Now that some sort of normality is restoring, a lot of us will be returning to work or school IRL rather than just sitting on Zoom in shirts and PJ bottoms. Cue the return of the packed lunch!
For some people, packed lunches are the stuff of nightmares, conjuring up memories of soggy sandwiches and squashed bananas at primary school. For us, a packed lunch is the hero meal of the day! Why? Because we have some seriously good recipes up our sleeves which mean that we literally look forward to lunch from the moment we wake up.
All of these recipes are meat-free, dairy-free and eggless but do not compromise on flavour. Most can be eaten cold or at room temperature if there are no re-heating options, making them perfect for picnics too!
Although all of the recipes we’re about to show you are so easy that even the most culinarily-challenged can manage them, they do require a little bit of prep work. Good news is, there are a few life hacks we’ve found that can speed up this process and make packed-lunch prep even less of a chore.
- Make these recipes for dinner and double the quantities so you have enough for lunch the next day - an easy step that cuts cooking time in half.
- Sunday = bake day. Cook enough sweet treats and energy bars for the week in a batch on a Sunday. Get the kids involved to kill two birds with one stone - keeps them entertained and means you have delicious snacks for the rest of the week! Win win.
- Make your fridge into a salad bar by roasting vegetables and pre-cooking grains ahead of time to mix into your salad. Keep nuts in your cupboards for a quick protein kick.
- Soak some mung beans, broccoli seeds or alfalfa on Friday eve, ready for side salads for the week ahead.
- Don't be afraid to swap the veg around. Buy a mix of salad veg and root veg so that you can vary things. There’s nothing worse than eating the same thing over & over again!
Now you’ve got the prep down…
Here are our 25 favourite vegan lunchbox ideas:
Kidney bean burgers fromBlue Zones
This easy burger recipe is a doddle to make and feels deliciously naughty despite being incredibly healthy.
Take-away style lo mein noodles fromBlue Zones
This quick inexpensive recipe is really easily customisable to accommodate any left over veggies you have in your fridge. Pack a So Vegan homemade energy bar for dessert and you’ve got yourself a perfectly balanced lunchbox.
Brown rice salad fromBlue Zones
This is a simple and delicious way to use up any leftover rice. Packed with mediterranean spices this recipe is big on flavour and promotes gut-healthy bacteria - what’s not to love?
Sushi bowl fromBlue Zones
Put your hand up if you love sushi. Now keep your hand up if you can be bothered to make sushi rolls regularly for lunch. I’m assuming your hand came down pretty quickly! This recipe gives you the delicious fresh umami goodness of sushi, without having to faff around with any rolling.
Chuna salad sandwich fromBlue Zones
Chickpeas are underrated in our opinion. Packed with flavour and protein, they are an absolute vegan staple. This recipe makes them the star of the show with the perfect amount of seasoning and some tangy pickles.
Autumn quinoa salad fromBlue Zones
This delightful healthy grain-packed dish that you can make in bulk to have throughout the week. Add a zingy berry smoothie to pack in even more superfoods!
Vegan Thai fish cakes fromSo Vegan
Nori is used in place of fish to capture the taste of the sea. And it does an excellent job! These protein packed balls of deliciousness are a flavour explosion. Serve with lemon roasted spuds and a side salad for a balanced lunch that’ll keep you going all day.
Falafel burger fromSo Vegan
This recipe runs off one of our favourite meal-prep principles: if in doubt turn it into a burger! It is the ultimate in comfort food and tastes so good that you’ll want to eat it every day for a week.
Curry burrito fromSo Vegan
Whilst we’re on the subject of combining two incredible dishes to make one ultra-super-meal, we thought we’d introduce you to the curry burrito. You can thank us later. Not only is this the perfect -back-to-work lunch food, it also makes the greatest hangover snack.
Refried bean foldover fromRiver Cottage
A quick and easy take on the burrito, this dish is savoury and satisfying. It also happens to be healthier than its more famous food cousin.
Spicy chickpea and carrot pita pocket fromRiver Cottage
Hugh has done it again with this recipe - turning everyday fridge and cupboard staples into something really special. Bonus - it only takes 15 minutes to make!
- Carrot and cashews salad with roasted cauliflower from Elephant Box
Split a cauliflower into medium sized florets (kinda the size of an apricot).
Put them on a baking tray with a teeny tiny bit of oil drizzled. Really, only about 2 tea spoons.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a teaspoon of turmeric and 2 teaspoons of paprika.
Add a few cumin seeds if you want.
Roast for 20 mins at 160* until the cauli is just going golden at the edges.
For the salad:
Grate some carrots and dress with the juice and zest of 1 orange, salt, pepper and a splash of olive oil. Some chopped coriander is nice here too.
Toast a couple of handfuls of cashew nuts (watch out - don't burn them!) and chuck them in.
- Tabbouleh from Elephant Box
This recipe is a speedy one and should only take about 10mins! Tabbouleh is traditionally made with bulgar but feel free to use couscous of course.
Cook as much bulgur or couscous as you need.
Add finely chopped red pepper, green pepper and cucumber.
Finely chop lots of fresh coriander, parsley and a little mint.
Combine along with some salt and pepper and a big squeeze of lemon juice.
Serve with roasted squash and Merguez chickpeas a la Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for an extra special summer lunchtime treat.
Bombay potatoes fromBBC Good Food
We like to serve this Indian classic with a tomato salad drizzled with olive oil and pepper and a sprinkle of paprika. Sprouted mung beans add a pop of green earthiness if you’re feeling a bit extra.
Split pea guac fromBlue Zones
Add a bit more protein to your favourite dip with split peas - genius! Slather onto your favourite bread and top with salad leaves for an incredible sarnie.
Coriander & walnut pesto fromBlue Zones
This pesto is super versatile - combine with pasta and spinach for a classic italian dish, turn it into a toast topping, dress salads with it, mix it into mash potato, dollop into soup - honestly the list goes on!
- Tahini dressed courgette and bean salad from Elephant Box
This is another versatile sauce recipe that you can add to all kinds of stuff. We love it tossed with some roasted courgette and blanched french beans
For the dressing:
Crush 1⁄2 garlic clove with a little coarse sea salt
Mix it together with 2 tablespoons tahini, finely grated zest and juice of 1⁄2 lemon, juice of 1⁄2 orange, 1⁄2 teaspoon agave or maple syrup or sugar and 2 tablespoons olive oil
Patatas Bravas fromRiver Cottage
A classic Spanish recipe and an underrated lunch food - this easy dish can be made ahead of time and used as a side, snack or lunch throughout the week. We like to add a bit of extra chilli to add some heat and serve with a zingy bean and lime salad.
- Sub with hummus, roasted courgette, red pepper & olive from Elephant Box
This is more than just a sandwich!
Get yourself a 6" sub, a french stick or a lovely chuck of sourdough and fill it with some homemade hummus, roasted peppers (make sure they are lovely and soft), roasted courgette, sliced olives and lettuce or rocket. Then plenty of freshly ground pepper won't go amiss!
- Rainbow bowl from Elephant Box
When it comes to salad, there really is no rule book! Mix together your favourites like a salad bar and tuck in! We like to mix a courgette salad like this one from Abel & Cole with grated carrot and nigella seeds, our chopped salad with chickpeas (see below), sprouting broccoli and orange segments.
- DIY pot noodles fromHugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Such a quick and satisfying work lunch! Pack it full of your favourite veggies, a good stock and soy sauce to make a plastic-free elevated version of your favourite snack pot.
Lentil salad with sumac dressing fromMelissa Hemsley
If you haven’t been swayed with lentils yet, you will be after this! It's the perfect hearty salad for a summer afternoon. Use refill lentils from your local plastic-free shop if you can.
Lentil coconut curry fromMelissa Hemsley
This is one of the best batch cook recipes we’ve ever come across! It can be made in bulk in 30 mins, frozen or stored in the fridge and warmed just before serving. Big bowl food at its best. Make extra and store it in a stainless steel lunchbox so you can reheat in the oven without decanting!
Mind-blowing sabich sandwich fromMy Goodness Kitchen
A vegan twist on the traditional Isreali sandwich, this recipe uses a white bean mix instead of egg. It might just be the most photogenic sandwich we’ve ever seen.
- Pimped chopped salad from Elephant Box
Think you know a chopped salad? Think again! We’ve added chickpeas roasted with herb de provence and cumin seeds and a twist of sumac at the end to boost the flavour on this bad boy. Follow along with this handy video.
This salad also goes perfectly with a dollop of hummus - here’s a 1 minute video showing how to make your own - really easy and delicious.
And that concludes our vegan recipe roundup. Enjoy!