A list of creative non-sandwich school lunch ideas is always an addition to our annual Back-to-School Lunch Guide on Cool Mom Eats. Hey, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from being parents (and listening to all of you for years!) it’s that we’re desperate for sandwich alternatives for school lunches that we can easily pack — and kids can easily eat.

No soups, chili, or salads here — that’s the obvious stuff. Instead, find our favorite creative non-sandwich lunch ideas  that you may not have considered yourself, and that our own kids always love.

At top: Pizza Toast via The Baker Mama; Sandwiches-on-a-Stick from Two Peas and their Pod

Also see: 10 more non-sandwich lunch ideas kids will eat

Creative non-sandwich ideas to pack for school lunches: Guaranteed kid-pleasers! | cool mom eatsThis post contains affiliate links and some purchases may help support our team at no additional cost to you. So thank you!

First, a few supplies to have on hand for non-sandwich lunch boxes:

Creative Non-Sandwich School Lunch Ideas: Cheese Tray inspiration via EazyPeazy Meals“Fancy” Fruit and Cheese Tray

Sometimes getting out of a sandwich rut is as simple as just…taking away the bread. We love filling up our reusable Bento containers will all kinds of our favorite goodies, to make our own kid-friendly charcuterie boards for school lunch. We’ve found some brilliant inspiration from this smart list of 16 easy lunchbox ideas at Eazy Peazy Mealz — most of which are non-sandwich school lunch ideas.

This Fruit and Cheese Plate School Lunch shown above is so easy! Nice balance of savory and sweet, with protein from cheese and almonds. And it reminds our kids of their favorite airplane travel snack. If your school is nut-free, consider substituting with items like dried chickpeas, edamame, homemade hummus (or pre-made), or shelled sunflower seeds. There are so many ideas on her site, it’s a great resource to bookmark.

All See: More charcuterie-inspired school lunch ideas for kids and teens

Creative non-sandwich lunch ideas for back to school: Peanut butter and banana "sushi" rolls with some clever alternative ideasPeanut Butter and Banana “Sushi”

This clever recipe for Peanut Butter and Banana “Sushi” Rolls from the MilkLife site is one they’ve filed under breakfast or an after-school treat, but we think it’s a brilliant non-sandwich lunch idea for kids, too. It’s so fun and simple!

Swap in SunButter or other non-nut spread if you have nut allergies in your home or classroom, and you can even trade the rice cereal for a favorite granola. Just pair with some greek yogurt on the side, a few crunchy veggies and make your kids promise not to trade!

Related: 8 school lunch hacks for picky eaters: We know them, we love them, we feed them

Non-sandwich school lunch ideas: Taco Bento Box at Sweet Peas and SaffronTaco Tuesday Bento Box

Taco Tuesday can live on at school too, with this Taco Bento Box, another creative non-sandwich lunch idea from Sweet Peas and Saffron. Pack up your dinner leftovers, or just open up some cans from your pantry and deck your kids out with everything they need to make their own taco salad or homemade nachos. I loooove that her recipe is no-cook to save busy parents a little time.

Be sure to read her substitution ideas if you’ve got selective eaters. And you want to add some protein, you can pack cold shredded chicken that you might have leftover in the fridge; or warm it up any leftover ground beef and pack it in a small insulated food jars to keep it warm.

For more bento ideas, see Kate’s clever post on packing lunch for four kids, featuring 6 of her kids’ favorite bento style lunches, from chicken nuggets to deconstructed salads for the older kids.

Non-sandwich school lunch ideas: Sandwich on a stick at Two Peas and their PodSandwiches on a Stick

If your kid loves sandwiches but you want a fun way to change it up, how much do we love this Sandwiches-on-a-Stick idea from Two Peas and their Pod! It’s so easy to make, and they have the added bonus of letting you make multiple variations for multiple kids with different tastes — without feeling like a short order cook.

Just add the extra cherry tomatoes for your tomato-loving kids, or double the cubes of cheese and fresh cut slices of ham, salami or turkey for your kid who needs more protein. She’s got four variations on her site to get you started with some inspiration.

Bonus: This non-sandwich school lunch idea is also great for kids who like different foods but don’t like them “touching” because it’s easy to divide each ingredient with a small slice of bread so they can eat each one individually if they prefer.


Non-sandwich school lunch ideas: Lunchmeat and cheese rollups at Cool Mom EatsDIY Lunchables

If kids are sick of sandwiches but still love their lunch meat, we’ve got a whole post on 5 DIY Lunchable ideas whether your kids like the pizza ones, lunch meat with cheese and crackers, or hummus.

Kate has had success rolling up luncheon meats in a bento without bread — or you can even wrap cold cuts around a piece of string cheese — like we did in the DIY Cold Cuts Lunchable-Style Lunch Box idea (shown above) that Kate makes for her own four kids.

You can include nuts, fruit, veggies, chips, a granola bar, crackers…you name it. So easy and once you get in the hang of making them, this will give you weeks of non-sandwich lunch box ideas.

Easy one-bowl microwave mac and cheese recipe from Erica Christensen for The KitchnMac n Cheese — The Easy Way

Of course, a Thermos Funtainer or other insulated container is a parent’s best friend when it comes to non-sandwich lunch ideas. Especially if it’s a hot lunch you’re after, and protein-packed mac and cheese is a favorite with our kids. While there’s always the boxed stuff (no complaints, we love it!)  it’s so asy to make your Mac homemade with a recipe like Emma Christensen’s recipe for One-Bowl Microwave Mac & Cheese that she shared on The Kitchn.

Her instructions are crazy easy, and we love that it yields enough for one or two servings at a time that you pack it right into that Thermos. She even has some fantastic add-in ideas, if you want to add some veggies or meat to yours.

Related: The best way to clean your kids’ lunch boxes and bentos in cold, flu, and Covid season: It’s easier than you think.

Non-sandwich school lunch ideas: Pizza Toast at The Baker MamaMini Pizza Toasts

When I say this Pizza Toast school lunch idea from The Baker Mama is brilliant, I’m not exaggerating.  Especially since you can prep these the night before, then heat up the slices for each kid all at once in the oven in the morning before packing. Wrap in foil, and you’ve got a clever way to use bread that’s not a sandwich! (Also, come on..tell me their friends will not be totally jealous.) Visit Maegan’s site for really simple instructions.


Gluten-free banana oatmeal protein pancakes from the Wholesome Fork: A clever non-sandwich lunch box idea for school. (Yes, lunch!)Breakfast for Lunch

Our kids love unexpected meals, and we’re all flipping out these Banana Oatmeal Protein Pancakes from The Wholesome Fork as a creative non-sandwich idea for our kids’ lunches. It’s not just a smart gluten-free lunch meal that will thrill your kids, it’s so easy–just three ingredients plus a sprinkling of cinnamon. But check the comments on her site for some terrific variations from her readers.

Our tip: Skip the messy syrup in a lunch box and instead fill a tiny reusable condiment container with some peanut butter or SunButter, a bit of Nutella, their favorite jam, or even cream cheese as alternative pancake dip ideas that won’t leave a sticky mess in their lunch boxes.

Related: How I pack school lunches for the whole week in under 30-minutes — and keep them fresh too.

Non-sandwich school lunch ideas: PB&J Tacos at Homemade InterstPB&J “Tacos”

Okay, so these these PB&J Tacos at Homemade Interest are kiiiiind of a sandwich — but not really. And wow, how fun is this idea! There are so many variations on the ingredients to try, ike drizzled honey and banana slices with the nut butter (or SuBbutter of course), cream cheese with fresh strawberry slices, or even hummus and red pepper slices. If your kids just can’t get through lunch without their bread, at least it’s a fun, surprising way to serve it in their lunch boxes!