Hot lunches are great, but if you need a break from the extra cooking and prepping, these cold lunch ideas come in handy.
This post contains easy lunch ideas perfect for packing to the office plus a sneak peek of each recipe:
What are the Best Cold Lunch Ideas for Work?
These lunches require no reheating or microwave, and are ready to eat when you are! It makes them great for school, the office, or picnic-style lunches.
First, you’ll need to find durable lunch containers, I use the Easy Lunchboxes as well as these grown-up lunch boxes when I make salads or bowls. Both hold up well, and the Easy Lunchboxes come with divided compartments so that you can pack wet and dry ingredients in one container without the mess.
Each of these recipes are made with fresh, healthy ingredients and require minimal prep work. They can also be made ahead of time and that’s one less thing you’ll have to take care of this week.
Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Salad
A low-carb lunch, made from leftover slow-cooker buffalo chicken tacos. I’ll prepare the chicken for tacos or quesadillas one night and use the leftovers to meal prep these salads.
Recipe: Ham & Cheese Roll-ups
These low-carb roll-ups can be made 2 days ahead of time and stored in lunch containers. They pack a ton of protein and are super satiating so you won’t be grabbing for a snack around 2 p.m.
Recipe: BLT Salad
This salad is perfect for anyone doing low-carb who still wants to eat good. Made with bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and homemade Ranch dressing, it’s the ideal lunch for paleo, keto, or Whole30.
Recipe: Salmon Nicoise
Last night’s grilled salmon and potatoes tossed with an easy Dijon vinaigrette- this is the perfect salad for those who like a little lettuce with a LOT of toppings. Traditionally, this salad is served cold, so no need to reheat the ingredients, you can assemble everything straight from the fridge into a lunch container, and you’re ready to go!
Recipe: Chicken Farro Bowl
This bowl is loaded with grilled chicken breast, feta cheese, fresh veggies, all on top of cooked farro with tzatziki sauce. It’s everything you could want in a healthy, satisfying meal! Pack these into meal prep containers, so they’ll be on hand for a quick grab and go lunch. Also, no reheating necessary; they taste great cold, hot, or room temp.
Recipe: Asian Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups
Lettuce cups are a cross between a wrap and salad. They make a refreshing meal and are perfect for using up leftovers like grilled chicken, deli turkey, and cheese. This recipe is made with an Asian salad of shredded leftover chicken, mandarin oranges, celery, and sesame seeds.
Recipe: Peanut Butter Crunch Sandwich
This sandwich satisfies every sweet, salty, crunchy craving imaginable! Instead of the usual jelly, sliced apples give this sandwich a tangy, sweet flavor. I like using crunchy peanut butter for extra crunch, but you can choose any nut or nut-free butter you prefer. In case you need some nut-free butter options, I’ve got that are top-notch in taste and make “PB &J’s” possible again.
Recipe: Bento Lunches
Bento lunches include a variety of fresh ingredients like fruits, veggies, cold cuts, crackers, etc. and they’re perfect when you want something you can prep Monday and enjoy Friday. There’s nothing to heat up or assemble; it’s merely an array of snack foods for a complete meal; here are some of my favorite compilations.
Packing Tips for Cold Lunches
The best part of cold lunches? There’s very little maintenance involved.
No heating or cooking required because these lunches come together easy; here are a few tips to ensure your packed lunches stay fresh.
Keep liquids and sauces in separate containers
This is a big one! Anytime lettuce or veggies with high water content, such as spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. are involved, it’s best to keep the sauces and dressings in a separate container. Many contain sauces contain salt, which causes produce to loose moisture making a soggy sandwich or salad.
Use a small lidded container, like this one, to pack salad dressing, hummus, guacamole, ketchup, and other dips.
In case, the office fridge went out, or a work event has you brown-baggin’, throw in an ice pack. They’ll keep everything fresh and prevents anything from spoiling before lunch.
How to Make-Ahead Cold Lunches
I’m all about that #mealpreplife, and what I love about these cold lunches is that you can prep them ahead of time without worrying about them going bad early in the week.
Following tips like packing the dressings and sauces in a separate mini container or storing wraps in plastic wrap helps the ingredients stay fresher, longer.
To prep these lunches ahead of time:
1. Chop, cut, dice all ingredients
Whether it’s for a salad, bento lunch, or wrap, prep all the veggies and fruit so you can have them ready for assembly.
2. Assemble ahead of time
Lunches like salads can be prepped 1 to 2 days before you plan to eat and wraps the night before. Pack dressings and sauces in a separate sauce container.
3. Refrigerate in lunch containers
Packed lunch gets no easier than pulling the prepped meal from the refrigerator and tucking them away into lunch bags.
Cold Lunch Ideas for Work – Chicken Farro Bowls
Quick and healthy cold lunches for the office! You’ll love these ideas requiring no reheating, starting with these chicken farro bowls!
- Yield: 4 bowls 1x
- 1 cup farro
- 3 cups water or stock
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 large breasts)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1-pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 cups chopped cucumber
- 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
- 1/2 red onion, sliced
- 1 cup tzatziki sauce
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Fresh dill and parsley, for garnish, optional
- Tzatziki sauce, for serving
- Rinse and drain farro. Place farro in a pot with salt and enough water or stock to cover it. Bring it to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain off any excess water.
- For the chicken: In a gallon size zip bag, combine chicken breasts, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Marinate for 4 hours or overnight.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add the chicken breasts into the skillet and cook for 7 minutes, flip, and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes until the internal temperature has reached 165. Discard marinade.
- Remove chicken from pan and wait 5 minutes before slicing.
- To assemble the Greek bowls, place a bed of farro at the bottom of your bowl or meal prep container. Top with sliced chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, red onion, tzatziki sauce, and feta cheese. Sprinkle some parsley and dill, cover with the lid.
- Divide Tzatziki into lidded sauce containers and pack with the chicken bowls.
- Serving Size: 1 bowl
- Calories: 585
- Sugar: 4.1g
- Sodium: 1106.3mg
- Fat: 30.4g
- Saturated Fat: 6.4g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 45.5g
- Fiber: 8.8g
- Protein: 35.9g
- Cholesterol: 99.4mg