Vegetarian Lunch Ideas: One Sauce / Three Lunches Recipe

Lunchbox magic - a post and video about taking one favorite tomato sauce, and working it into three different lunches.

Vegetarian Lunch Ideas: One Sauce / Three Lunches

This post is about taking one favorite tomato sauce, and working it into three different lunches. The lunches I had in mind are work, school, or on-the-go type lunches that don't require reheating. The basic idea is you tweak the main sauce a bit day by day, and create a pasta bowl (day one), a lazy chana masala (day two), and a spicy dipping sauce for quinoa patties (day three). The video goes into all the specifics, and you can see how I pull together a handful of weekday friendly lunches (with some diversity) using a lot of the basic ingredients many of you already keep on hand. The general idea is this - even if you're busy, these lunches aren't crazy to throw together, especially if you plan ahead a bit.

Vegetarian Lunch Ideas


Related, meal prep has a tendency to make my head explode a little. I love the idea, but find it overwhelming. I'm always trying to find middle ground, and to simplify, but not-oversimplify ;) So, I'll include a few tips that work for me here. The main thing that keeps things easy is the following:


EVERY WEEKEND: Good to keep on hand

- Cook a favorite grain (quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
- Cook a favorite pulse or bean (lentils, mung beans, etc.)
- Hard-boil 6 - 12 eggs (if you eat eggs)*
- Wash, cut, & prep a few quick-cooking vegetables (kale, broccoli, asparagus)


If you're into this general idea, please let me know(!), and I can show you how I build off other core recipes or ideas (for example, I do a week based on my favorite saag paneer). Hope you find some of this helpful! -h

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Vegetarian Lunch Ideas: One Sauce / Three Lunches

HS: If you don't eat eggs (and many don't consider eggs vegetarian), please feel free to substitute another protein-rich ingredient you prefer - tempeh, tofu, or more lentils.



LUNCH ONE: Red Garlic Kale Pasta

- Five Minute Tomato Sauce
- Cooked Pasta (short pasta)
- Big handful of chopped kale
- Lentils
- Hard-boiled egg*
- Dates
- Nuts (or toss 1 cup toasted pistachios w/ 2 sheets of crumbled, toasted nori // 2T. nutritional yeast // 1t. chile flakes // salt // drizzle of olive oil)

Bonus: scallions / olives // toasted almonds // olive oil

LUNCH TWO: Easy Chana Masala

- 1 cup Five Minute Tomato Sauce // Stir in 2 teaspoons garam masala & 1 tablespoon chopped ginger

- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1 cup chickpeas
- Brown rice or quinoa
- Plain yogurt whisked with a bit of salt & 2 garlic cloves smashed into a paste.

- toasted naan or pita chips // toss w/ olive oil or clarified butter, salt & toasted at 350F until golden and crisp.
- treat: Anna's Daughter Rye Crisps / dark chocolate
- orange segments

Bonus: toasted coconut // scallions // cilantro // avocado & lime

LUNCH THREE: Baby Quinoa Patties

- Five Minute Tomato Sauce seasoned with chile sauce (sriracha sauce)

-Baby Quinoa Patties **

- Plain yogurt whisked with a bit of salt & 2 garlic cloves smashed into a paste.

- Lentils

- A handful of shredded kale, massaged with a big squeeze of lime juice, pinch of salt, and topped with nuts (below).

- Nuts (or toss toasted pistachios w/ a bit of crumbled, toasted nori // nutritional yeast // chile flakes // salt // olive oil)

Bonus: Avocado // Cilantro

*To hard-boil Eggs: Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water by half an inch or so. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn off the heat and cover. Let the pot sit for ten minutes. In the meantime, prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the eggs are done cooking, use a slotted spoon to place them into the ice bath. When the eggs are cool, remove them and crack and peel.

**Baby Quinoa Patties: Combine 2 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa, 4 large beaten eggs, and 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt in a medium bowl. Stir in 1 finely chopped onion. Add 1 cup of breadcrumbs (or rolled quinoa, or instant oats), stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes. Form into little patties, and pan-fry in a bit of clarified butter or coconut oil over medium heat, flipping once along the way until both sides are golden brown and the patties are cooked through.

Prep time: 40 minutes - Cook time: 30 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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i am vegetarian and really love your food. I make it every day. I started eating this instead of a lot of things. Thank you for your kindness


I absolutely love this post and seriously crave more like it.


I have been cooking like this all summer and super happy to see a like mind with new ideas! I have been playing with spice blends so when I reheat my prepped ingredients I heat up some ghee in a pot and whatever spice blend I’m into (most recently za’atar and todo asado) sometimes I even add a little milk and then add my prepped grain/bean/green and squeeze some lemon and serve with whatever toppings match. A super quick and yummy lunch or dinner. Also some tips for the sometimes overwhelming prep process…I cook the grains and eggs while doing weekly laundry, soak the beans and cook in my small crock pot, and steam greens or other veg daily in my Jia steamer (thanks to Quitokeeto!) while eating breakfast/making coffee.


Yes, please post more of these. Definitely interested in the saag paneer. I love your saag paneer recipe!!


I just sat down to look up ideas for lunches like this, and for your pistou recipe because I thought it would be a good sauce for this sort of thing, and here is this perfect blueprint! Thank you! I’d love to see more ideas like this too.


Yes! Love lunch ideas like this one, especially with advice on what to prep on the weekend to make the week ahead that much easier! Please add more 🙂


I have just finished my first lunch. This is so great. I love the weekend setup, then spending a little time every day just putting it together. I am especially interested in the larger workflow of the kitchen, the ability to substitute and use what else you have in the kitchen that week, the work of one day propelling your meals for the rest of the week. That kind of thing I would especially love to see. I started following you and purchased your books for that reason (e.g. setting up your pantry), and I would love to see more posts in that vein. Thanks so much!

HS: Thanks for the note Alison – I definitely have more ideas in that vein. Will see what I can do. Thanks for the feedback (and encouragement!)…


I’m into it! Would love see more like this. my current routine is based on the abundance bowls from my new roots. But more variety, like what you show here, would be better!


Thanks for this! Making everything today to get me through rest of the week. Would love to see more quick and easy lunch ideas!!


Yes please! I love this idea. More ideas like this would be so good.

Sara B

Love this post! And would love to see more of your lunch ideas. I live on my own and often don’t want to make a load of something as it doesn’t get used up but this might work for me not just for lunch!

Heidi Lea

I have made this trio twice now and love the elegant simplicity of the red sauce reinvented! Please, please, please do more of these beautiful lunch ideas!!! Thank you!!!


Making these this week & would love to see other similar posts for breakfast & more easy lunch ideas!


I am a big fan of this idea of batch cooking for the week. I’m trying to learn more about how to menu plan and feed my family fresh delicious healthy foods that are economical. Just read an article about how most cookbooks are recipe books rather than guides to home economics. Also a big yes to your saag paneer recipe, please!


Yes more meal prep please! I aways try to prep but then get bored with my ideas.


Winter lunches are easy because I make a soup or two for the week, but when it gets too warm for soup, this is a great template for lunch meal prep.


Brilliant. Loved this post, and getting to see and hear you in action!


I love the idea of being able to do a little simple prep over the weekend to speed things up during the week. “Meal prep” always seems so daunting: trying to cook a whole week’s worth of food in a day. Your middle ground is a great solution. Yes please more ideas!


Great post! I would love to see more like this.

Adriane Colby

Yes! I love this idea – and in particular find the ‘what to have on hand’ to translate the one thing into many meals. Would love more posts like this – thanks!


Where do you get those awesome lunch containers?


Please! I am trying to prepare more of the food we consume, without myself becoming consumed by resentment. The “do every weekend” and then variations on a theme structure is SO helpful, so please, please, share more!


Love these ideas.
I always end up wasting avocado though because I eat some of it and the rest of it goes brown. Every. Single. Time. I have tried everything, and nothing seems to work.
Any ideas? Thanks

HS: Hi Pallavi – I usually toss rub the cut edge with a bit of lemon or lime and throw it in a baggie or jar…if the brown bothers you, you can just shave off that thin layer before using :)…


I really enjoyed this. Another set of lunch videos would be nice. I particularly like the saag paneer idea because I really love saag paneer!
For those who asked, the containers seem to be traditional stainless steel Indian lunch containers. Search on amazon (or elsewhere) for Indian tiffin box or go to an Indian grocery if there is one near you.
One quick question re the recipes here. Did you cook the kale or use raw kale?

HS: Hi Lynne – Thank you, and yes to saag paneer ;)….The kale here is raw, and I think the acidity in the tomato sauce helps break it down a bit, so no need to cook.


Yes! I eat lunch out every day — sometimes in a cold warehouse where my studio is, but more often out in the woods or in parks around town. Anything if this nature to ramp up the lunchbox with no needed reheating is wonderful.

Maggie Wauklyn

Love this. I struggle with making my lunches everyday and this looks like a great way to use up leftovers. Please do more of these.

Sandra Lea

Love these ideas and how the common element of the tomato sauce ties them all together. Great balance of carbs, veg, and protein too! I am forever looking for more lunch ideas since I bring mine to work every day. Like others, I LOVE your containers! Dying to know where you got them–so much more convenient than my bulky plastic tupperware!


I’m echoing everybody else here when I say I love these lunch ideas. Especially love that you rollover not only the tomato sauce but also the yogurt and pistachio mixture. Awesome recipes. And yes, please more like this!!

Katie @ Whole Nourishment

I’d love to hear more! Posts like these are very helpful. I have a big family and a limited budget so planning is vital 🙂


So helpful! I’d love to see more like this, please. And, I’m adding my name to the list of people asking where to find those containers. Do tell! Thank you.


More ideas like this, please! I have a couple of your books, but struggle with changing things up enough to make a week’s worth of meals.
For those asking, the lunch boxes are ECOlunchbox and available from Amazon.


This post is great! And ditto to others on wanting to know which steel containers you used.


This is a great post – I love the idea of having a central sauce and/or several ingredients that can be used in a medley of different meals! Today I used black quinoa with avocado, cherry tomatoes and Persian cucumber diced into it with avocado oil and lemon juice with sesame Yuba noodles for added protein – I love your stacking tiffen collection and would love it if you carried them:)

Jennifer Butson

I love this way of cooking! I’m also really enjoying your more frequent videos. Thank you!


A great post offering a good start for so many possibilities!


Thank you so much for these! I will definitely like more videos like these. Also, I really like the containers you used. Where can we get those from?


This post was very helpful to me. Great ideas. Thanks!


What beautiful wonderful lunches! I would eat all of them. I absolutely love ideas like this–thank you so much!!
Would love to see some bento lunches that are a little less on the carbs, heavier on the veg.
P.S. Where are your boxes from?

Tonya Q

thank you for lunch ideas! would be great to have more of how you turn one meal into many and if possible without eggs? (the quinoa patties and hard boiled eggs)


love this and loving your videos!
a breakfast version of this video would also be oh so helpful! tasty weekday breakfast meals that you can either prep the night before or quickly put together in the am.
thanks heidi!


This is really fun! I am like ideas how to use up dinner leftovers and vegetables without feeling like it is the same menu everyday. Thanks for always being so generous and inspiring!


hi, can you tell me where to get those containers?


Love this! Can you share what containers you’re using? And are they pretty good at keeping food seperate and not mixing or spilling?


Amazing! Please do more of these! Such a brilliant idea!


Yes! This is a wonderful idea! It will be so useful and appreciated 🙂


Wonderful post! I bet your magic sauce would be of great use here too. I get in food ruts, so other ideas are always helpful. Yes please more posts like this!!


Such a neat post. Will you explore ideas on how to package cooked grains into different lunch ideas?


I LOVE this concept! More posts like this please 🙂


Great idea here that will save a lot of time. Love it.


Such a useful post! I may know the components of each of these lunches, but it’s sometimes an a-ha moment watching you put them together and make them fresh. Thank you for that and yes, more please!

Katherine M

Heidi, these ideas are WONDERFUL and so appreciated. Meal planning (for lunch in particular) is a real challenge for me and I love your creativity. Please keep these posts coming… it will help me stay sane! 🙂


Yes! More of this please!


Loved this! It inspired me to go boil some eggs and make lentils immediately, as well as buy an avocado this evening. Thank you for the inspiration!


This is absolutely brilliant! I LOVE ideas like that and make up my own but would be super keen to see more of yours! I would love to try this one this week.


This is awesome! I have loved your tomato sauce for a long time, so I am thankful to see it being used in alternative ways that are also delicious. Thank you for providing these choices.

Kelsey Lane

This was great – would love more ideas for portable meals!


Thanks for this! Yes, I’d very much like to see future posts on strategic cooking/assembling, including how to flex a batch-cook recipe into multiple recipes. Avoiding boredom and increasing variety are always a challenge when I try to streamline my cooking efforts.

Emily Dietsch

Love this approach! Would love to see more posts like this.

Lindsey Bickers Bock

loved this!


Heidi, this is so great. You are a wonder! It’s really helpful to have this all stepped out. Totally doable! Any chance you could post similar lunch suggestions without the tomato element?

HS: Hi Claire – Sure! I have two other ideas that are top of mind….both tomato-free 🙂


Love this post! This is how I’m trying to cook more and your ideas and tips are so helpful. We love your saag paneer recipe, please share how you base a week off it!

Heidi Johnson

Oh man, meal planning! I love the idea, but haven’t achieved it yet ;). Please yes more of this!!


Yes please! Would love some more meal prep ideas and tips!


Love your tips and the recipes look wonderful! Curious if you have suggestions for a vegan version of the quinoa patties? Also would love to know where you found those great containers!


Really liked this post! Great idea combining sauce into three meals. Please do more of these! You made it look so easy.


Yes! Totally into any ways to get great food prepared quickly, early, and often!


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