Can we all agree that lunch got the short end of the meal stick? It doesn’t have the finger-licking waffles and crisp bacon that breakfast lays claim to, and most of us don’t have time to make the casseroles or meat-and-potatoes dishes we enjoy at dinnertime. Heck, it can be tough to even escape from our desks to get a midday meal in.
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For Paleo lovers, lunchtime can be even more of a challenge—no grains typically means no sandwiches, and how many salads can one person eat? No need to stress. The following recipes are easy to make and take to work so you have a hearty, flavorful meal that will help you stay awake and focused the rest of the day. But you don’t need to be on the Paleo plan to enjoy them: Feel free to add them to your brown bag rotation no matter what “diet” you follow.
If you think lettuce wraps are limp and too light to sustain you, get ready to have your mind—and taste buds—blown. Between the jalapeno chillies and homemade chipotle sauce, your lettuce won’t know what hit it. Plus, they’re super easy to make, and you can use any extra chicken in other sandwiches or on grain bowls later in the week.
Sure, it might not be the most authentic picadillo recipe, but it’s probably one of the tastiest. Ground beef is combined with capers, green olives, bell peppers, and seasonings, then topped with fresh pico de gallo. Despite the lengthy list of ingredients, it’s easy to make (and all of those ingredients are easy to find)—and who doesn’t like a taco-ish meal?
Satisfy your California dreaming with these West Coast-inspired wraps. Spread lettuce leaves with a fresh basil-mayo combo (make your own mayo if you’re a die-hard Paleo), then stack deli turkey slices, your favorite bacon, thin-sliced avocados, and tomatoes. Roll ‘em up like burritos and enjoy.
We all know it’s what’s inside the sandwich that counts, and that’s why this is genius. Forget the bread or lettuce leaves; your deli meats are the wrap and filling here. Overlap two rows of your faves on wax paper, place your favorite veggie fillings on one side, roll it all up, and slice in half. It’s super adaptable and so delicious.
Sriracha adds a spicy kick to this fast, Paleo-friendly dish, but you can always adjust the amount if you prefer a milder version. The recipe is delicious as is, but feel free to get creative with extra garnishes to tailor it to your ideal taste. Sweet peppers, sprouts, raw diced onions, sauteed eggplant, chopped blanched almonds—whatever you’d like to add is fair game here!
Shrimp meals tend to come together quickly, and this one is no exception. Cajun-seasoned crustaceans are cooked with onions and peppers, then piled atop a bed of zucchini noodles. Best of all, this tastes great hot or at room temp, so if you don’t have a microwave at work, no worries.
Satisfy your Chinese takeout cravings with this inverted egg roll. Fiber-full cabbage gets sliced and diced, then sautéed with carrots, coconut aminos (a Paleo lover’s answer to soy sauce), sesame oil, and green onions. We recommend making this heartier by adding protein like eggs or meat.
Fries and chicken tenders don’t exactly sound like health foods. Except when you’re whipping up baked carrot fries and sautéed chicken strips. Serve ‘em with pico de gallo for tomato’s healthy benefits, eggs for extra protein, iron-rich spinach, and silky smooth avocado, and you’ve got a bowl that’s south-of-the-border worthy.
The more accurate name for this might be “bowl of amazing.” Make a hash-like combo of potassium-rich sweet potato and ground beef, then cook an egg how you like it. Transfer the hash to a portable container, top with the egg, and pack some salsa and avocado to add once you’re ready to dig it.
What’s a burrito bowl without rice? Pretty darn tasty. Use broccoli slaw that’s sautéed with onions, peppers, and celery as an antioxidant-loaded base, then add the usual suspects: spicy beef, cilantro, salsa, and avocado. There’s no need for beans or cheese when you have all this flavor, plus the fiber and protein to keep you feeling full for hours.
With crispy cabbage, sweet shredded pork, salty deli ham, creamy avocado, fried plantains, and tangy mojo sauce, who needs bread? Make the pork and plantains ahead of time on the weekend, then pack a serving of everything into a plastic container, and tote it to work on a day when you have back-to-back-to-back meetings—this way you’ll be sure you don’t miss lunch (or resort to leftover doughnuts from the break room).
It’s all the good parts of a BLT, plus a few extra additions that you’ll love. Crispy bacon, juicy tomatoes, and fresh lettuce welcome avocado, cucumber, feta cheese (strict Paleos, simply omit this), and a balsamic dressing to the party for a meal worth celebrating. Or at least leaving your desk to enjoy.
Your co-workers will be jealous when they catch you eating this. Not only is the lunch delicious, but it’s portable too. You’ll get a good dose of protein thanks to chicken and a variety of colorful veggies, like red bell peppers, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
When you need a lunch that’s ready in less than five minutes, turn to this recipe. Not only is tuna awesome for your heart, but it’s also hard to resist when stuffed inside an avocado half. Add a dash of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and lunch is served. Plus you can easily pack all the ingredients (just remember that can opener!) and make it at work.
If the Italian sub is your first choice at the deli, this antipasto salad is for you. Opt for meats free of weird ingredients and, if using jarred veggies like olives or sweet peppers, be sure they’re packed only in heart-healthy olive oil or vinegar. Served over a bed of your favorite leafy greens and drizzled with homemade Italian dressing, this is a real meal.
There are so many awesome things happening in this bowl: salmon, which is may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease; high-fiber and low-sugar raspberries; and heart-healthy avocado oil. Choose your favorite greens and toss for a salad that’s anything but sad.
Although it’s traditionally served as a side dish, this is filling enough to be a main course. A creamy curry-cashew dressing jazzes up basic broccoli, which is mixed with tart dried cranberries and bacon, then topped with crunchy sunflower seeds and cashews. So much flavor, texture, and color!
This mason jar salad is bursting with fresh flavors. From mangos and roasted peppers to a spicy chili vinaigrette, it’s like a party in your mouth. And thanks to the jar, your lettuce won’t get soggy while you wait for your lunch break.
Similar to a ceviche, this one’s perfect for warmer days—or anytime you want to satisfy an avocado and/or seafood craving. The miso dressing is delish, but you can omit it or add a different sauce if you prefer.
These burgers are bursting with flavor, thanks to the caramelized onions sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. Served on a thick tomato slice (why didn’t we think of that?!) and topped with sliced avocado, this creation is one that even non-Paleo eaters will love.
These are some of the tastiest, juiciest burgers you’ll ever eat, Paleo or not. Ground lamb is mixed with rosemary and salt and served with pesto, one of our favorite sauces on the planet. This is an awesome lunch recipe to mix up your usual midday routine.
Tapioca flour and coconut flour make up the tasty “crust” of this pizza. It’s super customizable—just throw on whatever toppings you want or whatever is left in your fridge. If you’re eating primal, add a little cheese; skip if you’re strictly Paleo.
Sometimes you’ve got to scarf down lunch on the go. When you do, turn to these meatloaf muffins. Not only are they the perfect size for travel, but they’re easily adaptable to whatever’s in your fridge. We love the sweet onion, zuchinni, and ‘shrooms in the original, but spinach or broccoli would be great substitutes as well. Further proof that anything tastes better made in a muffin tin.
Smoky burger, meet sweet, sweet pineapple. You’ll love the flavor contrast of paprika-spiked beef (choose grass-fed for more omega-3 fatty acids) and grilled pineapple. Top with red onions for some crispy zing, and serve inside a lettuce leaf. Hawaiian shirts are optional.
This looks like your basic burger… and then you sink your teeth in. Hello, Cajun spices! Think cayenne, cumin, garlic, paprika, and thyme. If your mouth is watering, good news: These come together fast. Serve them on lettuce leaves or, if you’ve got time to spare, bake the accompanying Paleo buns.
Paleo Salad Dressing: 9 Recipes That Make the Best Paleo Salads
Paleo Oatmeal: 12 Grain-Free Paleo Breakfasts That Are Just As Hearty
Paleo Desserts That Only Use 3 Ingredients
Low-Carb Breakfast Ideas for Grain-Free Mornings
Originally published October 2015. Updated January 2016.