The Best Packable Lunch Recipes, According to Eater Staff

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California Burrito

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Given that most of us don’t have unlimited fast-casual grain bowl budgets, packed lunch is a simple fact of life, especially in this return-to-office era. There’s the cold-cuts sandwich crowd and the leftover dinner acolytes, but there are also those of us who’ve calibrated the perfect, not-too-difficult lunch dishes. These are recipes that excel after a day or two in the fridge and that don’t require competing for the office microwave. They make going out to lunch an every-so-often treat, and our wallets are thankful. And almost any of them will look great in this TAKENAKA x Eater bento box collaboration.

Smashed Chickpea Salad

Aliza Abarbanel, Bon Appétit

Plenty of recipes promise to be weeknight-friendly or mind-numbingly easy — but often, they don’t follow through. So when I started replicating Aliza Abarbanel’s take on chickpea salad, I was ready for it to be underwhelming and over-involved, not because of the source but because I’ve been burned too many times. Lucky for me and you, this chickpea salad sticks to its word: quick, bright, and encouragingly briny, the method results in an easily adaptable, packable lunch. Rinsing canned chickpeas and mashing them with a wooden spoon takes less time than deciding what to make. Sure, a potato masher might speed things up, but any tool with a flat surface to press the chickpeas against the side of a bowl will do. A scoop of any creamy ingredient with olive oil yields a reliably silken texture. And to keep the whole situation feeling new with each remake, I can toss in a dash of vinegar, lemon or lime zest, Tajín, hell, even furikake and sesame oil! — Jesse Sparks, Senior Editor at

Kimchi Tuna Salad

Ali Slagle, the New York Times

Even as a proud morning person, I don’t want to cook something complicated on my way out the door. I often fall back on everlasting pantry staples like tuna and kimchi that offer immediate flavor (and hold that flavor after resting in the fridge, if necessary). You don’t need a recipe for kimchi tuna salad (like a stripped-down chamchi kimchi jjigae), but Ali Slagle offers a helpful starting place for throwing one together. The titular duo come with their own dressings, but you can add fatty heft with some Kewpie mayo, sesame oil, tahini, or nutty sauce. Stir in some crunchy vegetables or go wild with seasonings (fish sauce, chili oil, sesame seeds). Or not. Throw it on some rice or bread. Or not. Don’t overthink it. Just get out the door. — Nicholas Mancall-Bitel, Editor

Meal Prep Noodle Soup Jars

As a whole, the convention of “meal prep” as we know it is not for me. However, I’ll admit: That scene is really onto something with meal prep noodle soup. I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, but it’s basically DIY Cup Noodles: You par-cook ramen noodles and layer them with seasonings and vegetables in a mason jar, which you finish off by filling with boiling water. Vegetables that cook quickly, or which you enjoy raw, are a good place to start, but leftovers like roasted carrots, sauteed mushrooms, and cooked greens get a nice new life in the soup jar as well. I also like adding tofu: straight from the package, lightly seared, or any of the fun options available at a well-stocked Asian grocery store like pre-broiled tofu or tofu puffs. Screw a lid on top and you’ll be ready to eat soup anywhere there’s hot water. Though the same can be said for store-bought ramen, this gives me more control over the flavor as well as the amount of vegetables and sodium. These soup jars are especially nice on cold or rainy days in the office when even walking to get a salad seems unimaginable. — Bettina Makalintal, Senior Reporter at

Egg Salad

For me, summer is the season of the bike picnic. Bike picnic food can be just about anything, but my Platonic ideal fits comfortably into a backpack, doesn’t require a full set of utensils to consume, and won’t grow soggy over the course of an hour or so. An egg salad sandwich can fulfill all of these requirements if it’s constructed from a length of baguette that has been sliced so that one side is left intact, which turns the baguette into a convenient carrying case. There are something like 100,000 egg salad recipes available to the average home cook, 99.9 percent of which are variations on the egg-mayo-mustard triumvirate. For this reason I don’t use an actual recipe, although the one linked above is very similar. Instead, I follow this basic ratio for egg salad for two: four eggs to a big spoonful of Dijon mustard to approximately ¼ cup of Vegenaise to varying amounts of seasonings and additives like scallions and/or capers and/or chopped parsley. Once it’s combined, I hollow out the top half of the baguette, which helps to ensure that the salad won’t splooge everywhere once the sandwich is closed, then spread a thin layer of mustard on the bottom half, line it with a few leaves of lettuce, plop on big spoonfuls of the salad, and voila. Wrapped in a tight layer of foil it is compact and impervious to jostling, a perfect vessel for both egg salad and uncomplicated pleasure. — Rebecca Flint Marx, Editor of Eater at Home

The cover of the cookbook, ‘Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes.’

‘Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes’

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Introducing Eater’s debut cookbook: Sourced from the best street carts to pillars of fine dining and everywhere in between, this diverse, powerhouse collection features recipes that have been carefully adapted for home cooks. Packed with expert advice from chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers on easy ways to level up your meals at home, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes is a must-have for anyone who loves to dine out and wants to bring that magic home.

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