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3 Easy School Lunch Ideas for Kids and Parents to Enjoy: Chicken Cutlets, 5 Sauces, and 2 Salads

Bologna sandwiches may be the go-to option for a quick and easy school lunch, but there are plenty of other options that both kids and parents can enjoy. These three recipes for chicken cutlets, pasta salad, and chicken salad can be prepared in just about 30 minutes and are packed with delicious flavors.

Start with thin breaded chicken cutlets that can be fried up in minutes. These cutlets are perfect for sandwiches or can be served with any of the five easy dipping sauces provided. To elevate the flavor, mix your choice of spice blend into the breading before coating the chicken. Recommended spice blends include chili powder, curry powder, harissa spice blend, or shichimi togarashi.

For a creamy-rich pasta salad with a twist, take inspiration from Mexican esquites. Simmer the corn cobs in the water that will be used to cook the pasta to infuse it with a sweet and grassy flavor. Meanwhile, char the corn kernels and toss them with brine from pickled jalapeños, cilantro, Mexican crema, and salty cotija. If fresh corn is not available, you can use thawed and patted dry frozen kernels.

To make a flavorful chicken salad, add white miso to the dressing for a savory kick. Grated ginger adds brightness, while sliced cucumber and fresh herbs provide a burst of freshness. Slivered almonds contribute a satisfying crunch. Rather than poaching the chicken, simplify the recipe by using shredded meat from a rotisserie chicken.

With these three easy school lunch ideas, you can create delicious and satisfying meals for both kids and parents. Whether it’s crispy chicken cutlets, flavorful sauces, or refreshing salads, these recipes are sure to please everyone.

Crisp-breaded chicken cutlets

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6


  • 2 large eggs
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder OR curry powder OR harissa spice blend OR shichimi togarashi
  • Six 4-ounce chicken cutlets (about ¼ inch thick)
  • ½ cup neutral oil, divided


  1. Beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon salt. Place the flour in a second bowl and the panko in a third; stir 1 teaspoon salt into each, then stir the chili powder into the panko. One at a time, coat the cutlets on both sides with flour, dip into the eggs, then coat both sides with panko, pressing to adhere. In a large nonstick skillet, heat ¼ cup of oil until shimmering. Add 3 cutlets and brown on both sides, then transfer to a wire rack. Add the remaining ¼ cup oil and cook the remaining cutlets in the same way.

Dipping sauces:

Tangy Soy-Sesame Sauce

In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar, and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. Makes ¾ cup.

Yogurt-Chutney Sauce

In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt, 3 tablespoons mango chutney, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Makes 1¼ cups.

Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt, 2 tablespoons tahini, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Makes 1 cup.

Sour Cream and Lime Sauce

In a small bowl, stir together 1 cup sour cream, the grated zest and juice of 1 lime, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Makes 1 cup.

Sriracha-Mayo Sauce

In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons Sriracha, ⅓ cup mayonnaise, and ⅓ cup ketchup. Makes ¾ cup.

Pasta salad with charred corn and cilantro

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4 to 6


  • 5 cups fresh corn kernels from about 5 ears of corn, cobs reserved
  • 8 ounces ditalini OR penne OR elbow macaroni
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • ½ cup Mexican crema OR ½ cup sour cream whisked with 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 ounces cotija cheese, finely grated
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ cup pickled jalapeños, chopped, plus 3 tablespoons brine


  1. In a large pot, combine 4 quarts water and the corn cobs. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, then remove and discard the cobs. Stir in the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until fully tender. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool to the touch. Drain again, shaking the colander to remove as much water as possible; set aside.
  2. In a 12-inch skillet over high heat, heat the oil until barely smoking. Add the corn in an even layer and cook without stirring for about 3 minutes, allowing the kernels to char. Stir once, then cook without stirring until most of the kernels are fully charred, about 2 minutes. Set aside off heat.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the crema, half of the cotija, the cilantro, pickled jalapeños and their brine, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Stir in the corn and pasta, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining cotija.

Miso-ginger chicken salad

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4


  • ⅓ cup white miso
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ⅔ cup slivered almonds, toasted, divided
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
  • ½ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 6 medium scallions, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • ½ English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced


  1. In a blender, combine ⅓ cup water, miso, ginger, ⅓ cup of the almonds, lime juice, mustard, honey, and ½ teaspoon white pepper. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the oil and blend until thick, about 1 minute. Transfer to a jar, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, scallions, cilantro, cucumber, and remaining ⅓ cup almonds. Add 1 cup of the dressing and toss. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.

These three easy school lunch ideas will make both kids and parents happy. Whether you choose the crispy chicken cutlets with a variety of dipping sauces, the pasta salad with charred corn and cilantro, or the miso-ginger chicken salad, you can’t go wrong. Enjoy these delicious and satisfying meals!

Unique perspective: Finding creative and nutritious lunch ideas for kids can be a challenge for parents. These three recipes provide easy-to-make options that are both delicious and satisfying. By incorporating flavors from different cuisines, such as Mexican and Asian, these meals are sure to excite young taste buds. Parents will also enjoy the convenience of these recipes, as they can be prepared in just about 30 minutes. With these school lunch ideas, both kids and parents can look forward to lunchtime!

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