22 Delicious Hot Lunch Ideas For Kids

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Some dishes taste best when served hot. Hence, having a ready stack of hot lunch ideas for kids is essential. Eating warm, tasty, and nutritious food in school will ensure your child has enough energy and nourishment to get them through their day. Besides, it will make them look forward to opening their lunchboxes every day.

So, here are some lip-smacking hot lunch ideas for kids that are easy to prepare, healthy, and tasty. Pack these dishes in a thermos so that your child can enjoy warm meals at school.

20+ Hot Lunch Ideas For Kids

1. Quick egg cups

Quick egg cups hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • ½ cup zucchini or yellow squash (dried, squeezed, and shredded)
  • ½ cup mozzarella or cheddar cheese (shredded)
  • 1tbsp parmesan (grated)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour or cornmeal

How to make:

  • Grease a muffin pan with some oil or non-stick spray. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375℉.
  • In a bowl, combine all the ingredients.
  • Pour one tablespoon of the prepared mixture into each muffin tin.
  • Bake for 14–15 minutes or until the muffins are slightly brown.
  • Let them cool for a minute, and remove them by gently running a knife around each muffin cup.
  • Swap the vegetables based on your child’s preference. You could also prepare these muffins the previous night and store them in the freezer.

2. Chicken soup

Chicken soup hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 2 cups chicken (cooked and cubed)
  • 2 cups fresh mushroom (sliced)
  • 2 cups fat-free half-and-half
  • 1 cup white or brown rice (cooked)
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 carrots (chopped)
  • 2 celery ribs (chopped)
  • 1 carton of chicken broth
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • ½tsp pepper

How to make:

  • In a saucepan, heat the oil over a medium flame.
  • Stir-fry all the vegetables until they turn slightly crisp.
  • Simultaneously, in a bowl, mix the flour and broth well to avoid lumps.
  • Add the flour and broth mixture to the saucepan and stir until it thickens.
  • Finally, add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
  • Take it off the heat when it turns hot.
  • You could also add noodles to prepare chicken noodle soup for a more filling option.

3. Crispy baked chicken nuggets

Crispy baked chicken nuggets hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts (bite-size chunks)
  • 3 cups bread crumbs or crushed Corn Chex cereal
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 2tbsp low-fat milk
  • 2tbsp butter (melted)
  • ½tsp salt
  • ¼tsp paprika
  • ⅛tsp garlic powder

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 400℉. Line a baking tray with foil and spray oil.
  • Mix the crushed cereal or bread crumbs, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and parmesan cheese in a large plate or bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the butter and milk.
  • Dip the chicken in the milk mixture and then the cereal/breadcrumbs mixture and coat them well.
  • Place the chicken chunks on the tray and bake for 15 minutes. Flip them halfway to cook them evenly.
  • Serve the crispy baked chicken nuggets with some vegetables and their favorite dip.

4. Chicken ranch quesadilla

Chicken ranch quesadilla hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 2 tortillas
  • 2 cups chicken (chopped)
  • ¾ cup mozzarella cheese (grated)
  • ¾ cup cheddar cheese (grated)
  • 3tbsp ranch dressing
  • 2–3tbsp taco seasoning
  • 3tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ of a lime

How to make:

  • Heat oil in a pan over a medium flame.
  • In another bowl, add the chicken and taco seasoning and squeeze in the lime. Toss it well and let it marinate for 15–20 minutes.
  • Gently fry the marinated chicken pieces evenly on all sides.
  • Let the chicken cool after it is cooked, and add ranch dressing to it.
  • Divide the chicken equally and spread it on the tortillas. Similarly, distribute the cheeses.
  • Fold the quesadillas in half and press gently.

5. Meatball taquitos

Meatball taquitos hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 12 tortillas
  • 12 frozen Italian turkey meatballs (thawed)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (warm)

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 400℉.
  • Mash the meatballs in a food processor. Add the cheeses and Italian seasoning.
  • On each tortilla, spread one-fourth cup of the meatball mixture and gently roll the tender tortilla.
  • Spritz a baking tray with cooking oil, place the meatball rolls on it, and spray oil on them too.
  • Bake for 15–20 minutes. Serve with marinara sauce and cooked vegetables for a balanced lunch for school.

6. Pizza bites

Pizza bites hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1lb pizza dough (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 1 cup broccoli florets and carrots (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup pizza sauce (slightly warmed)
  • ⅓ cup pepperoni (shredded)
  • 1tbsp parmesan cheese (grated)
  • 1tbsp pizza seasoning
  • 1tsp olive oil

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 425℉. Simultaneously, grease a pie tray with non-stick spray or cooking oil.
  • Divide the dough into lemon-sized balls.
  • Mix the cheeses, vegetables, and pepperoni in a bowl.
  • Flatten each ball and add one tablespoon of the cheese mixture in the center.
  • Gently pleat and seal the stuffed dough.
  • Place the balls on the pie tray, spray some cooking oil, and sprinkle pizza seasoning on it.
  • Rest the balls for ten minutes. Then, poke holes on them to help steam escape while cooking.
  • Bake for approximately 15–20 minutes until the pizza bites turn brown. Serve it with pizza sauce after it cools.

7. Bacon and broccoli quiche

Bacon and broccoli quiche hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 slices of turkey bacon (chopped)
  • 1 cup broccoli (cooked or frozen)
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • ½–1 cup cheese sauce
  • ½ cup white mushroom (sliced)
  • ½ cup green onion (chopped)
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese (shredded)

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a pie shell and freeze it.
  • Mix the cooked broccoli with the cheese Alternatively, you could use premade broccoli as per the instructions on the package.
  • Place a non-stick pan over a medium flame. Stir-fry the bacon and vegetables until tender.
  • Spread the bacon and vegetable mixture evenly in the pie shell.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and milk and add them to the broccoli mixture. Then, add the cheddar cheese.
  • Pour this mixture into the frozen pie shell and bake for 30–45 minutes until the pie is cooked in the center.
  • Cool it and cut it into wedges before serving.

8. Rice and beans

Rice and beans hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1 cup long-grain white or brown rice
  • 1 can of black or white beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 2tsp chili powder
  • 1tsp cumin
  • Black pepper as per taste
  • Salt
  • Cilantro for garnish (chopped)

How to make:

  • In a heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the diced onion, garlic, and red bell peppers.
  • Once they become tender, add the beans followed by the tomatoes. Cook for two to three minutes.
  • Pour in one and a half cups of water and bring it to a boil.
  • Add the remaining ingredients into the hot water. Cover the saucepan and simmer until the rice is cooked.
  • Finally, garnish this wholesome and delicious meal with cilantro.

9. Lasagna rolls

Lasagna rolls hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (14 oz)
  • 1tsp fennel seed (optional)
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese

How to make:

  • Cook the noodles as per the package instructions and drain the excess water.
  • In a pan, cook the beef until it is no longer pink. Then, pour in some spaghetti sauce and fennel seeds.
  • Spread the noodles and distribute the meat sauce on them equally.
  • Sprinkle some cheese on the stuffing and roll the noodles gently.
  • Place them in a lasagna dish and cover with the remaining cheese and sauce.
  • Bake the lasagna rolls at 400°F for 10–15 minutes or until the cheese.
  • These rolls are easy to portion. You could substitute the beef with chicken or vegetables.

10. Veggie grilled cheese sandwich

Veggie grilled cheese sandwich hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 4 slices of bread
  • ½ of a red pepper (grilled and sliced)
  • 4 slices of red onion (grilled)
  • 4oz goat cheese (crumbled)
  • 8 slices of zucchini (grilled)
  • ½ cup spinach (fresh)
  • 2tbsp scallion (chopped)
  • 2tbsp unsalted butter

How to make:

  • In a bowl, mix the goat cheese and scallion.
  • Spread the butter on one side of all the bread slices.
  • Distribute all the vegetables equally on two slices of bread.
  • Sprinkle the goat cheese mixture on top of the vegetables and top it with the other buttered slice.
  • Serve it plain or toasted for some extra crunch.
  • You can swap the vegetables, bread, and cheese based on your child’s preference.

11. Spaghetti and meatball muffins

Spaghetti and meatball muffins hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: Shutterstock

You will need:

  • 8oz spaghetti (cooked)
  • 12 pre-cooked meatballs
  • 1 cup marinara sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

How to make:

  • Preheat an oven to 375°F, and grease a muffin tray with non-stick spray or cooking oil.
  • In a bowl, mix the spaghetti with mozzarella cheese, egg, salt, and pepper.
  • Divide the spaghetti mixture equally between the muffin tins.
  • Pour some marinara sauce over each muffin and top them with the meatballs.
  • Bake the muffins for 20 minutes.
  • You could prepare these spaghetti and meatball muffins the previous night. Pack it with a crunchy vegetable salad for a quick and balanced meal for your child.

12. Chicken tetrazzini

Chicken tetrazzini hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 8oz linguine or spaghetti (uncooked)
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 can of cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)
  • ¼ cup Monterey Jack cheese (shredded)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • ¼tsp ground pepper
  • 2tbsp melted butter
  • Parsley for garnish

How to make:

  • Place a pressure cooker over a medium flame. Add butter and garlic and sauté.
  • Add the chicken breasts and season them with salt and pepper.
  • Now, pour in the chicken broth and pressure cook it for eight to ten minutes. Shred the chicken once it cools.
  • Then, place it back on the flame, add the sour cream, pasta, and soups, and mix well. Pressure cook this for another six minutes.
  • Mix the contents of the pressure cooker well. This tetrazzini could be served and consumed as such.
  • To prepare a crispy, lunchbox-friendly version, pour the tetrazzini into a baking dish and top it with bread crumbs and cheese.
  • Bake it in an oven preheated to 375°F for 10–15 minutes or until the top looks cooked.
  • Cut into slices when cooled and garnish with some parsley.

13. Lunchbox tacos

Lunchbox tacos hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1lb lean beef, turkey, or chicken (ground)
  • 1–2 tortillas
  • 1 cup cheese (shredded)
  • 1 cup lettuce (shredded)
  • 1 cup tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1½tsp chili powder
  • 1½tsp ground cumin
  • ¾tsp garlic powder
  • ¾tsp onion powder
  • ⅛tsp cayenne pepper
  • ½tsp salt
  • ½tsp black pepper

How to make:

  • In a pan, sauté the ground meat until cooked or substitute the meat with a can of beans. Mash it well.
  • Add all the spices and check the seasoning.
  • Once cooked and cooled, transfer the mixture into a lunch box and pack the tortillas or tortilla chips.
  • Also, pack your child’s favorite toppings so they can get creative with their tortillas.

14. Empanadas

Empanadas hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1lb whole-wheat pizza dough
  • ½lb lean beef (ground)
  • 1 cup mixed frozen or fresh vegetables
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
  • ¼ cup carrots (shredded)
  • ¼ of a small sweet onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 mini sweet peppers (finely chopped)
  • 2tbsp salsa
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1tsp cumin
  • ½tsp salt
  • ¼tsp pepper

How to make:

  • Preheat an oven to 350°F and grease the baking tray.
  • In a pan, sauté the meat, vegetables, spices, and seasonings over medium heat. Cook them until tender.
  • Meanwhile, roll the dough until slightly thick over a dusted platform and cut out five-inch circles.
  • Fill each circle with the meat and vegetable mixture and top it with some cheese. Seal the dough well.
  • Bake the empanadas for 15–20 minutes until brown. You could also prepare them in an air fryer.
  • Pack them with your child’s favorite sauces and fruit.

15. Chicken, mashed potatoes, and veggies bowl

Chicken, mashed potatoes, and veggies bowl hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts (cut horizontally)
  • 8 potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2tbsp butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 4tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 2 zucchinis (diced into 1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 can of cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)

How to make:

  • Cook the potatoes in salted and boiling water until tender.
  • In a saucepan, mix the butter and milk well over a medium-to-low flame. Slowly mix the milk mixture into the potatoes until creamy.
  • In a bowl, combine the chicken with salt, pepper, and flour.
  • Roast the chicken in a pan with butter or oil until all the sides turn brown.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, sauté the chopped veggies and garlic until tender in the same pan.
  • Pack the chicken alongside the veggies and mashed potatoes for a balanced meal.

16. Macaroni and cheese muffins

Macaroni and cheese muffins hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 7oz macaroni pasta
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup frozen vegetables
  • 1¼ cups cheddar cheese (grated)
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup plain flour
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

How to make:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Cook the macaroni pasta as per the package instructions and drain the remaining water.
  • Melt the butter in a separate pan over a medium flame, and sauté the flour in it until the raw smell disappears. Pour in the milk, whisk it until it reaches the required consistency, and add the cheese.
  • Pour the cheese mixture over the cooked macaroni.
  • Grease a muffin tray and add the cooked macaroni and cheese mixture equally into the slots. Top it with mixed vegetables and cheese and bake it for 20 minutes.
  • Pack the muffins along with a salad.

17. Mini pancakes

Mini pancakes hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • 2tbsp butter (melted)
  • 1–2tbsp brown sugar (optional)
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • ¼tsp salt
  • 1tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Maple syrup for serving (optional)

How to make:

  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients separately.
  • Gently sieve the dry ingredients into the wet.
  • Place a skillet over a flame, scoop in the pancake mixture, and spread it evenly.
  • Flip the pancake after it bubbles on top and cook it on the other side for a few minutes.
  • Let the pancakes cool before packing them. Top them with powdered sugar and pack them alongside fresh fruits and maple syrup. For a special twist, you could add some powdered chocolate to the batter.

18. Ramen

Ramen hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • Two packs of organic ramen noodles (any flavor)
  • ½ cup edamame (cooked)
  • ½ cup tofu or cooked chicken, beef, or pork (cubed)
  • 2 cups baby spinach

How to make:

  • Pour the required amount of water into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
  • Add in the ramen seasoning, edamame, protein, and baby spinach.
  • Finally, add the ramen and immediately transfer it to the thermos to cook in the trapped heat.
  • Pack some sauteed or fresh vegetables.

19. Apple and cinnamon oatmeal

Apple and cinnamon oatmeal hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1 cup instant oats
  • 1 cup milk of your choice
  • ½ cup dried apples
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • A pinch of salt

How to make:

  • Place a saucepan over a flame and boil the milk.
  • Then, add the remaining ingredients and mix them well.
  • Pour the contents immediately into the thermos as the oats will cook in the trapped heat.
  • Pack some fresh berries, nuts, maple syrup, or peanut or almond butter as well.

20. Hawaiian hamburger sliders

Hawaiian hamburger sliders hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 12 Hawaiian sweet rolls
  • ¼ cup barbecue sauce
  • ¼ cup pineapple preserves
  • 1tbsp brown sugar (packed)
  • 4tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 pineapple slices (canned)
  • Lettuce

How to make:

  • Prepare the patties by combining the ground beef and Worcestershire sauce. Broil the beef at 160°F for seven to eight minutes or until the center is not pink.
  • Boil the barbeque sauce in a saucepan.
  • Then, roast the pineapples with some sauce on either side.
  • Slice the Hawaiian sweet roll through the center. Then place some lettuce in it, followed by the patty and pineapple. Hold them in place with a skewer and place them in the thermos.
  • Also pack some extra sauce and roasted potatoes or vegetables.

21. Vegetable chow mein

Vegetable chow mein hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 3 cups chow mein noodles
  • 2 cups cabbage
  • 1½ cup red bell pepper
  • 1½ cups carrot (chopped)
  • 1½ cups snow peas
  • ½ cup onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 3tbsp tomato/oyster sauce
  • 1–2tbsp cooking oil
  • 1tbsp soy sauce (preferably low sodium)

How to make:

  • Cook the noodles as per the package instructions. Preferably, leave them al dente. You may also use rice noodles.
  • Sauté the vegetables with oil in a pan over a medium flame. Cook them until tender.
  • Add the sauces and mix well.
  • Toss in the noodles and pack them in the thermos.
  • Also pack some tofu or a chicken salad for protein.

22. Taco soup

Taco soup hot lunch ideas for kids

Image: iStock

You will need:

  • 2lbs ground beef
  • 1 envelope of taco seasoning
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 can of mild chili beans (undrained)
  • 1 can of whole kernel corn (drained)
  • 1 can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can of stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 envelope of ranch salad dressing

How to make:

  • In a Dutch oven, cook the beef until it is not pink.
  • Add the taco seasoning to the beef and sauté it for some more time.
  • Pour the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil while stirring occasionally.
  • Cook it for 15 minutes and then pour it into the lunch box.
  • You may also pack some tacos separately for extra crunch.

Most of these recipes can be prepared beforehand and reheated before packing. These recipes can also be customized as per your child’s preference. While customizing, ensure that all the food groups are included in the meals to make them wholesome and nutritious.

Key Pointers

  • You can make a nutritious and tasty lunch for your children with these easy recipes, such as quick egg cups or the all-time favorite crispy chicken nuggets.
  • Swap your regular meatball recipe with a meatball-filled cheesy tortilla or the meatball taquitos recipe.
  • Make broccoli their favorite vegetable with bacon and broccoli quiche.
  • Rice and beans, veggie cheese sandwich, and many more recipes to try as you scroll down.

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Angela Houlie

(MS, RDN, CDN)
Angela Houlie is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and the founder of her private practice, My Fruitful Body Nutrition. Her mission is to make nutrition as easy as possible for her clients. As someone who has struggled with restricting food in the past, she understands how daunting it can be to make healthy nutrition choices. She takes all of the guesswork... more

Sindusha MS

Sindusha is a clinical nutritionist with over two years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She did her Masters in Food Science and Nutrition and has qualified UGC-NET. She interned as a quality control analyst and as a dietitian during her graduation. She was a part of several community nutrition projects and a phytochemical-based nutrition study during the same... more