32 Make-Ahead Lunches You Can Prep and Pack Tonight

updated Jul 5, 2023
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Chickpea and roasted vegetable salads in lunch containers ready to be packed for lunch
Credit: Joe Lingeman

What’s one of the easiest ways to feel like you have your life together? If you ask us, it’s prepping lunch the night before. In the grand scheme of things it’s a small accomplishment, but when all you want to do after dinner is settle in for a marathon TV session, taking the extra time to make lunch feels like a Herculean effort.

To give you a bit of a boost, we have more than 30 make-ahead lunch ideas that you can pack the night before and even make in a big batch so you’ll have lunch for a few days, if not the full week.

Make-Ahead Lunches

1 / 32
The Best Pesto Chicken Salad
Juicy, shredded chicken is tossed with a creamy combo of fresh pesto and mayo, and studded with sundried tomatoes for extra richness.
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2 / 32
Cabbage and Apple Slaw with Honey-Lime Dressing

Salting the cabbage before dressing it ensures this slaw will stay nice and crunchy for more than a few days in the fridge. Feel free to top it with chickpeas or leftover cooked chicken to make it heartier.

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3 / 32
Ham and Cheddar Lunch Box Muffins
These hearty muffins are mixed with cornmeal for extra heft and texture, and loaded with thick-cut chunks of ham, sharp cheddar, and a pinch of chives.
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4 / 32
Honey-Garlic Chopped Chickpea Salad
Add this vibrant Thai-inspired salad to next week's meal plan and you can bank on a filling dinner that's packed with crunchy textures and big flavors.
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5 / 32
Cauliflower Rice Lunch Bowl with Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas
An easy, protein-packed vegetarian lunch bowl made with cauliflower rice, sweet potatoes, and a vibrant chickpea salad.
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6 / 32
Pack the Perfect Salad in a Jar

Jarred salads have definitely had their moment in the spotlight. And while their buzz has faded a bit, we still find them to be incredibly smart and easy to make.

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7 / 32
Roasted Sweet Potato Wraps with Caramelized Onions and Pesto
These savory vegetarian wraps are made in a big batch so you can store them in the freezer for easy lunches.
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8 / 32
Tofu and Broccoli Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing

With a base of broccoli slaw, crisp red peppers, and even crispier tofu, all smothered in a peanut butter dressing, you’ll never have to worry about this being a sad desk salad.

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9 / 32
Asparagus, Ham, and Cheese Stuffed Buns

Think of these buns as calzones without the red sauce. Instead, you’ll want to eat them warmed up, with a healthy dab of whole-grain mustard.

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10 / 32
Salmon and Kale Caesar Wraps

Upgrade your boring Caesar salad with three changes. First, use kale for a heartier base. Second, add canned or smoked salmon for some protein and flavor. And third, wrap it all up to make it even easier to eat.

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11 / 32
Feta & Eggplant Pasta Salad

This pasta salad — speckled with roasted eggplant, tangy feta, and fresh herbs — is just the kind of dinner your summer evening is asking for.

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12 / 32
No-Chop Cold Veggie Noodle Bowls With Soy Lime Vinaigrette
This summer sauté served over rice noodles is everything you'll crave in a cold noodle bowl.
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13 / 32
Kale Bistro Salad
Kale, we're not done with you yet! This bistro-style salad is glorious, with golden egg yolks spilling out and cacio e pepe croutons kicking up the flavor.
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14 / 32
Muffin-Pan Spinach Lasagna

Layered with noodles, marinara, two doses of cheese, and spinach, muffin-pan lasagna delivers just what you’d expect from its full-size counterpart — but better.

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15 / 32
Tortellini Salad with Figs, Walnuts, Prosciutto & Greens

This salad relies on store-bought fresh cheese tortellini and a few other grocery staples to make an easy, satisfying lunch salad that hits all the right notes — savory, salty, and sweet; crunchy, chewy, and tender.

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16 / 32
Mediterranean Chickpea and Feta Wraps

These vegetarian wraps are full of nutritious garbanzo beans and fresh vegetables and get a flavorful kick from salty feta.

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17 / 32
Spicy Carnitas Salad Bowl

This spicy carnitas number is built from ingredients and toppings you’d happily eat anyways with a bold and crisp base and toppings ranging from slow-cooker carnitas to pickled avocado.

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18 / 32
Instant Noodle Cups

Rather than give up our torrid noodle-cup affair (as if!), the obvious solution is to make our own DIY cups — and you’ll be surprised at how easy that really is.

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19 / 32
Greek Salad in a Jar

The great thing about this salad is that the lemony vinaigrette keeps its place on the bottom of the jar, while all the other ingredients get layered and packed on top, so everything stays dressing-free until you toss the salad in a bowl.

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20 / 32
Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Red Quinoa, & Ricotta Salata

This packable salad is a light yet nourishing lunch, with red quinoa and avocado to make it just a little more satisfying.

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21 / 32
Lunch or dinner, they're the perfect little "hot pockets" (ahem!) of cheese and veggies. Here's how to make them.
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22 / 32
Turkey Wraps with Honey Mustard Dip

These do double duty beyond lunch. You can also make a bunch to feed a crowd of kids on a busy day. And for any and all football lovers, turkey wraps are perfect make-ahead game day food.

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23 / 32
Pita Pockets with Crunchy Romaine, Roasted Beets, Chicken & Manchego Cheese

These pockets use your leftover chicken and add salad with beets, crunchy romaine lettuce, and a tangy mustard vinaigrette.

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24 / 32
Zucchini Buffalo Chicken Salad

Playful spiralized zucchini noodles aka “zoodles” are paired with poached chicken breast, a creamy blue cheese dressing, and Buffalo-flavored croutons.

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25 / 32
Spinach and Refried Bean Quesadillas

Stuffed into quesadillas, spinach adds a much-needed dose of green vegetables to a normally cheese- and meat-heavy dish.

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26 / 32
Chickpea Pitas

Marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, and spices like cumin and paprika, these chickpeas are zesty, smoky, and moreish. To turn them into a sandwich, they are spooned into halves of pita bread alongside fresh greens, crisp raw onions, and any other vegetables you want to add – tomatoes when they’re sweet, crunchy cucumbers, whatever you have in season.

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27 / 32
Freezer-Friendly Roasted Vegetable Burritos with Black Beans and Rice

Burritos with tender, slightly charred roasted vegetables feel healthy, but also hearty.

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28 / 32
Spinach and Feta Hand Pies

The spinach and feta filling you know and love from spanakopita is tucked inside whole-wheat pizza dough, then wrapped and baked into portable hand pies.

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29 / 32
Whole Wheat Double Peanut Butter & Jelly Pockets

These baked pockets give us just the slightest twist on the classic PBJ. All the great peanut flavor and sticky jam, but made ahead (and frozen!) for easy lunches through the week.

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30 / 32
Garlicky Chickpea and Fennel Salad with Baked Goat Cheese
Take that pantry can of chickpeas to new heights with the fast and fancy chickpea fennel salad. The real kicker is the fried goat cheese that goes on top.
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31 / 32
Greek Pasta Salad
An easy recipe for a Greek-inspired pasta salad that's filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, Kalamata olives, and feta and dressed in a tangy oregano vinaigrette.
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32 / 32
Spicy Thai Chicken and Brown Rice Bowls
These vibrant Thai chicken and brown rice bowls are topped with a rainbow of crunchy vegetables and drizzled with curried peanut sauce.
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