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tasty & timely
38 Cold Lunch Ideas You Can Prep Between Video Calls
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zoe.kaplan
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  • If you're a first-time cold lunch maker, try a turkey, avocado, and hummus roll ups or a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • If you're feeling for a salad, perhaps a taco salad jar, a spinach strawberry salad, or a Mexican street corn pasta salad will do.
  • For the creative cooks with a little more time to prep, try a Buddha bowl, a spicy tuna poke bowl or shrimp gazpacho.

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Going out to buy lunch isn’t the most feasible option as we work from our homes, and making a gourmet meal might not be possible in between calls. But these limitations don't mean your lunch has  to suffer!

Whether you're into salads (of all kinds — including pasta!) or a classic sandwich, here are cold lunch ideas to rock your workday eating.

The classics

1. Turkey, avocado, and hummus roll ups

Image via Organize Yourself Skinny

Time: 5 minutes

If you're a first-time cold lunch maker, these roll ups are a perfect place to start. With just three ingredients and five minutes, you'll have a protein-filled, delicious lunch perfectly paired with your choice of veggies.

2. Grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich

Image via Joy Food Sunshine

Time: 13 minutes

We may not look fondly at our old school lunches, but this recipes puts old PB&Js to shame. The secret? Putting your sandwich on the stove to grill to perfect. Even if you end up refrigerating the sandwich before eating, the pressed bread will keep your peanut butter and jelly oozing out the sides.

3. Creamy egg salad

Image via The Kitchn

Time: 25 minutes

Egg salad is one of my favorite go-to dishes of all time. Once you hard boil your eggs, the options are endless. Do you love red onions? Throw them in. Scallions? Add them too! Celery? Perfect for a crunch. 

3. Yogurt and fruit parfait

Image via Food Network Kitchen

Time: 5 minutes

Who doesn't want breakfast for lunch? Making a yogurt parfait is a great way to get a little sweetness and tons of protein to keep you motivated during the afternoon slump.

4. Classic BLT sandwich

Image via Tasting Table

Time: 30 minutes

You can't really go wrong with a BLT, especially when you're cooking with "good quality applewood-smoked bacon," as this recipe suggests. Add a little lemon juice or zest for an extra fancy kick.

5. Easy chicken lettuce wraps

Image via Your Homebased Mom

Time: 20 minutes

If you're not into the bread part of the BLT, consider turning to lettuce for your new sandwich base. These chicken lettuce wraps include broccoli slaw for an added crunch.

6. Chicken salad

Image via Spend with Pennies

Time: 15 minutes

Like egg salad, chicken salad is a great go-to, especially if you want to spruce up the leftover chicken from last night's dinner. You can put this on a roll, in a salad or even just eat it straight. There's no wrong answer.

7. Avocado toast

Image via Cookie and Kate

Time: 5 minutes

You don't need a fancy Sunday brunch as an excuse to make avocado toast. While the basic meal is just two ingredients, there's so much more that the avocado toast world has to offer. If you're looking for more protein, add a fried or poached egg on top. If you want something sweet, add tomatoes and balsamic. You can even get herbal with basil, cilantro, dill or parsley. 

8. Ham and cheese pinwheels

Image via Mother Thyme

Time: 5 minutes

If the turkey, hummus, and avocado roll ups were your thing, get ready to rock and roll again with these super easy ham and cheese pinwheels. Simply spread a cream cheese mixture on a tortilla, and top with your ham and cheese. Once you've rolled, your lunch is all set!

9. DIY pizza lunchables

Image via Damn Delicious

Time: 15 minutes

Store-bought Lunchables may be a thing of the past, but that doesn't mean we can't borrow some of the creativity from their lunch box ideas. For this recipe, you'll be gathering all the essential items to put together mini cracker pizzas. Feel free to mix it up with your own favorite pizza toppings, mini-style: even if that means getting little bits of ham and pineapple.

10. Chicken caesar wraps

Image via I Heart Naptime

Time: 10 minutes

These might not be as easy as the ham and cheese pinwheels, but they're almost close enough. You'll mix creamy avocado and Caesar dressing with some protein-packed chicken and bacon for an extra crunch. 

The pastas

11. Pesto pasta salad

Image via Cookie and Kate

Time: 25 minutes

Looking to freshen up your pasta? This pesto pasta salad brings together fresh and flavorful ingredients for a delicious and nutritious lunch option. It serves up to 8 people, so you'll have more than enough to share (or to save for future lunches!).

12. Cold noodles in peanut sauce

Image via The Cozy Cook

Time: 20 minutes

This recipe helps you make your own peanut sauce to mix in with spaghetti, sesame and a bunch of veggies. To really get the cold noodle experience, you'll have to refrigerate your finished product for four hours - the perfect amount of time between getting to work and getting out your new yummy meal.

13. Seafood pasta salad

Image via Yummy Addicition

Time: 20 minutes

A pasta salad perfect for pescatarians and fish lovers alike! You'll combine shrimp and imitation crab meat with tricolor pasta and veggies in this recipe. If you're looking to cut back on fat, mix with a yogurt dressing instead of mayo.

14. Antipasto pasta salad

Image via Redbook

Time: 20 minutes

Inspired by antipasto, this recipe combines prosciutto with mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and veggies for a unique and delicious pasta salad. Swap the pasta out for arugula and you'll have an appetizing salad course!

15. Deviled egg macaroni salad

Image via Butter Your Biscuit

Time: 20 minutes 

Looking for something to remind you of summer barbecues? This twist on a classic macaroni salad might do the trick. You'll get a protein boost from the hard-boiled eggs while you enjoy the creamy pasta base.

16. Mexican street corn pasta salad

Image via Chelsea's Messy Apron

Time: 25 minutes

Mix up your cuisines with this pasta salad filled with corn, avocados, lime, cilantro, jalapeños, cheese, green onions and even bacon. No need for a blender — just whisk the ingredients together!

17. Lemon herb Mediterranean pasta salad

Image via Cafe Delites

Time: 25 minutes

This pasta salad recipe is especially great for the summer. With onions, olives, feta, tomatoes and even creamy avocado, your workplace will become your own Greek get away. 

18. Asian pasta salad

Image via Life in the Lighthouse

Time: 2 hours

You'll get to make your own dressing with this pasta salad recipe, which includes mixing up soy sauce and brown sugar. Add some veggies and noodles and you'll have a flavorful and delicious new lunch.

The salads

19. Easy kale salad with fresh lemon dressing

Image via Spend with Pennies

Time: 20 minutes

Kale is a superfood filled with Vitamin A, C and K. So why not make it the base of your work salad? This recipe combines kale with onions, cranberries, almonds and broccoli to provide extra nutrition and flavor. 

20. Taco salad jars

Image via Food Faith Fitness

Time: 30 minutes

Eating food out of jars is somehow all the rage, so if you're looking to hop on the bandwagon...these taco salad jars are your way in! This paleo-friendly, low carb and gluten-free recipe will have your taste buds shaking with everything from salsa to cumin toasted vegetables.

21. Spinach strawberry salad

Image via Kim's Cooking NowTime: 10 minutes

This summery salad finds it base (shockingly) with spinach and strawberries. This recipe gives you the steps to jazz up your salad with a light poppy seed dressing.

22. Easy Greek salad

Image via Food Network Kitchen

Time: 20 minutes

You can't go wrong with a Greek salad, especially with big chunks of feta and salty olives. Just make sure to bring pita and hummus for your work snacks!

23. Shredded brussels sprout salad

Image via Love and LemonsTime: 15 minutes

I love brussels sprout salads because they add a bit of bitterness to your meal. This recipe complements that taste with tart cranberries and salty cheese. Don't forget the chives and lemon for extra fresh flavor.

24. Pink detox salad

Image via Cooking Classy

Time: 20 minutes

Who said salads had to be boring and look boring? Bring some color to your lunch with this pink detox salad, featuring the prettiest of fruits: grapefruit, pomegranate, strawberries and watermelon!

25. Black bean saladImage via Two Peas and Their Pod

Time: 15 minutes

My mom loved whipping up this dish for sister and me as a healthy and hearty afternoon snack. We'd eat it as stand alone salad, or sometimes add some crunch by scooping with tortilla chips. 

26. Favorite quinoa salad

Image via Cookie and KateTime: 40 minutes

If you're not the biggest fan of lettuce, getting creative with your salad bases is always helpful. Quinoa's a great base if you're looking to add protein to your salad without adding any type of meat or fish. This recipe tops it all off with chickpeas and red bell peppers for an invigorating meal.

27. Apple pecan arugula salad

Image via Minimalist Baker

Time: 15 minutes

Get a little extra crunch to your salad with this recipe's toasted pecans. The rest (your arugula, apples, cranberries and onions) is simple, gluten-free and vegan!

28. Watermelon tomato salad

Image via Love and Lemons

Time: 15 minutes

Nothing says summer foods like watermelon and tomato, but this recipe's so refreshing you'll want it all year round. If you're sharing, make sure to warn about the jalapeños, which give this dish a surprising kick.

Creative cold lunch ideas

29. Buddha bowl

Image via Tasty

Time: 40 minutes

This bowl might take a lot of prep time, but with its filling and nutritious ingredients, it's worth the work. This recipe calls for quinoa, kale, butternut squash, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, lentils, red cabbage, beets and walnuts, but feel free to mix and match ingredients you love.

30. Spicy tuna poke bowl

Image via Skinny Taste

Time: 15 minutes

You don't need to keep spending your money at the nearest poke place to get your fix. Luckily, making your own poke is almost as easy as ordering it! You can even get creative with your bases and switch up your sushi rice with cauliflower rice or zucchini noodles.

31. Mini stuffed peppers

Image via A Spicy Perspective

Time: 20 minutes

In just three ingredients, you'll have a deliciously creamy and crunchy new dish. If you're looking for more protein beyond the cheese, don't hesitate to spread some chicken shreds or accompany your meal with a hard boiled egg.

32. Thai summer rolls with peanut sauce

Image via Pinch of Yum

Time: 20 minutes

You'll never feel happier about raw vegetables than you will with these scrumptious Thai summer rolls. Make sure you make enough peanut sauce for dipping!

33. Shrimp gazpacho

Image via Taste of Home

Time: 15 minutes

Who said soup has to be warm? Get around stereotypes with this thick shrimp gazpacho. One user recommends adding minced fresh garlic for extra flavor.

34. Lean chicken meatloaf muffins

Image via Haute and Healthy Living

Time: 35 minutes

Chicken, meatloaf and muffins? It may be perplexing, but this lunch may soon be your new delicious protein boost. This recipe isn't exclusive to lunch; try these for a snack or even breakfast if you're looking for something hearty. 

35. Salmon and black sesame onigiri

Image via The Kitchn

Time: 35 min

These seaweed-wrapped rice balls are filled with seafood to bring elements of sushi into a larger, "comforting form," says Anjali Prasertong, recipe creator.

36. Creamy vegetarian black bean taquitos

Image via Backyard Bohemian

Time: 23 minutes

This recipe does require a number of spices, but the extra ingredients add to its exciting mix of flavors. You'll even learn how to steam your tortillas, two different ways!

37. Pork spring rolls

Image via Taste of Home

Time: 45 minutes

Get a little protein boost while remaining gluten-free with these mild pork spring rolls. Make sure to pack the sweet chili sauce for dipping.

38. Zoodles with avocado and mango sauce

Image via Pure WowTime: 15 minutes

Zoodles defy pasta to give you a unique veggie-eating experience. This recipe goes beyond expectations with a creamy, light and spicy sauce to add an extra kick to your new favorite cold lunch. 

Zoë Kaplan is an English major at Wesleyan University in the class of 2020. She writes about women, theater, sports, and everything in between. Read more of Zoë’s work at www.zoeakaplan.com.

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