41 Vegetarian Lunchbox Ideas

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A huge collection of inspiring vegetarian lunchbox ideas, that will help you avoid getting into a rut with your vegetarian packed lunches!

A collage showing vegetarian lunchbox ideas.

With the back-to-school season comes the return of the dreaded packed lunch. A daily chore that can bring so many headaches!

Even if you don’t have kids in school, this time of year is often a chance to refocus after a busy summer, and get back into the swing of packing a healthy lunchbox every day – not always an easy feat.

Luckily, vegetarian packed lunches don’t need to rely on the exact same unimaginative cheese sandwich every single day – there are heaps of other things you can pack in your vegetarian lunchbox to ensure lunchtime is something you and your kids can look forward to all morning!

This post contains heaps of information about how to make the perfect vegetarian packed lunch, including 41 lunchbox recipes.

A creamy chickpea salad sandwich.

🤔 What to pack in a vegetarian lunchbox?

I personally like there to be one ‘main’ element in the lunches I pack, plus a few smaller bits on the side. The main could be a sandwich or wrap, or something a bit different, like a pastry, or even a few spoonfuls of pasta salad.

This post contains heaps of different vegetarian lunchbox ideas that you can use as the main part of your packed lunch.

Then, in addition to the main event, I usually add a few of these extras (not all of them every day!):

  • fresh fruit
  • salad veggies (cucumber, tomatoes, raw pepper, carrot sticks, etc)
  • a dollop of some sort of vegetarian dip or spread
  • a few potato crisps or veggie straws
  • a small block of cheese (unless the main event was cheese-based)
  • dried fruit, like raisins or dried apricots
  • a sweet treat

Some of the vegetarian packed lunch ideas in this list are super kid-friendly, whereas others might be a little more grown up – so just choose whatever you feel your intended consumer will enjoy!

A spicy roasted chickpea wrap.

⏰ Can you prepare a vegetarian lunchbox in advance?

If you don’t have time to pack a lunchbox from scratch every day, batch cooking is your friend!

As well as simple sandwiches that can be whipped up quickly in the morning, this post also contains a few cold salads that can be cooked in big batches to enjoy throughout the week. There are also some pastries and other savouries that can be batch cooked in advance, so they’re ready to pop into lunchboxes through the week.

Food safety advice usually recommends eating pre-cooked food within 3-4 days of cooking (source: USDA) – so for example, if you cooked a batch of something on Sunday afternoon, you could eat it on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and probably even on Thursday, as long as it still looks, smells and tastes okay.

You should probably try to make something fresh, like a quick sandwich, for your lunch on Friday.

Cheesy carrot bites on a plate with ketchup.

🥜 Can you pack nuts in a lunchbox?

In the UK, and probably elsewhere, a lot of schools have a blanket ban on anything containing nuts in lunchboxes. This is because nut allergies can be so serious, and it’s easier for them to just ban nuts altogether, than to chop and change the rules depending on each class’ allergies.

Adult workplaces may not have the same ban on nuts, but it would be considerate to avoid nuts in your lunchbox anyway, unless you’re certain that you won’t be eating nearby somebody with a severe nut allergy.

Some of the recipes below (clearly marked) do contain nuts. If necessary, omit the nuts, or swap them for something else.

As well as obvious sources of nuts, like whole nuts or peanut butter, watch out for sneaky nuts hiding in things like pesto, which is usually made with pine nuts. It’s easy to swap the pesto for an alternative nut-free spread, or use a nut-free version.

Homemade savory trail mix spilling out of a jar.

🍱 Vegetarian packed lunch ideas

Vegetarian Sandwiches, Wraps, etc.

A creamy chickpea salad sandwich with its top removed.

Creamy chickpea salad sandwiches [vegan]

Easy homemade flatbreads stuffed with avocado and salad.

Easy homemade flatbreads [vegan]
– stuff these with whatever fillings you like!

Vegetarian Pastries and Other Savouries

Mini mushroom picnic pies stacked up on a paper plate.

Mini mushroom picnic pies

Vegetable oat bars on a plate.

Very veggie oat bars
– pesto contains nuts

A vegetarian mezze platter with falafel, hummus, halloumi, and more.

Vegetarian mezze [vegan, depending on what you choose]
– just choose a few elements to pack in the lunchbox for a fun themed lunch

Bean and lentil koftas on wooden skewers.

Black bean and lentil vegetarian koftas [vegan]
– best served with a tasty dipping sauce, like salsa or tzatziki

Crispy fried gnocchi in a frying pan.

Fried gnocchi [vegan]
– these would be really fun served with a tub of tomato sauce for dipping!

Homemade savoury trail mix spilling out of a jar.

Cajun spiced savoury trail mix [vegan]
– contains nuts

Crispy fava bean chips in a small bowl.

Parmesan baked fava bean chips
– a brilliant nut-free snack for schools that don’t allow nuts

Vegetarian Dips and Spreads

Homemade sun-dried tomato hummus in a bowl.

Sun-dried tomato hummus [vegan]
– topped with nuts

Tofu lettuce wraps with rice and nuts.

Nutty tofu lettuce wraps [vegan]
– contains nuts

A bowlful of chickpea pasta salad with pesto and arugula.

Chickpea pasta salad with pesto
– pesto contains nuts

A bowl of pesto potato salad on a picnic blanket.

Mint and pistachio pesto potato salad [vegan]
– contains nuts

Lunchbox-Friendly Sweet Treats

Berry oat breakfast bars in a baking dish.

Raspberry and blueberry oaty breakfast bars

A traditional British pancake on a plate.

Traditional British pancakes
– a pancake folded up in a lunchbox with some fruit and chocolate spread would be a really fun change!

Have I inspired you to pack something a bit different in your vegetarian lunchbox this week? What will you cook first?

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28 Comments

  1. Recipes look delicious, but no idea how you intend them to survive sitting in lunchbox from school bus ride thru morning classes till lunchtime even in an isolated fag they would still be a mess by than.

    1. Hi Diane, not everyone has the same journey to work / school – a lot of people will just carry their lunchbox and leave it sitting somewhere until lunchtime. Also a lot of these recipes will hold up really well even if they’re shaken around a bit – the carrot and cheddar bites, for example, aren’t remotely delicate. And anything that might fall apart, like a sandwich, can be wrapped tightly in foil to keep it together :)

  2. Being a new subscriber, I took my first look. Your lunchbox recipes will be just the thing for my (seniors) day-tripper walking group. We walk around for 4-5 hours of sightseeing. About halfway through, we take a break usually in a city park or by a city lake. These recipes will be perfect for our snacks. Thank you.

  3. I am so glad that I found your website – I want to try pretty much every recipe as they all sound so delicious! It’s like you’ve made my absolute perfect menu! Any thoughts as to when you might publish a cookbook??

  4. Really great ideas will definitely try as they look delicious and stop the usual cheese sandwich but technically you don’t have to worry about pine nuts as they are actually seeds (they aren’t in bold on ingredient lists as well) but mainly mind for cashews in pesto. Thanks for the ideas though