13 Back-to-School Lunchbox Favorites

Header image: Baked Cracker Crusted Chicken from CHOW

School's here and it's time to pack up lunch - whether your kids are starting in kindergarten or will be a sophomore in high school, we've got the 13 easiest recipes to pack for a delicious school year ahead.

1. Chicken Salad Sandwich

CHOW

Chicken salad is the perfect filling lunch at any age, and it’s a snap to make in advance for the week. Short on time? Sub leftover rotisserie chicken from last night’s dinner and this sandwich is even quicker to prep. Get our Chicken Salad Sandwich recipe.

2. Gingersnap Sandwich Cookies

CHOW

Pack these gingersnap sandwich cookies, and your kid will be the most popular one in the cafeteria. A tangy and creamy lemon filling balances out the bold spice of the ginger. It’s a slightly more modern version of a classic ginger cookie. Get our Gingersnap Sandwich Cookie recipe.

3. Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

CHOW

Think you can’t one-up the traditional PB&J? Break out the panini press. Grilling a peanut butter and jelly makes the outside crisp and crunchy and the inside soft and sweet and gooey. It won’t keep in a lunchbox, but it’s perfect for a post-school snack. Get our Grilled Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich recipe.

4. Spicy Meatloaf Sandwich

CHOW

A brilliant tip for school lunches is to utilize last night’s dinner, and this sandwich does it perfectly. Slices of meatloaf are sandwiched between two slices of bread and dressed up with a spiced, tomato-laced mayonnaise. Now that would get anyone through a long afternoon of history and math classes! Get our Spicy Meatloaf Sandwich recipe.

5. Baked Cracker Chicken Fingers

Sneakily healthy (but the kids don’t need to know that), these chicken fingers taste anything but wholesome. Chicken breast strips are coated in cracker crumbs and baked for an easily heated-up lunch that mimics fried food in flavor. Now that’s a win-win. Get our Baked Cracker Chicken Fingers recipe.

6. Basic Quinoa Salad

CHOW

Okay, okay, bear with us. We know “quinoa salad” might not scream “kid’s lunch” but it’s actually a fantastic and versatile lunch option. You can make it well ahead of time, it’s filling and healthy, and you can adapt it to your kid’s palate. Do they love cheese? Nuts? Tuna? Add anything you (or they) like and they’ll never be bored. Get our Basic Quinoa Salad recipe.

7. Turkey Waldorf Salad

CHOW

This excellent salad recipe uses leftover turkey to make a filling lunch. Diced apples, celery, and red grapes add a burst of bright, fresh crunch and pair perfectly with the creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. Eat it over greens, on toasted bread, or plain. Get our Turkey Waldorf Salad recipe.

8. Baked Macaroni and Cheese

CHOW

Everyone loves macaroni and cheese. And we love it especially for lunches since you can prep it days in advance. This recipe elevates the flavor by using two kinds of cheese and adding panko for crunch. Get our Baked Macaroni and Cheese recipe.

9. Cinnamon Sugar Chips

CHOW

Forget store-bought chips. This year, make your own using flour tortillas and win Parent of the Year award. Sweet and crunchy cinnamon sugar chips have only 4 ingredients and will last you all week. Get our Cinnamon Sugar Chips recipe.

10. Cinnamon and Pear Fruit Leather

CHOW

The ultimate in lunchtime DIY, homemade fruit leather is a slam-dunk when it comes to school lunches. It’s sweet and healthy, easy to make, and fun to eat. Try experimenting with spices and fruit, like strawberries and cardamom or apples and nutmeg. Get our Cinnamon and Pear Fruit Leather recipe.

11. Sweet Potato Crisps

CHOW

Take the classic potato chip up a notch. These sweet potato crisps are healthier but far more delicious, and shockingly simple to made. Just slice, toss, and bake. Warning: They are utterly addictive. Get our Sweet Potato Crisp recipe.

12. White Bean and Edamame Hummus

CHOW

Lunchtime routine can feel old pretty quickly, so we love recipes that offer a twist on a familiar favorite. This version of a basic hummus uses white beans and edamame for an earthier, nuttier spread. Pack some raw vegetables and crackers and call it lunch. Get our White Bean and Edamame Hummus recipe.

13. Pecan Pie Bars

CHOW

We don’t consider a lunch box fully packed without dessert. These bars pack all the flavor of pecan pie into one easily transportable shape. They taste fancy but are simple to whip up on a Sunday for lunches all week. Get our Pecan Pie Bars recipe.

Posie Harwood is a New York City-based writer and photographer. She grew up on a farm and likes raw milk, warm bread with butter, and plenty of fresh air. Follow her on Instagram, and her blog 600 Acres.

See more articles
Share this article: