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5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

These beautiful bento boxes are filled with back to school lunch ideas that will leave you feeling satiated and satisfied… plus they’re all vegan, obvs! Even better, you’re going to make components for one lunch and then transform them into something tasty for the next. I’ve tried to make this efficient and as easy as possible for you, and now you’ve got endless ideas for the week so boredom stays at bay!

Watch the video to see how it all comes together or keep scrolling for all the recipes!

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food
BENTO BOX #1: fried tofu & veg sandwich, white bean pesto salad, and fruit salad

This fried tofu sandwich is one of my go-to lunches. It’s simple and hearty!

I added my fave toppings to this sandwich, but feel free to deviate to your liking! I topped with lettuce, tomato slices, avocado, hot sauce, and sauerkraut. I also used my favorite bread from Silver Hills Bakery (squirrelly bread to the rescue!).

This recipe makes enough for 1 sandwich and then you’ll use the remaining tofu for the collard nori rice rolls in bento box #2. You’re also going to make a simple white bean pesto salad using canned navy beans and vegan-friendly store bought pesto. I like Sunflower Kitchen’s Basil or Kale Oregano Pesto. Both are nut and cheese free! This salad will then get transformed into a creamy dip for bento box #3.

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

fried tofu sandwich
5 from 2 votes
Print Recipe

fried tofu sandwich

This fried tofu sandwich is a go-to lunch for me. It's simple but I wanted to share it with you, cause I know you'll love it!

Course sandwiches
Cuisine American, Asian
Keyword crispy tofu, sandwiches, tofu
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 1 sandwich + extra tofu
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

  • 1/2 a brick firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • sliced sprouted bread
  • lettuce
  • tomato slices
  • sliced avocado
  • sauerkraut
  • vegan mayonnaise
  • hot sauce, to taste

Instructions

  1. Slice tofu into slabs or squares from the largest side, about 1/4” thick.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan over medium-high heat with oil, and just evenly coat the bottom of the pan so the oil is in an even layer.
  3. Once hot, place tofu in the pan slightly spaced apart and cook for about 4 to 6 minutes on the first side until golden brown and crispy.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and then flip the pieces. Lower heat slightly.
  5. Season the crisp side with a little bit more salt and pepper and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. The pan will get hotter and the slices should take about 4 minutes per side for the second batch. Continue frying in batches.
  6. Remove the fried tofu onto a plate covered with paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Recipe Notes

If you want to use up the whole brick of tofu you won't be sorry. Having fried tofu on the ready in the fridge can come in handy for all kinds of meal ideas. 

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food
You’ll use a portion of this to make the white bean pesto hummus in bento box #4!
white bean pesto salad
5 from 1 vote
Print Recipe

white bean pesto salad

This simple side makes lunch prep a breeze! It has white navy beans and a pre-made pesto.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword beans, pesto, salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 2 + extra for the hummus recipe
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

  • 1 x 14 oz can navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 C pre-made pesto (I use Sunflower Kitchen brand)
  • 1/4 C parsley, finely chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • sea salt & ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine the navy beans with pesto, parsley, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. 

Recipe Notes

Keep refrigerated and consume within 2 days.

 

BENTO BOX #2: collard nori rice rolls, trail mix, and orange slices

This idea for these collard nori rice rolls came from a girlfriend of mine. I was over for lunch and she RECIPE?!‘d right before my eyes, unprovoked! She had different veggies but the idea of wrapping the nori and collard with a rice paper sheet around it to prevent it all from coming apart in your hands while you eat is genius! I loved the idea so much I had to share it with you guys.

The sauce in the rolls is one you’ve definitely seen before on the blog. It’s my favorite go-to sauce, creamy miso tahini, used in our buddha bowls! I’ve doubled the recipe because you’re going to use if for 2 more lunch ideas in the next bento boxes. If you aren’t going to make all these recipes for the week then just half the recipe for the sauce.

You can make a custom trail mix with whatever dry nuts, fruits, and seeds you have in your pantry or buy a pre-mixed one, if you’re real lazy! You’re going to use this again to make some easy trail mix cookies in bento box #5 too.

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

collard nori rice rolls
5 from 2 votes
Print Recipe

collard nori rice rolls

You're going to love this inventive idea! Roll up your lunch into nori sheets, rice paper, and nutritious collard greens!

Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Asian
Keyword brown rice, collard greens, miso, rice paper, spring rolls
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 5 rolls
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

creamy miso tahini dressing

  • 1 C roasted tahini
  • 1 1/2 to 2 C fresh water
  • 6 tbsp miso paste
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

collard nori rice roll

  • 1 1/2 C cooked brown rice
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 5 collard leaves
  • 5 nori sheets
  • 5 rice paper wrappers
  • 1/2 a red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 a carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 an english cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 an avocado, sliced
  • left over fried tofu, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Despite what you saw in the YouTube video... blend the creamy miso tahini ingredients in a high powered blender to get the best consistency. Start with 1 cup of water in the blender with everything and then add more until the desired consistency is achieved.
  2. However, if you don't have a blender you can combine everything in a jar, but only add 1/2 a cup of water at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. You'll definitely need less water if you're not blending this sauce. You can adjust any of the ingredients to your own taste as well and once it's been refrigerated you might need to add a bit more water to smooth it out before using it again for another recipe.
  3. Wash the collard leaves and trim off the thick stem. You can even trim just into the bottom of the leaf if it's pretty thick and tough. Place collard leaves in a bowl of hot water and let them sit for 10 minutes until slightly softer and pliable. Once softer remove from the water and pat dry.
  4. Combine slightly warmed brown rice with about 1/2 a cup of miso tahini dressing in a bowl until evenly coated. Warming the rice a bit just helps it stick a little better.
  5. Have another large dish of warm water ready to soak the rice paper. Place 1 sheet in the water submerged and move it around until it's just soft.
  6. Delicately lay it out onto a clean surface, and place a collard leaf over top and then a nori sheet. Fold part of the nori sheet, if necessary, to fit to size.
  7. Place about 1/4 cup of brown rice onto on side of the nori and top with a few vegetable slices, a couple pieces of avocado and fried tofu slices. Add a drizzle of miso tahini dressing on top if desired. 

  8. Being gentle, but wrapping snug, roll up the side over the fillings and roll once to seal. Then take the soft rice wrapper at the sides and fold in the ends, and then roll over to the other end.

Recipe Notes

Half the dressing recipe if you're only making the collard nori rice rolls and nothing else in the 5 day bento box meal plan! And for a packable lunch it's best to leave the rolls whole but if you're serving this as an appetizer, slice the rolls in half or thirds and serve with more miso tahini dressing for dipping.

BENTO BOX #3: balsamic pasta salad, white bean pesto dip, crackers, and melon

For bento box #3 we’re making a simple balsamic dressing (from our 3 easy salad dressings video) and tossing it with a veggie pasta. Use any leftover veggies from the collard nori rice rolls and just finely dice them. You can also add anything else you want to the mix!

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

veggie pasta with balsamic dressing
5 from 1 vote
Print Recipe

veggie pasta salad with balsamic dressing

Pasta salad has never been easier. Just add your fave veggies and top with a simple balsamic dressing!

Course Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword dressings, pasta, salad
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

balsamic vinaigrette

  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp coconut nectar or maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste

veggie pasta salad

  • 12 oz / 350 g farfalle (about 6 cups cooked pasta)
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 a carrot, finely diced
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, finely diced
  • 1/2 C cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced (add in the morning!)
  • 1/2 C raw or roasted walnuts
  • balsamic vinaigrette, from above

Instructions

  1. Toss cooked pasta with veggies and balsamic vinaigrette. Store in the fridge. Add avocado right before serving or in the morning before packing up your lunch to prevent browning.

Recipe Notes

If you're making both pasta salads for the week in this meal plan then cook the amount of pasta listed in this recipe and use half for this recipe and half for the other.

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

white bean pesto dip
0 from 0 votes
Print Recipe

white bean pesto hummus

This easy dip is creamy and tasty!  It makes a great addition to any packed lunch or you could even use it as sandwich spread. 

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword beans, dips, pesto
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 2
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

  • 1 C white bean pesto salad (from bento box #1)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 to 2 tbsp tahini
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Mash up 1 cup of the white bean pesto salad and add lemon juice, tahini, and salt and pepper to make a hummus-like dip. Serve with crackers or veggies.

Recipe Notes

Consume within 1 to 2 days.

BENTO BOX #4: quick sweet potato risotto, steamed edamame, and mixed berries

For bento box #4 and #5 you’ll use 1 roasted sweet potato that has been diced and more of the miso tahini dressing for this quick sweet potato risotto recipe. I really like this quick risotto idea that doesn’t require any time to cook and stir over the hot stove!

I added fresh berries and steamed edamame to this bento box as well. I find steaming up a big batch of edamame at the beginning of the week, tossing it with sea salt, and leaving it in the fridge makes an easy go-to snack rather than potato chips!

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

0 from 0 votes
Print Recipe

quick sweet potato risotto

Yes, I know this isn't traditional risotto, but it's essence is that of risotto. Just try it! I know you'll love it.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword risotto, roasted sweet potatoes, sweet potato
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 2
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

roasted sweet potato

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste

quick sweet potato risotto

  • 1 1/2 C diced cooked sweet potato
  • 1/4 C + 2 tbsp miso tahini dressing
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 C cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 C finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 C currants

Instructions

roasted sweet potato

  1. Leave the skin on the sweet potato. Coat it with olive oil, sea salt, and ground pepper. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 425°F on a baking sheet for 25 minutes or until tender. Once cooled you can dice and store in the fridge. It will amount to about 3 cups of diced sweet potato.

quick sweet potato risotto

  1. Mash the diced sweet potato until mostly smooth. Combine with 1/4 cup of the miso tahini dressing, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper. Then add this to cooked brown rice and combine with parsley, basil, and currents. You can also add another 2 tbsp of miso tahini dressing if desired.

Recipe Notes

This recipe will make another 1 1/2 cups of extra roasted diced sweet potato which you're going to use in the next bento box recipe for a sweet potato pesto pasta salad!

BENTO BOX #5: sweet potato pesto pasta salad, trail mix cookies, and fruit salad

And finally bento box #5 uses up the rest of the roasted sweet potato, the cooked pasta, and the remaining pesto!

Plus how cool are these easy trail mix cookies. They’re delicately sweet and a nice end of the week treat. Plus it’s going to make a dozen or so, so go ahead and sneak some for breakfast too

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

0 from 0 votes
Print Recipe

sweet potato pesto pasta salad

This is a simple and protein packed pasta that will leave you satisfied at lunch!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword pasta, pesto, salad, sweet potato
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

  • 3 C cooked pasta (remaining from the veggie pasta salad)
  • 1 1/2 C diced cooked sweet potato
  • 1 C cooked chickpeas
  • 1/3 C pre-made pesto
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • sea salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine all the ingredients together and store in the fridge.

5 easy vegan back to school bento boxes_hot for food

easy vegan trail mix cookies
0 from 0 votes
Print Recipe

easy trail mix cookies

These cookies couldn't be an easier to whip up and all you need is a pre-made trailmix!

Course Snacks
Cuisine American
Keyword chocolate chip cookies, cookies, granola, rolled oats
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Servings 12 cookies
Author Lauren Toyota

Ingredients

  • 3/4 C trail mix
  • 1/2 C gluten-free rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 tbsp ground chia
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 C coconut sugar
  • 1/4 C almond butter (or nut butter of your choice)
  • 1/4 C vegan chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Pulse the trail mix and oats in a food processor until a fine meal is formed. 

  3. Mash the banana until smooth and combine with ground chia. Add this to a bowl with the trail mix and oatmeal mixture along with the remaining ingredients and stir until well combined.

  4. Portion small scoops onto a parchment lined baking sheet spaced slightly apart. They will not spread while baking.
  5. Bake for about 12 minutes or until golden brown on the edges. 

Recipe Notes

Store in the fridge and consume within 7 days.

5 comments

  • Renee Rainbow 2 years ago

    I made the white bean pesto salad today for lunch. Added some sunflower seeds in for crunch and it was BOMB!

  • Buffy Gill 2 years ago

    Hi Lauren

    Just found your blog thanks to Jeanine from Love & Lemons. Love it! Hello from the vegan food faring capital of Auckland New Zealand.

    Love your vids, they’re fab.

    Keep in touch, have signed up for your email so look forward to seeing more of your goodness!

    Buffy 🙂

  • Kelly Kennedy 2 years ago

    Just made these lunches for this week. It’s been so much fun to have lunches and dinners (I generally have long days and need to pack both for myself!) that are so delicious, have so much variety and are so comparatively easy to prep! Beats the heck out of eating the same lentils/collards/rice every day. Thank you!

  • Kimberley Jane 2 years ago

    How long does your fried tofu last? 🙂 Is it something that can be frozen?

  • Lisa Lou 5 months ago

    I would love a grocery list for this, since technically could double the recipes and use for lunches and dinners for the fam for the work week. It all looks delicious – thank you!

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