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!

Post Your Comment


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! Cheers~ Heidi

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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