3 Jar Lunches That Aren't Boring Salads

We're all about packing our own lunches — in theory, anyway. But when it comes down to the actual act of making it, no matter how many great hacks and tips we have in our arsenal, sometimes we just get lazy. The pull of just grabbing a bite to eat later is too great and we give in to the endless cycle of spending more money on food than we really need to.

One fix that we've found really, truly works is lunch in a jar. Not only can you prep these meals in advance, they are the perfect self-contained meal. The only problem is they typically come in salad form, and let's be real, we can only eat so many green lunches in a week. Ahead, find three creative jarred lunch recipes that aren't just leafy greens.

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Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh. Food Styled by Michelle Gatton.
Making your own peanut sauce might seem scary, but you probably have most of these ingredients on hand already.
Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh. Food Styled by Michelle Gatton.
Thai Peanut Quinoa Jar
Makes 4 (16-oz) Mason jars


For the sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 to 2 squirts of Sriracha, to taste
2 teaspoons light brown sugar, packed
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2-inch piece ginger, grated
6 tablespoons hot water

For the jars:
4 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup chopped Persian cucumber
1/2 cup sliced red pepper
1/2 cup chopped or shredded carrot
1 cup cooked edamame, shelled
Unsalted peanuts, chopped, to serve
3 scallions, finely chopped

1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions.

2. Make the sauce: In a small bowl, whisk together ginger, garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, and hot water.

3. Carefully pour equal parts peanut sauce (approximately 1/4 cup per jar) into the bottom of each jar

4. Continue to layer your jars as follows: equal parts red pepper, cucumber, and carrot (split amongst the 4 jars), 1/4 cup edamame per jar, and 1 cup of quinoa per jar. Then, garnish with peanuts and scallions. Seal with lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Serve cold.
Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh. Food Styled by Michelle Gatton.
We're always wary about eating instant ramen for lunch, but add a bunch of fresh veggies and some protein in there and we're sold!
Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh. Food Styled by Michelle Gatton.
DIY Chicken Ramen Jar
Makes 4 (16-oz) Mason jars


4 tbsp soup base (MSG-free) or 1 large Chicken bouillon (MSG-free), cut into 4 equal-sized pieces
4 cups ramen noodles
2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded, or 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (optional)
1 cup Napa cabbage, finely chopped or shredded
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
4 scallions, finely chopped
4 tsp black sesame seeds
Soy sauce packets, for serving (optional)
Sriracha, for serving (optional)

1. Par-cook your ramen noodles in water for slightly less time than stated on the package (about 2 to 3 minutes less). This will prevent the noodles from being mushy when you add your hot water to the jar.

2. Add the soup base or crush each of the bullion pieces and sprinkle them into the bottom of each jar.

3. Continue to layer each jar as follows: 1/8 cup carrots, 1/8 cup mushrooms, 1/4 cup cabbage, 1 cup noodles, 1 scallion, 1/2 cup chicken. Then, garnish with 1 teaspoon sesame seeds. Tightly seal jar with lid until you are ready to eat.

4. To eat: Boil 8 ounces of water per jar. Carefully pour hot water into the jar and re-seal with the lid. Holding the jar at the top to avoid burning your fingers, gently swirl the jar around to mix. Enjoy!
Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh. Food Styled by Michelle Gatton.
We would eat BBQ every single day if that were a possibility. And with this simple hack (no actual grilled or smoking necessary) we kind of can!
Photographed by Ted Cavanaugh. Food Styled by Michelle Gatton.
The Best-BBQ-Chicken-Ever Jar
Makes 4 (16-oz) Mason jars


4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 to 2 cups store-bought BBQ sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
2 cups chopped red cabbage
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from approximately 2 medium cobs) or 1 cup canned kernels, rinsed and drained
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 store-bought mini corn muffins, paper removed

1. Place chicken with enough BBQ sauce to coat the meat into a slow cooker (amount of sauce will vary based how big your slow cooker is.) Set on high for 3 hours. (You can also use store-bought BBQ chicken or store-bought shredded rotisserie chicken that you then douse in BBQ sauce.)

2. While chicken is cooking, make the coleslaw. In a large bowl, whisk together mayo, yogurt, mustard, vinegar, and sugar. Add in cabbage and toss to coat. Cover and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the jars.

3. Shuck corn. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add corn and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for approximately 5 minutes, or until corn is cooked through. Set aside to cool.

4. Once chicken is cooked, shred with a fork and allow to cool.

5. Layer each jar as follows. 1 cup BBQ chicken, 1/2 cup cabbage slaw, 1/4 cup corn, 1 mini corn muffin. Seal each jar and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
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