25 Make-Ahead Lunches in a Bowl

25 Make-Ahead Lunches in a Bowl

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

What is it about lunches that make them such a challenge? Whether you are packing a lunch just for you, or trying to fill the lunch boxes of your whole family, it can be easy to get into a rut and pack the same thing every day.

Take this as your wake-up call to serve up something new for lunch. The best part about these grain salads and other single-bowl ideas is that they can all be made ahead, and require minimal day-of assembly. A lunch that's easy and delicious? Sign us up!

1. Feta & Eggplant Pasta Salad

Like all pasta salads, this one gets better overnight after a rest in the fridge. That gives time for the tangy red wine vinaigrette to soak into the roasted eggplant and al dente pasta.

(Image credit: Ghazalle Badiozamani)

2. Tomato and Feta White Bean Salad

This colorful salad starts with that can of white beans that may be collecting dust in the back of your pantry. If you're not a fan of feta, crumbled goat cheese is also great here.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

3. One-Pan BBQ Chicken Burrito Bowls

These burrito bowls come together without fuss in a single skillet — divide them among your packable containers and reach for them throughout the week.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

4. Chopped Kale, Farro & Chickpea Salad

Since kale is such a hearty green, it won't wilt as this salad sits overnight. Don't be afraid that this salad won't be filling — the chickpeas add enough protein to keep you satisfied.

(Image credit: Erin Alderson)

5. Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Blue Cheese

While this is technically a pasta dish that's served warm, it really does make one seriously good pasta salad, either cold or at room temperature.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

6. Golden Beet and Barley Salad with Rainbow Chard

Put those chard stems to good use in this barley-based salad. It gets a fresh update with yellow beets and a lemony dressing as well.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

7. Polenta Bowl with Garlicky Spinach, Chicken Sausage, & Poached Egg

You can make everything but the poached egg for this lunch ahead. And if you have a microwave in your office, you can use it to easily poach the egg for an envy-inducing, gourmet lunch.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

8. Spring Grain Salad with Asparagus & Meyer Lemon

During that short window when asparagus season and Meyer lemon season overlap, we can't get enough of this perfect grain salad. A combination of farro and pearl couscous serves as the base, and goat cheese adds the perfect finishing touch.

(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

9. Lentil Dal with Hearty Greens

This bone-warming Indian dish is an incredibly satisfying lunch on a dreary day. Enjoy it as a soup or eat it over rice if you're extra hungry.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

10. Antipasti Bar Pasta

Think of this pasta salad more as a template than a recipe. Follow the loose guidelines, peruse your own grocery store's antipasti bar, and gather a few of your personal favorites to make this dish your own.

(Image credit: Sarah E Crowder)

11. Quinoa Bowl with Kung Pao Edamame

Vegetarians, this is the make-ahead lunch for you. Thanks to the edamame and peanuts (along with the quinoa), it is packed full of healthy proteins. Plus, who can say no to a little spicy kung pao flavor?

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

12. Quinoa Tabbouleh

While bulgur is the typical grain called for in this Middle Eastern salad, swapping in quinoa adds some much-needed protein to the situation so you'll feel full after lunch.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

13. One-Bowl Mung Bean Meal

The sprouted mung beans make this recipe a nutritional powerhouse. We recommend having it on hand for Monday lunch if you're attempting to make up for a weekend of indulgence.

(Image credit: Emily Han)

14. Brown Rice Bowl with Lemongrass, Tofu, and Cashews

This simple recipe gets its fresh flavor from the lemongrass, and can be easily adapted to whatever you might have in your fridge or pantry.

(Image credit: Sarah E Crowder)

15. Vegan Amaranth Bowl with Garam Masala Butternut Squash

You may be more likely to enjoy amaranth in your breakfast bowl, but this recipe gives it a savory profile, with garlicky collards and garam masala butternut squash.

(Image credit: Emily Han)

16. Brown Rice Bowl with Maple-Glazed Tempeh & Tahini-Miso Dressing

This rice bowl has so many things going for it: creamy avocado, tangy sauerkraut, good-for-you brown rice, and a sweet take on tempeh, thanks to the maple glaze. Even meat eaters will love this veggie bowl.

(Image credit: Nealey Dozier)

17. Make-Ahead Pork & Green Chile Stew

Make a batch of this New Mexico-inspired pork stew on the weekend, and you can live off of it for lunches for the rest of the week. Bonus: It just gets better as the week goes on.

(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

18. Simplest Spiced Lamb Stew

Cinnamon and nutmeg add a warming spice profile to this rich lamb stew. It does take a bit of time to cook, so make it on a weekend and portion it out for the rest of the week.

(Image credit: Sarah E Crowder)

19. Tangy Millet Bowl with Breaded Garlic Shrimp

Thanks to frozen corn, you can enjoy this summery grain bowl year-round. Be sure to take the time to bread the shrimp; the crispy coating is definitely worth the extra step — and crunch!

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

20. Borlotti Beans in Tomato Sauce with Creamy Polenta

Also known as cranberry beans, borlotti beans are as delicious to eat as their name is to say. If you don't want to worry about creamy polenta, you can also serve this over polenta slices or even polenta fries.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

21. Big-Hearted Macaroni and Cheese with Artichokes

Whenever you add veggies to macaroni and cheese, you make it just a little bit healthier. And while you normally see broccoli or spinach, this version made with artichokes is one of our favorites.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

22. Yotam Ottolenghi's Roast Chicken & 3-Rice Salad

Reach for a rotisserie chicken to make this deeply flavored recipe a little easier on yourself. Also, definitely feel free to swap in arugula if you can't track down shiso.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

23. Kale & Quinoa Salad with Dates, Almonds & Citrus Dressing

The key to a good make-ahead lunch salad is assembling one that has lots of textures and flavors built in. It makes it feel less like diet food, and more like a fresh, healthy lunch. It's also important to pick hearty ingredients that won't wilt too soon.

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

24. Colorful Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Herbs

When you've had your fill of grain salads, try making one with lentils as a base instead. Not only will you get an extra dose of protein, but you'll mix up your lunch routine in the most delightful way.

(Image credit: Sarah E Crowder)

25. Farro Bowl with Crispy Salmon and Toasted Sesame Spinach

If you haven't explored cooking farro, now is the time to try it. The sturdy, nutty grain has a strong enough flavor to pair well with other dominating ingredients, like salmon or sesame spinach. Believe us — you won't regret getting to know this grain.

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