17 School Lunch Ideas That Aren’t Sandwiches (OK, Maybe One)


The thing about lunches is your kids have to eat them every day. Which means you need ideas to keep things lively. Behold, our fave school lunch ideas.

chicken quesadillas on a wooden cutting board with salsa on the side
plate of chicken fingers with ranch dressing to dip
zucchini fritters on a plate with creamy sauce to dip
baking sheet with roasted kale
Bento box with mini hamburgers, veggies and rice
bun piled with saucy beans
bite-sized frittatas with veggies on a cooling rack
bowl of chili with sour cream, cheese and avocado
bowl of hummus with bread and veggies to dip
fresh rolls with chicken and veggies and a peanut dipping sauce
muffins on a cooling rack topped with tomato sauce, cheese and ham
rolled burritos with a lime wedge and cheese as garnish
bowl of soba noodles with cucumber
broccoli and cheese patties in a lunch box with fruits and veggies
meatballs in a tangy glaze
muffuletta sandwich stuffed with meat, cheese and veggies

Chicken Quesadillas

Some nights, you probably wish you didn’t have to stand over a stove, monitoring two skillets. Problem solved with these Chicken Quesadillas. It's like a grilled cheese sandwich, but with way more potential for great fillings. And even better potential for next-day lunchboxes. Get the recipe: Chicken Quesadillas

Ranch Chicken Tenders

Show us a kid who doesn't want to slam dunk a crispy, breaded chicken tender into some creamy cool ranch dressing. The air fryer makes these super simple, but baking in the oven works, too. Get the recipe: Ranch Chicken Tenders

Zucchini and Quinoa Fritters with Tzatziki

Meet a hand-sized, dippable hit. Grated zucchini is mixed with herbs, eggs, and spices, shaped into small patties, and lightly fried. Adding quinoa and feta to the batter makes these classic fritters heartier and adds more nutritional value, too. Get the recipe: Zucchini and Quinoa Fritters with Tzatziki

Kale Chips

Kale chips are a revelation and you'll be surprised how quickly your kids gobble them up. Tossing with oil and salt and cooking at high heat produces crispy, nutty kale ‘chips’ that smell like popcorn and have the crunch of potato chips. Experiment with different spices and seasonings. Get the recipe: Kale Chips

School-Safe Chocolate Snack Balls

You might not believe us, but these little chocolate balls taste a lot like brownies. The best part? There are no refined sugars in sight, honey sweetens the deal. Get the recipe: School-Safe Chocolate Snack Balls

Mini-Hamburger Bento

Japanese-style hamburgers are like round miniature meatloaves in flavour and texture, rather than all-beef American-style burgers, which can get tough when cold. These stay moist and flavourful, just like day-after meatloaf. Get the recipe: Mini-Hamburger Bento

Lentil, Zucchini And Cherry Tomato Sloppy Joes

It’s the childhood fave that’s fun to eat, slightly sweet and decidedly very delicious. This version is reimagined with lentils and the textural interest of zucchini and cherry tomatoes, plus some zing from sour pickles. Hello, Sloppy Joes. Also, pass the napkins. Get the recipe: Lentil, Zucchini And Cherry Tomato Sloppy Joes

Two-Bite Frittatas

Breakfast-for-lunch? Who says you can't? These eggy morsels are a perfect lunchbox companion. The best part is, you can put whatever veg or protein you want into them. Pack a little container of ketchup if your kid is a dipper. Get the recipe: Two-Bite Frittatas

Slowcooker Chicken Chili

Let the slowcooker do the hard work for you with this hearty, comforting chili. Then toss the leftovers into a Thermos with some accoutrements so your little one can garnish to his liking. Get the recipe: Slowcooker Chicken Chili

Simple Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

If you've got a kid who likes to graze, try packing a spread of homemade hummus along with veggies and bread to dunk. This version is infused with oregano and fresh lemon for flavour and a kick of brightness. Get the recipe: Simple Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Rainbow Fresh Rolls With Peanut Dipping Sauce

These rainbow rolls are a delish, no-cook solution bursting with fresh veggies and rotisserie chicken, with a sweet and savoury dipping sauce on the side. Sub the peanut butter for a school-approved version to make it school-safe. Get the recipe: Rainbow Fresh Rolls With Peanut Dipping Sauce

Hawaiian Pizza Muffins

Lunchbox-friendly pizza muffins are always a hit. These ones play up on the classic ham and pineapple combo. Oh, and they're ready in just over 30 minutes. Look at you winning lunch. Get the recipe: Hawaiian Pizza Muffins

Crispy Black Bean Burritos

These vegetarian burritos can be served as soon as they’re filled and rolled, or can be crisped up in a hot pan. Throw them in the lunch box with some sour cream to dunk. Get the recipe: Crispy Black Bean Burritos

Cold Soba With Cucumbers, Watercress, And Sesame

Soba noodles are one of the few noodles that are actually better cold than hot. They don’t have that gummy, starchy thing happening, and they stay soft and wonderful even after a sleepover in your fridge. Meaning they are the perfect next-day-eat-cold solution for your little noodle slurper. Get the recipe: Cold Soba With Cucumbers, Watercress, And Sesame

Broccoli And Cheese Patties

Got a kid who sneers at greens? Run these little broccoli and cheese patties by them. They're perfectly totable and plenty delicious. Get the recipe: Broccoli And Cheese Patties

Apricot, Sriracha And Ginger-Glazed Meatballs

These meatballs are tangy and sweet with a little bit of heat. Serve them over rice in a Thermos. Get the recipe: Apricot, Sriracha And Ginger-Glazed Meatballs

Muffuletta

We did say there would be one. This stuffed-to-the-brim Italian sandwich can stay in your fridge for several days, making it perfect for the lunchbox. The longer it sits, the better it tastes. Get the recipe: Muffuletta
Chicken Quesadillas
Ranch Chicken Tenders
Zucchini and Quinoa Fritters with Tzatziki
Kale Chips
School-Safe Chocolate Snack Balls
Mini-Hamburger Bento
Lentil, Zucchini And Cherry Tomato Sloppy Joes
Two-Bite Frittatas
Slowcooker Chicken Chili
Simple Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus
Rainbow Fresh Rolls With Peanut Dipping Sauce
Hawaiian Pizza Muffins
Crispy Black Bean Burritos
Cold Soba With Cucumbers, Watercress, And Sesame
Broccoli And Cheese Patties
Apricot, Sriracha And Ginger-Glazed Meatballs
Muffuletta

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