Quick lunch recipes

From Gluten-Free Quinoa Salad to Waldorf Chicken Salad, here's a great collection of lunch ideas and recipes to help you save money and eat healthier all week long.

By Nastasha Alli
Recipes by The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

How to pack a great lunch
Gluten-Free Quinoa Salad With Creamy Tahini Dressing
Photography by Jodi Pudge
Is your weekly lunch menu in need of a serious makeover? Browse through our handpicked selection of quick lunch recipes and find some lunchtime inspiration!

Liven up lunch again
We all need to eat it, but in the bustle of daily life, we're often unable to make lunch a high priority – and skipped meals, pre-packaged convenience food, or endless cycles of stand-by sandwiches become a common thing. Peanut butter and jelly are great, but even childhood favourites need an exciting side from time to time!

We asked Test Kitchen food specialist Amanda Barnier to share some of her secrets to preparing a quick lunch. Here's what she had to say:

On best lunch recipes: salads, soups and sandwiches
"You can assemble salads, and package the dressing separately to drizzle over just prior to eating," Amanda says. "The majority of lunch prep can be done the night before. Sandwich fillings are also easy to prepare, and can be assembled (ahead of time) if using lettuce between slices of bread to keep the bread from getting soggy."

"Cold soups are also great," she adds, "if you don't have access to a microwave. The old-fashioned thermos, too, is still reliable for a hot lunch."

Why brown-baggin' lunch is better for your health
"When you make your lunch, you know what's going into it," Amanda says. "You control the amount of salt, sugar and fat, and you can control your portion size and keep out preservatives."

How to make lunch a balanced meal
"Be sure to include all of the food groups, especially the fruits and vegetables," Amanda says. "They're very portable and make great dippers. Try veggies with hummus and baba ghanoush, or fruit with yogurt or nut butters."

Remember to pack lunch properly
"If you're packing along protein-rich foods such as cheeses, fish, hard-boiled eggs or meats, be certain to pack a small ice pack to ward off growing bacteria," she advises.

Prepping lunch for the whole family

For kids with finicky tastes, try making Extraterrestrial Tuna Sandwiches or Mediterranean Penne Pasta Salad, Amanda recommends.

To save time, "make enough for dinner the night before, to eat for lunch the next day," she adds. "Lunch is leftover friendly."

"Chopped vegetables can also be done a few days in advance, so you can prep a few days' worth of lunchbox worthy items ahead," she says. "Be sure to vary your lunches, too. Try to add something new every Friday. Keep Monday lunches simple, because those mornings always sneak up on us."

Find ideas for lunch from our list of 15 quick lunch recipes below. With a little prep and planning, you'll have lots of reasons to look forward to lunch every day!

Quick lunch recipes:

Gluten-Free Quinoa Salad With Creamy Tahini Dressing
The amount of water you need to cook quinoa varies, so check package instructions for best results. For a twist, top the salad with toasted slivered almonds.


Tuna and Canadian Monterey Jack Quesadillas
Serve these mild quesadillas with our tart Grapefruit Avocado Salad.



Creamy Cheddar Pasta Toss
Why buy cheese sauce when homemade is this quick? It's cheaper and tastier, too. Cooking the chicken a day ahead is truly a time-saver. Plus, it's ready in 15 minutes!


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