10 Easy Lunches That Don’t Need to Be Refrigerated

updated May 14, 2024
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

A lot of make-ahead lunch ideas assume your food can be stored in a fridge until it’s time to eat. But what happens when you’re at school, on the road for the day, or simply don’t work in a place with access to a refrigerator? The answer doesn’t have to be sad, soggy sandwiches, vending machine snacks, or the drive-thru meals.

Our 10 easy no-fridge-required lunch ideas (plus 10 more non-perishable snack recipes below!) showcase the variety of satisfying, delicious options that can be made ahead of time, held at room temperature, and still taste awesome at lunchtime.

Buy the Lunch Box

We’re pretty obsessed with this simple-yet-sturdy bento-style lunch box from LunchBots. We prefer this large size with five distinct compartments, but LunchBots also offers other sizes and configurations like this Small Protein Packer. We also love their tiny Condiment Cups for dressings and dips.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

10 No-Refrigeration-Needed Lunch Ideas

If you don’t have access to a refrigerator for your lunch and aren’t quite sure what to pack, this is the place to start! Each one of these lunch boxes includes a protein-packed main and a mix of fruits, veggies, and snacks to keep you going throughout the afternoon.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

1. Marinated White Beans

Think of this as mezze platter meets lunch box. Marinated beans get even better the longer they sit, so make a big batch during weekend meal prep and eat them throughout the week.

  • Get a recipe: Marinated white beans (or buy from your grocery store deli).
  • Pack with: 1 (2-ounce) hummus cup, grape tomatoes, pita chips, olives.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

2. Peanut Noodles

Opening up your lunch box to saucy peanut noodles is definitely something to look forward to. Plus, the beauty of rice noodles is that they just need to be soaked in hot water to soften — no cooking necessary. Remember to rinse them in cold water afterwards to prevent them from clumping together.

  • Get a recipe: Mix cooked rice noodles with a couple of tablespoons of peanut sauce (or use your favorite store-bought version) and top with red pepper flakes.
  • Pack with: Triscuts, Babybel cheese, sugar snap peas, baby carrots.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3. Peanut Butter & Banana Pinwheels

Your beloved PB and banana toast might not travel well, but swap the bread for a tortilla and it’s a totally different story.

  • Get a recipe: Spread some peanut butter onto a whole-wheat tortilla, add a peeled banana, roll it up, and slice into bite-size pieces.
  • Pack with: Celery sticks, dried mango, roasted almonds, blueberries.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

4. Lentil Salad

Fill your lunch box with lentil salad and rest assured you’re in for a satisfying lunch. Hearty green or brown lentils will hold up best.

  • Get a recipe: Lentil salad (or buy it from the grocery store deli counter or salad bar).
  • Pack with: Snacking cheese, green beans, clementine, roasted almonds.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

5. Rice Cake and Nut Butter Snack Box

Two-bite rice cakes are the perfect vessel for dipping into your favorite nut butter for lunch.

  • Get a recipe: Mini rice cakes with nut butter (swap in chickpea butter if you’re nut-free).
  • Pack with: Celery sticks, blueberries, apple chips.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

6. Ham and Cheddar Muffin

Make a batch of these savory, sandwich-inspired muffins over the weekend, then stash them in the freezer. Slice in half and add one to your lunch box in the morning, and by the time lunch rolls around it’ll be thawed and ready to eat.

  • Get a recipe: Ham and cheddar muffin.
  • Pack with: Mini sweet peppers, small apple, nut butter, graham crackers.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

7. Scrambled Chickpea Pita

These vegan pitas are perfect for big-batch cooking. Make a bunch during weekend meal prep and freeze for later. It’s a good idea to put the frozen pita in the fridge the night before; it will finish thawing in your lunch box throughout the morning.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

8. Soba Noodle Salad

While we love a simple mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce, and ginger, any kind of dressing is fair game on soba noodles.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

9. Quinoa Tabbouleh

Not only is swapping quinoa for bulgur a fun way to change up traditional tabbouleh, it also adds an extra pop of protein to lunch.

  • Get a recipe: Quinoa tabbouleh.
  • Pack with: Clementine, black olives, green beans, roasted almonds.
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

10. Orzo Salad

Toss orzo with chopped roasted veggies and a simple herb pesto for a simple yet satisfying pasta salad lunch.

  • Get a recipe: Orzo salad (or it buy from the grocery store deli counter or salad bar).
  • Pack with: Baby carrots, snap peas, roasted almonds, apple chips.

Non-Refrigerated Lunch Ideas

Need more ideas? Pack these easy snacks in your lunch box this week!

1 / 10
Banana Bread

You don't need a mixer to make this very easy and delicious banana bread! If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can use this same recipe to make eight to 10 banana muffins.

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2 / 10
Easy Homemade Granola

A simple granola requires just a handful of ingredients: rolled oats, a sweetener, nuts, and dried fruit. Once you master that basic formula, it’s easy to customize a mix for your own preferences. It's the perfect snack for lunch or any time of the day.

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3 / 10
Peanut Butter Bread

Try this old-school peanut butter bread with raspberry jam and tahini or chocolate-nut spread and a pinch of flaky salt.

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4 / 10
Homemade Copycat KIND Bars

You're only a few ingredients away from the ultimate homemade snack bar. Gather your ingredients because it's time to make copycat KIND bars from scratch!

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5 / 10
Fairy Bread

Buttered bread doused in colorful sprinkles is the happiest snack you can pack in your lunch box.

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6 / 10
Easy No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars

The easiest no-bake granola bars, perfect for packing as a snack in your lunch box!

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7 / 10
No-Bake Tahini-Date Energy Balls

These tahini energy balls have a flavor that's nutty and just sweet enough without crossing the line into dessert territory. They're the best portable, make-ahead snack for an afternoon pick-me-up.

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8 / 10
Grandma's Zucchini Bread

Lemon zest lends brightness to this moist and tender zucchini bread, which is perfect for an afternoon snack.

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9 / 10
Crispy Roasted Chickpeas

Those cans of chickpeas sitting in your cupboard have been hiding an amazing secret. Roasted in the oven, chickpeas transform into a crispy, salty, savory snack.

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10 / 10
Easy No-Bake Protein Balls

Simple energy balls made with peanut butter, oats, and chocolate chips. They pack up easily and each one delivers five grams of protein, so they’re just the thing to curb afternoon slumps all week long.

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