Light Plant-Based Lunch Recipes

By Marni Wasserman

Here are some great ideas for making simple, quick plant-based lunches that you can pack (even in a pinch) and take with you for the workday or out on the town. If you’re looking to drop a few pounds, these recipes are all on the lighter side.

Kale and Cabbage Slaw Salad

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: 10–12 servings

1 head red cabbage

2 carrots

1 beet

1 head fennel

1 bunch kale (about 3 cups)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar

Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 to 4 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons raw honey or coconut nectar

2 tablespoons hempseeds

  1. Shred the cabbage, carrots, beet, and fennel in a food processor with a shredding blade, or use a mandolin, or hand slice into thin strips.

  2. Remove the stems from the kale, and then chop the kale into thin strips or bite-sized pieces.

  3. In a mixing bowl, mix together the olive oil, apple-cider vinegar, lemon juice, and raw honey or coconut nectar to make a vinaigrette.

  4. Combine the vinaigrette with the shredded vegetables and toss until the cabbage and kale are well-coated.

  5. Allow the salad to marinate in the fridge for 30 to 60 minutes.

  6. Mix in the hempseeds just before serving.

Per serving: Calories 178 (From Fat 117); Fat 13g (Saturated 3g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 58mg; Carbohydrate 16g (Dietary Fiber 4g); Protein 4g.

This salad can be consumed right after it’s tossed together, but it will taste better and be easier to chew when it marinates longer. It also tastes great the next day!

Instead of olive oil, try hemp, pumpkin, or chia oil for variety and a boost of omega-3 fatty acids. You can add sliced avocado on top of this salad to give it a nourishing boost.

If you are using lacinato kale (dark kale), the stems are much softer and can be chopped into this salad. However, most other varieties such as curly kale or red Russian will need the stems removed.

Citrus Wild Rice and Broccoli

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Vinaigrette (see the following recipe)

1 cup wild rice, soaked overnight in 2 cups of water

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 head broccoli

1/2 cup sliced or supremed orange segments

1/3 cup cranberries

1/2 cup hazelnuts or pecans

  1. Drain the soaked rice and place it in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups of water and salt and bring to a boil.

  2. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the grains have burst open and are tender but still chewy (about 35 to 45 minutes). Drain and set aside in a medium bowl.

  3. While the rice is cooking, make the vinaigrette.

  4. Cut the broccoli into small florets and place in a steamer basket over boiling water for 3 minutes or until they’re dark green and tender. Run the broccoli under cool water to halt the cooking.

  5. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice. Add the cranberries, broccoli, orange segments, and nuts to the rice, mix, and serve.

Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons orange zest, or the zest of 1 orange

1/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup olive oil

  1. If you’re using fresh zest, zest the orange.

  2. Mix the vinaigrette ingredients together and pour over the warm rice.

Per serving: Calories 200 (From Fat 108); Fat 12g (Saturated 1g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 268mg; Carbohydrate 21g (Dietary Fiber 3g); Protein 5g.

Instead of broccoli, try green beans, snap peas, or snow peas for a unique variation.

If you can’t get your hands on wild rice, use a long-grain brown rice or wild-rice blend. The salad will taste just as delicious! This salad tastes great both warm and cold out of the fridge.

Also, be sure not to over-steam your broccoli. You want to make sure it’s green — not brown — when you place it in your salad.

Vegetarian Nori Rolls

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Vinegar Mixture (see the following recipe)

2 cups short-grain brown rice

4-1/4 cups water

3 pinches sea salt

3 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into strips

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons tamari

4 to 6 sheets of raw nori

1 avocado, skinned and sliced

1 small carrot, julienned into long strips

1/2 cucumber, sliced into thin strips

Wasabi powder, mixed in water to form paste

Pickled ginger

  1. Cook the rice with water and salt for 40 to 50 minutes. Prepare the Vinegar Mixture.

  2. Soak the shiitake mushroom strips in maple syrup and tamari for 10 minutes.

  3. When the rice is finished cooking, spread it on a cookie sheet with a wooden spoon paddle and cool it by waving a sushi mat back and forth, or place it in the refrigerator.

  4. To assemble the rolls, lay a nori sheet flat on the sushi mat with the rough side facing up.

    Keeping your fingers damp at all times, press rice onto the nori, stopping 3/4 inch from the edges. Arrange the vegetables along the bottom of the rice and roll the nori, pressing tight with the mat.

  5. Peel the mat away and place the sushi log on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife that’s damp, slice the log into 6 to 8 pieces evenly, starting from the center.

  6. To serve, place the nori rolls on a plate along with some pickled ginger and wasabi paste.

Vinegar Mixture

2 tablespoons brown-rice vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons mirin

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  1. In a small pot, bring the vinegar, maple syrup, mirin, and salt to a boil; simmer until the salt is dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Sprinkle on cooled rice.

Per serving: Calories 203 (From Fat 18 ); Fat 2g (Saturated 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 634mg; Carbohydrate 47g (Dietary Fiber 4g); Protein 5g.

Soak brown rice overnight for an even creamier texture. Try using different vegetables that are in season, such as green onions, cabbage, radishes, or even fruit such as mango.