With my go-to list, it’s easier to make and serve (or pack!) hot lunches for school, daycare, or preschool. Included you’ll find hot lunch ideas that require minimal prep time and hold up well when made ahead.

hot-lunch-ideas-featured

Hot Lunch Ideas

I love using a thermos to increase the options I have when it’s time to pack lunch for daycare and school, and these ideas are all super easy and super kid-friendly.

Though the very best part just might be that none of them are very hard or time-consuming!

I hope these hot lunch ideas—which can be packed and sent to daycare, preschool, or elementary school, or even adjusted for your own lunch or packed at home—give you some much-needed inspiration whenever you find yourself in a lunch rut.

zucchini-egg-cups-on-pooh-plate

Egg Muffins with Crackers

Make a batch of egg cups whenever you have time, stash them in the fridge, then warm them up for lunch. Pair with crackers (like Triscuits or Triscuits Thin Crisps) and fruit.

(Shown on a Bumkins suction plate.)

Easy Egg Cups (with Zucchini and Cheese)
Feel free to double the recipe to make a full 24 mini muffins! We like to stash these in the fridge to eat all week, so having more is usually helpful in our house.
Get the recipe
zucchini egg cups with berries and crackers
pizza-bites-in-lunchbox

Pizza Bites with Fruit

Pizza Bites (either my homemade recipe or store-bought) hold well in a thermos. Warm them, pack them, and add simple sides like milk and fruit.

(Shown in the Omie Bento Box.)

Pizza Bites (with Veggies!)
Fluffy pizza bites are a delicious lunch or dinner option—and you can customize the filling to please your kids! We like these with a little side of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.
Get the recipe
pizza-bites-on-plate-with-pizza-sauce
alphabet-soup-in-blue-bowl

Alphabet Soup and Crackers

This simple soup—or any soup you like, whether canned or homemade—can be packed in a thermos or warmed to serve at home. Add some crackers and you’re good to go!

Favorite Alphabet Soup
You can use ABC pasta, orzo, pastina, or ditalini—or any other very small pasta shape in this Alphabet Soup recipe. And you can start with fresh or frozen veggies. See below for options.
Get the recipe
alphabet-soup-in-blue-bowl
pancake-lunch-in-pink-lunchbox

Leftover Pancakes with Veggies and Applesauce

Whenever you have pancakes left from a weekend breakfast, freeze them to use for easy future meals. You can warm, then sandwich with nut or seed butter and dice up. Pack with simple sides like applesauce and veggies.

(Shown in the Omie Bento Box.)

Fluffy Applesauce Pancakes
We like these pancakes topped with a little maple syrup, peanut butter, or additional applesauce. Leftovers make really yummy sandwiches with nut butter or cream cheese in between! 
Get the recipe
applesauce pancakes
breakfast-burritos-on-purple-plate

Breakfast Burrito and Fruit

Combine scrambled eggs, cheese, and beans into a simple burrito—or warm up a frozen one like the bean and cheese ones from Annie’s—for a simple, yet satisfying hot lunch option.

Easy Breakfast Burritos
These are called “breakfast” burritos since they have eggs, but you can serve them for any meal of the day!
Get the recipe
breakfast-burritos-on-purple-plate
lunchbots thermos for kids

Pesto Pasta and Fruit

If we have leftovers or I’m looking for an easy pasta recipe to make for lunch, this pesto pasta is a great option. I usually add a simple side of fruit and milk for the kids.

(Shown in a Lunchbots Thermos.)

Spinach Pesto Pasta with Peas
This bright green pesto is cheesy and mild, making it a perfect sauce for a quick dinner of pasta and peas!
Get the recipe
spinach-pesto-pasta-in-blue-bowl
pizza-lunchable-in-thermos-lunchbox

Pizza Lunchable

Warm up some naan bread and pair with pizza sauce, cheese, and pepperoni for a DIY take on a pizza Lunchable. Add some fruit and/or milk, too.

(Shown in the Omie Bento Box.)

DIY Pizza Lunchables
You can plan for the kids to eat these cold or you can warm the bread ahead and pack it in a thermos so it’s warm at lunchtime. So easy!
Get the recipe
homemade-pizza-lunchables-on-counter
mac-and-cheese-lunch

Mac and Cheese with Peas, Muffin, and Fruit

Make your favorite boxed mac and cheese (or try a homemade option), stir in some peas, and add simple sides. This is a favorite kids lunch for sure!

(Shown in the Omie Bento Box.)

Mac and Cheese with Peas (Fav Shortcut Toddler Meal)
With an easy method and a yummy, satisfying result, this quick toddler meal is one of our go-to shortcut kids meals.
Get the recipe
mac-and-cheese-with-peas
pizza-muffin-in-lunchbox

Pizza Muffin, Yogurt Tube, Fruit

Pizza Muffins store really well in the fridge and just need a quick reheat before serving or packing. Plus, they have veggies in them! Pair with simple sides like a yogurt tube and fruit.

(Shown in the Omie Bento Box.)

Pizza Muffins (with Veggies!)
These work well to make ahead and warm up for an easy lunch or dinner. These taste best served warm.
Get the recipe
pizza-muffins-on-wire-rack-with-kids-hand
child-plate-with-avocado,-squash,-eggs-and-berries

Scrambled Eggs, Salad, and Fruit

Scrambled eggs are quick and easy— you can even make them in the microwave in about a minute. You can stir in some shredded cheese or spinach and easily pack in a thermos.

See bottom of this post for an easy method for making veggie scrambled eggs.

How to Make Eggs in the Microwave
You can season the cooked egg with a little salt, butter or cheese if you’d like, but it’s very good as is. See the Note about the heat setting when cooking in a microwave.
Get the recipe
microwave-eggs-on-blue-kids-plate
thermos-for-kids-in-grid-of-6

Favorite Kids Thermos

Having the option to pack warm lunches for your child when they’re at daycare, preschool, school, or out on the town can go a long way toward making the whole process a little easier.

Here are the best kids thermos options—chosen for durability, affordability, and ease of use. You can find all of my go-to trusted thermoses for kids to help you find the best one for your family.

Best Tips for Success

  • Warm the food right before adding it to the thermos, following the manufacturer’s directions for best results.
  • If packing cold and warm foods in the same lunch, pack the warm food in the thermos and add it and the rest to an insulated bag with an ice pack.
  • Do your best with portions based on what the kids eat at home and adjust when you see what food comes home—or if the kids tell you they need more food.
  • Let the kids practice opening the thermos or lunch box at home if they’ll need to do it on their own for the first time at school.

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I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please comment below to share!

hot-lunch-ideas-featured

10 Easy Hot Lunch Ideas

Find easy ideas for packing or serving hot lunches to kids at home or at daycare, preschool, or elementary school. Below is the method for making super quick veggie scrambled eggs. The other ideas are in the Notes for your reference.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cuisine American
Course lunch
Calories 214kcal
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other preferred cheese)
  • ¼ cup loosely packed chopped spinach

Instructions

  • Warm a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. When warm, add the butter and swirl with a spatula to melt.
  • Add the egg and let set for about 30 seconds, or until parts of it start to turn opaque. Move gently with a spatula to allow the uncooked parts to run underneath.
  • When the egg is almost cooked, add the spinach and cheese. Stir to wilt and melt.
  • Serve or pack in a thermos with salad, fruit, and crackers as desired.

Notes

You can make the eggs up to 3 days ahead and store in an airtight container in the fridge. Warm to pack or serve.
And here are the other ideas for easy reference.

Nutrition

Calories: 214kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 204mg, Sodium: 244mg, Potassium: 131mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 1349IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 237mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This post was first published July 2021.

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