Anything I know about living vegan, I learned from somebody else. In this collection, I point you towards some people and places that I found useful when figuring out what to eat for lunch.
Wondering how to eat plant-based at lunch? Here are some of my favorite soup, sandwich, and salad recipes plus a few snack ideas that will keep you topped up from the time you clock in till the time you clock out.
Needless to say, you don’t have to make your lunch from scratch if that’s not normally your thing but, depending on where you live and work, you may find that you don’t have as many ready-made, fast-food, or restaurant options as you were used to before you decided to become vegan.
I work from home, but I recently travelled to San Diego to meet my team and struggled with lunch on my first day.
While the city is generally a plant-based paradise, the company is headquartered out of a corporate wasteland off the highway, and the only vegan offering in the cafeteria was a tiny tub of hummus with a couple pieces of pita bread and some carrot sticks and broccoli florets.
“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words, like ‘What about lunch?’” – A.A. Milne
It was totally fine, and I was thankful there was something I could eat, but I caught a Lyft to Trader Joe’s that evening and stocked up on some flavorful vegan salads, handy breakfast burritos, and refreshing collard wraps to last the rest of the week. I also bought a tub of cashews, a bunch of bananas, some vegan protein bars and soy creamer for my coffee.
Awesome from a hangry-vegan perspective, but not so awesome for my budget not to mention all the plastic ugh. I had a great time in San Diego and ate some of the best food of my life while exploring the city in the evenings, but I was relieved and very happy to go home and get back to my normal lunch routine.
Sandwiches & Wraps
A great grab-and-go option, there’s a reason why sandwiches are a brown-bag-lunch mainstay, but most of us can’t comprehend a sandwich that doesn’t involve meat or cheese.
Like all great sandwiches, the vegan variety is a delicately balanced combination of moistness and crunch, flavorful spreads and condiments, and perfectly-seasoned fillings. One thing I’ve realized since becoming vegan is that we think we’re craving meat or dairy when we’re actually craving texture, sweetness, salt, or spice. Keep that in mind when assembling your perfect plant-based sandwich.
In the Beginning, There Was Bread–And It Was Good
Good bread is the beginning of all great sandwiches, but not all bread is good for animals–i.e. vegan friendly.
“A man’s social rank is determined by the amount of bread he eats in a sandwich.”F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned
As a new vegan, you will need to get used to reading food labels and watching out for ingredients derived from animals. This article provides some more information about the most common types of vegan bread and how to substitute non-vegan ingredients in a bread recipe.
- List of 20 (Supermarket-Friendly) Bread Brands
- Easy Whole Grain Seed Bread
- Vegan Sourdough Recipes
- My New Roots Life-Changing Bread
Honestly, most days my sandwiches are of the peanut butter and jelly variety, and that’s always a good fallback when you’re first going vegan and have no idea where to begin.
However, there are endless ways to create filling and fulfilling plant-based sandwiches that are neither bland nor boring or make you look like a second grader in the office break room.
Chickpeas, white beans, tempeh and tofu are great sources of protein. Pickled vegetables or capers provide a tasty tang, while avocado creates the creaminess that many of us crave in a good sandwich. I love heirloom tomatoes in season, but in winter I layer roasted tomatoes in my sandwiches or stir some finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes into a hummus spread or vegan mayo (my favorite is Follow Your Heart’s Vegenasise).
Here are some of my favorite sandwich recipes. I like to make a big batch of the filling at the beginning of the week then quickly assemble in the morning or the night before.
Vegan Sandwich Ideas
- 10 Vegan Sandwich Fillings, by Veganuary
- 100 Irresistible Vegan Sandwiches, compiled by Connoisseurus Veg
- Chickpea of the Sea ‘Tuna’ Salad Sandwich, by Simple Veganista
- Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich, by Minimalist Baker
- 10 Vegan Sandwiches to Pack for Work or School, compiled by Emilie Eats
- 50 Veggie Wraps, the Stingy Vegan
Carbs will always have my heart, but a friend of mine who has celiac disease turned me onto these gluten-free “green burritos,” and I must admit they’re pretty damn good, especially in the summer when I’m craving something fresh and lighter.
I’ve seen vegan collard wraps at several stores in the Portland area, but store-bought vegan options are hard to come by where I live in rural Oregon so I like to make my own.
Here are some ideas to get you started, but feel free to get creative, follow your tastebuds, and come up with your own combinations. Any of the sandwich and wrap fillings above will work equally as well as a collard wrap, it will just be a little lighter.
Some ideas to get you started:
- Mastering the Collard Wrap
- Creamy Avocado Chickpea Wraps, Emilie Eats
- Collard Wraps with Herbed Cashew Spread & Roast Peppers, Food 52.
- Colorful Rainbow Wraps with Tahini, Feasting at Home
When people you greatly admire appear to be thinking deep thoughts, they probably are thinking about lunch.”Douglas Adams
Mason Jar Salads
Salads are another lunchtime staple, and layering them in a wide-mouth mason jar solves that perennial first world sogginess problem.
Dressing goes on the bottom, followed by veggies, protein, and crisp leafy greens piled on top. Everything stays separate and dressing-free until you shake it up and pour it into a bowl. I’ve made a work-week’s worth of mason jar salads ahead of time and they really do stay fresh and crisp.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- 5 Mason Jar Salad Recipes, Emilie Eats
- Peanut Crunch Salad in a Jar, A Virtual Vegan
- How to Make Vegan Mason Jar Salads for Make-Ahead Lunches
I love to cook and, once in a blue moon, I’ll go all out on elaborate dinners with side-dishes and main events that require timing and coordination. Mostly, though, I love meals that can be made in one pot and preferably doubled so there’ll be leftovers. Curries, stews and soups are what’s on the menu for lunch and dinner around here and not a week goes by when I don’t make some sort of soup.
“I live on good soup, not on fine words.”Moliere
Below are some of my favorite vegan soup recipes. And, for those of you who don’t have the time or inclination to cook from scratch, here are some store-bough soup options.
It’s always wise to check the label before buying, but for some ready-made store-bought options, check out this recent post on the different types of vegan soups you can get at the grocery store in the U.S., including 17 vegan canned soups to keep you warm in the winter winter, vegan tomato soup brands, and even a few vegan cream of mushroom soup options.
Vegan Soup Ideas
- Tomatoes Bisque, by Well Vegan
- Cheesy Vegan Leek & Potato Soup, by Two Spoons
- Vegan Broccoli & Cheese Soup, by Oh She Glows
- Simple Vegan Tortilla Soup, by Minimalist Baker
- Creamy Pasta Soup Recipe, by Ela Vegan
- Instant Pot Lasagna Soup, by Vegan Richa
- Thai Coconut Curry Soup, by Ela Vegan
When I first became vegan, I found that I was hungrier than usual as my body adjusted to a new way of eating. This lasted about a month, but I still keep a stash of snacks around to top me up between meals.
Fruit (fresh or dried) and nuts are nutritious and require no preparation. I also like rice cakes or tostadas with salsa, avocado toast, or hummus and veggies. Popcorn or toasted sunflower seeds is another good one. I’m addicted to dates and often eat them with a dollop of almond butter, like this recipe from Choosing Chia.
A well-planned plant-based diet can support healthy living and meet all our nutritional requirements. There is no reason why most people can not only survive, but thrive, on a vegan diet. I hope these recipe ideas show that it can also be flippin delicious. Happy lunching, friends!