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Take-Along Cold Lunches

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Rose Mary's mother and all of her aunts are great Southern cooks. She likes to think she's not so bad herself.

Recipes for Cold Lunches

I love having a collection of recipes to draw from for cold salads to take along to work. I have worked in places where we had a full kitchen. I’m an occupational therapist, and it used to be the standard for occupational therapy clinics to have a full-sized working kitchen.

The Convenience of a Cold Lunch

Through the years, the kitchens shrank and sometimes disappeared. It was often a wait for the toaster oven or microwave in the break room, and sometimes even the microwave was too far away to be an attractive option. So having a cold take-along lunch is often the best plan. All you need is a small insulated lunch bag, a small ‘blue ice’ block, and a tasty cold take-along salad. Of course, you can also enjoy a cold lunch at home or make interesting cold salads for side dishes.

Cold Salads in This Article

  • Black Bean, Corn, Red Pepper, and Avocado
  • Three Amigos
  • Ukrainian Salat Vinaigrette
  • Beets, Artichoke, and Tomato
  • Re-Imagined Caprese
  • Hearts of Palm
  • Cantaloupe and Corn
  • Tomato, Avocado, and Chickpea
  • Greek Garbanzo Bean
  • Greek Pasta Salad
  • Macaroni Slaw
  • Potato Beet
  • Southwestern Black Bean & Corn
  • Cannellini and Tuna
  • Panzanella
  • Chinese Chicken Salad
  • Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle
Black bean salad with corn, red pepper and avocado

Black bean salad with corn, red pepper and avocado

Black Bean, Corn, Red Pepper, and Avocado

This delicious and visually pleasing salad is from the Once Upon a Chef website. Makes 4 large portions, or 6-8 small sides.


  • 3 cups cooked black beans (I soaked and cooked dried black beans, then drained and measured 3 cups, but you can use 2 cans of rinsed and drained beans)
  • 3 ears corn, cut from the cob (the original recipe calls for corn cut from the cob after cooking, but I like it raw)
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ c good quality olive oil
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 1/3 Tbsp lime juice
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 avocados cut into ½” cubes


  1. Whisk olive oil, lime juice, lime zest, garlic, salt, sugar, and cayenne together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add beans, corn, red pepper, shallots, and cilantro, and mix well.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  4. Add avocado before serving, stirring gently to mix throughout your salad.
Grapefruit, mango, and avocado salad, aka the "Three Amigos"

Grapefruit, mango, and avocado salad, aka the "Three Amigos"

Three Amigos

This combination of grapefruit, mango, and avocado is known as Three Amigos Salad and can be found on many recipe sites, like


  • 2 large avocados
  • 2 mangos
  • 2 grapefruits
  • 1 lime


  1. Cut mango and avocado into ½” cubes.
  2. Peel and remove the section skin from the grapefruit. Cut each grapefruit section into 3-4 pieces.
  3. Place mango and grapefruit pieces into a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  4. Squeeze lime over mango and grapefruit, and stir to coat.
  5. Add avocado and stir gently to mix in with other fruit and coat with lime juice. Be careful not to mash the avocado.
Ukraine vegetable salad

Ukraine vegetable salad

Ukrainian Salad Vinaigrette

I came across this vegetable salad recipe in All Recipes magazine.


  • 1 lb pkg cooked beets, or 2 cans beets, drained and cut into small cubes
  • 1 lb diced potatoes cooked and drained, or 2 cans drained diced potatoes
  • 1 lb diced carrots, cooked and drained, or 2 cans drained diced carrots
  • 2 lg dill pickles, diced; I prefer Claussen’s
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 8 oz cooked, drained green peas
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, optional


  1. Place chopped vegetables and pickles in a large bowl.
  2. Add oil, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  3. Garnish with parsley before serving if desired.
Beets, artichoke, and tomato salad

Beets, artichoke, and tomato salad

Beets, Artichoke, and Tomato

As I recall, I served this dish at a luncheon I prepared for two of my vegetarian cousins. I was trying to come up with a big spread with as many vegetarian dishes as possible. I made this from ingredients I had on hand.


  • 1 can sliced beets, or 3-4 med-small peeled cooked beets
  • 1 small jar of artichoke hearts, water packed or marinated
  • 3 med tomatoes
  • Balsamic dressing


  1. Cut beets into bite-sized pieces. I cut it into half-moons or quarter slices.
  2. Cut artichokes into quarters.
  3. Cut tomatoes into wedges.
  4. Place all vegetables into a bowl and toss with balsamic vinegar. I like Good Seasons Italian dressing made with balsamic vinegar. My sister likes Paul Newman.
  5. Serve cold.
Traditional Caprese salad is made by alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella. I have cut mine into cubes.

Traditional Caprese salad is made by alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella. I have cut mine into cubes.

Reimagined Caprese

My household participated in a local organic produce program for a couple of years. We had ample quantities of fresh basil for many weeks each season. I decided to make a version of Caprese Salad, using basil pesto instead of basil leaves and a balsamic vinegar reduction instead of just drizzling with balsamic vinegar. I also cut my mozzarella and tomatoes into cubes instead of slices. Makes 4 side salads.


  • 1 lb mozzarella cheese
  • 4 med tomatoes
  • ½ cup almonds, cashews, or walnuts
  • ½ cup grated Asiago cheese
  • 1 cup lightly packed basil leaves
  • 2-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar


  1. Pour vinegar into a small pan and cook on medium-low until the liquid volume is reduced by about half. This would be good to do ahead of time and cool at least to room temperature before assembling your Caprese.
  2. Prepare the pesto. The nuts take more processing than the other ingredients, so start with them and process them until they are fairly small.
  3. Add cheese and basil, and pulse a few times.
  4. Drizzle in olive oil, and process until consistency is like a spread.
  5. Chop tomatoes and cheese into bite-sized pieces and assemble on a plate.
  6. Drizzle tomatoes and cheese with pesto and balsamic reduction.
Hearts of palm salad with black beans and corn

Hearts of palm salad with black beans and corn

Hearts of Palm, Black Bean, and Corn

This recipe for hearts of palm with black beans, red onion, and corn is from Emeril Lagasse. It called for one minced jalapeno pepper, which I did not include, as we’re not fond of heat at our house, particularly jalapeno. I used cooked frozen corn, but I think next time, I will use cut raw corn. Makes 6 side dishes.


  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp cane or rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp chopped chives
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (stem and seeds removed)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 small jar of hearts of palms, 14 oz, drained
  • 1 sm red onion, cut into thin slivers
  • 1 cup cooked black beans (I soak and cook dried beans, but drained canned beans will work)
  • 1 cup cooked corn (fresh-cut raw corn works well too)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
  • ¼ cup bias-cut green onions
  • Mixed greens, optional, for serving


  1. Make the dressing by whisking together oil, vinegar, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Stir in chives, parsley, cilantro, and jalapeno.
  2. Slice hearts of palm diagonally, about one-half inch thick.
  3. Place hearts of palm, onions, beans, corn, yellow pepper, and green onions in a medium-sized bowl. Stir to mix.
  4. Arrange vegetable mixture on salad plates, and drizzle with the dressing.
Cantaloupe corn salad

Cantaloupe corn salad

Cantaloupe and Corn

This simple salad is from Better Homes & Gardens website. I like having recipes utilizing raw fresh cut corn. Not a fan of heat; however, I skipped the red chile pepper.


  • 4 ears sweet corn, cut from cobs, about 2 cups
  • ½ cantaloupe, cut into ½” cubes, about 2 cups
  • ½-1 small red chili pepper, seeded and minced
  • ½ medium red onion, chopped, about ½ cup
  • 1 Tbsp dill weed, chopped
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup Spring mixed greens, optional


  1. Cook corn in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, if desired. I like it raw. If you cook it, rinse it under cold water until cool. Drain well.
  2. Transfer corn to a large bowl. Add cantaloupe, chile pepper, onion, and dill. Mix to combine.
  3. In a small bowl, prepare the dressing. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, and dry mustard.
  4. Pour dressing over cantaloupe-corn mixture. Stir to coat. Mix in greens if using. Salt to taste.
  5. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Stir again.
Chickpea, tomato, and avocado salad

Chickpea, tomato, and avocado salad

Tomato, Avocado, Cucumber, and Chickpea Salad, with Feta and Greek Lemon Dressing

This recipe from the Cooking Classy website called for red and yellow cherry tomatoes, but I used red, orange, and yellow. The multi-colored tomatoes, along with the green avocado, make a very pretty salad. Makes 8 servings.


  • 2 small cartons of red cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small carton of yellow cherry tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (I use dried chickpeas. Soak overnight and cook until desired tenderness. You’ll need 1 ½ cups.)
  • 3-4 baby cucumbers, diced or sliced and quartered
  • 2 large avocados, semi-firm, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped, or refrigerated tube basil
  • ¾ tsp dried oregano


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and salt. Stir in basil and oregano.
  2. Cut tomatoes in half, and place in a large bowl. Mix in chickpeas and cucumbers.
  3. Gently mix in avocado, parsley, and feta.
  4. Stir in the desired amount of dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Greek garbanzo bean salad

Greek garbanzo bean salad

Greek Garbanzo Bean

This is another recipe from All Recipes magazine.


  • 2 (15 oz) cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed (If cooking dried beans, you’ll need 3 cups cooked beans)
  • 1 (15 oz) can of black olives, drained and chopped (I used about half this amount)
  • 2 cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced crosswise (I used about 6 baby cucumbers, which do not need peeling or seeding)
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used more)
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 1 oz feta cheese, crumbled (1/4 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup Italian dressing
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper


  1. Whisk together Italian dressing, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in dressing and mix to combine.
  3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Greek pasta salad

Greek pasta salad

Greek Pasta Salad

My favorite pasta salad is made with corkscrew pasta, mayo, tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet onion. I don’t usually care for pasta salad in vinaigrette, but I enjoyed this one. The original recipe from the All Recipes website called for black olives, but I used Kalamata olives.


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder (I use Lawry’s with parsley)
  • 1 ½ tsp dried basil (or ½ cup fresh)
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano (or ¼ cup fresh)
  • ¾ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ tsp sugar
  • 2 ½ cups cooked macaroni (1 ¼ c dry)
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms (about 9 oz)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half (scant 1 cup)
  • 1 cup sliced red bell pepper
  • ¾ cup feta cheese crumbles (3 ½ oz)
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • 4 oz pitted Kalamata olives
  • ¾ cup pepperoni cut into strips (about 4 oz)


  1. Prepare the dressing by whisking together oil and vinegar, garlic powder, basil, oregano, pepper, and sugar.
  2. Add cooked pasta, vegetables, olives, feta, and pepperoni. Stir to coat ingredients in the dressing.
  3. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Macaroni slaw

Macaroni slaw

Macaroni Slaw

I stumbled upon this recipe on the Taste of Home website and am glad I did. I have already made it twice. I happened to have the ditalini pasta for a Rachael Ray soup that I never made. It calls for Miracle Whip, but I used Duke’s mayonnaise. It also calls for 1/3 cup of sugar, which I left out the second time. I also left out the water chestnuts because I’m just not crazy about them. Makes 16 servings of ¾ cup. Great for family and church gatherings.


  • 7 oz ditalini (ring macaroni)
  • 1 14-oz pkg coleslaw mix
  • 2 med onions, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 3-4 baby cucumbers, small chopped
  • 1 med green bell pepper, small chopped
  • 1 sm can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
  • Dressing Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cup Miracle Whip or mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper


  1. Cook macaroni per package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. Transfer pasta to a large bowl, and add chopped vegetables and water chestnuts.
  3. Prepare dressing in a small bowl by whisking mayo, sugar, vinegar, salt, and pepper together.
  4. Pour dressing over vegetables and stir to coat.
  5. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.
Cold salad with beets, potatoes, and mixed vegetables (green beans, carrots, corn, and green peas)

Cold salad with beets, potatoes, and mixed vegetables (green beans, carrots, corn, and green peas)

Potato Beet

This is another recipe that I stumbled upon and have already made twice. It’s from the Hellman’s mayo folks, but I’m a Duke’s loyalist. This is a simple recipe, with just a few ingredients. I’m not usually a fan of canned over fresh but must admit I used canned diced potatoes and cooked vacuum-sealed organic beets, which made the preparation quick and easy.


  • 1 lb of potatoes peeled, diced, cooked, drained, and cooled (I used 2 cans of diced potatoes, drained)
  • 1 can beets, or about 4 medium cooked beets, drained and diced
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 10 oz frozen mixed vegetables, thawed and drained (my mix has green beans, corn, carrots, and green peas)
  • 1/3 cup green onions, sliced (I used a whole bundle, about 6 onions with green portions)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stirring to coat vegetables with mayonnaise.
  2. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
This black bean and corn salad is very satisfying and filling.

This black bean and corn salad is very satisfying and filling.

Southwest Black Bean & Corn

This is a Weight Watchers recipe from the Meals in Minutes Cookbook. Makes 2 meal-sized servings.


  • 5 oz cooked black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, mashed or chopped
  • ½ cup corn
  • ½ cup cherry or grape tomato halves
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ oz shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • Lettuce leaves


  1. Place beans in a mixing bowl.
  2. Chop egg and add to bowl. I don’t enjoy egg whitetexture, so I mash very thoroughly with a fork or use my food processor.
  3. Add corn, tomatoes, minced onion, and cheese. I used Mexican Queso Fresco, chopped in my mini-chopper food processor.
  4. Add sour cream, cilantro, parsley, oil, and vinegar.
  5. Stir to combine ingredients. Serve on lettuce leaves.
Elevate this cannellini bean and tuna salad by using fresh tuna steak.

Elevate this cannellini bean and tuna salad by using fresh tuna steak.

Cannellini Beans & Tuna

This is another Weight Watchers recipe from the Meals in Minutes Cookbook. Makes 2 meal-sized portions.


  • 6 oz cooked cannellini beans
  • 3 oz flaked tuna
  • 2 Tbsp red onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped lettuce


  1. Combine cannellini beans, tuna, onion, basil, lemon juice, and water in a bowl. Stir to combine.
  2. Serve on a bed of chopped lettuce.
Panzanella salad made with Parmesan dusted bread cubes fried in olive oil, with mixed cherry tomatoes

Panzanella salad made with Parmesan dusted bread cubes fried in olive oil, with mixed cherry tomatoes

Tomato Panzanella

Panzanella salads feature toasted or fried bread cubes. This tomato Panzanella recipe was in my All Recipes magazine and attributed to “Chef John.” There is a trick to getting the bread just right. I’m not sure if the video below is the same, Chef John, but the Panzanella seems to be the same.

He fries the bread cubes in ample amounts of olive oil and sprinkles them with Parmesan cheese. This renders the bread crispy so that it stands up to the dressing without getting soggy. While Chef John discourages preparing the bread in the oven, readers of the website noted good results from baking the oil-tossed bread on a cookie sheet 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Then stir, sprinkle with cheese and continue baking until browned. This salad required a bit of effort on the bread but was really delicious.


  • 2 cups or more stale bread cubes, about ½” size
  • ¼ cup olive oil or more
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pinch of white sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 leaves basil


  1. Transfer bread cubes to a large skillet and drizzle with olive oil. Work in batches if necessary. Cook on medium heat for about 7 to 12 minutes. Stir often, drizzling with more oil as needed, until crispy and golden brown.
  2. Sprinkle bread with cheese. Continue to cook and stir for about 3-4 minutes until the cheese is melted into the bread. Bread should be crispy outside and chewy inside. Cool thoroughly.
  3. Prepare the dressing by whisking together oil, vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a medium-sized bowl.
  4. Add tomatoes to bowl and stir to coat. Cover and let sit for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Stack basil leaves on top of each other. Roll lengthwise, and slice into thin ribbons.
  6. Add basil and bread cubes to the tomato mixture and stir to combine.
  7. Let sit at room temperature for 3-4 minutes. If all of the liquid is absorbed, add more oil and vinegar.
Trim Healthy Mama recipe with chicken, shredded cabbage, and cilantro, with a peanut dressing

Trim Healthy Mama recipe with chicken, shredded cabbage, and cilantro, with a peanut dressing

Chinese Chicken Salad

This recipe is from the Trim Healthy Mama weight management plan from their Trim Healthy Table cookbook. It is very good. I’ve only had my book for a few months and have already made this chicken salad several times.

Salad Ingredients

  • 2 10-oz bags of finely shredded cabbage
  • ½ chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2-4 green onions, thin sliced
  • 2 cups diced cooked chicken
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Dressing Ingredients

  • 1/8 cup (2 Tbsp) sugar-free peanut butter or almond butter
  • 1/8 cup sugar-free peanut powder
  • 1 ½ Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
  • ½ tsp stevia sweetener

Toppings, optional

  • Slivered almonds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Avocado slices


  1. Place cabbage, cilantro, green onions, and chicken into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make the dressing by whisking all of the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.
  3. Pour dressing over the chicken-cabbage mixture. Stir to thoroughly combine. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, then stir again.
  4. Top with almonds, sesame seeds, or avocado for serving if desired.

Crunchy Asian Ramen Noodle Salad With Asian Honey Vinaigrette

I had heard of Ramen Noodle Salad before. I did a search and came up with this recipe from the Gimme Some Oven website, then found their video, which I have included below. I also included a video about selecting and cutting mangos. I’ve hacked up a few mangos before, but I thought there might be a way to get more of the flesh. Turns out, nope, there’s just a certain amount of waste in cutting up a mango. I also included a video on picking, pitting, and cutting an avocado.

Salad Ingredients

  • 1 (16-oz) bag coleslaw mix (it seems the Dole folks have downgraded to 14 oz)
  • 2 (3-oz) pkg ramen noodles, crumbled (toss the seasoning pouch)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame, cooked per pkg directions
  • 1 lg avocado, flesh diced
  • 1 mango, peeled and julienned
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup green onions, thinly sliced

Dressing Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup preferred cooking oil
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • ¼ tsp sesame oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the dressing by whisking all of the dressing ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Toasting the noodles and almonds is optional. If you want to toast, preheat the oven to 425. Crumble ramen noodles and spread them out on a large baking sheet pan, along with the almonds. Bake until slightly toasted and golden colored, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, and return to oven for an additional 3 minutes. Watch very closely so you don’t accidentally let your noodles and nuts become too toasted, aka burned. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
  3. Add all salad ingredients to a large bowl. Pour in dressing. Stir to combine. I stirred everything together except the mango and avocado, then added them, stirring a little more gently to combine.
  4. Serve immediately.

Tip from the GSO Folks

Ramen salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days but is best on day 1. Thereafter, the noodles may become soft, and the avocados may turn brown. Since I was ‘home alone’ the weekend I made this, I made a half batch.

© 2018 rmcrayne