Their lunchboxes might be gathering dust, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mix it up and serve a unique lunch idea that isn’t a PB&J. We’ve found over 30 great recipes that include tasty rollups, homemade Lunchables, simple bento lunches, and more! Read on for the scrumptious ideas—and expect an empty plate every time.
If your kiddo is pizza crazy, check this out: tortilla pizza from Kristine's Kitchen! It's a more lunchbox-friendly way to pack a pizza pie and pairs great with veggies, too. To get the how-to (plus lots more!), click here.
Hummus & Pita Dippers
Have you heard about this hummus lunch idea from One Lovely Life? It's simple: your kiddo's fave hummus, combined with fresh veggies, pretzels and pita crisps for dunking. No muss, no fuss! Get more info here—along with a free lunch packing cheat sheet printable.
Ham and Cheddar Pinwheels
These pinwheels are pretty as a picture and infinitely customizable to boot. Chelsea's Messy Apron has all the deets on this lunch idea, including how you can give it a boost with lunchbox-friendly ranch dip!
Ham and Cheese Freezer Sandwiches
Two words: freezer sandwiches. A Taste of Madness has struck make-ahead magic with these ham and cheese creations. Just heat them up in the morning for a quick and easy school lunch that's packed with gooey cheesy goodness. Learn more here.
Banana Muffin Lunchbox
Boring lunches have nothin' on this muffin lunch. It's the perfect whole wheat and banana combo and pairs great with a hard boiled egg for an extra dose of protein. Learn more at Kristine's Kitchen.
Vegetarian Sausage Rolls
Ready to roll with it? This recipe from Kitchen Sanctuary is tasty, creative, and your little chefs can get in on the prep! You can even think ahead and freeze your uncooked rolls when you need a quick weekday lunch plan. Get the recipe here.
Mini Corndog Muffins
Got a class clown on your hands? Give their lunch those carnival vibes with this version of a corn dog in muffin form. These bites are good warm or cold and super simple to make!
Deep Dish Mini Pizzas
Pizza lovers, rejoice! With this idea from One Little Project, you can have itty bitty deep dish pizzas that are the perfect size for lunchboxes. Customize with your fave toppings for a truly magical lunch. Get the how-to here.
Homemade Kraft Easy Mac
Mac and cheese is a surefire win for our kids, which is why we love this take on easy mac from Food Fanatic. The best part? It’s made entirely in the microwave and comes together in a flash. Click here to grab the recipe.
Basil, parmesan and sunflower seeds combine to make this fresh and flavorful nut-free pesto. Mix it up in pasta, use it as a sandwich spread or make it a yummy dip for veggies.
Two words: pizza bites. Keep a batch in the freezer, and you’ll always have them at the ready. Check out this version by Super Healthy Kids.
Grilled Cheese Roll Up Dippers
Food blogger, mom of three and regular TODAY food contributor, Siri Daly is all about making parents’ lives a bit easier in the kitchen. Check out the full recipe here for one of the yummiest versions of a grilled cheese we've tried in years.
Alphabet Veggie Soup
Use a thermos and serve up some warm soup for those chilly days. Try this alphabet veggie soup for a lunch they’ll L-O-V-E.
Ultimate Kiddie Cobb Salad
French toast sticks, waffles, mini pancakes, sausages, fresh fruit: kids love breakfast foods so why not guarantee they actually eat their lunch with a little morning food in the afternoon?
Sweetie Pie Quesadilla
Cheese is high in protein and popular among the pint-sized eater, which makes it a win-win for a kiddo’s lunch. We love this Sweetie Pie Quesadilla from the recipe book, Best Lunch Box Ever.
“Nachos” with Black Beans
How do you turn lunchtime into a real fiesta? With these easy deconstructed nachos, courtesy of What Lisa Cooks. This idea not only skips the mess of traditional nachos, it can also be thrown together in about 5 minutes. Get the how-to here.
If all your usual bread sandwiches are feeling a little, well, stale, The Pioneer Woman can help. Not only are these pinwheel sandwiches a creative alternative (seriously, the flavor combos are endless), they’re also simple enough for kids to make. Plus, they’re the perfect size for little lunchboxes. Get inspired here.
Tofu “Egg” Salad Sandwiches
Put these eggless salad wraps on the menu today! Lunchbox Bunch notes that steaming the tofu first brings a firmer, eggy bite. We love how this can be eaten cold (aka made the night before) as a real time saver. Visit Lunchbox Bunch for the full recipe and more yummy vegan eats.
Thanks to Simple As That, you can treat little pizza connoisseurs to a creative ‘za lunch that doesn’t involve foil-wrapped slices. These cheesy buns are simple to whip up (kids can even help with the prep work) and they can be tossed in the freezer for those days when you need a lunch or snack ASAP. Get the recipe here.
Peanut Butter & Jelly on a Stick
Sometimes a home run lunch isn’t about reinventing the wheel. Just take this oh-so-clever idea from A Whisk and Two Wands. It’s got all the favorite flavors of the traditional PB&J, but in a kid-friendly kabob form. Alternate your sandwich bites with healthy fruit and you’re all set for school. Learn more here.
Almond Butter and Mango Sandwich
Can’t quite convince your picky eater to give up her PB&J? For a play on the traditional, we love this sophisticated and nutritious grilled sandwich from Connoisseurus Veg. While it’s crazy simple to make, it’s amazing to munch on, whether wrapped in foil or fresh off the griddle.
Sometimes you just need to embrace kid food quirks—like when they get attached to one particular color. This genius idea from The Mom 100 groups great green munchies like pesto pasta, broccoli, and grapes (Psst! If your kid is hooked on a different hue, The Mom 100 also has orange and yellow lunches on her blog!).
Carrot and Hummus “Sushi” Sandwiches
We love how this idea, found on the UrbanFamily blog, incorporates fun flavors and lots of great grated carrot. It’s perfect for when you want to amp up your kids’ veggie intake–or when you want to pack a lunch that looks impressive but takes minutes to make. Learn more here.
Kids love the DIY aspect of Lunchables (go figure), but those unmade lunches can get pricey. Cue Snap. Eat. Run., which outlines how to make your own cheaper and healthier version of pizza Lunchables. You only need a few minutes to get these ready, and you can even make them ahead of time and toss them in a school bag on the way out the door. Learn more here.
Mini BLT Wraps
What do you get when you take the classic BLT and give it a school lunch twist? These bite-sized rollups from The Girl Who Ate Everything! These are easy to put together and adaptable too, so feel free to get creative with whole wheat tortillas, hummus, sprouts, sliced chicken or whatever else is in the crisper drawer. Learn more here.
Nut-Free Crispy Chicken Tenders
Teacher, foodie, blogger, and supermom Lexi of Lexi’s Clean Kitchen is our hero. She created this paleo-friendly recipe with flaxseed, tapioca flour and a whole lot of flavor for lunchtime. Pack a little dipping sauce and handi-wipes for the best finger food lunch in the cafeteria!
Think beyond bread! Add a Pinch shows how to include savory applewiches in your little one’s lunch. The filling ingredients include cheddar cheese and peanut butter–but if your kids’ school is a peanut-free zone, you can always sub in other kinds of nut-butter. Get the scoop here.
Easy Soba Noodles
Talk about using your noodle! This idea from Hip Foodie Mom can be whipped up quickly in the morning and features tasty Asian flavors (Think low-sodium soy sauce, sesame oil, and more.). It’s great for kids who are tired of the ol’ sandwich route, and great for those who have mini lunch containers, too. Get all the tasty details here.
Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sammy
Blogger Catherine McCord always has simple and fun ideas to please even the pickiest eaters. These sandwiches from Weelicious channel tea party fare and are a total hit when it comes to school lunches. Just make sure to stash a cold pack in those lunch bags so the cream cheese can stay cool all morning! Learn more here.
— Abigail Matsumoto