30 Kid-Friendly Lunches You Can Make with What’s in Your Pantry

Between minimal grocery trips, homeschooling and trying to find entertainment that isn’t Frozen 2 for the ten millionth time, the last thing you need to worry about is lunch. And since your kid can’t live on buttered noodles alone, you’re going to need some ideas. No worries, friend. Here are 30 kid-friendly lunches you can make with ingredients already in your pantry.

60 Cold Lunch Ideas That Go Beyond PB&J

1. Baked Quinoa Chicken Nuggets

There’s a reason you stocked up on all that quinoa: It makes a mean (and healthy) breading for these bites. Luckily, they only take 30 minutes to whip up, and most of that time is in the oven.

2. 10-minute Macaroni And Cheese In A Mug

It’s just as delicious as the kind from a blue box, and even easier to make.

3. Meal-prep Creamy Pasta Salad With Broccoli And Raisins

If you’re dealing with picky eaters, you can customize the mix-ins with whatever veggie they like. (The raisins are optional too.)

4. Mozzarella Meatball Frittata

Behold, the ideal opportunity to clean out those leftovers sitting in your fridge. Any veggies and cooked meat will work here.

5. Cheesy Kale Farfalle Pasta

A simple bowl of buttered noodles would suffice, but sneak in a little nutrition in the form of kale, why don’t you? (If they pick it out, at least you tried.)

6. Paleo Almond Butter Stuffed Soft Pretzel Bites

No-fork lunches are the best kinds of lunches. Bake a big batch of these and reheat them all week.

7. Waffle-iron Quesadillas

Break out the waffle iron and in minutes you’ll have the most golden, melty, crispy-edged quesadilla you’ve ever seen.

8. French Toast Sticks

You make breakfast for dinner, why not have breakfast for lunch?

9. Bacon And Egg Fried Rice

Finally, a way to use up the leftover rice that’s been lingering in your fridge. It all comes together in about 20 minutes.

10. Cacio E Pepe

Tell them it’s grown-up macaroni and cheese and leave the pepper out if they insist.

11. Baking Sheet Quesadillas

Stand at the stove? You’ve got to be kidding. Luckily, these quesadillas are completely hands-off.

12. Avocado And Black Bean Pasta Salad

Canned beans and corn are getting the special treatment (and by that we mean the pasta treatment).

13. Savory Cheese Waffles

PSA: Homemade waffles can be stashed in the freezer. When you want to eat, just pop them in the toaster and wave the store-bought guys goodbye.

14. Tomato Soup With Grilled Cheese Bites

You can get pretty far with a humble can of tomatoes and grilled cheese cut into triangles.

15. Falafel Patties

They have all the appeal of chicken nuggets (handheld, dippable) but are made with a can of chickpeas.

16. Broccoli And Cheddar Brown Rice Muffins

If you have a bag of frozen broccoli, you’re halfway there. Make a big batch on Sunday, then keep them in the fridge and reheat as needed.

17. Animal Cracker Snackables

Sometimes it’s more about the presentation than the actual meal. Make these cuties with any crackers, dip and vegetables you have on hand.

18. Garlic Parmesan Shellbows

A one-pot, 20-minute stovetop pasta is totally feasible at lunchtime. Your kids don’t know how good they have it.

19. Rainbow Veggie Pinwheels

With a tortilla and some hummus, there’s no telling what kind of veggies you can feed your kid without their knowing.

20. Hummus Quesadillas

Once again, hummus saves the day, probably because it’s the easiest (or laziest) way to add protein and flavor.

21. Mashed Chickpea Salad Sandwich

If your kid hasn’t yet discovered the wonders of tuna salad, try chickpea. It’s mild in flavor but just as creamy and filling.

22. Cinnamon Sugar Toast Pb&j

Plain old peanut butter and jelly is just fine, but combining it with another kid favorite will up the ante.

23. Mini Deep-dish Pizzas

Flour tortillas and jarred tomato sauce help this one come together in all of 25 minutes. Mini pepperoni is optional but encouraged.

24. The Cheesiest Grilled Cheese

The more cheese (and ketchup), the better. Use any kind you have available, but make it a mix of sharp and melty.

25. Chicken Sausage And Broccoli Pasta

Hot tip: If you make it with chickpea pasta, you can add extra protein and they’ll never know the difference.

26. 15-minute Sesame Noodles

Soy sauce and rice vinegar are the base for this easy sauce. You can use any noodle shape, so let your kid pick to make it even tastier.

27. White Cheddar Macaroni And Cheese With Sweet Peas

This sure beats the store-bought mac and frozen peas of our childhood.

28. Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad Stuffed Peppers

If you don’t have peppers for stuffing and serving, no worries. The salad is delicious on its own, and can be made with either a rotisserie chicken or leftovers.

29. 30-minute Hummus Pizza

Use this recipe as a guideline and customize the pizza as needed. Kids don’t like cauliflower or onions? Swap ’em.

30. Pepperoni Pizza Sliders

Who’s the greatest parent of all time? You are.


Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...