31 Hearty, Healthy(ish) Make-Ahead Lunches

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[Photographs: Daniel Gritzer, Vicky Wasik, Yasmin Fahr, J. Kenji López-Alt]

Whether you're at the office, in school, or hitting the open road, eating lunch away from home can be tough. Which is why we love dishes that are easy to make in bulk, hold up well in the fridge, and pack easily into single containers. I'm talking hearty grain and pasta salads, saucy bean dishes, and stewed meats or vegetables: simple, healthy, all-your-food-groups-in-one-bowl fare. From refreshing cold soba noodles to tabbouleh-inspired quinoa to a bacon-studded chickpea salad to quick pressure cooker chicken stew, we've got 31 recipes to shake up your lunch routine.

Chicken and Beef

Quick and Easy Pressure-Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Stew

Quick and Easy Pressure-Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Stew

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The pressure cooker is an amazing device for making flavor-packed stews in very short order. In this version, black beans are stewed together with spicy Hatch chilies, smoky Andouille sausage, and fall-off-the-bone tender chicken legs. It all cooks in under an hour start-to-finish.

Get the recipe for Quick and Easy Pressure-Cooker Chicken and Black Bean Stew »

Chicken Salad With Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing

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[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Mix up your classic chicken salad with this summery variation made with sweet corn, avocado, and the juiciest poached chicken tossed with a light and creamy miso dressing. We use a sous-vide to keep the chicken as juicy as possible, but traditional cooking methods will work fine as well (we won't tell!).

Get the recipe for Chicken Salad With Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing »

Clay Pot Rice With Spicy Sausage and Mushrooms

[Photograph: Shao Z.]

This casserole-style rice dish is studded with spicy Italian sausage, slivers of chicken, and marinated mushrooms. We season it with fish sauce and soy sauce for a deeply savory flavor that echoes the meaty sausage. If you're planning on refrigerating it overnight, wait until the dish has cooled before adding the scallions—otherwise they'll wilt.

Get the recipe for Clay Pot Rice With Spicy Sausage and Mushrooms »

Skirt Steak With Warm Spicy Corn and Peach Salsa

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[Photograph: Yasmin Fahr]

Quick-cooking skirt steak is topped with a spicy-sweet charred corn salsa mixed with juicy summer peaches. It takes maybe 15 minutes to throw together and tastes great chilled, right out of the fridge.

Get the recipe for Skirt Steak With Warm Spicy Corn and Peach Salsa »

Cashew Chicken Ding With Jicama, Celery, and Red Bell Pepper

[Photograph: Shao Z.]

A ding dish is any Chinese stir-fry in which the chicken and vegetables are diced into little cubes, and crunchy ingredients like nuts are added for texture. Kung Pao Chicken is perhaps the best known example, but Cashew Chicken Ding isn't far behind. In this version, the chicken is stir-fried with mushrooms, jicama, celery, bell pepper, and cashews.

Get the recipe for Cashew Chicken Ding With Jicama, Celery, and Red Bell Pepper »

The Best White Chili With Chicken

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

You'll want to plan ahead for this one—the beans require a nice long soak—but it's well worth the wait. Tender, creamy, spicy, and bright, this is the stuff even a dyed-in-the-wool chile con carne traditionalist will dip their finger into when they think nobody is watching.

Get the recipe for The Best White Chili With Chicken »

Seafood

Brown Rice Bowl With Wakame, Shrimp, and Sprouts

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[Photograph: Yasmin Fahr]

This wakame-filled bowl of brown rice is topped with creamy avocado, crunchy sprouts, and tender shrimp. Best of all, it happens in just one pot, so clean-up is minimal. Finish it with tart lime juice and soy sauce for some extra punch.

Get the recipe for Brown Rice Bowl With Wakame, Shrimp, and Sprouts »

Warm Couscous Salad With Salmon and Mustard-Dill Dressing

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[Photograph: Yasmin Fahr]

We can't claim to have invented the combination of salmon, mustard, and dill, but we make it our own in this couscous salad. Perfectly cooked salmon is flaked into the couscous, while wilted spinach adds body. The salad is great warm, but it'll taste at least as good eaten cold the next day.

Get the recipe for Warm Couscous Salad With Salmon and Mustard-Dill Dressing »

Quick and Easy Shrimp, Corn, and Tomatillo Salad

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Most of our make-ahead lunches are based on grains, beans, or rice, but here we stick to meat and vegetables. Fresh corn and tart tomatillos are joined by plump shrimp. It's traditional to poach shrimp in court bouillon, but for this aggressively flavored salad you can feel free to just use water with lime juice.

Get the recipe for Quick and Easy Shrimp, Corn, and Tomatillo Salad »

Beans

Chickpea Salad With Bacon, Cotija, and Roasted Chilies

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Chickpeas are a great choice for making a hearty salad that gets better with time. In this filling version, the legumes are paired with smokey chilies, briny cotija cheese, and bacon. The rendered bacon fat gets made into a vinaigrette to dress the salad.

Get the recipe for Chickpea Salad With Bacon, Cotija, and Roasted Chilies »

Easy Make-Ahead Carrot and Chickpea Salad With Dill and Pumpkin Seeds

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

We love bacon, but if you want something lighter, try this chickpea salad with grated carrot, a generous helping of dill, and a simple, fresh vinaigrette. Pumpkin seeds add crunch—we like to toast them in the microwave, which is easier than using a skillet.

Get the recipe for Easy Make-Ahead Carrot and Chickpea Salad With Dill and Pumpkin Seeds »

Make-Ahead Chickpea Salad With Cumin and Celery

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Have you noticed we love chickpea salads? This one is packed with bright celery, shallots, and parsley. A cumin vinaigrette brings everything together. If you're willing to put a little extra time into prep, peeling the celery will improve itself texture. We won't blame you for skipping that step, though—the recipe is great either way.

Get the recipe for Make-Ahead Chickpea Salad With Cumin and Celery »

Roasted Chickpea and Kale Salad With Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Rounding out our chickpea collection is this nutty salad of chickpeas roasted with cumin and paprika and tossed with kale, fresh herbs, and pine nuts. The salad gets dressed with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette that has just the right about of heat.

Get the recipe for Roasted Chickpea and Kale Salad With Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette »

Greek Butter Bean Salad With Tomatoes, Dill, and Oregano

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

We take classic Greek-style baked beans and turn them into a summery salad by spiking the tomato sauce with red wine vinegar—the acidity livens it up. The dish is best served at room temperature, so remember to take it out of the fridge about an hour before lunchtime.

Get the recipe for Greek Butter Bean Salad With Tomatoes, Dill, and Oregano »

2-Bean Salad With Fire-Roasted Jalapeños and Pickled Red Peppers

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

They say less is more, so for our take on three-bean salad we lose the garbanzos, instead pairing kidney and green beans with fire-roasted jalapeños and pickled red peppers. You can buy the jalapeños canned, but taking the time to roast them yourself is well worth it, both for the better flavor and ability to control the spiciness.

Get the recipe for 2-Bean Salad With Fire-Roasted Jalapeños and Pickled Red Peppers »

Pinto Bean and Rice Salad With Tomatoes and Cheddar in Banana Pepper-Chili Vinaigrette

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

This light interpretation of rice and beans is packed with taco staples like cheddar cheese, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. The vinaigrette, made with banana peppers and ancho chilies, makes it shine. Feel free to pack this one to go, but add the cilantro just before you eat it so it stays fresh.

Get the recipe for Pinto Bean and Rice Salad With Tomatoes and Cheddar in Banana Pepper-Chili Vinaigrette »

Bean Salad With Radicchio, Radish, Pickled Onions, and Marcona Almonds

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

One of the keys to a good bean salad is contrast. This salad gets crunch from Marcona almonds, diced radish, and chopped radicchio, while quick-pickled red onions give it a vinegary punch.

Get the recipe for Bean Salad With Radicchio, Radish, Pickled Onions, and Marcona Almonds »

Grains

Toasted Bulgur Salad With Smoked Trout, Radishes, and Green Apple

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[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Think grain salads are simple affairs? Think again. This toasted bulgar is packed with smoked trout and crisp vegetables like radishes, red onion, and green apple. To give the salad a perky kick that's not too assertive, we add lemon segments sweetened by a bath in simple syrup.

Get the recipe for Toasted Bulgur Salad With Smoked Trout, Radishes, and Green Apple »

Fruity Black Rice Salad With Cilantro, Avocado, and Pepitas in Chili-Orange Vinaigrette

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

Cooking black rice is tricky—it's easy to use too much water or cook it too long. Once you've got the technique down, try this salad packed with sweet fruit and crunchy pumpkin seeds and dressed with a cumin-spiked chili-orange vinaigrette.

Get the recipe for Fruity Black Rice Salad With Cilantro, Avocado, and Pepitas in Chili-Orange Vinaigrette »

Whole-Grain Spelt Salad With Leeks and Marinated Mushrooms

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[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Nutty spelt is a versatile base—here, it's joined by quick-marinated mushrooms, leeks, and cucumbers, and dressed with cider vinegar. Eating at your desk might not be the most glamorous thing in the world, but a little mild, fragrant espelette pepper powder will make this brown-bag lunch feel like a meal at the Four Seasons.

Get the recipe for Whole-Grain Spelt Salad With Leeks and Marinated Mushrooms »

Farro Salad With Blue Cheese, Pine Nuts, and Tomatoes

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

This fresh farro salad is packed with juicy tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. To keep the farro from getting soggy, cook it until it just hits al dente and wait to add the red wine vinaigrette until right before serving.

Get the recipe for Farro Salad With Blue Cheese, Pine Nuts, and Tomatoes »

Grilled Vegetable and Jasmine Rice Salad With Herbs and Cashews

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

An array of grilled vegetables—onions, carrots, snap peas, peppers, and jalapeños—give great smokiness to this Thai inspired salad. The rice and grilled vegetables are hearty enough to stand up to an intense vinaigrette made with lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, and sriracha.

Get the recipe for Grilled Vegetable and Jasmine Rice Salad With Herbs and Cashews »

Warm Farro Salad With Asparagus, Peas, and Feta

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[Photograph: Yasmin Fahr]

This salad walks the line between summer and winter by mixing hearty kale with sweet peas and fresh asparagus. Feel free to substitute other leafy vegetables in for the kale, but remember that more tender greens like spinach and arugula need less cooking—add them at the last minute so that they don't over-wilt.

Get the recipe for Warm Farro Salad With Asparagus, Peas, and Feta »

Farro Salad with Lentils, Beans and Oven Roasted Vegetables

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[Photograph: Deborah Mele]

Can't choose between beans and grains? You don't have to—you can make a great salad by mixing and matching. This recipe calls for farro, white beans, and lentils, but feel free to use whatever's in your cupboard. Roasted zucchini, eggplants, and bell peppers round out this filling lunch.

Get the recipe for Farro Salad with Lentils, Beans and Oven Roasted Vegetables »

Carrot and Rye Berry Salad with Celery, Cilantro, and Marcona Almonds

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

Rye is good for more than just bread. Whole rye berries are delicious, especially when paired with celery and onion and dressed with a combination of mustard, lemon, vinegar, and olive oil. Toasted Marcona almonds bring some crunch to the party to complement the chewiness of the rye berries.

Get the recipe for Carrot and Rye Berry Salad with Celery, Cilantro, and Marcona Almonds »

Make-Ahead Quinoa Salad With Cucumber, Tomato, and Herbs

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

This easy quinoa salad is loosely based on Middle Eastern tabbouleh. To ensure the salad stays crisp as it sits, make sure to thoroughly drain the quinoa and salt the grape tomatoes and cucumber to draw out excess moisture.

Get the recipe for Make-Ahead Quinoa Salad With Cucumber, Tomato, and Herbs »

Quinoa Salad With Dried Tart Cherries, Mint, and Feta in Lemon-Sumac Vinaigrette

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[Photograph: Jennifer Olvera]

This salad is packed with dried cherries, mint, parsley, and feta. A tangy sumac vinaigrette gives it a Middle Eastern kick. To preserve the quinoa's texture, pack the dressing separately and add it right before eating.

Get the recipe for Quinoa Salad With Dried Tart Cherries, Mint, and Feta in Lemon-Sumac Vinaigrette »

Pasta

DIY Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

The idea is simple and genius: combine par-cooked noodles, a bit of vegetable base, some raw sliced veggies, and a few seasonings inside a jar. Add boiling water, wait a few minutes, and you've got yourself a lunch with all the appeal of instant noodles, but with actual flavor and freshness trapped under that lid. From Thai-style coconut curry noodles with shrimp to a flavorful mix of chicken and dill, we've got a flavor blend to suit every palate.

Get the recipes for Just-Add-Hot-Water Instant Noodles »

Spanish Pasta Salad With Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers, and Pickled Onion

[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Macaroni-style pasta is your best bet for this Spanish-inspired salad. Chorizo gives it smoke and spice, piquillo peppers deliver some fruity sweetness, and pickled onion cuts through with its characteristic tang. We finish it off with plenty of fresh parsley and lemon zest to keep it tasting fresh and bright.

Get the recipe for Spanish Pasta Salad With Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers, and Pickled Onion »

Soba Salad With Seaweed, Cucumbers, and Asparagus

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[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

When it comes to pasta salad, Asian noodles are one of our go-to choices. In this refreshing salad, we pair cold soba noodles with vegetables and a lemon-soy vinaigrette. By cooking your vegetables to various degrees you get great textural contrast—we go with crunchy raw cucumber, lightly cooked asparagus, and tender rehydrated seaweed.

Get the recipe for Soba Salad With Seaweed, Cucumbers, and Asparagus »

Blistered Tomato Pasta Salad with Basil

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[Photograph: Daniel Gritzer]

Raw tomatoes are a common ingredient in pasta salads, but by cooking the tomatoes until they burst, you can release their sweet juices, which creates a sauce. From there, all you need is garlic, olive oil, mozzarella, and fresh basil.

Get the recipe for Blistered Tomato Pasta Salad with Basil »