Make-Ahead Vegan Lunch Bowls

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One of the keys to eating fast and healthy year-round is finding several meals that you can repeat often, while still being able to switch-up the flavors so you don’t get bored.

vegan lunch bowl with a fork


That’s why I’m so excited about these make-ahead lunch bowls! You can vary the toppings however you like, but the base ingredients are easy to prepare and can be made up to a week in advance– so your packed lunches are ready whenever you are.

The key to these speedy bowls is making everything in advance. I did it last weekend and it only took about 30 minutes, since I could multitask while my big batch of quinoa was cooking.

seperate glass containers for ingredients in vegan lunch bowls

As you may know, I love quinoa because it’s technically not a grain– it’s a seed– and it’s a complete source of protein containing all the essential amino acids your body needs.

I like to pair the quinoa with a hefty dose of leafy greens, and then top it all with a variety of seasonal veggies and a super-addictive creamy dressing. The key to the flavor is definitely whatever sauce you put on top!

small glass jars with dressing for vegan lunch bowls

This week I used a combination of my Oil-Free Arugula Pesto, and a new Creamy Vegan Italian Dressing, which is posted below.

I feel like I say this a lot, but this dressing is my new FAVORITE. I honestly think you could talk me into eating anything with this drizzled on top. (Okay, maybe not liver… but you never know.)

vegan lunch bowl and glass jar with dressing and a spoon

I’ve listed my method for making these bowls below, but feel free to switch up the ingredients depending on the produce that is easily available in your area.

Vegan lunch bowl
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4 from 6 votes

Make-Ahead Vegan Lunch Bowls

Easy vegan lunch bowls that you can keep in your fridge all week long!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Make-Ahead Vegan Lunch Bowls
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 376kcal



  • 2 cups dry quinoa , soaked for 15 minutes and rinsed
  • 1 pound leafy greens , such as arugula, spinach, or romaine
  • 1 large cucumber , chopped
  • 1 or 2 bell peppers , chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes , sliced in half
  • 2-3 radishes , thinly sliced
  • Green onions , chopped, for garnish
  • Cooked beans (optional)

Creamy Italian Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup water (plus 1-2 tablespoons to thin)
  • 1/2 cup raw tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano


  • Drain the quinoa and transfer it to a saucepan over high heat with 4 cups of fresh water. Bring it to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover to cook until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
  • While the quinoa is cooking, chop the vegetables and prepare the dressing. I like to store each vegetable individually in its own glass container in my fridge, because then they can double as salad toppings each night. (In that case you may want to double the amount of veggies you chop so that you don't run out during the week!) You might also want to roast your vegetables for variety, such as roasted red onions, zucchini, or beets. The options really are endless.
  • To prepare the dressing, add all of the dressing ingredients to a blender and blend until completely smooth. (Or whisk them together in a mason jar.) Do be sure to use raw tahini, as the toasted one that is more commonly found in stores tastes much stronger and more bitter to me. The final result should taste closer to Italian dressing!
  • Once everything is chopped, blended, and cooked, all you need to do is assemble your bowl. I like to start with about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cooked quinoa, 2 to 3 cups of leafy greens (I used arugula this week), and then a handful of each of your favorite chopped toppings. Drizzle the top generously with your favorite dressing and enjoy.


Calories: 376kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 275mg | Potassium: 1126mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 8145IU | Vitamin C: 72.2mg | Calcium: 152mg | Iron: 6.4mg
Per Serving: Calories: 376, Fat: 14g, Carbohydrates: 50g, Fiber: 8g, Protein: 15g

Note: If you’d prefer to skip the quinoa, you can simply double-up on the vegetables for a delicious salad or use cauliflower rice as the base, instead.

I hope these make-ahead lunch bowls make your life easier next week! I plan on having these ingredients stocked in my fridge at all times when our new baby arrives, so I always have something filling and delicious on hand.

Reader Feedback: Do you have a go-to make ahead meal? 

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My aunt bought us a huuuge fruit basket when I had my son filled with grapes and oranges apples. It was massive. The problem wasn’t having healthy meals for me. It was I was starving an hour after I ate them. That feeling of satiation was never there. I’m in early stages of a new pregnancy. My dietician told me to start making meals in second trimester and freeze them. I plan to do just that and run them through a food saver to make sure the nutritional value doesn’t go down from being stored in deep freeze for months. Angela liddons from “oh she glows” blog “perfect bean burger” being one of them because it is chock full of vegetables. In a pinch I can given my son a burger with ketchup from freezer as an instant meal. Also a macaroni and cheese casserol made with added squash purée is another one I was thinking of making. I would eat a salad but my 2 year old won’t. So thinking of ideas for the both of us that is instant. I like ur idea of making your pizza crusts in advance.

    Megan Gilmore

    We do have some freezer meals (and frozen pizza crusts) ready to go, but the problem is that I am the only one in the house who will eat them! My husband hates casseroles, and my toddler hates all entree-like meals. He won’t eat burgers or mac n’ cheese. (What a weirdo, right?) The only thing we have in common is that we all like smoothies. 😉 So, I keep my fridge stocked with easy things to stir-fry or throw into a salad for my husband, and then my 2-year-old prefers snack-like plates filled with fruit, cheese, crackers, nuts, etc. Easy enough, but definitely not traditional!


    Hi Karen,
    Green smoothies with nut butters are perfect when you have a new baby and a picky toddler! I remember I would throw in blueberries and frozen spinach (I have since discovered the triple washed fresh baby spinach, so luckily I won’t be doing frozen spinach again, lol!). At that stage, I also did a lot of eggs!! Everyone ate them, they cook up real fast, and they have good protein. And you can pair them with all kinds of fun stuff to make them a complete yummy meal for young ones–like buttery toast, or you can have a side salad for adults. You could also soak and sprout quinoa and legumes, cook them, and freeze them, and then have them ready as the base of any meal (also having some cooked meat on hand, for those who eat it, makes meal prep a flash and so filling!). LIFE SAVER!!
    Megan, I just finished prepping this for a nice meal tomorrow! I’m just soaking the quinoa over-night b/c I find that soaking it longer helps remove that bitter taste. I added a bunch more quick veggies to the roasting pan, including baby zucchini (pre-washed from TJ’s!) and mushrooms. I’m adding canned chic peas on the side b/c believe it or not my toddler LOVES them! The sauces you included sound cool but I am going with a green goddess-type dressing with fresh cilantro and avocado! Thanks for this great, super healthy and super filling quick week-day meal! 🙂

LeAnn Reyes

I am allergic to sesame seeds. Is there a substitute you’d suggest for the tahini?


    Soaked cashews work great for me.


      Yum. Cashews make for great creaminess, too!

    Kristen C.

    Try soaked sunflower seeds.


    Hello LeAnn,
    I suggest you replace the tahini (sesame) with sunflower seeds butter. I make a mayonnaise with sf butter and it’s delicious.


I am allergic to almonds and I’ve read that sesame seeds are a solid alternative, so perhaps it’s the same in reverse? I’ve made sesame flour (in sub. of almond) out of ground sesame seeds and the results have been great!


This is a delicious dressing Megan (I just made it)! Thanks. And all the best with the birth and baby. Good for you for changing plans that just didn’t feel like right. We had a midwife home birth and it was right for us. Sounds like you are making decisions congruent with your values and that is empowering!!


This dressing is AMAZING! Thanks Megan!

Meredith Harper, MS, RDN, LDN

Oh yum!!! Can’t wait to try this!


My dressing was a bit bitter. I’m wondering if the tahini got bitter because I put it in the refrigerator?

    Megan Gilmore

    Did you use tahini that was labeled as “raw?” Traditional roasted tahini (which is more common in grocery stores) has a more bitter flavor, so that could affect the taste.

Marcella Idsinga

Do the seeds in the dressing pit this in your “special treat” category for combining? Thanks , Megan. ?

    Megan Gilmore

    This combination actually digests beautifully for me, perhaps because quinoa is technically a seed, too? Pseudo-grains are always a little tricky when it comes to food combining, so it usually takes a bit of experimentation to see how they digest best for you. If it’s an issue, you can always skip the quinoa base and just serve these dressings over a bunch of roasted veggies and a large bed of leafy greens.

      Marcella Idsinga

      Thank you!!


Hi Megan,

What would be the best way to assemble this early in the morning to take to work? Would adding all the ingredients in a glass bowl and eating it around noon be a good idea, I really do not like when my greens get soggy!

    Megan Gilmore

    I usually pack the greens, quinoa, and roasted veggies in one big bowl (with leafy greens on top!) and then keep the dressing in a separate container so you can toss them together right before serving.


made this tonight, had to use store bought dressing as i ran out of time to make it before i had to get back to work. still delicious! i used chickpeas from a can, rinsed, didn’t bother cooking them as i wanted to have this as a mostly cold salad. now that everything is in the fridge, i’m sure it’ll taste even better.



I made the dressing exactly per the recipe. No subs and there was entirely too much water. I am so sad I wasted perfectly good tahini.

    Megan Gilmore

    I’m sorry to hear that! Tahini can vary so much in texture, there’s a chance yours was a runnier in mine to begin with. I’d try putting the dressing in the fridge, and make sure you whisk it REALLY well. It always thickens up significantly when chilled.

Tasha lary

Why do I need to soak the quinoa if I am cooking it? The bag I bought from Costco doesn’t say it needs soaked before cooking.

    Megan Gilmore

    Soaking just removes the bitter flavor that quinoa naturally has. Soaking ahead of time doesn’t really affect the cooking of it, and I only soak it when I’m not smothering the quinoa in a flavorful sauce, like curry or something.

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