Mini Tamale Pies recipe
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When a boring old sandwich just won’t do, here are some more exciting (but still easy) school lunch ideas everyone will love.

Back to school may feel more like back to the drawing board for parents trying to conceive of new, interesting and healthy lunches their kids will actually eat. Sandwiches may never go out of style, but sometimes your little tykes get sick of tuna fish or PB&J—and we can’t totally blame them.

Related Reading: Tuna Again?! Why You Should Consider Eating the Same Lunch Every Day

With a little creativity and a few handy dandy morning kitchen helpers (and I don’t mean a cocktail), you can get them excited about lunch all over again with these big-flavor, low-stress lunchtime options.

1. Baked Cracker-Crusted Chicken Fingers

baked cracker crusted chicken fingers


No kid can resist a good chicken finger for lunch or any other time. This recipe delivers flavor and is healthy to boot, using whole-wheat crackers for the crust and baking instead of deep-frying. Get our Baked Cracker-Crusted Chicken Finger recipe.

Related Reading: One Mom’s Tips for Feeding Picky Kids

2. Mini Turkey Burgers or Mini Turkey Meatloaf

Mini Turkey Meatloaf recipe


Who says burgers are just for barbecues? Martha Stewart riffs on the classic burger with ground turkey and cheddar, and makes them the perfect mini size for little ones’ lunchboxes. Achieve a similar kid-pleasing result with our Mini Turkey Meatloaf recipe.

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Related Reading: 17 Muffin Pan Recipes That Aren’t Muffins

3. Pizza Buns

easy stromboli recipe


Imagine if a cinnamon roll and a pizza had a baby, and you’ll get pizza buns. Rebecca from Simple As That makes them like cinnamon rolls, but with pizza ingredients. They’re super portable, perfect for a lunch box! And using store-bought pizza dough means they’re easy to make. Get the Pizza Buns recipe.

4. The Elvis Burrito (or Elvis Sandwich)

English muffin with peanut butter and banana


This recipe pairs peanut butter with bacon, honey, and banana in a whole-wheat tortilla (just think of bacon as the new jelly), but the same combo also works as a classic sandwich. Get the Elvis Burrito recipe.

5. Hummus & Veggies (The Greek PB&J?)

homemade hummus with vegetables


Chef Cat Cora wows her kids by spreading hummus and black-olive mayo on pita bread, then adding a few veggies like cucumber, lettuce, and tomato and serving it sandwich style. You can also pack it as a bento-style box lunch. Get our Hummus recipe.

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6. Sesame Noodle Salad or Asian Peanut Noodle Salad

easy Asian peanut noodle recipe


Lauren from the blog Lauren’s Latest packs a ton of veggies into this noodle salad, and makes even the pickiest eater want to scarf it down thanks to a tasty dressing flavored with sesame oil. Get the Sesame Noodle Salad recipe. If allergies aren’t a concern, try our Asian Peanut Noodle Salad recipe t00.

Related Reading: Allergy-Safe Snacks to Pack for School Lunch

7. Mini Shepherd’s Pie or Mini Tamale Pies

Mini Tamale Pies recipe


Who says shepherd’s pie is only for dinner? Tracy from The Lucky Lunchbox uses jumbo muffin cups to make a Mini Shepherd’s Pie for lunches. Bonus: They can be frozen and reheated individually! Same goes for our Mini Tamale Pie recipe.

8. Bento Tacos/Nachos

Blogger Keeley McGuire likes to pack up leftover taco meat with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and tomatoes, turning lunch into a kids’ make-your-own affair. Mild salsa and guacamole would be other good additions to the nacho bar.

9. Corn and Zucchini Fritters

Crispy Corn Fritter recipe


For a veggie-centric kid lunch beyond the basic sandwich, make easy fritters by mixing whole-wheat pancake batter with corn and shredded zucchini (or corn and bacon). Pack with Greek yogurt for dipping. Get our Corn and Zucchini Fritters recipe.

10. Kid-Friendly Fried Rice


With the addition of bacon, in place of pork, Chinese food gets a kid-approved makeover that tastes good cold too. Get our Kid-Friendly Fried Rice recipe.

11. Beef and Vegetable Shish Kebabs

Shish kebabs are about as easy to make as they are fun to say. Grill some good marinated beef at the beginning of the week and you can serve it as is, over rice or dice with veggies and toss with Asian noodles. All good healthy lunches that don’t involve grape jelly and Wonder Bread. Get our Beef and Vegetable Shish Kebabs recipe.

Related Reading: School Lunches You Can Grill the Night Before

Everything Else You Need to Know

How to Make Back-to-School Season as Smooth as Possible

The original version of this story was by Leena Trivedi-Grenier in 2014. It has been updated with additional images, links, and text.

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