Food52 in 5

Quickie Lunches That Will Make Your Co-Workers Jealous

February 16, 2018

What can you do with just five minutes? Actually, way more than you think! Introducing Food52 in 5: your cheat sheet for speedy, delicious recipes, fun mini projects, and more.

While your morning self might be happy to throw together some turkey, mayo and lettuce in order to make it out the door in time, your lunchtime self might not be as thrilled with a sad, soggy sandwich. Of course, you could carve out time to prep make-ahead lunches for the week, but sometimes you just don’t have the energy to dice two pounds of chicken breasts on Sunday night. If you’re looking for an alternate solution, consider one of these (actually quite good) lunches, each of which is packable the morning-of in just five minutes. Here’s how a few folks on the Food52 team do it:

Doesn't look like a 5-min lunch, right? Photo by Julia Gartland

Say what you will about soaking your own, but I love canned beans with just about anything. I’ll open, drain, and rinse my can of black beans, white beans, or chickpeas at home, then toss them into a container with whatever else I have handy to mix in—fruits, canned fish, cheese, spices. It’s an easy, filling salad that only takes a few minutes to pack. Here's a favorite version with white beans, cucumbers, and sumac.

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Another go-to is to "bake" a sweet potato in my office microwave. I just throw one in my bag, then when it's lunch time, poke the potato with a fork (five times on each side) before microwaving for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. My favorite topping is a combination of goat cheese and chives, but I'm happy to slather on sour cream, pesto, bacon, feta, tahini (I can keep going...) —Katie Macdonald, Assistant Editor

When I'm craving something bright and fresh for lunch, but only have a few minutes to pack it, my go-to is a quick and easy greek salad. I chop up some red onion and a Persian cucumber, and put it in a lunch container. I add a handful of cherry tomatoes and feta cheese, as well as a generous drizzle of olive oil, and then finish it with a splash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. By lunchtime, I have a perfectly juicy and fresh salad that only took a couple minutes (and ingredients) to prepare. —Megan Güntas, Digital Designer

The fastest, most delicious sandwich I'll pack is pesto with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on toasted ciabatta, plus a dash of olive oil (and optional leafy green like arugula or romaine). I “discovered” this sandwich at Bite in Soho, where I used to work. I always liked it but never realized it would be a great addition to the lunches I make for my daughters each morning. (After loving the original, Lily approved of its addition to the rotation.) The key to its success is the heartiness of the toasted bread, which helps avoid sogginess when it's eaten a couple of hours later. I like to flatten the sandwich before wrapping it tightly in tinfoil. —Lucas Monaco, Full Stack Developer

Sometimes, if I can’t deal with yet another day of avocado toast, I’ll set myself up for assemble-at-work scrambled egg tacos. First I’ll fry-scramble an egg. (This sounds fussy but it’s super quick: You crack the egg in a very hot pan, then push it around with some salt and pepper until the whites set.) That goes in a Tupperware. Then, tortillas, a can of black beans, and any toppings I have on hand—jalapeño, cilantro, cotija cheese or jack cheese, on a full-fridge day—go in a big Ziploc bag (I wrap the cheese first). Voila! Breakfast tacos for lunch. All you need is a packet of hot sauce.

My other one-minute-fried-egg lunch trick is even easier: polenta with greens and a fried egg. I'll add the egg to the bottom of a Tupperware, followed by pre-softened polenta from one of those tubes, and finally way more greens (I usually go with baby spinach) than you think you need, because they shrink in the microwave.—Cory Baldwin, Director of Partner Content

What's your best 5-minute lunch? Share your packing tips in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • 70&holding
  • AntoniaJames
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


70&holding March 7, 2018
Thank You for this article! Since fracturing my hip/finding not one home helper worth their, salt, I ate a lot of tea and toast. I must own, not with just, low fat toppings. Now, able to stand more than 4 minutes at a time it is time to, trim back the fat/weight I have, regained. The tips you offer here are, perfect for me!! Thank You so very much!!raf
AntoniaJames February 20, 2018
I’m glad to see Food52 devoting some editorial real estate to this "what can you do in five minutes?" approach, which I’ve been evangelizing since the earliest days of the site. Several years ago, one of the editors picked up on this to write a short-ish feature on tasks quickly done in the morning, to make the evening meal easier. I created a quick list, just off the top of my head, of the many 2 - 6 minute tasks that I do to take advantage of small “pockets” of time when I’m home. To share it with anyone who might find it helpful, I’ve posted a link to this (still somewhat stream of consciousness) list of quickly completed tasks.

(This general idea is not original to me. I have been doing this in my office since reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” which was published the year I started my own law practice. It’s one of the most useful business books out there. But I digress . . . .)

I’ve added this overarching suggestion to the linked Google Doc about a month ago:

When I plan / review my menus for the following week to lay out my prep activities for the weekend and weeknight evenings, I create a list of every small food prep or other task that will eventually need to be done. I put it on a medium index card, which I keep handy to consult whenever I have a few minutes of "downtime,” or to include in my longer prep sessions.

Also, there are quite a few good suggestions of 5-minute tasks in this Hotline thread started last month: I’m guessing that many of these ideas will be the subject of separate posts in the near future . . . . . . .