It’s midday, you’re working, the Slack channels are pinging, and your stomach starts to growl. Is it going to be boxed mac and cheese again? Consider these easy lunch ideas instead: lettuce wraps with ground chicken that’s ready after seven minutes in a skillet, or quick-cooking rice noodles with crunchy fresh veggies, or tuna salad leveled-up with chickpeas. There are 50 more quick and easy lunch ideas where those came from (in the list below; that’s where they came from), and we think you deserve to try them all. Yes, you deserve to step away from the desk and take a proper pause to enjoy a tasty lunch!
Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Michelle Gatton1/53
Big Green Lentil Salad
This is one of those easy lunch ideas that can be made even easier, if you want: Cook the lentils ahead, and when it comes to mealtime, you’re just tossing them together with sunflower seeds, avocado, and herbs and dressing them in a little lemon juice and olive oil.
Photograph by Eva Kolenko. Food styling by Susie Theodorou. Set design by Kira Corbin. On set producer: Jennifer Thomas2/53
Mango and Avocado Salad
Actor and cookbook author Ayesha Curry developed this cooling salad recipe as a side dish, but we love it as a light lunch on those hot days when we’ve had a heartier breakfast.
Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Susie Theodorou4/53
Yes, the world needs another veggie burger: this one. It’s a cinch to put together if you make the patties ahead of time; they keep in the fridge for four days and need just six minutes to crisp up.
PHOTO BY LAURA MURRAY, FOOD STYLING BY SUSIE THEODOROU5/53
Healthyish Chicken Salad
This recipe is where quick and easy lunch ideas meet healthy lunch ideas: It’s got tender poached chicken breast, crisp greens, cucumbers, and scallions—and no mayonnaise!
Turkey Club with Herb Mayo
Swap in your favorite store-bought turkey meat for the dry-brined bird in this recipe and it’s a 15-minute club sandwich—crunchy bacon, DIY spread, and all.
Chickpea and Chorizo Tostadas
These crunchy tostadas hit all the satisfying notes: herby yogurt sauce, a filling chorizo-chickpea combo, and a zingy hit of lime juice.
Photo by Chelsie Craig, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich8/53
Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Low investment and high reward, this not-so-traditional riff on larb is the unofficial late-night meal of much of the BA staff—but it’s just as satisfying as a workday lunch. It’s filling, but it won’t slow you down before those afternoon meetings.
Photograph by Julian Cousins, Food styling by Adriana Paschen9/53
Red lentils are inexpensive, quick-cooking, and endlessly versatile. Use them in this dal palak, which is packed with spinach; use baby spinach straight from the package instead of taking the time to wash and chop mature spinach leaves.
Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Chris Morocco, prop styling by Emily Eisen10/53
Spicy Pork Bowl With Greens and Carrots
This is the kind of comfort food that doesn’t make you want to take a nap. In fact, it’s the perfect fuel for the rest of the workday: Giving pork tenderloin the bulgogi-esque treatment makes it super savory, and the carrots and collard greens are just kissed by the heat.
Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Rebecca Jurkevich, prop styling by Emily Eisen11/53
Rice Noodles with Cashew Sauce and Crunchy Veg
This recipe is inspired by gado-gado, a colorful and crunchy Indonesian salad, made with a wide array of raw and cooked vegetables (and sometimes noodles). Don’t skimp on the cilantro; treat it almost like lettuce.
Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Susie Theodorou, prop styling by Aneta Florczyk13/53
New-and-Improved Greek Salad
When you hear the word “marinade,” you tend to think “lots of time,” but this recipe proves that’s not always the case. The (quick!) method for marinating feta works for other fresh cheeses, too—try goat, mozzarella, or paneer.
Photo by Laura Murray, food styling by Susie Theodorou15/53
This Korean rolled omelet is filled with toasted seaweed snacks and Parmesan shavings—talk about an umami bomb! Stuff the individually sliced spirals into a bento box or upgraded lunch bag for primo lunchtime cuteness.
Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Sue Li, prop styling by Elizabeth Jaime17/53
Tomato-Braised Rotisserie Chicken
“Quick braise” is not an oxymoron. Believe! Give a store-bought rotisserie bird a new identity by simmering it in a 20-minute bacon-y, shallot-y tomato braise.
Broccoli Pesto Pasta
Sure, this recipe was developed for kids, but don’t we all want to eat like we’re 10 years old sometimes? The pesto gets heft (and a side of veggies) from the addition of broccoli, and the pasta tastes just as good cold or room temperature, so feel free to treat it like a pasta salad.
Photo by Laura Murray, food styling by Susie Theodorou20/53
Lunch Nachos With Spiced Cauliflower
Two words: Lunch nachos! We love this vegetarian version, but feel free to play around. Try canned black beans instead of refried—or opt for some quick-cooking ground beef. Just commit to the formula of chips, beans and/or meat, veg (for balance), shredded cheese, and avocado and cilantro for serving.
PHOTO BY CHELSIE CRAIG, FOOD STYLING BY YEKATERINA BOYTSOVA21/53
Just-Keeps-Getting-Better Lentil Salad
Here’s the answer to your question: “What can I make on Sunday night that will taste great for my 10:30 a.m. desk lunch on Wednesday?” Yes, there’s meal prep, but it’s full-on meal prep, as in the meal is made and you just have to pull it out of the fridge.
Photo by Heami Lee, food styling by Judy Haubert, prop styling by Rebecca Bartoshesky24/53
Garlic Bread Grilled Cheese
This easy lunch idea is quick—but don’t rush it. While a grilled cheese sandwich is done in under 10 minutes, you don’t want to speed through the cooking process—moderate heat allows the cheese inside to fully melt without burning the outsides.
Photo by Emma Fishman, Food Styling by D’mytrek Brown28/53
Classic Tuna Salad
True works of art shouldn’t be messed with, and we believe that the classic tuna salad is a masterpiece: salty capers, lemon for brightness, celery and red onion for crunch, and mustard and (optional) hot sauce for a little extra flavor intrigue.
Photo by Chelsie Craig, food styling by Kat Boytsova30/53
The flavors in this sandwich get more concentrated as it sits, so assemble it while you’re having your morning coffee and you’ll have the perfect, delicious lunch by noon. P.S. Sometimes we like to use arugula in place of the mustard greens.
Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Food Styling by Susie Theodorou31/53
Have you ever tried something like this before: spicy, pungent kimchi plus smooth cream cheese, topped with a scallion salad, on grilled or toasted country-style bread? It really works.
Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions
We love this poached chicken method, which yields a tender but flavorful result. Pro tip: Make extra and turn it into chicken wrap with a smear of hummus and some greens for tomorrow’s lunch.
Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Susie Theodorou, Prop Styling by Sophie Strangio35/53
Bright and Spicy Shrimp Noodle Salad
In this recipe, which is like a pared-back version of Thai yum woon sen, a punchy fish sauce vinaigrette works as a marinade for shrimp and as a dressing for glass noodles and handfuls of basil and cucumber.
Photo by Chelsie Craig, food styling by Kat Boytsova36/53
Marinated Lentils with Lemony Broccolini and Feta
The broccolini doesn’t need any pre-roast browning and there’s barely any chopping—just assemble and let the oven handle it. The dish works as a vegetarian dinner, but it’s even better for lunch the next day.
Crunchy Veg Bowl with Warm Peanut Sauce
A warm, sultry peanut sauce makes even bean sprouts feel indulgent—but this easy lunch recipe has so much more than bean sprouts. Cabbage! Beets! Cucumbers! Celery! Mint! Brown rice! It’s a filling, healthy meal.
Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Sue Li38/53
Peanutty Noodles with Tempeh Crumbles
Tempeh skeptics, this recipe will make a convert of you: Crumbling tempeh into ripping-hot oil makes for odd-size bits and pieces that are crispy, golden brown, and—especially when glazed with a spicy-sticky sambal sauce—remarkably delicious.
Photo by Chelsie Craig, food styling by Kat Boytsova39/53
Curried Peanut Dip
This creamy, spicy-sweet dip made with peanut butter, red curry paste, and coconut milk pairs well with leftover rotisserie chicken, jammy eggs, cucumber spears, and roasted sweet potatoes. It’s the perfect desk-friendly lunch.
Photo by Chelsie Craig, food styling by Alison Attenborough40/53
Saag Paneer, But With Feta
This riff on the classic dish swaps paneer out for salty chunks of feta—mozzarella or even tofu cubes could also work—but keeps the garlicky spiced spinach sauce.
Photo by Alex Lau, food styling by Sue Li, prop styling by Elizabeth Jaime41/53
Lemony Salmon and Spiced Chickpeas
Everything’s better in bowl form, and this salmon dish flavored with a garlicky za’atar dressing is no exception. Grilled chicken or even roasted butternut squash could work in place of the salmon too. Feel free to play with it!
Photo by Chelsie Craig, styling by Molly Baz43/53
Tofu and Mushroom Stir-Fry
If you have a bit of extra time before making this stir-fry recipe, press the whole block of tofu between two layers of paper towels, weighted down with a couple of large cans, for 15 minutes (or invest in a tofu press—here’s why).
Photo by Chelsie Craig, food styling by Anna Billingskog47/53
Make-Ahead Broccoli and Quinoa Salad
No matter where you’re headed in life, make a big batch of this salad recipe—it’s great for a solo lunch the next day; but it’s also ideal to bring to your friend’s dinner party later that night.
Salad Sandwiches with Ranch Spread
If you skip making the ranch and instead choose to buy a bottle (we promise not to tell), you just have to prepare the hard-boiled eggs, slice some vegetables, and you’re finished.
Photo by Alex Lau, styling by Sean Dooley49/53
Pork and Bok Choy Stir-Fry
Stir-frying is synonymous with quick cooking. Here, using a fatty cut like boneless pork shoulder guarantees an exceptionally juicy, flavorful dish. No tough strips of dry meat here.
Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Michelle Gatton51/53
Soba Noodles With Crispy Kale
Three cheers for nutritional yeast! In this lunch recipe, it acts like a vegan version of Parmesan cheese, adding a hit of umami flavor that plays well with bitter kale and earthy buckwheat noodles.
Photo by Alex Lau, Food Styling by Sue Li, Prop Styling by Kalen Kaminski52/53
Crispy Eggs Over Grains
You’re going to start putting this mixture of fried shallots and garlic with mustard seeds on everything from steamed or roasted vegetables to crispy fish. Watch.
Photo by TED+CHELSEA CAVANAUGH, Food Styling by Susie Theodorou53/53
This is one of those easy lunch ideas we find ourselves turning to again and again. Canned white beans become a creamy spread for this vegetarian sandwich, while thick-cut feta cheese provides something to sink your teeth into.