Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, but it could definitely be argued that lunch is the best. After all, in the middle of a busy day, lunch should be a time to take a break, recharge your batteries, and enjoy some seriously delicious food. And if you’re looking for great vegan lunch options, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we break down some of the best plant-based lunch ideas, looking at categories like quick and easy vegan lunch, healthy and high protein vegan lunch, and vegan lunches for kids. We even take the time to make a quick tour of some of the best vegan lunch options from international cuisine from the Middle East to Thailand. So whether you’re looking for easy vegan lunch ideas for work, or lazy vegan lunch ideas that kids will love, we’ve got you covered.
We hope you enjoy this quick dip into the wonderful world of lunching, vegan style.
Best quick and easy vegan lunch options
It seems unlikely that the Earl of Sandwich knew what a craze he would be creating when, in 1762, he first decided to slap two slices of bread around the rest of his meal. But now, the humble sandwich is the quintessential lunch food, perfect for the busy working day. Incredibly, the United States of America alone consumes over 300 million sandwiches every day, which works out as around 110 billion every year – wow.
Most people think of sandwiches with meat inside or dairy products like cheese and butter. But it’s very simple to make outstanding vegan sandwiches too. For something tasty and healthy, what about a smashed avocado and chickpea sandwich – simple, delicious, and nutritious. Smashing up avocado and chickpeas gives a great flavor with a big hit of protein and lots of healthy fats. Add to the mix lime, cilantro, lettuce, tomato, and a little salt and pepper for a crispy vegan sandwich treat.
Or what about the vegan answer to the BLT, the mighty TLT – with tofu (or tempeh), lettuce, and tomato? Or some of the outstanding vegan versions of typically meat-filled sandwich options, like a jackfruit pulled pork sandwich or a vegan Philly cheesesteak? Of course, the ever-increasing diversity of vegan cheese means that you can also just have a classic, vegetarian cheese sandwich in a vegan version.
Basically, pretty much any sandwich you can think of can be done in a plant-based, cruelty-free, vegan version – there is a world of options out there to explore.
One thing to take care of with the sandwiches though is that not all bread is vegan. Check out our article is bread vegan to make sure you’re not accidentally buying non-vegan bread.
Best healthy/high protein vegan lunches
Burrito bowls are a great way to enjoy all the flavors associated with burritos with none of the bread, making them an even healthier option. For a heavy hit of protein and iron why not try out a black bean burrito bowl, with ingredients like brown rice, lime, cilantro, vegan sour cream, pickled onions, pico de gallo, and any other salsa or vegan pesto. Hemp and cilantro work great as a vegan pesto that’s packed full of protein.
Alternatively, what about trying out a Buddha bowl? If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s used to describe one bowl meals, normally vegan, that often have some Asian inspiration. Classic Buddha bowls combine ingredients like rice, fresh vegetables, legumes/sprouts, nuts, seeds, and some form of plant-based protein such as tofu or its healthier and tastier cousin tempeh. There are lots of recipes online for inspiration. One of our favorites is the so-called Bali Buddha bowl, coming with peanut tofu, black rice, and roasted sweet potatoes, plus radish, snow peas, and shredded cabbage – yum.
No longer confined to side dish status, salads have long since taken center stage when it comes to delicious and healthy lunch options. Few dishes can equal the range of flavors, and general sense of virtue, that comes from a really well-crafted vegan salad. The possibilities are endless. One of our favorites is a butternut squash and quinoa salad with toasted pepitas and dried cranberries. Or what about a high-protein vegan Cobb salad with baby spinach, chickpeas, avocado, corn, cucumber, red onion, and tempeh bacon? Make sure to sprinkle nuts and seeds over any salad for extra protein and iron.
If you’re looking for a healthy version of a noodle dish for your lunch, why not try low-carb zoodles? For the uninitiated, zoodles are simply spiralized zucchini. They look like noodles but have the health benefits of just eating vegetables and, best of all, you eat them raw so none of the oil and frying that comes with regular noodles. Zoodles can transform lots of dishes into healthy options – what about a zoodle pad Thai with tofu, peanuts, and no frying involved?
Best vegan lunch options for kids
Everybody loves pasta, right? There are so many great vegan pasta options that will have kids finishing their bowls and begging for more like Oliver Twist… if you’re looking for healthier options than wheat pasta, check out the ranges of pasta made from such nutritious powerhouses as red lentils or black beans. A great and healthy pasta option that works well with even really little ones is to mix the pasta with hummus and hemp hearts, which gives a creamy, nutty taste and packs a serious nutritional punch as well, hemp being one of the very few complete proteins in the plant-based world.
As noted in our article is pasta vegan, you have to be careful to make sure you’re not buying pasta with eggs.
Also, from the home of pasta is the not-so-healthy but guaranteed to be devoured option of vegan pizza. Kids are sure to love a simple vegan pizza that replaces the regular cheese with a vegan alternative. Plus, there are loads of other delicious vegan pizza toppings from olives to roasted vegetables.
Or maybe you are looking for easy options for a kid’s vegan lunch box that will guarantee that said lunchbox returns empty? What about such delights as hummus and avocado quesadillas with optional vegan cheese; wholewheat bagels with almond butter and banana; or vegan yogurt with blueberries, chia seeds, and (optional) maple syrup? It’s enough to make you want to go back to school yourself… If you’re looking for some inspiration regarding vegan cheese and vegan yogurt check out our blogs on those two same subjects. Or take a look at our blog on the best snacks for vegans for more inspiration for ways to fill lunchboxes for kids young and old.
Best vegan lunch options from around the world
So many great dishes from world cuisine can be enjoyed as lunch options. A particular favorite of ours, that is especially well suited to lunchtime, is vegan banh mi, the delicious Vietnamese sandwich, served in a light and crispy baguette. Typical banh mi contains meat, but there are lots of outlets that sell vegan versions with tofu or some type of fake meat (which are popular in Vietnam among devout Buddhists). Some other typical fillings if you want to make your own are carrot, cucumber, daikon, vegan mayonnaise, cilantro, and chili sauce.
Middle Eastern food also offers some great options. Sticking with the sandwich theme, a falafel wrap provides a mix of healthy ingredients (garbanzo or fava beans, tahini, hummus, salad) with some deep-fried indulgence courtesy of the crispy falafel itself. If you’d like to spice up your lunchtime with an authentic Middle Eastern sauce, get your hands on some zhoug to go with your falafel, a hot Yemeni condiment made with green chilis, cilantro, and garlic.
A treat from Thai cuisine that works great as a lunch option for the adventurous eater is som tam. It’s a raw salad that uses unripe papaya as the main ingredient and adds into the mix tomato, garlic, salt, green beans, peanuts, palm sugar, Thai basil, and as many red chilis as you dare to take for a deliciously addictive concoction of sweetness and fire. Typical Thai som tams use fish sauce but that can easily be substituted for soy (or just left out altogether).
Simpler international options that work great for lunchtimes include a whole range of soups from around the world. Take the classic lentil soup from Turkey known as mercimek, a staple of every authentic Turkish restaurant. It’s simply boiled lentils with onion, carrot, and tomato and pepper pastes. It’s then served with lemon and, typically, sourdough bread, plus a liberal dash of olive oil on top to prevent it from being too healthy. Extra flavor can be added in the form of black pepper and chili flakes. Some restaurant-bought versions use chicken stock or even butter, but you can easily make your own at home without those ingredients.
Finally, what about vegan sushi options? There are so many of them out there generally making use of veggies and avocado. Plus, of course, the wasabi, pickled ginger, soy sauce, and nori seaweed are all vegan. Buy a box of vegan sushi or simply have fun rolling your own, which makes a perfect, healthy, and delicious vegan lunch on the go.
Basically, there are just too many international plant-based lunch ideas for us to do anything more than just whet your appetite…
Best Vegan Lunch Ideas – Summary
Sometimes lunch is all about grabbing something on the go in the middle of a busy day. Other times leisurely and lazy lunches are all about taking time to savor flavors and quality time together with family and friends. Whatever type of lunch you’re enjoying, we hope our list above gives you some inspiration to explore the enormous range of vegan lunch options, from simple sandwiches to wonderful world cuisine. Thanks for reading and please feel free to share with us your own top vegan lunch ideas in the comments below.