Why would someone ask for cold lunch ideas? Well, when it’s hot outside, most of us find it hard to cook and eat foods that are served hot or warm.
Others have no time to eat at home, so we have to pack our lunch or even dinner and take it with us to work where reheating our lunch is not an option. There are other people who simply enjoy cold food more than they do warm dishes.
No matter what the case is, a cold lunch can be as delicious and needed as a hot bowl of soup on a cold, winter afternoon. This article includes 15+1 cold lunch ideas (see also ‘27 Hot And Easy Lunch Ideas‘) and several recipes you can try when you feel like eating something cold.
From salads and soups to sandwiches and pasta, there is something for everyone’s taste and desire. Of course, all these recipes are extremely easy to make so you’ll probably need to spend way less time in the kitchen too. What’s not to love about this?
Continue reading below for some cold lunch recipes and bon appetit!
Chicken mayo sandwiches (see also ‘23 Incredible Chicken Sandwich Recipes To Have At Home‘) are an all-time favorite on-the-go meal or snack you can get from any supermarket. But, if you want to keep your lunch healthier and save money, why not make some chicken salad on your own?
Try this 1-minute fruity curry chicken salad with apple, raisins, grapes, and pecans for a change and you’ll love it.
Check out this recipe with almonds and tarragon for a palatal explosion.
Get some pre-cooked chicken (even a shredded pack) and add the rest of the ingredients a chicken salad needs. Serve it with some slices of bread or pita bread pockets and you’ve got a cold on-the-go lunch ready.
Some of you might, however, wish to keep it simple, which is why we are recommending you stick to the classics with this classic chicken salad recipe.
Packed with all the classic flavors of a chicken salad, it will keep you full and happy for hours!
4. Tuna salad
A strong contender to the chicken mayo sandwich, the tuna mayo store-bought sandwiches is equally, if not more (to some), delicious and healthy as an on-the-go meal option.
Making a tuna salad at home is also very easy, as all you need to do is mix some tuna flakes with mayo and any kinds of veggies and herbs you want.
This tuna salad recipe includes some interesting and uncommon tuna salad ingredients like cranberries and spinach, so if you love experimenting with food, look no further.
Safe, cold, and satisfying. The truth is that you can never go wrong with an egg salad!
As with a tuna and chicken salad, you can serve your egg salad with bread, pitas, or naans. You can also serve it with some rice or even have it as it is if it’s filling enough.
For example, this loaded egg salad can be easily eaten on its own or with a couple of slices of bread and keep you satisfied for hours.
You can practically make an egg salad using only eggs and mayo, which is why so many busy people choose to have it on a busy week.
However, if you have some time during the day or at least the weekend before a busy week, prepare a proper egg salad that will give you the energy you need for the day.
Depending on how much time you have to prepare your egg salad and how experimental you are with your food, you can also try this summer egg salad with basil and peas.
If you have those extra 5 minutes in your day to add some extra ingredients to your salad, then this cannellini bean and egg salad with crispy crumbs can take your egg salad game to a whole new level.
If you want to pleasantly surprise yourself, go for it!
8. Potato Salad
Humble yet so satiating, the potato is an easy and versatile ingredient for so many recipes and dishes.
When it comes to cold lunch ideas like the ones we’re discussing in this article, potatoes turn into next-level potato salads that you can store in the fridge and enjoy for days to come.
If you are watching your diet and want to avoid mayonnaise, this healthy potato salad makes it possible for you to enjoy this amazing meal without the extra calories and fat.
Made with low-fat yogurt instead of mayo, it is just as tasty as you imagine it to be!
Don’t forget, though; sweet potatoes are potatoes too and they also work great as a cold salad. Try out this sweet potato salad recipe to see just how good it is. For a traditional potato salad, here’s the recipe to follow.
Gazpacho soup does not involve any cooking at all, which is why it is a great meal option for a hot summer day when you don’t want to spend a single minute in the kitchen.
For those who don’t know, Gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup made from juicy, fresh tomatoes as well as other seasonal vegetables.
A traditional dish ideal for hot summer days, all it requires is for you to blend all its ingredients together and then top it with some cilantro. That’s it!
However, for a gazpacho with a twist, check out this green gazpacho recipe where tomatoes are replaced with cucumber, avocado, and melon.
12. Antipasto Salad
Antipasto platters (see also ‘35 Simple Italian Appetizers‘) are one of the best appetizers you can get at an Italian restaurant, but they are also great lunch ideas that can be eaten several days in a row. Meat, cheese, and veggies are all you need for some quick Italian-style lunch.
This antipasto salad is very easy to make, but check out the following two as well for some meat and cheese variety:
While a spaghetti bowl is best eaten warm, tortellini belong to those types of pasta (see also ‘13 Delicious Types Of Pasta & Their Uses‘) than can be enjoyed cold.
This cheese tortellini salad recipe is a great way to prove that. It’s filling and yummy, and it’s usually prepared in advance and kept in the fridge to let the flavors meld.
Cheese tortellini, pepperoni, smoked provolone, olives, and artichoke hearts are served with an Italian-style vinaigrette.
If you want to try something Mediterranean-style but not Italian, this Greek-style tortellini salad is another delicious option for a cold pasta lunch.
If you have some spinach left and cannot stand the idea of making another spinach frittata, go for this Spinach tortellini salad recipe which is also very, very tasty!
Easy to make, you can eat it warm or cold!
16. Greek Salad
You could see that coming, didn’t you? To many, there is nothing better than a cold, fresh Greek salad for a hot summer afternoon. To others, the combination of tomatoes, cucumber (see also ‘Can You Freeze Cucumbers?‘), peppers, onions, olives, and feta is irresistible all-year long.
Topped with extra virgin olive oil, a Greek salad made with fresh vegetables is the perfect cold lunch you can eat at home or take anywhere with you. Here’s a traditional Greek salad recipe to make sure you’ve included all the ingredients.
17. BLT Pasta Salad
Pasta, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, and a creamy dressing are all you need to make a BLT pasta salad that you can take with you to the office every day.
Easy to make and to store, this BLT Bow-tie pasta salad can be made and stored in the fridge for a day or two. This way, you can eat it twice, if not thrice, during a busy week when there’s no time to cook.
While pasta is great and easy to cook, you might want to change things up and add some more protein and nutritious-rich ingredients for your lunch.
A bean salad can help you easily load up on fiber and protein (see also ‘28 Easy High Protein Lunch Ideas‘) and become your new favorite cold and refreshing meal.
There are plenty of options when it comes to the beans you can use. Red kidney beans can become a delicious salad when combined with some onion, celery, pickle relish, and mayo like it’s done in this recipe.
For a more colorful plate or bowl, go for this black bean and corn salad which is not only yummy but also super versatile. You can even add some shredded chicken (see also ‘23 Of The Easiest Shredded Chicken Recipes For You To Try’) or chicken slices on the side for some extra protein.
If you love white beans, then this white bean and cherry tomato salad is the one you must absolutely try this week. Regardless of whether you make it with store-bought or home-cooked beans, the result is simply amazing!
Did you know that quinoa doesn’t need any cooking? It is one of those grains, like bulgur which we’ll talk about later, that needs to be put in some hot water to soak it up and become soft and ready for you to eat.
This is the reason why it is preferred by many people who are short on time, as they can prepare meals for the week ahead without having to stand in front of the kitchen and taste the quinoa to see if it’s ready like they might do with pasta.
Try this Mexican Quinoa Salad or check out some other ideas below.
Quinoa salads are a versatile lunch idea as they can be mixed with any kind of ingredients – vegetables, meat, and so on – and served cold with or without a dressing.
So, if you want to try a warm quinoa salad for a change, try making this Quinoa, Butternut Squash, and Kale Salad.
The best thing with quinoa is that you can prepare a big batch and then divide it into smaller bowls to make a different salad for each day of the week.
This Black Bean, Corn, and Quinoa Salad is great to batch prepare and keep in the fridge for the next couple of busy days.
While you can add anything you want to a quinoa salad, we have another recipe for you that you will love.
This is the Best Greek Quinoa Salad you can ever make, and trust us when we say that you will want to double up the ingredients as you will be asking for more!
Time for the bulgur now, and another one of those salads that work great as a cold lunch for today, tomorrow, and even the day after tomorrow.
Easy to make, you simply need to let the bulgur soak up the water and then chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into small cubes.
With some lemon or lime juice, parsley, coriander, or even dill (depending on your liking), this salad is extremely delicious and worthy of having every week.
For a traditional tabbouleh, try this recipe.
If you want to level up your tabbouleh salad, you can try this Couscous Halloumi With Broccoli Tabbouleh & Honey-Harissa Dressing.
Made with fresh ingredients and very intricate flavors, it is a combination of tastes you’ve never had before!
This Kale & Bulgur Tabbouleh With Yogurt Dressing is closer in taste to the traditional tabbouleh.
However, the yogurt dressing and the taste of kale will make it so different and so tastier that you might think about substituting this recipe for the traditional one once and for all!
Pulses, grains and fruit have long now been a favorite combo for many gourmet dishes.
This Fruity Tabbouleh With Feta Cheese mixes bulgur with dried nuts and fruits and is topped with some crumbled feta cheese for perfection. You can also serve it with grilled lamb or pork chops, but we’d say keep it simple!
29. Spring Rolls
If you are not used to having a heavy lunch and prefer to snack, spring rolls are the perfect cold lunch idea for you.
With plenty of variations and sauces to combine them with, spring rolls are a healthy, fresh and tasty lunch idea to try out. One of the best recipes we recommend you try is this Goi Cuon recipe.
These Vietnamese spring rolls have chicken, shrimp, and veggies, and when dipped in some sweet and spicy sauce, they can taste like heaven.
30. Lentil Salad
Lentil salads are really tasty and nutrient-rich. Mixed with tomatoes, cucumber, and greens like cilantro and parsley, lentils can be eaten as a salad instead of a soup when the weather is too hot, but you are still craving their unique taste.
This refreshing lentil salad recipe is a simple example of how you can turn lentils into a filling, cold salad.
When combined with some couscous and minty yogurt, falafels can be served as a cold salad that you can enjoy cold for lunch when you are at work or making a quick stop at home and have it ready from the day before.
If you love spending time in the kitchen and want to experiment with your food, then try out this baked falafel & cauliflower tabbouleh with pickled carrot, cucumber & chili salad recipe.
To save some time, you can use store-bought falafels and just make the cauliflower tabbouleh from scratch. We will congratulate you either way for the effort!
However, you don’t have to sweat about it. A simple falafel wrap can go a long way and having it cold for lunch with some tahini sauce is the feel-good bite you wanted to taste.
Last but not least, a chickpea salad could not be left off this list. Eating falafels is a great way to consume chickpeas more often, but there’s something about the taste of chickpeas that has many people choosing to eat them as they are.
Try this No-cook Chickpea Salad if you are short on time and enjoy your lunch at home or on the go!
Another one on the list of pulses that you can batch-cook, chickpeas can be topped and mixed with different kinds and types of food.
For a salad, there are plenty of options, but here is one of the recipes we consider to be the best: Chicken & Chickpea Salad With Curry Yogurt Dressing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Makes A Good Lunch?
Any well-balanced meal — lunch included — consists of lean protein, fiber-rich sources of carbohydrate and veggies, and healthy fats.
The typical lunchtime staple of a sandwich can be made into a well-balanced meal if you include: 100% whole grain bread. Fresh deli turkey or leftover grilled chicken (see also ‘Leftover Chicken: 30 Mouthwateringly Simple Recipes‘).
What Time Should I Eat Lunch?
Lunch should be about four to five hours after breakfast. For example, if you ate breakfast at 7 am, eat lunch between 11 am and noon. If it is not possible for you to eat lunch until 2 pm on a particular day, then plan a snack in between those two meals.
The Bottom Line
These 33 cold lunch ideas come with recipes that can help you prepare some healthy and tasty meals for your busy week ahead.
While warm food is delicious and comforting, cold meals are perfect for days when it’s too hot to eat or for when you are traveling from one place to the next and might have to eat on the road.
Try out these meals we’ve recommended and, who knows, you might even realize that cold meals are better and easier to eat than hot food is!