Vegetarian Lunch Ideas: One Sauce / Three Lunches

Vegetarian Lunch Ideas: One Sauce / Three Lunches Recipe

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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  • 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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