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


Hot Lunch Ideas

I love using a thermos to increase the options I have when it’s time to pack lunch for day care 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 day care, preschool, or elementary school as easy school lunches. Or, they can even adjusted for your own lunch or packed at home to give you some much-needed inspiration whenever you find yourself in a lunch rut. There are easy lunch recipes that you can make ahead in single or big batches or in the moment for maximum flexibility.

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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 such as sliced apples or strawberries.

(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.
Easy Egg Cups (with Zucchini and Cheese)
zucchini egg cups with berries and crackers

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, or vegetables like sliced bell peppers or cucumbers.

(Shown in the Omie Bento Box.)

Favorite Pizza Bites
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.
Favorite Pizza Bites

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! We love this ABC soup since it’s full of flavor, has fun noodles, and can be served in a bowl at home or packed in a thermos for school.

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.
Favorite Alphabet Soup

Leftover Pancakes with Veggies and Applesauce

Whenever you have pancakes left from a weekend breakfast, freeze them to use for easy future hot lunches. You can warm them, 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
These fluffy Applesauce Pancakes are easy to mix up, taste sweet and comforting, and the leftovers store nicely in the fridge or freezer. We like them topped with a little maple syrup, peanut butter, or additional applesauce.
Fluffy Applesauce Pancakes
Applesauce pancakes on plate with syrup and apples.

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
With just 4 simple ingredients, these easy Breakfast Burritos can be made ahead and reheated, or made in minutes and served right away. They're a protein-packed breakfast to share with the kids.
Easy Breakfast Burritos
breakfast burritos on plate with salsa.
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 with penne, rotini, spaghetti, or another noodle your family enjoys. (Use gluten-free pasta if needed.) I usually add a simple side of fruit and milk for the kids. (Add Chicken Meatballs or frozen meatballs that have been warmed to make this more filling if needed.)

(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!
Spinach Pesto Pasta with Peas
pesto pasta with peas in multiple bowls.

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
Have more fun with lunch with this super quick and easy Pizza Lunchable idea. It's one of our favorite copycat recipes that makes it less expensive to recreate Lunchables at home…that you can even customize!
DIY Pizza Lunchables
homemade pizza lunchable on counter.

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 such as sweet red peppers and cucumber sticks. 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.
Mac and Cheese with Peas (Fav Shortcut Toddler Meal)

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.
Pizza Muffins (with Veggies!)

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 the 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.
How to Make Eggs in the Microwave

Favorite Kids Thermos

Having the option to pack warm lunches for your child when they’re at day care, 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 pick 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.
  • You might also like my Spinach Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Burrito Rice Bowls as two more easy ideas.

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

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10 Easy Hot Lunch Ideas

Find easy ideas for packing or serving hot lunches to kids at home or at day care, 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 5 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cuisine American
Course lunch
Calories 214kcal
Servings 1


  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other preferred cheese)
  • ¼ cup loosely packed chopped spinach
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  • 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 cheese and spinach. Stir to melt and wilt.
  • Serve or pack in a thermos with salad, fruit, and crackers as desired.


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.


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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  1. 5 stars
    I can’t wait to try some of these ideas for my 4-year-old! He has always eaten lunch at daycare in the past, but I think their menu has gone downhill and I’d like to send something a little more nutritious. Random question that isn’t about the food – Can you tell me where you got those little clear plastic containers shown inside the Omie Bento Box in your Pizza Lunchabes picture? They look like the perfect size to tuck inside.