35 Easy Cold Lunch Ideas For School + Work (Vegan)

by Alena
Aug 31, 2020
white table with three different-sized glass containers filled with gluten-free vegan quinoa pasta salad

Stuck in a lunch rut or sick of restaurant food? Free your mind from thinking about how to satisfy your midday belly rumble with some easy make-ahead cold lunch ideas that work well for both school or work, are undetectably healthy and fully vegan.

Not only can regular restaurant visits to grab lunch get really costly over time, especially for those who want to transition to a vegan diet or try to eat healthier, it can be hard to find appropriate meals.

Take back your power by making some simple yet scrumptious plant-powered filling wraps, salads or colorful bowls that help you save money, empty calories and a whole lot of brainpower.

One of the worst things you can do as an inspiring vegan or health foodie is to not be prepared. Just winging it at the restaurant once or twice is totally fine but you really want to get into a sustainable, enjoyable and health-promoting eating routine.

While it’s pretty easy to come up with quick, healthy and delicious breakfast ideas (find our 10+ favorites here), lunch is oftentimes a different story.

You don’t necessarily have the option to heat up your food or even leave your desk at all, but you need something to sustain you for the rest of the day — minus the sugar crashes, preferably.

Easy + Healthy Protein Snacks

Luckily, there are many delicious and easy to make cold lunch ideas that are fully plant-based and also fully scrumptious — filling you up for hours with tons of essential nutrients while keeping your food cost low and supporting healthy weight maintenance. 

Even if you’re not vegan, you should definitely look into some plant-based packable lunch options because plants don’t go bad as quickly as animal products.

The following hand-picked portable vegan lunches can mostly be made in advance, are suitable for different dietary preferences and oftentimes work for kids, too!

You don’t need awesome kitchen skills or fancy equipment for any of them — most of our easy cold lunch ideas are put together in less than half an hour and help you feel energized throughout the day.

Basic Vegan Portable Lunch Tips

If you’re used to grabbing lunch near your office or university most days, here are some basic tips for portable cold lunch ideas!

Quick & Simple Vegan Beginner Recipes

The Best Portable Cold Lunch Ideas

Now, let’s go over our favorite vegan portable cold lunch ideas that range from basic sandwiches to crunchy wraps, bite-sized muffins or rolls and colorful satisfying salads that can be made days in advance.

Creamy Potato Salad

woman holding a creamy vegan potato salad over a white table with ingredients for the salad
Recipe by Nutriciously

This (almost) classic potato salad is made with a creamy homemade vegan cashew mayo, crunchy celery, dill pickles and onions — all completely oil-free, gluten-free and whole food plant-based. Customizable and nourishing, it keeps well for almost a week in the fridge and tastes best within the first 3-4 days.

Easy Bean Burritos

Close up of four bean burritos filled with vegetables on a plate with yogurt and tomato paste in the background
Recipe by Nutriciously

Everything that you can wrap up and take with you is the perfect portable lunch in our books! These homemade vegan bean burritos are no different. Using leftover cooked rice, canned beans and a few chopped veggies, they come together in no time and are super satiating and healthy! They really tick all boxes.

Vegan Mexican Salad Jars

two glass jars with layered vegan mexican salad and tortillas
Recipe by Sandhya’s Kitchen

These pretty Mexican Salads in glass jars have serious potential to become your next go-to meal prepable lunch! Loaded with homemade salsa, kidney beans, corn, guacamole and lettuce, they are really delicious, customizable and bursting with nutrition. The best part? They keep well for up to a week.

Easy Eggplant Sandwiches

four vegan eggplant sandwiches with tomato and cucumber on top of each other as one of the best cold lunch ideas
Recipe by Little Sunny Kitchen

A tasty plant-powered sandwich is the perfect cold lunch idea! This one features layers of smoky eggplant and fresh vegetables which are packed in panini bread, then toasted till perfection. Ideal for lunchboxes, picnics, and lunches on the go!

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

white tables with three glass containers containing colorful vegan quinoa pasta salad with tomatoes, bell pepper and basil
Recipe by Nutriciously

Bursting with color, flavor and nutrition, this delicious 30-minute vegan pasta salad Mediterranean-style is actually completely gluten-free and comes with a creamy yogurt garlic dressing. It’s a scrumptious, undetectably vegan classic cold lunch, easily customizable and very refreshing.

Moroccan Collard Wraps

white plate with a few rolled vegan collard wraps filled with millet next to a yogurt dip
Recipe by Nutriciously

Get ready to make any picky eater fall in love with healthy food — these collard green wraps are great vehicles to add more fresh vegetables to anyone’s diet in a very creative and delicious way. Crunchy leaves with satiating starches, some veggies and a creamy vegan yogurt sauce! The perfect finger food or to-go lunch.

Rainbow Pesto Hummus Sandwiches

metal lunchbox containing almonds, energy balls, apple slices and a homemade rainbow veggie sandwich
Recipe by Sweet Simple Vegan

Not only are vegan sandwiches life but when combined with some crunchy nuts, fresh apples and energy bites, you have yourself a fun, versatile and well-rounded lunchbox! Check out Jasmine and Chris’ rainbow sandwich as well as a couple of other portable cold lunch ideas.

Quinoa Veggie Bowls

marble table with two bowls of spiralized carrots, quinoa, chickpeas, chopped greens and avocado
Recipe by Nutriciously

Truth be told, most of our meals are actually just random vegan bowls featuring seasonal produce and our current favorite staples! This simple quinoa veggie bowl is pretty high in plant-based protein, comes with a lot of crunchy veggies and can be dressed up with any sauce of your choice (store separately until you actually eat your bowl!).

Sweet Potato Bean Bowls

four glass containers with sweet potato cubes, black beans, corn and lime
Recipe by Salt & Lavender

These southwest sweet potato vegan meal prep bowls are a healthy and efficient meal prep idea. You can have 4 delicious meals ready in under 45 minutes! Customizable, healthy, satisfying and perfect for portable vegan lunches.

Vegetable Loaded Sushi Donuts

table with 9 rice-based sushi donuts made with different veggies
Recipe by Recipes From A Pantry

Here’s a super fun and pretty way to switch up your cold lunches! Gluten-free vegan rice-based sushi doughnuts made with different veggies or even some fruit for a sweet version. They are versatile, perfectly portable and kid-friendly.

Vegan Tuna Salad Sandwich

black table with two portable vegan tuna salad sandwiches as cold lunch ideas
Recipe by Keeping The Peas

Who doesn’t love a good scrumptious whole food plant-based sandwich? The vegan mock tuna salad is made with crunchy celery, protein-rich chickpeas and just a couple more pantry staples. Spread on whole-grain bread and stuff with leafy greens of your choice.

Vegan Protein Pesto Pasta

Recipe by Nutriciously

Pasta is always the right choice in our books! Our super green veggie-rich pesto pasta is made without any oil, rich in protein and can be enjoyed freshly made as a warm dinner or as a quick leftover cold lunch the next day.

Chipotle Veggie Burrito Bowl

Delicious loaded Vegan Burrito Bowl in Chipotle Veggie Bowl style with items like Fajitas Veggies, Black Beans, Cilantro Rice, Salsa, Guacamole and more for a portable cold lunch idea
Recipe by My Pure Plants

This colorful and filling burrito bowl features tasty fajitas veggies, black beans, cilantro, brown rice, tomato corn salsa and more plant-based goodness — including guacamole, lettuce, spicy soy curls and vegan sour cream! We love this vegan meal prep lunch idea.

Peanut Crunch Mason Jar Salad

three mason jars with layered peanut crunch salad containing quinoa, edamame and red cabbage
Recipe by A Virtual Vegan

Preparing a scrumptious portable vegan lunch doesn’t get much easier than this protein-packed peanut crunch salad! Prettily arranged in glass mason jars, they keep well in the fridge for up to a week without getting soggy when layered the right way. Convenient, delicious and full of texture!

Raw Pad Thai Salad

two bowls of colorful spiralized veggies topped with edamame, tofu and a creamy peanut butter sauce
Recipe by Nutriciously

Move over boring green salads, it’s time to devour this delicious raw vegan pad Thai with crunchy veggies, creamy sauce and flavorful toppings. Complete with some fresh edamame beans or baked tofu, this cold lunch idea is perfect for a light and portable midday meal.

Savory Vegan Muffins

white plate with a savory vegan muffin and a fork next to more muffins
Recipe by My Vegan Minimalist

It doesn’t get much more portable than grabbing a few muffins! No cutlery needed. Secretly featuring some veggies and topped with crunchy pumpkin seeds, these savory vegan muffins are herb-infused, made with whole-grain flour and come together easily. If you’re up for a sweet and healthy version, check out our fluffy blueberry muffins here

Sweet Potato Quinoa Salad

large wooden bowl with homemade quinoa, sweet potato arugula salad and mustard dressing
Recipe by Karissa’s Kitchen

This colorful 6-ingredient plant-based salad is sure to leave you feeling full and satisfied! Drizzled with some maple mustard dressing and filled with baked sweet potatoes, cooked quinoa and flavorful arugula, it’s super delicious and meal prep friendly.

Vegan Sabich Sandwich

close up of two hands holding a homemade vegan sabich sandwich for lunch
Recipe by My Goodness Kitchen

Another great vegan sandwich idea is this scrumptious bean and potato-stuffed sabich. Originated in Israel, it is made without any eggs but packs a whole lot of flavor and texture — we’re talking vegan mayo, harissa paste, hummus, dill pickles and more.

Plant-Based Sausage Rolls

white plate with four homemade vegan sausage rolls containing vegetables
Recipe by Whole Food Bellies

These freezer-friendly vegan sausage rolls are stuffed with a delicious mixture of eggplant, cannellini beans, garlic, onions and parsley. Make them ahead of time to enjoy hot or cold together with a side salad wherever you go!

Rainbow Veggie Pinwheels

wooden chopping board with 16 small and colorful vegan vegetable pinwheels for a cold lunch
Recipe by My Plant-Based Family

We love delicious finger food for a cold vegan lunch any day of the week! These veggie-stuffed and beautifully colored pinwheels can be made with your favorite vegetables, vegan spread like hummus or cashew cream cheese and cut up the day you pack them.

Vegan Broccoli Salad

white plate with crunchy vegan broccoli salad and a creamy dressing
Recipe by Okonomi Kitchen

If you’re up for a veggie-forward and super healthy cold lunch, this vegan salad is for you! Made with crunchy broccoli, apples, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, onions and vegan bacon all dressed in a creamy dairy-free dressing, it’s perfect for a scrumptious portable meal.

Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta

two glass containers with sundried tomato pesto pasta salad, greens and chickpeas for a portable vegan lunch
Recipe by Sarah’s Vegan Guide

This simple vegan pesto pasta is made with just a handful of ingredients such as cashews, chickpeas, arugula and lemon juice that are served with your pasta of choice. The best part? Not only is this filling portable lunch nutrient-rich but also ready in about 15 minutes.

Whole Wheat Pizza Rolls

woman in jeans jacket holding a tray of freshly baked healthy vegan pizza rolls with almond ricotta and taking one to eat it
Recipe by Nutriciously

No more unhealthy and fatty takeout pizza for lunch! These easy and wholesome vegan pizza rolls are undetectably loaded with pureed veggies in a flavorful tomato sauce and can be enjoyed with some vegan ricotta or high-protein bean sauce as a dip.

Farro Vegetable Salad

white plate with a colorful vegan farro salad with cucumber, greens, radishes, tomatoes and pecans
Recipe by Pinch and Swirl

Grain salads are definitely among our favorite meal prep-friendly lunch ideas! This farro veggie salad is loaded with crunchy massaged kale, radishes, cucumber, zucchini and juicy tomatoes. Topped with pecans, lemon and peanut butter (jup!), it’s highly customizable and nutritious.

Mini Chickpea Frittata Muffins

cooling rack with 9 homemade mini chickpea flour frittata muffins for a cold vegan lunch idea
Recipe by Simple Veganista

These cute vegan mini frittata muffins are made with gluten-free chickpea flour, bell pepper, corn, baby spinach, onion and herbs. They double as healthy breakfast and lunch options (you could even have them for brinner!) and not only are they very satiating and weight loss-friendly, but also really easy to make.

Simple Vegan Orzo Salad

white plate with a fork and a simple vegan orzo and cucumber salad for a cold lunch
Recipe by My Darling Vegan

If you’re looking for a super simple and refreshing packable cold lunch, then this orzo salad is for you! Featuring cucumbers, arugula, parsley and mint, it’s really nutrient-dense yet filling thanks to the cooked grains. Serve with a simple lemon juice dressing or any other of your choice!

Tofu Satay Quinoa Salad

two lunchboxes filled with colorful vegan thai quinoa salad with tofu satay skewers
Recipe by Euphoric Vegan

Let’s bring something entirely different to the table! This Thai quinoa salad with a tangy lemongrass tamarind dressing, fresh herbs and crunchy veggies is rounded up with some grilled tofu skewers and creamy satay sauce — not just beautiful to look at but super healthy and filling, too.

Vegan BLT Sandwich

wooden chopping board with two whole grain vegan BLT sandwiches
Recipe by Be Plant Well

This vegan BLT sandwich is made with smoky maple tempeh “bacon” and comes together in a breeze! This classic gone plant-based is super scrumptious and can also be made with some avocado or red onion. Lots of complex carbs, plant-based protein and crunchy veggies to get you through the day.

Spring Roll Tortilla Wraps

woman in pink shirt holding two whole wheat tortillas containing fresh spring vegetables
Recipe by Cadry’s Kitchen

We firmly believe that everything tastes better when put in a wrap! This easy recipe offers you the vibrant flavors of a fresh spring roll or summer roll, but it comes with the portability of a sturdy and satiating whole wheat tortilla. Perfect for lunch on the go!

Red Rice Salad With Tahini

close up of a white bowl containing red rice, chickpeas, tomato, herbs and a tahini dressing
Recipe by The Minimalist Vegan

Talk about vegan lunch ideas you can prepare in bulk! This chewy red rice salad can be made days in advance, using leftover cooked rice and a large can of chickpeas. Complete with fresh crunchy veggies and a creamy tahini dressing, it is everything we want a portable lunch to be.

Rainbow Vegetable Sandwich

close up of wooden chopping board with a vegan rainbow vegetable sandwich for an easy portable lunch
Recipe by Veggie Desserts

Did we mention that we love simple vegetable sandwiches? This beautiful rainbow-colored cold vegan lunch idea calls for creamy hummus, tomato, radishes, carrot, bell pepper, lettuce and shredded red cabbage but can be totally customized to your preferences! Serve on its own or alongside some soup.

White Bean Pita Pockets

hand holding a pita pocket with salad leaves, cucumber and white beans for an easy vegan cold lunch idea
Recipe by Veggie Inspired

These handy filled pita pockets are made in just 5 minutes and feature fiber-rich white beans, crunchy cucumber and bell pepper, some herbs as well as a tangy dairy-free yogurt dressing (which we absolutely love!). Similar to wraps or sandwiches, these pita pockets are really customizable and fill you up for hours on end.

Fresh Spring Rolls

white plate with five colorful homemade fresh vegan spring rolls
Recipe by Emily Kyle Nutrition

This is how you can create beautiful and naturally gluten-free wraps or rolls to bring with you for lunch! These fresh spring rolls are veggie-packed, bursting with flavor and nutrition and use rice paper instead of wheat flour wraps. Ready in about 15 minutes (once you get the hang of it), these rolls go especially with an Asian-inspired dip or sauce!

Watermelon Mason Jar Salad

white table with a glass mason jar containing cubed watermelon, avocado, white beans, red onion, quinoa and leafy greens
Recipe by Eating by Elaine

If melons are in season, then you need to try this beautiful and refreshing watermelon mason jar salad! Perfect as a portable cold lunch, this recipe can be made ahead of time and layered without the worry of your greens getting soggy.

Vegan Breakfast Burritos

grey table with four homemade green vegan breakfast burritos for a portable lunch or snack
Recipe by Delicious Everyday

For those of you who don’t have time to eat a decent breakfast at home (or love having breakfast-type meals any time of the day), these simple yet filling breakfast burritos could be the perfect portable lunch idea! Protein-rich vegan scrambled eggs, fresh veggies and tons of spices all neatly wrapped up for you.

We hope you enjoyed our list of the best cold lunch ideas! Let us know in the comments which recipe you liked the most and what vegan dish you like to bring to work or school with you. Feel free to Pin this article here.

Alena enjoying a bowl of fresh plant-based food and coffe in a restaurant
Alena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.
dark grey spotted bowl with a variety of vegetables next to small bottle of green smoothie isolated on light background

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