Ready to shake up your lunchbox game? These vegan packed lunch ideas are just what you need, whether you're packing for yourself or a kid.
Y'all, my child is in KINDERGARTEN (Edit: Oh my word, he is about to enter second grade!). I can't believe it. He is loving his new school and adjusting like a champ.
Now that he's seeming so big, I feel like I need to adjust his lunches accordingly. Those preschool lunches I was packing just don't feel like they're cutting it anymore. I needed some kindergarten-worthy vegan lunch ideas.
Of course, not everyone reading this is packing lunches for a kindergartener, so the list below includes more grownup vegan lunch ideas, too. I tried to include something for everyone!
Last time I talked about lunches, I got a lot of questions about the containers my family uses. Below are the lunchboxes I use for my son, the one Dave uses for his lunches, and a thermos a friend recommended that's on my to-buy list. Her daughter LOVES it!
Kid-friendly lunch box
For my son, I am still using this Lock & Lock box with four removable compartments. I love this BPA-free modular lunchbox, because my kid can open and close it himself, and I can change up the inner containers to suit what we're packing.
This graphic from my post on preschool lunches gives you an idea of how I make the most of the inner containers:
See how we mix up the configuration?
My husband's lunch boxes
Dave has been on the hunt for the ideal meal prep container, and he landed on this one. They're nice and big, so there's plenty of room for the huge sandwiches he favors at lunchtime.
When he brings leftovers from supper, he usually totes them in these lidded Pyrex containers, because we use different sizes of these to store all of our food, and he has access to a microwave to reheat. Why dirty another dish, right?
If we have a bunch of leftovers, I'll divvy them up between a couple of those Pyrex containers, so Dave and I both have portioned-out lunches to grab and eat.
I have not personally tried these yet, but my friend, Andrea, says she and her daughter love this Thermos for bringing in warm leftovers (bonus: it's adorable!).
She reheats leftovers in the morning, then piles them into this baby. My kid isn't big on soups and stews, so I haven't ponied up for a Thermos for him.
Vegan packed lunch ideas
Got your containers of choice handy? Let's talk vegan packed lunch goodness!
1. The mighty sandwich
My kid kind of hates bread (I KNOW!), but Dave brings sandwiches a lot. Obviously, you can do sandwiches all kinds of ways, but he tends to make variations on this:
- whole grain bread
- hummus or vegan mayo
- Tofurky deli slices (sometimes)
- vegan cheese slice (sometimes)
He'll usually pack an apple and some pretzels or pita chips to go with this.
For our bread-shunning child, sometimes I do a deconstructed sandwich with that Lock & Lock box I mentioned.
One section has a few rolled up Tofurky slices, one has grape tomatoes and a piece of vegan cheese, and I fill the rest with popcorn or pretzels. He gets an orange or an apple on the side, since you can pack those without a container. It's not the healthiest lunch, but he loves it!
2. "Egg" salad
When I get it together to make a batch of Magical Tofu "Egg" Salad on Sunday, we are set for lunches through Wednesday! Use it to stuff a pita or regular bread, send it solo with pita chips and veggies to dip, or send it as a topping for green salad.
If you do want to use this as a salad topper, I recommend packing the tofu salad in a separate container from the actual salad, so you won't end up with soggy greens. It's easy enough to dump the tofu salad on at lunchtime. Don't forget to pack a fork!
3. Chickpea salad
There are lots of ways to make a tasty chickpea salad, but I love this recipe that uses red grapes for a little bit of tart-sweetness. Like a conventional egg salad, you can pack it up as a sandwich, a dip, or a green salad topping.
4. Cold peanut noodles
Cold peanut noodles with edamame, crunchy carrots, and tofu are a great lunchbox addition. It's a filling lunch that you don't need to worry about reheating.
If you need to make this packed lunch peanut-free, just use sunflower seed butter in place of peanut butter to make the sauce.
5. Kale salad
I know, kale salad is a total vegan cliche. That's because kale salad is awesome, y'all!
6. Chili or stew
If chili or stew alone doesn't feel like enough, pack a Cornbread Muffin to go with it.
7. Vegan bacon sandwich
Whip up a batch of my Balsamic Tofu Bacon or whatever vegan bacon you prefer the night before, and you're ready to build the vegan BLT of your dreams! I like mine with lettuce, tomato, avocado, and vegan mayo.
If you're packing lunch for a sandwich-hater, just pair up the bacon with grape tomatoes or carrot sticks, a fruit of their choice, and some kind of starch (pretzels, cubed sweet potato, corn...whatever they like eating).
8. Sushi burrito
Any time we make sushi burritos, Dave requests an extra one, so he can bring it to lunch the next day. The rice hardens a bit in the fridge overnight, but it softens back up by lunchtime.
My kid mutilates any kind of rolled sushi, so I'd go the deconstructed route here again -- pack his favorite sushi burrito elements (rice, carrots & avocado, tofu, mango) in sections of his Lock & Lock and send a pack of seaweed snacks on the side.
9. Pasta salad
This is another side dish that can totally be a meal, with the right mix-ins.
A big helping of Dianne's Vegan Caesar Pasta Salad is packed with filling beans and veggies. My Southwest-Style Pasta Salad and Pasta Salad with Avocado Lime Basil Aioli are also hearty vegan packed lunch ideas.
Throw your favorite fruit into a separate container, and you're lunch-ready.
10. Vegan curried chicken salad
What can I say? I love mayo-based salads, and Sarah's Curried Chicken Salad is top notch! It's made with Beyond Meat Chicken, but you can use your favorite vegan chicken sub, like chicken-style seitan or even pressed tofu.
Just like the other mayo salads on this list, you can make it into a sandwich or wrap, send it with chips and veggies for dipping, or send it with a green salad on the side, for last-minute mixing.
11. Sushi bowl
A sushi bowl makes a great cold lunch. Just fill your box about a third of the way with prepared sushi rice, then pile on all of your toppings. You can use this sushi bowl recipe or just riff with your favorite sushi fillings.
For to-go sushi bowls, I don't pack the seaweed (or seaweed snacks) in the box, since they'll get soggy. Instead, send them in a smaller container on the side.
If you're using the Lock & Lock, you can just put one of the inner sections in before filling the box with rice and toppings, then cut the seaweed to fit into that little square.
12. Air fryer meal prep
If you really want to knock out a bunch of packed lunches at once, meal prepping is your friend. This easy recipe uses quinoa (or grain of your choice) as the base topped with air fryer sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts.
Two blender sauces keep things interesting all week long!
13. Guacamole Salad
Guac isn't extra, if you make it at home. Not every salad is meal-worthy, but Amy's Guacamole Salad will totally fill you up.
To avoid soggy greens, pack the guacamole and the oil and lime juice on the side, so you can mix it in just before serving. This is another meal that would be lovely with a cornbread muffin to go with.
14. Sesame noodle bowl
Whip up a big batch of my Cold Sesame Noodles, and you've got the base for all kinds of great vegan lunch ideas, just add protein and veggies! Here are some ideas for how to build your bowl:
- Protein: cooked or uncooked tofu, steamed edamame, cashews, almonds, or canned and drained adzuki beans
- Veggies: sliced cucumber, carrot sticks, raw or cooked broccoli, raw or cooked kale, snap peas or snow peas, green onion, or shredded cabbage
- Optional sauce ideas: Blender Peanut Butter Sauce, Red Curry Almond Sauce, All-Purpose Coconut Curry Sauce
15. Napa cabbage wraps
Napa Cabbage Wraps with Sesame Noodles are a healthy, make-ahead vegan lunch idea. Pack the tofu and noodles in one container, then send the Napa cabbage leaves separately, for lunchtime-wrapping.
You can also do this salad-style in a single container. Shred the cabbage leaves, then layer on the noodles and tofu. You do you!