35 Bento Box Lunch Ideas That Are Work- and School-Approved

·9-min read

It’s that time again: Time to figure out what you’re going to pack for lunch. Sure, you could go with the good old turkey and cheese sandwich—it hasn’t let you down yet. Or you could break out of your rut and pack one of these 35 bento box lunch ideas, all of which happen to be work- (and school-) approved.

RELATED: 73 Cold Lunch Ideas That Go Beyond PB&J

1. Lemon-Roasted Potatoes, Chicken and Spinach with Tzatziki

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes

  • Why We Love It: high protein, make ahead

Sad salad? We don’t know her. This bento box meal is packed with textures, colors and flavors that all but guarantee a mood (and energy) boost at lunchtime.

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2. Cauliflower Cashew Lunch Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour

  • Why We Love It: dairy free, vegetarian, make ahead

With roasted cauliflower, barley and nutty cashews, these vegetarian bowls are surprisingly filling and will fuel you through the afternoon.

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3. Quinoa Sweet Potato Salad

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour

  • Why We Love It: make ahead, vegetarian, sheet pan recipe

Aside from being healthy and make-ahead friendly, this bento box lunch comes together on a single sheet pan. Take that, dirty dishes.

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4. Cheesy Broccoli, Chicken and Rice Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes

  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, kid-friendly, make ahead

Broccoli and cheese casserole, meet lunchtime meal prep. Bonus: This recipe makes enough to serve eight people (or a lot of leftovers, depending on how you look at it).

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5. Sesame Noodle Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <15 minutes, kid-friendly, beginner-friendly

Adults and kids might not agree on everything, but they can agree that these spicy-sweet, slurpable noodles are *so* much more exciting than leftover spaghetti and meatballs.

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6. Caprese Chicken Salad Meal Prep Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes

  • Why We Love It: make ahead, gluten free

Preparing a lettuce-based salad days in advance is a recipe for a wilted, sad lunch. Caprese salad, on the other hand…genius.

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7. Easy Vegetarian Bento Box

  • Time Commitment: 5 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <15 minutes, kid-friendly, no cook

Beyond being a fast and easy option, this lunch—which features hummus vegetable wraps—is extremely kid-friendly. Bonus points if you use cookie cutters to trim the cheese and veggies into fun shapes.

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8. Meal Prep Tropical Jerk Chicken and Gingered Broccoli

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes

  • Why We Love It: make ahead, crowd-pleaser

It’s true, many meal-prep recipes can err on the boring side. Not this sticky-sweet-spicy number.

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9. Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes

  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, kid-friendly

This is one lunch your kid definitely won’t want to trade. (That is, if you don’t pack it for yourself first.)

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10. No-Cook Taco Salad Bento Box

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, no cook

It’s like a full taco bar in one tiny box, and it takes a mere 25 minutes to meal prep for the whole week.

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11. Sheet Pan Garlic-Ginger Chicken and Broccoli

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes

  • Why We Love It: sheet pan recipe, make ahead, ready in <30 minutes

Thanks to this savory soy sauce-garlic-ginger situation, you may never go back to PB&J again. Not that there’s anything wrong with PB&J, but you get the idea.

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12. Slow Cooker Meal-Prep Burrito Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 7 hours, 15 minutes

  • Why We Love It: slow cooker recipe, make ahead, high protein

No time to cook? No problem. Lean on your slow cooker to do the hard work, and reap the juicy pork-shoulder-burrito benefits.

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13. Meal-Prep Chicken Shawarma and Sweet Potato Fry Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour

  • Why We Love It: make ahead, high protein, crowd-pleaser

Protein-packed and flavorful? Marinating is a lunchtime game changer. (So are pretty glass containers, but we digress.)

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14. Greek Healthy Meal Prep

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour

  • Why We Love It: gluten free, paleo, whole30

Tzatziki? Check. Hummus? Check. We could get used to this “packing lunch” thing.

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15. Meal-Prep Turkey Meatballs with Zucchini Noodles

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes

  • Why We Love It: high protein, <500 calories, <10 ingredients, gluten free

OK, this might bend the definition of bento box slightly—but it’s worth it for meatballs.

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16. Meal-Prep Creamy Kale Caesar Salad

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <15 minutes, no cook

Even the biggest veggie-haters will go weak in the knees for this meal. It’s all in the creamy garlic dressing.

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17. Tuna Protein Box

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes

  • Why We Love It: dairy free, gluten free, low carb, ready in <30 minutes

We’ve found the key to making a healthy lunch look irresistible: Give everything a cute compartment to sit in.

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18. Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Broccoli Pesto

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, high protein

In a room full of sad $15 salads, be a homemade chicken kebab.

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19. Meal-Prep Creamy Pasta Salad with Broccoli and Raisins

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <15 minutes, <10 ingredients

Want to make lunch for you and your kids at the same time? Look no further than this easy, tasty pasta salad.

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20. Spicy Chicken Meal Prep with Rice and Beans

  • Time Commitment: 20 minnutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, high protein

This is a fantastic way to get rid of the leftovers hiding in your fridge. Got rice from last night? A can of black beans waiting in the pantry? You’re already halfway there.

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21. Whole-Wheat Chicken Wrap Bento Box

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes

  • Why We Love It: high protein, no cook, kid-friendly, ready in <30 minutes

We can’t get over the way those itty-bitty chicken wraps look nestled into their bento, begging to be eaten.

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22. Honey Lemon Chicken Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes

  • Why We Love It: make ahead, kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser

Sweet-and-salty chicken, broccoli and rice in about 30 minutes? Swoon. To keep the chicken and rice from drying out while reheating, cover it with a damp paper towel and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until warmed through.

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23. Tuna Salad Meal Prep

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, gluten free, high protein

You could scrounge through the stale snacks at your office, or you could pack a healthy Greek yogurt tuna salad that takes ten minutes to make. It’s your call.

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24. Vegan Macadamia Coconut Tofu Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes

  • Why We Love It: vegan, dairy free

Inspire all the lunch envy amongst your coworkers, this time with a nutritious combo of roasted sweet potatoes and crispy tofu.

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25. Dukkah-Roasted Vegetable Chopped Salad

  • Time Commitment: 28 minutes

  • Why We Love It: gluten free, vegan ready in <30 minutes

What’s dukkah, you ask? A totally mouthwatering blend of Middle Eastern spices that will take your lunch from meh to amazing.

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26. Grilled Veggie and Black Bean Meal Prep Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes

  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, gluten free

If you’re in search of a lunch that will keep you satisfied without weighing you down, look no further.

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27. Meal Prep Breakfast Taco Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, gluten free

Breakfast for lunch? We think that’s a great idea, especially when it involves tacos.

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28. Healthy Mexican Chicken Meal Prep

  • Time Commitment: 22 minutes

  • Why We Love It: dairy free, gluten free, paleo, whole30

Don’t skimp on the avocado-cilantro ranch dressing. Ditto for the southwestern seasoning.

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29. Sheet-Pan Chicken Tinga Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes

  • Why We Love It: sheet pan recipe, high protein

You’ve got whole grains, meat, veggies and legumes representing all the necessary food groups. And tinga sauce—that one’s a food group, too.

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30. Sesame Ginger Beef and Zucchini Noodles

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes

  • Why We Love It: dairy free, gluten free, low carb, ready in <30 minutes

Low-carb doesn’t have to be boring or flavorless, and this dish is proof.

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31. Meal Prep Moroccan Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes

  • Why We Love It: make ahead, <500 calories, vegetarian

There’s no denying that this is a lot prettier than your usual lunch-meat-on-white-bread situation—better tasting, too.

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32. Low-Carb Greek Chicken Meal Prep Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes

  • Why We Love It: low carb, keto

The hardest thing you’ll have to do is crumble feta on top.

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RELATED: 27 Ridiculously Easy Chicken Meal-Prep Recipes

33. Meal-Prep Mayo-Less Potato Salad

  • Time Commitment: 40 minutes

  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, <10 ingredients

Good news: You can be anti-mayonnaise and still get your potato salad fix. Even better, this one lasts up to five days in the fridge.

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34. No-Cook Greek Pita Bento Box

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes

  • Why We Love It: ready in <30 minutes, no cook, <10 ingredients

Wait, you’re saying we can prep four meals in 20 minutes? That’s what we call meal-prep magic.

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35. Meal-Prep Honey Sesame Chicken with Broccolini

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes

  • Why We Love It: high protein, make ahead, kid-friendly

Don’t have an actual bento box? No worries, friend. This meal looks (and tastes) just as good in any portable dish.

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RELATED: 34 High-Protein Lunches That Are Simple, Satisfying and Scrumptious

Katherine Gillen is a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City restaurants. She used to sling sugary desserts in a pastry kitchen, but now she's an avid home cook and fanatic baker.

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