Best Make-Ahead Work Lunches
March 2, 2016
Swap the overpriced, unsatisfying sandwich for one of these healthy, nutritious, homemade lunches
Best Make-Ahead Work Lunches
When you’re thinking about what to cook yourself for lunch at work next week, the criteria that you feel need to be met can become so overwhelming that it becomes all too easy to talk yourself out of cooking anything at all. You repeatedly claim that you’re too busy, you don’t know what you’ll want to eat the next day, you can’t think of anything that will last… Yet, inevitably, when Monday lunchtime arrives, you always regret not bringing in a wholesome, homemade meal, as you rush to the café across the road to buy another average, overpriced sandwich.
The recipes we’ve selected are a mix of hearty soups and stews to warm you up and satisfy you in the dark, depths of winter, and light, zingy salads for those warm summer days. None of these lunches are difficult to prepare, and most of them can be thrown together in under an hour. Whether you’re looking for something vegan, gluten-free, kid-friendly, or low-calorie, there is something for everyone in this collection of our 25 favorite make-ahead work lunches.
Asian Noodle Salad Jar
Grab your mason jar, and fill it up with a spicy peanut dressing, soba noodles, and plenty of raw, crunchy vegetables. Keeping the dressing at the base of the jar, and the vegetables above the noodles, stops the salad from going soggy. Simply toss everything together when lunchtime rolls around for a fresh and healthy Asian meal.
Baked Quinoa Falafel Pita
Making your own falafel is easier than it sounds. By baking, rather than deep-frying the falafel, adding quinoa to the falafel patties, and serving them in a whole-wheat pita, you’ll have successfully created a healthy take on your favorite vegetarian street food.
Beet and Wheat Berry Salad
This is a beautiful, autumnal salad, which is really easy to pull together. Roast the vitamin-packed veggies, cook the nutty wheat berries, and combine everything in a sweet, mustard dressing. We would be happy to eat this one repeatedly throughout the year.
Black Bean, Avocado, Brown Rice, and Chicken Wrap
Recipes don’t get any simpler than this black bean and brown rice wrap. Packed full of protein and complex carbohydrates, this is the perfect lunch to keep you energized all afternoon. Feel free to switch up the extra toppings as much as you like, adding whatever meats or extra vegetables you’re craving.
Black Bean Couscous Salad
Couscous has got to be the easiest grain to cook. All it needs is five minutes of soaking in boiled water, and it’s ready to go. Toss with black beans, red pepper, parsley, and a simple vinaigrette, and your lunch is ready. It will take you less time to put this salad together than it takes for you to go and buy that overpriced one from around the corner.
Butter Bean, Tuna, and Celery Salad
In less than 20 minutes, this hearty and healthy salad will be ready to go. The lemon-mustard dressing livens up the creamy beans, crunchy celery, and protein-packed tuna.
Californian Asian Pasta Salad
This pasta salad will bring rays of sunshine to your lunchbreak. Although the flavors may sound bizarre, they work together beautifully. The Asian influences of sesame oil and soy sauce combine with slices of Californian avocado and leafy greens for an exotic make-ahead work lunch.
Caprese Pasta Salad
We know that pasta salads have a tendency to be lackluster, stodgy, and are often really disappointing. The secret to making this pasta salad much more desirable than others is the marinated roasted red peppers, garlic, and olive oil, which add powerful flavors to bring this lunch to life.
Carrot and Ginger Soup With Coconut Milk
This zingy soup is the perfect comforting, warming meal for those frigid winter days. With its bright orange color, use of coconut milk, and lots fresh ginger, it will brighten up any cold, grey, working afternoon.
Detox Kale Salad
For those days when you need something really healthy, perhaps after a weekend of overindulging, this detox kale salad is here to save you. Packed full of all your favorite superfoods, and tossed together with shredded vegetables and a simple olive oil dressing, you’ll be feeling virtuous and energized after eating a bowlful of this salad for lunch.
Greek-Style Orzo Salad
The flavors of this salad improve over time, so it’s best when made the day before — exactly what we need from a make-ahead work lunch! Raw spinach, feta cheese, olives, and salty sun-dried tomatoes are combined with our favorite pasta for salads — orzo.
Grilled Eggplant and Quinoa Salad
This vegan salad gets its amazing creamy, nutty flavor from a simple tahini dressing. You can swap the eggplant for any other grilled vegetables you have. This lunch is quick and easy to prepare, and we’re sure that it will become a work lunch recipe that you’ll fall back on time and time again.
Healthy Brisket and Barley Stew With Tomatillos
As soon as the days get colder and shorter, we start craving comforting stews. This Jewish- and Mexican-inspired brisket stew takes almost no effort on your part, and, after the slow-cooker has done its job, will be delicious reheated at lunch time. Leave everything bubbling away in your slow-cooker on Sunday afternoon and you’ll be dining on a hearty stew on Monday.
Healthy Chicken and Quinoa Salad
Adding beautiful red leaves of radicchio to this salad gives it a bitter flavor and a stunning color. The protein from the quinoa and chicken will keep you full all afternoon, and the array of vegetables will ensure you’re getting your daily fix of vitamins.
Heirloom Tomato and Avocado Wheat Berry Salad
Wheat berries have such a wonderful nutty, wholesome taste — they’re definitely a favorite salad base. This combination of wheat berries, tomatoes, and avocado, makes a refreshing salad, which still has enough substance to fill you up and give you a boost of energy.
Israeli Couscous Salad With Smoked Salmon and Creamy Pesto
Israeli couscous is actually a type of pasta, and its little spherical form makes it the perfect base for a simple salad. This creamy pesto dressing is so fantastic, we could put it on everything, but here it makes for a fancy and flavorful work lunch.
Mediterranean Chicken Stew
This is a hearty and comforting one-pot meal, which tastes just as good when reheated in the microwave the next day. All the best Mediterranean vegetables are cooked in a tomato base with chicken, garlic, and parsley, before it is finally topped off with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt.
Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta e Fagioli is a traditional Italian dish of pasta and beans. The pasta, beans, and greens are cooked in a tomato broth, with each ingredient being added at various stages so everything is cooked until just tender. This comforting soup will fill you up without overloading you with carby pasta.
Roasted Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad
This salad is the epitome of fall in a bowl. Fluffy quinoa and roasted butternut squash are mixed with sweet dried cranberries, sticky pomegranate molasses, and salty feta cheese. Sprinkle some pomegranate seeds on top and you’ll be dining on the most beautiful office lunch ever to have graced your desk.
Shrimp Summer Rolls
Summer rolls and peanut sauce are a healthy lunch, which you can improvise with as much as you like. It may take you a few attempts to get the rolling technique perfect, but your lunch will be just as delicious, whether the rolls look like they came from your local Vietnamese restaurant or not.
Slow-Cooker Thai Beef Stew
This is another stew where the slow-cooker does all the work for you. There’s no lunch more satisfying than this warm Thai stew, packed full of umami flavor, fragrant spices, and tender beef.
Summer Chickpea Salad With Honey Garlic Lime Vinaigrette
A sweet citrus vinaigrette transforms this vegetarian salad from a selection of humble ingredients to a zingy, addictive meal, which is so much better the day after it’s made, when the dressing has had time to infuse all the vegetables.
Vegan Tomato Soup
A creamy, comforting tomato soup, without any cream, this vegan soup is a perfect lunch all year round. It gets extra sweetness from roasting the tomatoes before adding them to the soup: This additional step may seem unnecessary, but we promise you it’s worth that little bit of extra effort.
Vegan Yoga Bowl
Filled with vegetables, lentils, and spices, this is the ultimate nutritious, warming, vegan comfort food. You can make this all year round by simply substituting the vegetables for whatever is in season. It’s so easy to throw together, and will definitely satisfy that craving for a homemade, healthy lunch.
White Bean, Lemon, and Kale Soup
Using ready-made stock and canned beans enables you to have this warming soup ready in just 40 minutes. This broth is so flavorful, and with the addition of mushrooms and kale, it is everything we want from a lovingly created lunch that will keep us going until dinner.