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50 of Our Best Cold Lunch Ideas

No access to a refrigerator or microwave? You can still have a delicious and hearty mid-day meal! These cold lunch ideas are perfect when all you have is a lunch box and a freezer pack.

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BLT Macaroni Salad

A friend served this BLT pasta salad, and I just had to get the recipe. My husband loves BLT sandwiches, so this has become a favorite of his. It’s nice to serve on hot and humid days, which we frequently get during summer here in Virginia. —Mrs. Hamilton Myers Jr., Charlottesville, Virginia

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Craving even more? Try these restaurant salad copycat recipes.

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Hearty Muffuletta

Famous in Louisiana, muffulettas are cold cuts, cheese and olive salad layered into an Italian bread shell. I was happy when a friend and co-worker gave me this recipe so I could make them myself. More than a meal, it’s a dining experience! —Ruth Hayward, Lake Charles, Louisiana
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California Roll Wraps

I love the California rolls I get at sushi restaurants and wanted to capture those flavors in a sandwich I could take to work. I started with the standard ingredients, added a few others and came up with a hit. —Mary Pax-Shipley, Bend, Oregon
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Gyro Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

If you’re fond of gyros, you’ll enjoy this garden-fresh salad showcasing ground lamb, crumbled feta cheese, Kalamata olives, tomatoes and a creamy, tangy dressing. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Golden Beet and Peach Soup with Tarragon

One summer we had a bumper crop of peaches from our two trees, so I had fun experimenting with different recipes. After seeing a beet soup recipe in a cookbook, I changed it a bit to include our homegrown golden beets and sweet peaches. —Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
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Salmon Salad Sandwiches

These are perfect to pack in your kids’ lunch boxes when they can’t face another boring sandwich. We love the salmon, cream cheese and dill tucked inside a crusty roll. The carrots and celery add a nice crunch.
-Yvonne Shust, Shoal Lake, Manitoba
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Marinated Sausage Kabobs

These flavorful and colorful appetizers are so fun they’ll be the talk of the party. And they’re so easy: Simply assemble the day before and forget about them! Joanne Boone – Danville, Ohio

Packing lunch for the little ones? Get all of our kids’ lunch recipes here.

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Grilled Chicken Ramen Salad

I love this chicken ramen salad because it’s a complete meal in one bowl. Everyone loves when it’s on the table—that’s a reaction that doesn’t happen every night, so I appreciate the kudos when I get them! —Karen Carlson, Alameda, California
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Buffalo Tofu Wrap

My family loves the tofu filling in this wrap! For parties, we often serve it as a dip with tortilla chips or pita bread. My husband requests this often, and it’s super easy to double the recipe if needed. —Deanna Wolfe, Muskegon, Michigan
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Black Forest Ham Pinwheels

Dried cherries are the sweet surprise alongside the savory ingredients in these delightfully different spirals. I roll up the tortillas and pop them in the fridge well before party time, and then I just slice and serve. —Kate Dampier, Quail Valley, California
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Turkey, Gouda & Apple Tea Sandwiches

Cut into triangles or quarters, these fun mini sandwiches are a tasty addition to an afternoon tea gathering. The cranberry mayo lends an original flavor twist, and the apples give them a sweet-tart crunch. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Ham Caesar Salad

One bite, and you’ll fall in love with this combo! Serve with fresh iced tea and banana splits for a casual menu that won’t heat up your kitchen. —Mary Ann Schlabach, Sarasota, Florida
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Club Roll-Ups

Packed with meat, cheese and olives, these roll-ups are always a hit at parties.
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Couscous Tabbouleh with Fresh Mint & Feta

Using couscous instead of bulgur for tabbouleh really speeds up the process of making this colorful salad. Other quick-cooking grains, such as barley or quinoa, also work well. —Elodie Rosinovsky, Brighton, Massachusetts
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Crab Cake Lettuce Wraps

I love dishes you can put together and eat with your hands. These little crab cakes are healthy, fast and flavorful. —Joyce Huang, New York, New York
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Thai-Inspired Roast Beef Sandwich

I love Thai food, but I wanted to see how its flavors would translate in a plain ol’ peanut butter sandwich. The result is anything but plain—it’s just darn delicious. —James Schend, Taste of Home Deputy Editor
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Chicken Caesar Pitas

Hand-held and picnic friendly, these chicken-stuffed pockets pack a double dose of whole grains from brown rice and whole wheat pitas. The chicken can be made up to 2 days in advance for a fast-fix lunch. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Mint-Cucumber Tomato Sandwiches

I jazzed up the quintessential teatime cucumber sandwich to suit my family's tastes. This was my absolute go-to sandwich last summer when I was pregnant. It hit all the right spots! —Namrata Telugu, Terre Haute, Indiana
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Cranberry Salsa Turkey Wraps

Once your family tastes these mouthwatering roll-ups, they'll never look at leftover turkey in the same way! The cranberry salsa combines both sweet and spicy flavors.—Elke Rose, Waukesha, Wisconsin
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Tuna and White Bean Lettuce Wraps

Say bye-bye to ho-hum tuna salad. Here's a recipe we actually look forward to eating. —Heather Senger, Madison, Wisconsin
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Dilly Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

These chickpea salad sandwiches are super flavorful and contain less fat and cholesterol than chicken salad. They make delightful picnic sandwiches. —Deanna McDonald, Muskegon, Michigan
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Chicken Salad Caprese

This unique, flavorful salad and bread combo will get rave reviews—guaranteed. —Frances Pietsch, Flower Mound, Texas
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Gingered Spaghetti Salad

We love this chilled chicken salad brimming with colorful veggies. Make it meatless by omitting the chicken and tossing in more edamame. —Cindy Heinbaugh, Aurora, Colorado
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Chicken Cucumber Pitas

I wanted a good recipe for pitas. Seeing the large stack of garden-fresh cucumbers on my counter, I decided to improvise and create my own filling. It was a huge hit. —Sheena Wellard, Nampa, Idaho
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Shrimp Gazpacho

Here’s a refreshing take on the classic chilled tomato soup. Our twist features shrimp, lime and plenty of avocado. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I think this is the best cashew chicken salad sandwich recipe around. It’s good for you and quick to make, and it has wonderful flavor. —Peggi Kelly, Fairbury, Nebraska
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Beef 'n' Cheese Wraps

These make-ahead wraps are delicious, portable and ideal for picnics and tailgates. Enjoy them whole or slice them into 1-inch pieces to serve them as an appetizer. They also make an excellent lunch on the go. —Sue Sibson, Howard, South Carolina
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Havarti Turkey Hero

This is not your ordinary sandwich! Everyone loves the combination of chutney and chopped peanuts. I like to make this when I have company in the afternoon or at night after a game of cards. —Agnes Ward, Stratford, Ontario
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Grilled Steak Bruschetta Salad for 2

Fire up the grill for this tasty salad. The meat will be done in a snap, leaving you more time to enjoy the summer evening.
—Devon Delaney, Princeton, New Jersey
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Vietnamese Crunchy Chicken Salad

When I lived in Cleveland I would eat at a really good Vietnamese restaurant that had a dish I couldn’t get enough of. Since I had it so frequently, I figured out the components and flavors and created my own easy-to-make version. Everyone who’s tasted it loves it. —Erin Schillo, Northfield, Ohio
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Lobster Rolls

To be truly authentic, melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet and toast the outsides of the buns before filling with the cool lobster. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Chicken Salad Croissant Sandwiches

Parmesan cheese and dill make this the most incredible chicken salad I’ve ever tasted. For the no-cook version, use canned chicken. These sandwiches are a simple entree to serve at parties, showers or picnics.—Jaclyn Bell, Logan, Utah
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Shrimp Avocado Salad

This salad can be served as a cool and satisfying dinner or lunch. The delicious taste and smooth texture of avocados mixed with the crisp shrimp salad is heavenly. —Teri Rasey, Cadillac, Michigan
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Champion Roast Beef Sandwiches

When I have time, I like to prepare a roast with this much-requested recipe in mind. But when I need a quick meal in a hurry, I use deli roast beef with delicious results.
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Hasselback Tomato Clubs

This no-fuss, no-bread riff on a classic is perfect during tomato season. Make it for lunch or pair with pasta salad for a light dinner. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Balsamic Chicken Pasta Salad

I love all the colors and flavors of this quick and easy dish and serve it often in summer, to the delight of my guests! You can't beat the combination of Gorgonzola and bacon. Leftover grilled shrimp makes a tasty substitute for chicken. —Terry McCarty, Oro Grande, California
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Focaccia Sandwiches

Slices of this pretty sandwich make any casual get-together more speical. Add or change ingredients to your taste. —Peggy Woodward, Shullsburg, Wisconsin
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Better than Egg Salad

Tofu takes on the taste and texture of egg salad in this quick-fixing sandwich from Lisa Renshaw of Kansas City, Missouri.
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Apple-Swiss Turkey Sandwiches

Honey mustard adds a sweet tang to this hearty concoction. Apple slices, Swiss cheese, cucumber and turkey are layered between slices of nutritious multi-grain bread. These delicious sandwiches pack well to take to the office or on the trail. —Gloria Updyke, Front Royal, Virginia
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Cranberry Turkey Wraps

Fruity and flavorful, these hefty grab-and-go handfuls are quick to assemble, easy to handle and low in calories. We often take them in a cooler to the local stock show and eat them in the stands. Everyone seems to love them! —Bobbie Keefer, Byers, Colorado
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Almond Chicken Salad

My mother used to prepare this chicken salad with grapes and almonds for an evening meal during the hot summer months. It's my favorite of my mother's chicken salad recipes. You can also serve it as a delicious but quick luncheon or potluck dish. —Kathy Kittell, Lenexa, Kansas
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Hummus & Veggie Wrap-Up

I had a vegan wrap that was similar to this once when I stopped at a diner while on a long and arduous walk. I enjoyed it so much that I modified it to my own taste and now have it for lunch on a regular basis. Everyone at work wants to know how to make it. —Michael Steffens, Indianapolis, Indiana
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Fruity Chicken Salad Pitas

I found this handwritten recipe tucked inside an old community cookbook I bought more than 40 years ago. I made a few changes over the years to suit my family’s tastes. —Kristine Chayes, Smithtown, New York
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Summer Chicken Macaroni Salad

For sunny, lazy days, I make a loaded macaroni salad that’s like three salads in one. The mix of fresh veggies, sweet peaches and crunchy pistachios is a surprisingly delicious combo. —Nancy Heishman, Las Vegas, Nevada
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Tomato & Avocado Sandwiches

I'm a vegetarian, and this is a tasty, quick and healthy lunch I could eat for every meal. At my house, we call these sandwiches HATS: hummus, avocado, tomato and shallots. These are ingredients I almost always have on hand. —Sarah Jaraha, Moorestown, New Jersey
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Cashew-Chicken Rotini Salad

I’ve tried many chicken salad recipes over the years, but this is my very favorite. It’s fresh, fruity and refreshing, and the cashews add wonderful crunch. Every time I serve it at a potluck or picnic, I get rave reviews—and ( always come home with an empty bowl! —Kara Cook, Elk Ridge, Utah
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Turkey Focaccia Club

My family thinks this sandwich is pure heaven thanks to the cranberry-pecan mayo. It's so good that they ask me to make it all year long. —Judy Wilson, Sun City West, Arizona
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Tarragon Tuna Salad

It’s surprising how a few herbs can brighten up tuna salad. Made with reduced-fat mayonnaise, this version gets its zip from mustard. It makes a terrific light lunch or Sunday brunch dish. —Billie Moss, Walnut Creek, California
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BLT Turkey Salad

This variation of a BLT salad goes great with a side of garlic bread or garlic toast, and will satisfy even the pickiest eaters. —Sherry Conley, Noel Hants County, Nova Scotia
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Caesar Chicken Wraps

When we have chicken for dinner, I cook extra for these full-flavored roll-ups. Featuring Caesar salad dressing, cream cheese, red pepper, black olives and a hint of garlic, the wraps are perfect alongside corn on the cob and a green vegetable. —Christi Martin, Elko, Nevada

Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.
Katie Bandurski
Katie is an Associate Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in writing and email newsletters. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and combing through antique shops.
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