Wondering how to eat meatless at lunch? Here are healthy & easy vegetarian lunch ideas that will keep you full all afternoon.
Lunch is one of the hardest times of the day to eat healthy, right? In the middle of a crazy day, the last thing you want to think about when your stomach is rumbling is clean eating! But Alex and I have found with just a little bit of planning, lunch time can be manageable! Here are a few of the real life recipes that we eat for lunch.
The vegetarian lunch ideas you’ll find here? Simple ones.
Let’s start with a clarification of what you’ll find here. These vegetarian lunch ideas are ultra simple. You won’t find Alex and me eating a veggie burger or a hearty stew for lunch. Because we like to save the big guns for dinner! We’d rather spend our main cooking energy on healthy dinner recipes. These vegetarian lunch ideas include sandwiches, snacks, and dips you can mix and match to form a meal.
One note on protein: When you’re eating vegetarian, it’s important to make sure your lunch has enough plant-based protein so you stay full. Here’s more about how to get protein as a vegetarian. Some lunch ideas stand alone, like our Chickpea Salad Sandwich. But others are things you could combine to make a meal: for example, hummus, crackers, a hardboiled egg and an apple. Most of our vegetarian lunch recipes are simple to put together day of, or easy to make a big batch of and eat off of during the week.
This is one of our favorite vegetarian lunch ideas ever: chickpea salad! It’s like a vegetarian version of a chicken salad sandwich, but made using chickpeas. The chickpeas are smashed and mixed together with a bit of mayo, lemon juice, celery and green onions to make the most savory, delicious spread. You can serve it as a sandwich, or eat it with crackers as a dip. This one often makes it into our lunches and it takes only 5 minutes to whip up.
Next up in our vegetarian lunch ideas: healthy banana bread muffins! Because they’re made mostly of oats and bananas, they’re basically like eating oatmeal and banana, to go! We’d serve these with peanut butter or almond butter to make them even more filling, then accessorize with some of the veggies and dips below. They’re blender muffins so they’re very easy to make at home. We freeze them and use them in our toddler Larson’s lunches throughout the week: and snack on them ourselves too!
This Mexican Pinwheel recipe is all about making a healthy lunch or family dinner recipes as fast as possible. While we often serve them for lunch, we've eaten them for dinner when we need it FAST. The pinwheels are packed with healthy veggies: bell peppers, spinach, and black beans. They're mixed with Mexican spices and rolled into a tortilla with a bit of hummus. Dip into salsa if you'd like!
Looking for an easy lunch or dinner recipe? Here’s one that’s super simple and totally customizable: brown lentils! Lentils are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, so why not incorporate more of them into your everyday? This recipe results in perfectly seasoned, tender lentils. For lunch, eat them in a bowl meal: dollop with Greek yogurt or cashew cream and add pita wedges.
These hummus and veggie roll ups are one of our favorite simple concepts to make eating veggies fun and delicious! Simply spread hummus on a tortilla, add chopped broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, and roll it up! It sounds deceptively simple but tastes fantastic. We’d add a few other no think components like a handful of almonds and green apple slices. It’s one of our easy vegetarian lunch ideas that works for both kids and adults.
This is one of our favorite new vegetarian lunch ideas that we call “The Best Sandwich Ever”. After trying this the first time, Alex said that it tastes like a healthy version of a Big Mac! Ha. What makes this coleslaw & Swiss melt sandwich so savory and delicious? Start with our best coleslaw ever, and add melty cheese on a salty pretzel bun. What puts it over the edge is our secret sauce: Russian dressing, the star ingredient in a Reuben sandwich. If you’re bringing this to an office, keep the components separate and then toast in a toaster oven: or you could even microwave to melt the cheese!
Our friend circle has been loving this tomato dip for years and years, so it’s now “famous”. Made mostly of almonds and tomatoes, it’s a super filling dip that you can serve with crackers to make a healthy lunch. One of our friends says he always has the ingredients for this dip on hand in his cupboard so he can stay healthy when hunger strikes! Again, this is a component of a delicious lunch: combine with veggies, crackers and cheese, a hard boiled egg, and fruit to make it into a full fledged vegetarian lunch ideas.
Here's an easy, healthy lunch idea that you can make in 5 minutes! It's plant based and starts with a can of chickpeas. Throw these chickpeas together with cucumber and red pepper, stir with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and you've got an incredible Mediterranean-style plant based salad that tastes like it took all day. Serve with pita triangles or crackers.
Here's a healthy lunch idea you can use as a "side" to any of our salads or sandwiches! This peanut butter dip is just 4 ingredients and somehow tastes like frosting. Greek yogurt, peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla combine into the best dip for sliced green apples. Or dip any fruit you like--or pretzels for a sweet and salty twist!
This green hummus is bright and flavorful, featuring green onions, spinach, cilantro and lime. Hummus often appears as part of our lunches or healthy snacks. Since it’s made of chickpeas, it’s a plant-based protein that’s filling and tasty at the same time. For vegetarian lunch ideas, we’d suggest serving this green hummus with veggies and pita, then add something like fresh fruit, a handful of roasted almonds, and maybe some of those Crispy Chickpeas you see as a garnish. Healthy lunch ideas like this will keep you super satisfied!
This “fancy toast” is another one of our no-think vegetarian lunch ideas: just put stuff on toast and call it lunch! For this fancy toast, we used two ideas: a simple creamy ricotta spread, and a white bean spread. The ricotta spread is topped with radishes and microgreens, and the white bean spread is topped with havarti cheese and red onion. They look super fancy, but they’re truly simple and can be whipped up in no time.
Eggs are some of the most nutritious foods on the planet. And hard boiling them makes them perfect as vegetarian lunch ideas! Eggs have 75 calories each, and are packed with nutrients and 7 grams of protein. They’re especially helpful for vegetarian diets as a natural source of B12. Recent research has found that instead of avoiding boiled eggs for cholesterol reasons, eggs actually increase the good cholesterol the body needs. They’re recommended as an affordable and easy-to-eat source of high quality protein.
This garlic herb white bean dip is a delicious and healthy dip recipe that everyone will love! It’s a unique alternative to hummus. Serve with veggies and crackers, a handful of nuts, and fresh fruit. Another component that works well is plain Greek yogurt flavored with a bit of maple syrup.
Looking for a quick sandwich recipe that will knock your socks off? This Mediterranean veggie sandwich is fast to make and loaded with deliciousness. Top your bread with Garlic Herb White Bean Dip (or Glowing Green Hummus), and then add red onion, shredded carrot, greens, and feta cheese, It’s one of those over the top tasty vegetarian lunch recipes that doesn’t require too much effort.
Vegan banh mi is another one of those vegetarian lunch ideas that sounds fancy, but is actually pretty simple to put together! Whip up a batch of our ginger lime hummus the night before, and slice up some veggies for quick pickles. Day of, assemble your sandwich on a baguette at your workplace: all your coworkers will be jealous!
Of course, who could have a list of vegetarian lunch ideas without avocado toast! Avocado toast has now become ubiquitous, but what’s the harm in that? An avocado spread onto toast with just a sprinkle of salt can be one of life’s best treats. Here we’ve added a turmeric poached egg: but if you’re doing this as a desk lunch, use a hard boiled egg instead.
This healthy egg salad with basil one of our favorite easy vegetarian lunch ideas: it’s made with Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard instead of mayonnaise. Adding basil to your egg salad gives a fresh element that makes it easy to love. Serve with crackers or on bread as a sandwich.
This Mexican quinoa recipe is one of the few vegetarian lunch ideas in this list that requires making the night before. BUT, it’s so delicious and fun that we wanted to add it to the list: and it saves well for lunches throughout the week. Here, quinoa is tossed with black beans, veggies, and fajita seasoning to create a super flavorful and filling salad. It’s one of those lunch recipes that you can’t wait for lunch time so you can dig in! Another option: Caribbean Black Bean Salad
For the vegetarian lunch ideas above that called for some accessories: this cinnamon yogurt fruit dip is the perfect accompaniment! This yogurt dip is so easy to make, and super clean: it’s got just plain yogurt, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla. We love to serve it with green apple slices, bananas or strawberries.
Finally, the last of our vegetarian lunch ideas also requires prep the night before, but is totally worth it. Our tomato basil gnocchi soup recipe is ultra tangy and flavorful, with delicious doughy bites of gnocchi (the brand we love is vegan and has gluten-free options). Serve it with cheese and crackers and your lunch will be the talk of the office!
Drain and rinse the chickpeas. In a medium bowl, smash the chickpeas with a fork.
Combine the chickpeas with the chopped celery and green onions, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and celery seed. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, depending on your chickpea brand and taste preferences, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Taste and salt until the flavor pops! If the salad is dry, add more mayonnaise (cooked chickpeas have a drier texture than canned).
Assemble the chickpea salad sandwich: If desired, spread the bread with hummus (this amps it up a bit but not required). Top the sandwich with lettuce or greens and chickpea spread.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.