen

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.

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Chef John's Fresh Spring Rolls

Chef John's Fresh Spring Rolls
Chef John

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.

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Fruity Curry Chicken Salad

chicken salad on toast

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.

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Green Gazpacho

Green Gazpacho

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.

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Amazingly Good and Healthy Tuna Salad

Amazingly Good and Healthy Tuna Salad served with fruit on a blue plate

Light mayonnaise and spinach put a healthy twist on tuna salad. Reviewer Lisa Moose Cagle-Oprel says even her kids could get behind it: "My kids hated tuna....until this. Great blend of flavors."

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Antipasto Salad II

salami, cheese, tomato, and artichoke antipasto in white bowl
Sheila LaLonde

This classic Italian appetizer also makes a hearty lunch that can be made ahead of time and served cold.

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Cheese Tortellini Salad

cheese tortellini salad with olives and artichokes
Kim's Cooking Now

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.

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Marinated Cucumber, Onion, and Tomato Salad

a white ceramic dish of tomato wedges, peeled cucumber slices, and rings of sliced onion

Fresh cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions mingle in a mild vinaigrette to create a refreshing summer salad. Allrecipes Allstar lutzflcat suggests substituting apple cider vinegar or white balsamic for white vinegar if you want a little more tang.

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Amy's Kidney Bean Salad

bean salad in white dressing

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.

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BLT Bow Tie Salad

farfalle pasta with tomatoes, bacon, and lettuce

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.

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Marinated Black-Eyed Pea Salad

black eyed peas, peppers, onions in dressing in glass

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.

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Southwestern Quinoa Salad

Southwestern Quinoa Salad
Buckwheat Queen

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.

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Lemon Grass and Chicken Summer Rolls

Lemon Grass and Chicken Summer Rolls with sauce and cucumbers on white plate

Recipe creator Seattle Dad describes these summer rolls as "little bundles of delicious chicken salad wrapped in rice paper."

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Chicken Berry Salad

Chicken Berry Salad
Ashley Giest

Put fresh berries on display in this combination of mixed greens, grilled chicken, berries, and a honey mustard dressing. If you'd prefer to make your own dressing, try this honey mustard dressing recipe.

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Tortellini Bacon Broccoli Salad

Tortellini Bacon Broccoli Salad

This tortellini, bacon, and broccoli salad has a secret ingredient: coleslaw dressing. "You may frown at the coleslaw dressing, but trust me, it's amazing in this recipe!" says recipe creator MostAwesomeChefEver.

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Loaded Egg Salad

Loaded Egg Salad
Tammy Lynn

This egg salad is inspired by the flavors of potato salad, according to recipe creator SunnyDaysNora, with ingredients like bacon, sweet pickle relish, and dill weed.

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Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Sesame

Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Sesame
Buckwheat Queen

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).

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Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

quinoa with peppers and cucumbers in dish

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.

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Southern Dill Potato Salad

potato salad with dill and green onions

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.

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Lucky's Gazpacho

gazpacho in cup with pepper garnish and oyster crackers on the side

"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.

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Buffalo Chicken Salad

buffalo chicken over lettuce

Who isn't looking to add more Buffalo chicken to their life? Recipe creator NIkki suggests serving this chicken salad on a toasted hoagie roll.

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Kristen's Bacon Ranch Potato Salad

Kristen's Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
Heather Harris

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!"

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Greek-alicious Pasta Salad

farfalle pasta with olives, radishes, and chickpeas tossed in dressing

Farfalle pasta, chickpeas, radishes, and feta cheese are all supporting characters — Greek salad dressing is the star of this show: "Greek dressing is so underrated, but in this recipe it is the star!" says recipe creator ADZELL.

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Edamame Fresca

black beans, edamame, chickpeas, and peppers tossed in dressing and served in white bowl
Kim's Cooking Now

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.

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Grandma Bellows' Lemony Shrimp Macaroni Salad with Herbs

macaroni salad with dill

Fresh lemon juice adds brightness to this rich and creamy macaroni salad. "I made this exactly as directed and it was excellent. Couldn't wait to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch," says reviewer tamra.

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Kale, Swiss Chard, Chicken, and Feta Salad

kale, chicken, red onions, nuts, and cranberries in dressing
raquel teixeira

Bitter kale and Swiss chard are balanced out with the help of a sweet honey vinaigrette. Reviewer Ellie says, "What a great alternative to eating empty lettuce that's all water whereas kale and chard have so many great vitamins and minerals!"

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Nippy Pork Salad

Nippy Pork Salad
Pam Ziegler Lutz

This recipe turns last night's pork roast into today's lunch. Peppery horseradish gives bite to this otherwise mild and creamy salad.

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Trees, Seeds, and Beans (Broccoli Slaw)

broccoli salad with pine nuts, carrots, chickpeas, and dried cranberries
Jaana Smith Bauman

Broccoli salad gets a few additions for the better in this innovative recipe: chickpeas, carrots, and sunflower seeds.

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Refreshing Lentil Salad

lentil salad with bell peppers and dressing

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.

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Cape Cod Turkey Salad

Turkey salad with walnuts and dried cranberries in a glass dish
Baking Nana

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."

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Cranberry and Cilantro Quinoa Salad

quinoa with cranberries, carrots, bell peppers, and lime wedges

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."

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Sesame Noodle Salad

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.

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Refreshing Mint and Tuna Salad

salad with lettuce, tuna, and peppers

Romaine lettuce is dressed up with tuna, feta cheese, cucumber, green onions, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. Reviewer iceemama says, "It was even better on day 2 and 3!" Shredded chicken can also be substituted for tuna.

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Easy Asian Pasta Salad

noodles and veggies in sauce with chopstiks

Complementary flavors like sesame oil, green onions, and chili sauce make this one standout lunch. Reviewer yoyo1198 suggests adding chicken or shrimp for a protein boost.

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Carole's Sesame Chicken Salad

Carole's Sesame Chicken Salad
Carole's Sesame Chicken Salad. fabeveryday

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.

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Kelly's Black Bean Salad

bean salad with rice, corn, and tomatoes in bowl
Linda T

Rice, corn, and black beans are flavored with diced tomatoes, and a combination of aromatic spices like chili powder, cumin, and oregano. "This would be a great way to repurpose leftover rice!" suggests Allrecipes Allstar lovestohost.

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Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad on red dishes
Allrecipes Magazine

In this healthy, vegetarian lunch, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, bell peppers, and cucumbers are combined with quinoa and tossed in a maple-citrus dressing.

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Chicken Avocado Salad

salad with avocado, tomatoes, and blue cheese

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.

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Lentil Salad with a Persian Twist

cucumbers, tomatoes, lentils, and mint in small bowl
France C

"I LOVE persian food and I love lentils, so I was excited to try this combo. I went with NOOSH's suggestion to add fresh mint...I highly recommend this addition. It gives the salad such a fresh flavor," says Allrecieps Allstar France C.

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Chef John's White Gazpacho

white gazpacho with almonds and dill
Chef John

Here Chef John makes gazpacho without the addition of tomatoes and peppers. Reviewer Kit Ko describes it as, "Cool, refreshing, and mellow compared to its tomato based siblings. It was even tastier on day 2."

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Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo

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.

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Grandma's Easy Turkey Taco Salad

Grandma's Easy Turkey Taco Salad

Taco salad is lightened up with the substitution of ground turkey in place of the usual ground beef. Reviewer Sarah Jo says she used Taco Seasoning I from recipe creator BILL ECHOLS in place of store-bought seasoning.

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Turkey and Provolone Sandwiches

sandwich with sweet potato fries on the side

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.

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John's Pimento Cheese Spread

pimento cheese up close with parsley garnish
Melissa Goff

This Southern favorite can be served over crackers, bread, or with veggies for dipping. Reviewer Sarah Jo describes it as, "PURE comfort food."

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Roasted Potato Salad with Balsamic Dressing

roasted potatoes with green onions, peppers, and artichokes
Josh Mika

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.

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Mexican Bean and Rice Salad

rice, bean, and corn salad in blue bowl with chips and limes

Quick, cheap, and full of fresh flavor — this bean and rice salad is the perfect combination of ingredients. Serve with tortilla chips.

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Ranch, Bacon, and Parmesan Pasta Salad

Ranch, Bacon, and Parmesan Pasta Salad in a white dish

It's hard to believe this flavorful combination was a happy accident: "I made this on accident when I put some soup ingredients into the bowl instead of the stock pot," says recipe creator Chef John Politte.

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Tuna Fish Pea Salad

tuna fish salad sandwich with fruit
Mackenzie Schieck

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.

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Norris' Sesame Pasta Salad

pasta with sauce, peanuts, and parsley
Kaylene Steele

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.

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Shanghai Noodle Salad

flat noodles with peppers and zucchini tossed in sauce

Recipe creator Tina Kauffman describes this as a, "Tangy, addictive, Asian pasta salad. Great for lunch boxes! Instead of chili flakes, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of chili paste to the whisked dressing ingredients."

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Elbow Macaroni and Kidney Bean Salad

Elbow Macaroni and Kidney Bean Salad

Two favorite chilled salads are combined into one filling macaroni and bean salad. "I'm always looking for a meatless meal for one night a week. This fit perfectly," says reviewer Fla Cook.

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Healthy lunch bowl with greens, avocado, cherry tomatoes, radish, boiled egg, and shrimp on white background
Claudia Totir / Getty Images
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