50+ Cold Lunch Ideas

Image used with permission from: Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body
Please click on the image for the mason jar salad recipe and tutorial.

The other day I got a letter from a reader who was tired of sending her husband traditional sandwiches for lunch and was looking for a few creative ideas. The problem is that he doesn’t have access to a microwave, so hot lunches are out of the question. And he wasn’t too keen on pasta salad, so you won’t see any on this list. She wanted to know if I had any suggestions for her.

Being the domestically-challenged wife that I am, I went straight to my facebook group where I knew that I’d be able to drum up a few ideas. Within a couple of hours I had almost 90 comments and what I’d guestimate to be over 50 suggestions for cold lunches.

This thread was too good to keep to ourselves, so today I’d like to share their ideas with you!

50+ Cold Lunch Ideas:

Chicken salad with Ritz crackers. ~ Samantha D. A.

Cold soup (recipes available online), a cold Mexican dip with tortilla chips, or homemade party mix ~ Samantha A.

My husband loves salad for lunch and Glad makes a salad holder that has the little cups in the lids that hold the dressing so that keeps it from getting soggy. ~ Tiffany B.

Tortilla w/ cheddar and leftover chicken, tortilla w/ ground beef, salsa, and black beans, etc. I pack the parts in separate containers so nothing gets soggy. My husband also likes a sausage and cheese lunch once every couple of weeks – good quality sausage and cheeses in chunks, plus some fruit or good quality crackers. ~ Megan G.

Buy a food thermos for some hot things like chilly or chunky soups. We have even put hamburger patties or hot dogs in it and then put them onto buns at lunchtime. ~ Tamara C.

A can of sardines ( or mussels, oysters, clams or so on) , crackers, fresh fruit and some raw veggies like celery, carrots, radishes and so forth. This was my husband’s goto lunch for a long time. ~ Diane B.

Some fruit, yogurt, trail mix, granola bars and some Bolthouse Farms protein drinks. ~ Elysia D.

German potato salad is good hot or cold. I put in extra bacon if it is for a main dish. ~ Laurie F.

Ham and cheese roll-ups are a fave in my house. Just roll a slice of cheese inside a slice of ham, roast beef, turkey, etc. Secure with a toothpick. Serve with honey mustard (or whatever honey likes)!! My daughter especially like them if I roll the ham and cheese around a pickle spear! ~ Alexis B.

My dad always took a thermos filled with soup. He worked 12-16 hour shifts but always said his soups were still hot to warm depending on what time he got to eat. There is also veggie/fruit trays, my dad is diabetic and it was hard to eat healthy. Grilled cheese is good especially if he takes the soup. There is also anything you can cook in a pocket like chicken pot pie, Shepard pie baked in a roll to make individual servings. Granted those things would not be hot but it would be filling. ~ Kristin C.

Hummus and veggies or pita chips! Yummo! ~ Brenda W.

Egg salad, caprese salad… two of my favorites. ~ Heather T.

My hubby likes to take yogurt and granola. ~ Kristina D.

I send my husband salads a lot…with the dressing in a separate container. He loves Cobb Salad because it has lots of his favorite things in it. You can use Cobb Salad ingredients in a wrap, too. Wraps are good with guacamole– his choice of meat, shredded lettuce, etc. He also likes sausage subs with coleslaw, sauerkraut, or pickled red cabbage in them. ~ Marianne H.

We are on a low carb way of life so I send deviled eggs, turkey or ham roll up which are rectangular slices of turkey and ham lunch meat spread with cream cheese and rolled around a green onion, pickled asparagus or pepperoncinis; sometimes I spread cream cheese on Italian Salami slices and roll them around a jalapeno (because the spicier the better for my hubby) ♥ ~ Patti E.

I used to also give my daughter hummus with pita triangles and veggies to dip in. Would work well with spinach or other dips too. ~ Angie R.

I put lots of stuff in a thermos–left over spaghetti, soups and stews, burrito mixin’s, little smokies with bbq sauce, left over shredded pork or chicken for a hot sandwich, hot wings, fried chicken…. I also send him with cold chicken, tuna sandwiches, chicken from chicken sandwiches the night before. I also send him with string cheese, yogurt, a pastry or muffin because he’s not home for breakfast. I’ve also sent him with a breakfast burrito orchorizo and eggs.. ~ Stephanie S.

Tuna fish with crackers or celery to scoop it out. That’s as creative as i get! ~ Jennifer K.

A meat roll up. Just take whatever meat you like then cheese, and what ever topping you like and just roll it up. My little boy loves that and so does my husband 🙂 ~ Tiffany B.

If you want salads try kale or cabbage. There are much firmer varieties that are versatile with all types of fruits, veggies, and meats. We have found salad containers that hold dressing and utensils separate. ~ Shannon B.

If he wants a salad without so many seperate containers he could do a mason jar salad. [See image] I’ve seen them on Pinterest and I think there’s also a how to stack tutorial on one to make sure nothing that would get soggy! Otherwise I’d say like everybody else a thermos w/ soup or a soup that actually tastes yummy cold, although I’m not a big cold soup fan so I couldn’t begin to give a recipe! ~  Tabatha F.

Grilled tuna and cheese sandwiches like panini, beef jerky and gourmet cheese, sushi, homemade granola, fried chicken is good cold, steak-any kind, is good cold-it’s texas sushi, haha! ~ Dawn P.

I would suggest getting a thermos. Then he can take soups, stew, chili, chicken and dumplings, etc. You can mix it up for him. Do 3-4 cold lunches each week, and 1-2 warm lunches (based on a 5 day work week). ~ Sarah W.

Orchard chicken salad (with celery, apples, raisins, and pecans, and sometimes I would mix in some cranberries or cherries, obviously dried.) Baked chicken in bbq sauce (pulled from the breast). Sliced ham (spiral sliced hams, small ones ready to eat are about $6). Egg salad. He always ate this on sandwiches and he was pretty happy. Just toss in a brownie or some fruit cups for a dessert. ~ Cherri T.

Stuffed tomatoes, stuffed avocados, stuffed red peppers and stuffed cucumbers and even stuffed celery with jalepeno ranch dressing with any type of favorite stuffing, via` cream cheeses Skinny Cow, chicken salad, turkey jalepeno salad, also lots of fruit, sliced Jicama and salsa potato salads galore… I can think of many things, ENJOY! ~ Robin B.

Hummis is great, we loved our Thermos for hot soups and pasta. Egg Salad is great also. ~ Dawn B.

A really good cold chicken sandwich that I make for my husband when he flies is- shredded chicken from deli mixed with shredded lettuce- shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes (only the outside, inside makes things soggy) , with salt, pepper, cumin and mayo to taste- very good. ~ Angela L.

We will wrap a link of sausage in a flour tortilla & I’ll even put in a tiny container filled with bbq sauce to dip it in. Delish!!! ~ Kimmy M.

My hubby is gluten-free, and also has no access to a microwave at work. Recently, he has been taking tuna salad in a small dish, and just eats it with his fork. Another favorite is ring bologna or pepperoni and cheese.  Puddings, yogurt, string cheese, and fruit round out the meal! ~ Stephanie B.

Ham salad! ~ Margie P.

Veggie pizza (there is a good one from pampered chef), meatloaf sandwiches are sooo good 🙂 and I agree with Dawn–hummus is great. ~ Amanda Q.

Pitas!! They are healthy, delicious and you can change stuffings to have variety. ~ Renee H.

We use a thermos filled with piping hot soup, spaghetti or any casserole. ~ Debbie D.

Hummus and chips. Nachos in a segmented container. Keep meat and beans separated from sour cream and shredded cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Chips in a Ziploc bag. ~ Ruben & Rocio P.

Hummus and chips, hummus and veggies, string cheese, nappa cabbage wrapped with ham, turkey, garden veg cream cheese, red peppers and rolled up, wraps, a thermos brand thermos that keeps foods warm to put leftovers in, celery and peanut butter, fritos bean dip with tortilla chips… ~ Kim Finley

If he needs proteins there are some ideas to vamp up hummus minus the tahini replacing with Greek yogurt. You can add veggies when blending so the flavor varies 🙂 you can use celery, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots, and other veggies besides chips and pita bread . ~ Estella B.

Sushi is always fun (it doesn´t have to be raw fish, there are many kinds) It´s bound to start a conversation too. ~ Judith H.

Potato salad, pita wraps with anything you like, could be lentil salad or bean salad with some sprouts and a favorite dressing, or hummus and chicken. ~ Sheila N.

We had to have cold lunches at my small private school. Something my parents did in the winter was to put hot soup in a thermos, or sometimes they would put a hot dog in a thermos with really hot water. I can’t say that was my favorite way to eat hot dogs, but it was nice to have variety. ~ Noelle C.

Cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, and avo, yum!! ~ Micky B.

Tuna on tortillas. ~ Jenny J.

Salads won’t be soggy if you put the dressing in another container. Put steak strips or chicken shreds over the salads with other toppings. Dips with chips & veggies are wholesome. Panini’s, although cooked hot are even better cold. ~ Jennifer C.

Wraps would be good or a bean/cheese burrito. ~ Cynthia V.

Yogurt, nuts, cold spaghetti, cold fried chicken, cottage cheese. ~ Laurie S.

Grilled Smoked Turkey w/ Green Apple & Goat Cheese! Butter the bread on the outside of each slice, then use spreadable goat cheese on the inside of each slice. Next add smoked turkey breast, and a few slices of green apple (they have to be sliced super super thin so as to not overwhelm the sandwich flavor). Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the apple slices. Put the top piece of bread on and grill in a skillet or panini press! 🙂 I had this at a fancy eatery in Midtown Atlanta and it was so amazing! I didn’t think a sandwich could be so good! 🙂 I think it would be great with Gruyere cheese too! ~ Nancy D.

I just bought some chicken sausages to send with my hubby. They are fully cooked so they can be eaten cold. ~ Christy S.

Fried chicken tastes good cold. Also leftover slices of pizza! And, strangely enough, mac-n-cheese too. 🙂 ~ Debbie W.

Well, I love organic arugula. I use the ‘Wild Planet Sustainably Caught Wild Skipjack Light Tuna, 5 Ounce Cans’ (amazon), the lowest in mercury available, in BPA free cans. Add organic Eden Garbanzo beans (also in BPA free cans), Julienne cut organic red and yellow Peppers, organic cucumber, shredded organic carrots, drenched in Saloio Portuguese Olive Oil, and some organic Apple Cider vinegar, to aid in digestion… (or baby dill pickles (the Kroger private-selection, w/no yellow number 5 and some other ‘no-nos’) only they are not organic… ~ Mena S.

And there you have it–over 50 suggestions for cold lunches. That should keep us busy for a while!

You are loved by an almighty God,

Darlene Schacht

Darlene’s an Evangelical Christian whose number one priority is to serve Jesus Christ in every area of her life. She started Time-Warp Wife in 2010 out of a place of grace, with a passion to encourage women in their marriages.

She and her husband Michael live in Manitoba Canada. Married 25 years, they have four children (three still at home), a bird and two pugs who are everyone’s babies, especially hers! Their lives are basically surrounded with three things: faith, music and everything books. She’s an award winning and New York Times best-selling author who is nothing without the grace of God.

Check out her newest book: The Virtuous Life of a Christ-Centered Wife. Join the community of over 180,000 women on facebook. Send Darlene a tweet or two, and check out her boards on Pinterest.


  • Jody

    Thanks!! I really needed this! My husband is out in the woods (so no microwave) and he is tired of sandwiches, so I need something else to send him. Not sure he’d go for all of them (a few are kind of frilly) but it’s worth a shot.