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


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! xo


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!!


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