The 35 Best Packable, Back-to-School Lunches for Kids

From colorful wraps to homemade chicken noodle soup, these tasty bites are guaranteed to make your little ones smile.

Updated on August 02, 2023

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Our Best School Lunchbox Ideas

If you’ve got kids then you already know that, in order to keep them full between breakfast and dinner, you’ve got to pack their lunchbox full. And, as much as your little ones probably love a good, old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich (and some homemade cookies), it never hurts to have options. That’s why we’ve rounded up lots of wholesome and filling meals they can take on the go—from cold lunch ideas to food jar-favorites like cozy soups and creamy macaroni and cheese. Best of all, these ideas are perfect for elementary school students, tweens and teens alike. Looking for a low-lift place to start? Fill your freezer with homemade sandwich pockets. You can make a bunch in almost no time at all—and your little one will love digging into a sandwich cut into a fun shape!

Get the Recipe: PB and J Pockets

Lasagna Rolls-Ups

This is the quick and lunch-friendly version of lasagna. Try tucking in a few pieces of pepperoni when you need to switch it up. And be sure to cook an extra noodle in case one tears!

Get the Recipe: Lasagna Roll-Ups

Shark Quesadillas

Take a bite out of mid-day hunger with this shark-inspired lunch. For the perfect texture, let the quesadillas cool completely before packing them in your little one’s lunch box.

Get the Recipe: Shark Quesadillas

Power Wraps with Sweet Potato Hummus

These simple turkey wraps get an extra-special touch from homemade sweet potato hummus—making every bite equal parts delicious and nutritious.

Get the Recipe: Power Wraps with Sweet Potato Hummus

Teddy Bear Toast

This adorable topping idea is sure to put a smile on your little one’s face! We toast the bread because we love a little extra crunch but a slice of untoasted bread will work just as well here.

Get the Recipe: Teddy Bear Toast

Berry Almond Energy Bites

Your little ones will be so excited when they open their lunchbox and find this sweet treat. Little do they know each one is packed with good-for-you ingredients like dried fruit and nuts.

Get the Recipe: Berry Almond Energy Bites

Antipasto Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is always a winner in the lunchbox—especially when it does double-duty and uses up leftovers from the night before. This recipe is customizable so feel free to swap the spaghetti for another shape—and tailor the add-ins to your little one’s preferences.

Get the Recipe: Antipasto Pasta Salad

Chicken Noodle Soup

Fill an insulated container with a good, old-fashioned favorite. No time to make the stock from scratch? Store-bought works just as well in this recipe.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Noodle Soup

Monogram Sandwich

Need a new way to jazz up your little one’s lunchbox sandwich? Try cutting their initial out of one of the slices of bread for a monogrammed main they’re guaranteed to gobble up.

Get the Recipe: Monogram Sandwich

Spinach Cake Muffins

These wholesome muffins are the easiest way to get your kid to eat their greens. Using unsweetened applesauce is a great way to cut back on the sugar, too.

Get the Recipe: Spinach Cake Muffins

Breadless Double-Decker Turkey Club

This lunch packs plenty of protein and fiber — while still being super delicious!

Get the Recipe: Breadless Double-Decker Turkey Club

Broccoli and Bacon Mac and Cheese

What’s more fun than finding a container full of swirly, twirly corkscrew pasta smothered in creamy cheese sauce?

Get the Recipe: Broccoli and Bacon Mac and Cheese

Sprinkle Star Sandwich

with cream cheese for a savory take but you could just as easily gussy up a good, old-fashioned PB&J with sprinkles, too.

Get the Recipe: Sprinkle Star Sandwich

Cream Cheese and Ham Stuffed Peppers

These creamy and crunchy stuffed peppers are perfect for a packed lunch. Use scallion instead of parsley or deli turkey instead of ham for a variation.

Get the Recipe: Cream Cheese and Ham Stuffed Peppers

Cheesy Italian Beef Quesadillas

Kids large and small are sure to love these bite-sized quesadillas. Follow Jeff Mauro's lead and use creamy Provolone cheese, juicy roast beef and bell peppers to fill them or sub in your kiddos favorite ingredients to make them your very own!

Get the Recipe: Cheesy Italian Beef Quesadillas

French Picnic Sandwich

No one can say no to the combination of sweet apple, crunchy nuts and creamy cheese—so why not tuck them all into a sliced baguette for the perfect sandwich?

Get the Recipe: French Picnic Sandwich

Thai-Inspired Chicken Collard Wraps

These protein-and-veggie-packed wraps are hard to say ‘no’ to. They’re super colorful and filled with really flavorful ingredients like peanut sauce and fresh cilantro.

Get the Recipe: Thai Chicken Collard Wraps

Chocolate-Chip Sunflower-Butter Muffins

Lucky for busy parents, these muffins get better after a stay in the freezer. Make a batch on Sunday, freeze them, then pop one straight into a lunchbox for a moist, tender and delicious treat.

Get the Recipe: Chocolate-Chip Sunflower-Butter Muffins

Vegetarian Minestrone

Fill their Thermos with a veggie-packed lunch they’ll love: cozy, homemade minestrone soup.

Get the Recipe: Vegetarian Minestrone

Make-Ahead Lunch Box

Add color to your little one’s lunches with these tasty wraps. A variety of veggies and cold cuts make them fun to look at — and just as great to eat.

Get the Recipe: Make-Ahead Lunch Box

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

A protein-packed lunch with just 5 ingredients?! Sign us up! Plus, these spicy tacos are a great way to sneak some extra fiber into your kid’s diet, courtesy of sliced celery.

Get the Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Easy Sesame Noodles

Leftover spaghetti gets a makeover with the help of a little sesame dressing. This recipe calls for tofu but feel free to sub in your little one’s favorite protein.

Get the Recipe: Easy Sesame Noodles

Chicken Salad Rolls

Make this chicken salad the night before to let the flavors meld. In the morning, all you have to do is assemble.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Salad Rolls

Wagon Wheel Pasta Salad

Your kids will love eating their veggies with this yummy salad. Fun, wheel-shaped pasta gets a colorful makeover with broccoli, corn and tomatoes.

Get the Recipe: Wagon Wheel Pasta Salad

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Make the most of your slow-cooker chicken and leftover quinoa—layer them into a guac-topped burrito bowl that anyone would be excited to eat.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Burrito Bowls

Rainbow Sushi Sandwiches

These rice-and-veggie bites are perfect for kids of all ages since you can easily adapt them to include their favorite ingredients.

Get the Recipe: Rainbow Sushi Sandwiches

Mel’s Banana Muffins

These muffins are packed with two times the wholesome goodness; wheat germ and whole-wheat flour make them a hearty and satisfying lunch for anyone with a sweet tooth!

Get the Recipe: Mel's Banana Muffins

Take-to-School Taco Bar

If your kids love taco night, surprise them with a taco bar that fits neatly into their lunchbox. Serve with quick, healthy versions of guacamole and salsa.

Get the Recipe: Take-to-School Taco Bar

Fun Shaped Sandwiches

Pint-sized sandwiches in fun shapes make the perfect school lunch. These ones feature lots of kid-favorite ingredients: turkey, cheese, tomato and crisp cucumber.

Get the Recipe: Easy Kids' Lunches: Fun Shaped Sandwiches

Spiced Tomato ABCs

Molly’s tomato pasta is way better than lunch from a can. She uses harissa and crushed red pepper to add a spicy kick, but that can easily be adjusted for little eaters.

Get the Recipe: Spiced Tomato ABCs

Veggie and Chorizo Quesadillas

In a lunch rut? Try Trisha’s foolproof technique for perfect quesadillas and switch up the toppings as you like. Be sure to let the quesadillas cool completely before wrapping them in foil! Otherwise, the steam will make them soggy by lunchtime.

Get the Recipe: Veggie and Chorizo Quesadillas

Mini Quiches with Peas and Bacon

Make their day with a breakfast-for-lunch-inspired recipe that's just as good at room temperature as it is warm from the oven: cheesy eggs baked in a mini pie crust along with crisp, salty bacon.

Get the Recipe: Mini Quiches with Peas and Bacon

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

Hearty pasta gives classic Caesar salad a satisfying, kid-friendly upgrade. This lunch is perfect for older kids who are starting to branch out and try new things.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

10-Minute Tomato Soup

This soup really does take only 10 minutes, and that's including cleanup! Send it with a cheese sandwich for the perfect any-season meal.

Get the Recipe: Ten-Minute Tomato Soup

Cold Peanut Soba Noodles with Chicken

Instead of leftover Chinese, send 'em to school with these soba noodles covered in a peanut butter and soy sauce glaze.

Get the Recipe: Cold Peanut Soba With Chicken