27 Packable Lunch Ideas To Up Your Brown Bag Game

Hello and welcome to this thing we’re doing where we help you figure out what you’re gonna put in your mouth this week. Some of these are recipes we’ve tried, some of these are recipes we’re looking forward to trying, all of them are fucking delicious. Tell us what you want to put in your piehole or suggest your own recipes, and we’ll talk about which things we made, which things we loved, and which things have changed us irreversibly as people.

for food lists

I tend to travel with food. Like a squirrel, I have little hoards of nuts and cereal and quick eats in my desk drawer, my bag, my jacket pockets, and sometimes tucked into my bra. When I got my first job as an organizer for a campus activist program, my boss at the time recommended I stash a jar of peanut butter in my desk drawer and granola bars and water in the trunk of my car. It was the best advice. You never know when you’re gonna’ need some protein on the go. However, subsisting on desk peanut butter and car trunk granola bars is a backup plan, not a pleasant way to live your best life.

Packing yummy food for a long day at work or school can be a challenge if you don’t have access to a refrigerator to keep perishable noms fresh and/or a microwave to heat things up to an edible temperature. Are you doomed to eat peanut butter every day forever? No, no you’re not.

Get into these tasty meals and snacks that serve well at room temperature and will stay fresh for hours in your brown bag, backpack, purse, or bra (maybe not your bra) so you’ll never need to eat tepid peanut butter for lunch again.

1. Roasted Curried Chickpeas with Rosemary and Thyme

2. Vegetarian Dolmades

3. Vegan Portobello Pizzas

4. Baked Kale Chips

5. Breakfast Salad with Cinnamon Toast Croutons and Maple Vinaigrette

Leave the fried egg off or substitute it with a chopped hard-boiled egg and this could make a delicious packed lunch!

6. Hummus, Cucumber, and Avocado Wrap

7. Sushi Sandwiches

8. Homemade Cracker Jack

9. Bento Box Taco Cups

10. Easy Turkey Jerky

11. Spicy Sriracha Tofu Jerky

12. Coconut Trail Mix

13. Cold Spicy Peanut Sesame Noodles

14. Zesty Tortellini Salad

15. Haricots Verts à la Dijonnaise

via FOOD52

via FOOD52

16. Vegan Peanut Butter Protein Cookies

17. Waffled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

18. Gluten Free and Vegan Coconut Cranberry Raw Bars

19. Onigiri Rice Balls

20. Strawberry Banana Fruit Leather

21. Quick Vegetarian Sausage Rolle

22. Plum Avocado Summer Salad

via FOOD52

via FOOD52

23. Mini Corn Dog Pops

24. Coconut Soba Noodle Bowl

25. Baked Cinnamon Apple Chips


26. Paleo Tropical Sriracha Chicken Salad in a Mason Jar

27. Spring Bibimbap

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KaeLyn is a 40-year-old hard femme bisexual dino mom. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, over-caffeinating herself, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Upstate NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a scaredy cat, an elderly betta fish, and two rascally rabbits. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 230 articles for us.


    • Seconded. I keep jars of peanut and almond butter in my desk drawer at work for “emergency” purposes, which I then usually proceed to eat out of with a spoon (because I have no shame). It’s the best.

  1. OK but hear me out re: “tepid peanut butter.”

    You can make an easy peanut sauce and throw it in a jar, then bring veggie sticks to dip in it. I basically make this: http://www.food.com/recipe/chinese-peanut-sauce-37244 but with a little grated ginger, rice vinegar instead of cider vinegar, and I don’t know why they add sugar or cilantro. It’s good with carrots, bell pepper, and celery or if you want more protein you can fry some tofu with a little soy sauce to dip as well. It’s a very easy work lunch!

    • Well that sounds delicious. But that’s a yummy dip, not a jar of room temperature peanut butter in my desk drawer. Haha.

      • … yeah fair enough. For one thing, you probably should refrigerate the peanut sauce :P

    • I mean, to be fair to ya’ll, my lunch today is a tofurky sandwich, a fruit cup, and an orange…. I can do better!

  2. Those vegetarian dolmades look amazing. ? Vine leaves are so hard to find in any of the grocery stores in my town, though. I’m tempted to just buy them on Amazon.

    Those chickpeas sound delicious. I wonder how long they’d keep for?

    • Do you have any middle eastern supermarket? I’d try there as that’s were you will more likely find it.

    • I’ve made the chickpeas before and they keep for several days in an airtight container.

  3. All I see everywhere is Greek style(or Mediterranean style), but you never see Iranian style(which in my experience has always been vegan, full flavored) ever. Why is that? Is it some form oppression/racism? I am pretty sure the food’s origins are from the middle east(Turkey/Iraq/Iran region). I should really get my grandma’s recipe and methods and share it with the world

    • Oh, please do! I don’t think I’ve ever had Iranian style stuffed grape leaves – what are they called there?

      I suspect “Greek style” is because a lot of folks in the US have had them at Greek restaurants. Which indirectly is due to racism – immigration policy, what kinds of “ethnic” restaurant is considered desirable, etc.


      I’m sure it’s because “ethnic food” and what is considered popular is dominated by what is suitable to white people’s palates. See “tex mex” and “California sushi.”

      Also, the general “othering” and discrimination against Middle Eastern people or people perceived to be Middle Eastern in the US. I imagine this is why Greek/Mediterranean restaurants seem to be more popular and available in the US than Turkish, Iraqi, Iranian, Palestinian, etc.

      But anyway, I’d love to try your grandma’s recipe!!!

      • At least in my location Iranian(and most of them aren’t in Little Tehran district) and Turkish restaurants are easy to find. And Palestinian many times falls under general middle eastern restaurant, Mediterranean or Israeli(and neither of them make the dolmas I am familiar with).

  4. This article has come into my life at the perfect time (aka I have to pack lunches for the next six weeks for my camp counselor job), so excited to try some of these recipes and mix it up from my usual cheese sandwich + one or two snacks routine! :D

    • In addition to these, check out bento box recipe sites! Lots of great ideas for portable lunches and snacks that are out of the ordinary!

  5. I am ALL OVER that bibimbap, possibly RIGHT NOW.

    (And the sushi sammiches! They slay me, right in my hungry lunchtime tummy. To the kitchen~)

  6. I just gave some grape leaves from my vines to a friend at work. Now if I get really ambitious I can pick a few more and make some dolmades.

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