25 Great Non-Sandwich Work Lunches


Experiencing peanut butter and jelly fatigue? Can’t stomach one more turkey on rye? Ditch that old school approach to brown baggin’ it and get creative with these 25 ways to think outside the bread when packing your work lunch. (See also: 25 Quick, Cheap Lunch Ideas)

1. Spicy Ranch Chicken Wrap With Tortilla Chips

Spread a tablespoon of spicy ranch dip on a tortilla (I make mine with a Hidden Valley packet and a container of sour cream) and pile on a handful of mixed greens, a quarter cup of diced chicken breast, diced tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, and a tablespoon of picante sauce. Wrap up the contents tightly in the tortilla and chow down with a side of crispy tortilla chips.

2. Shredded Pork and Potato Salad

This lunch is more of a leftover dinner, and it’s super easy to make. Place a two-pound pork loin (shoulder and butt work too) in a slow cooker with one cup of rootbeer and cook on low for six hours. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred it. Drain the liquid from the slow cooker, return the shredded pork, and stir in your favorite barbecue sauce. Have it for dinner. The next day pack up a serving of the pork along with potato salad for lunch.

3. Greek Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

This fast and easy Greek lemon chicken orzo soup calls for less than 10 ingredients, making it friendly for your waist and your wallet.

4. Lemon-Garlic Marinated Shrimp

This was my lunch today, in fact. This recipe for lemon-garlic marinated shrimp took less than 20 minutes to make at home, and it was very satisfying. I paired it with grape tomato halves dressed in olive oil, salt and pepper, and dried Italian seasoning.

5. Cucumber Cups Stuffed With Chicken Salad

To make cucumber cups, slice a cucumber into two-inch chucks then scoop out enough of the flesh so that there’s still support on the bottom. When you have four or five cups made, fill them with your favorite chicken salad recipe; this is a chicken salad that I love.

6. Lemon Dill Chicken Skewers

Your coworkers will think you’re a regular Martha Stewart when you bring these lemon dill chicken skewers to work. Pair the healthy protein on a stick with a side of mixed greens for a lunch the whole office will envy.

7. Jerk Chicken Wings With Orange Marmalade Glaze

Toss a pound of chicken wings in jerk seasoning so all pieces are coated evenly. Place the wings on a foiled-lined baking sheet and pop into a 425-degree oven for 40 minutes. When the chicken wings are crisp and golden, brush on a mixture of equal parts orange marmalade and warm water — about three tablespoons should do the trick. Once the chicken is cool, pack in a plastic container with a side of pineapple chunks or rings.

8. Neiman Marcus Chicken Salad on a Bed of Greens

Want to eat lunch like a lady who lunches? Try this chicken salad recipe from the Neiman Marcus cafe menu that includes chicken, celery, grapes, almonds, and fresh parsley. Serve on a bed of leafy green for a well-rounded, energy-packed lunch.

9. Coconut Chicken With Apricot Sauce

You’ll have to prepare this work lunch the night before, but it’ll be well worth it the next day. This recipe for coconut chicken with apricot sauce is complete in under an hour, and it’s best served on a bed of white or brown rice.

10. Pear Pancetta Crisps With Goat Cheese and Honey

These pear pancetta crisps with goat cheese and honey will be a sticky mess if you assemble them before you go to work, so it’s best to keep the components in separate dishes as you travel. With just five ingredients, however, it’ll be a simple operation that will provide big flavor for this working lunch.

11. Apple, Pecorino, and Mixed Leaves Salad

Skip the wilted grocery store rabbit food this week and opt for a superior homemade salad that pairs your favorite apple variety with mixed greens, walnuts, shaved Pecorino cheese, and fresh chives. Dress the salad with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

12. Tomato Basil Quinoa

Quinoa is packed with tons of protein, and it’s gluten free, which makes this recipe for tomato basil quinoa ideal for many dieters.

13. Hard Boiled Eggs and Turkey Bacon

For a light, healthy lunch, hard boil two eggs and cook four strips of turkey bacon the night before to help get you through the next workday. Pack an orange, too, to ensure you’re also working toward your recommended servings of fruit.

14. Peanut Butter Apple Chicken Lettuce Wraps

There’s lot of protein and minimal carbs in this adult- (and kid-) friendly lunch that has chicken breast, Fuji apple, peanut butter, honey, grapes, and light mayo all wrapped up in iceberg lettuce leaves.

15. Lemon Pepper Grilled Chicken With Zucchini Chips

Sprinkle a boneless, skinless chicken breast in lemon pepper seasoning and broil until the juices run clear — about five minutes on both sides. Let cool and chop into bite-sized chunks. When you’re ready to pack it up for work, include these zucchini chips that will help you curb your cravings for the vending machine varieties.

16. Caprese Tomato Bites

The recipe for caprese tomato bites is a portable riff on the popular appetizer that you can make in less than 15 minutes. If you’re nice, you’ll make enough to share with your work wife/husband.

17. Kale Dip With Snap Peas

Watching your weight? Then dip into this recipe that blends kale and cottage cheese with a side of sugar snap peas.

18. Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes With Walnut Streusel

If this work lunch doesn’t make you feel all warm and gooey inside, I don’t know what will. This recipe for twice-baked sweet potatoes with walnut streusel contains seven simple ingredients — sweet potatoes, cinnamon, salt, brown sugar, butter, flour, and walnuts — and it’s zapped back to steamy goodness after a minute in the microwave.

19. Grilled Steak With Garlic Parmesan Edamame

On a night when you’re cooking steak for dinner, slice up a portion before you eat and save it for lunch the next day. When packing it up, pair it with garlic Parmesan edamame that you can whip up in no time using frozen edamame seasoned with EVOO, garlic, Italian breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese.

20. Spinach, Raspberry, and Mandarin Orange Salad

This delicious, springtime salad is as easy as tossing all the ingredients in a bowl and being on your way. In addition to the titular players, you’ll also add red onion, mushrooms, and a fat-free raspberry dressing.

21. Proscuitto-Wrapped Greens With Asiago Cheese

With this meat-and-veggie-in-one lunch, you fulfill two of your food groups. But pair it with a few chunks of a complementary cheese — like Asiago — and you’ve got a balanced lunch that won’t weigh you down.

22. Tuna Sliders on Cucumber "Buns"

Prepare tuna fish according to the package. Spread it between two slices of cucumber garnished with a thin slice of tomato. Repeat this until you have enough sliders to satisfy you at lunchtime.

23. BLT Lettuce Wraps

Reinvent a classic by wrapping the chopped ingredients of a BLT — bacon, lettuce, and tomato — in lettuce leaves spread with light mayo and sprinkled with black pepper.

24. Apple, Peanut Butter, and Granola Sandwiches

Spread one side of two apple slices with peanut butter. Sprinkle one peanut buttered side with granola and mini chocolate chips. Put the other peanut buttered side on top to create a sandwich. One or two of these hearty, healthy sandwiches should fill you up at lunchtime.

25. Pinwheel Chicken Sandwiches With Plum Dipping Sauce

Add pizzazz to an otherwise boring chicken wrap by spreading almond butter on the tortilla before adding lettuce and chicken. Then dip it into an unexpected sauce of plum, soy, and grated orange peel.

What's in your brown bag?

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Guest's picture
random dude

I see you are from NYC. If you go to Chipotle and get their Veggie bowl (salad or burrito bowl) - it is easy to make... most of the ingredients like salsa or sour cream can be bought off shelf for less .. rice + beans is easy = mix them all. That was my lunch for today. I was also too tired of the Sammy routine.

Guest's picture

Last night I took half a spaghetti squash out of my fridge (had already trimmed and removed seeds when I did the first half like, two weeks ago), cooked it in the microwave for 13 minutes, scraped it out and tossed with some peanut sauce and stuck it in the fridge. Also grabbed a handful of shrimp from the freezer to thaw overnight. Cooked the shrimp in a little sesame oil this morning (took all of 5 minutes), tossed in with the squash from last night, and lunch is ready to go.

Mikey Rox's picture

That sounds like an awesome easy and healthy lunch, Jamie. Thanks for sharing!

Guest's picture

I will try some of these!

I personally like to make spicy tuna brown rice rolls from canned/pouch tuna. Mayo + Frank's Wing sauce + green onion + tuna, a little cucumber, maybe avocado if I have it, 1/2 c brown rice, roll it all up in some seaweed and serve with miso soup and edamame. MMM!

Guest's picture
Someone's Mom

I'd wouldn't dream of putting whipped cream in a chicen salad, but other than that, the first recipe looks great!

Guest's picture

Okay, now how about a pure vegetarian lunch article?

Guest's picture

A couple of issues with this article: two of the non-sandwich lunch ideas are sandwiches, and then even more are wraps, which is a sandwich with a different kind of bread. The vast majority of the others require lots of extra time and effort and are only suitable for people with nothing better to do after dinner than to make yet another dinner, essentially. Lame.