Vegan Lunch Box Treats

   Who says a vegan diet can’t be delicious and fun? Try these suggestions for your child’s lunch box – and be sure to make enough for the whole family.

Mini Veggie BurgersMini Veggie Burgers

   These homemade bean burgers are small enough that two or three can fit into your lunch box. Serve them with lettuce, tomato, and all the fixin’s.

   This recipe features my very favorite grain: amaranth. Amaranth is a tiny, gluten-free grain that is rich in protein and has twice as much iron as wheat. I love its flavor and sticky texture.

Makes 12 to 13 mini burgers

2 cups cooked drained lentils (see cooking instructions below or use canned)

1/2 cup dry amaranth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup onion, finely diced (about half a medium onion)

1 large carrot, peeled and grated

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

1/2 cup quick or instant oats (or old-fashioned oats pulsed in a food processor)

2 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds

  • To cook the lentils, add 1 cup dry lentils to 3 cups boiling water and cook until the lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Drain, measure out 2 cups of lentils and place them in a large mixing bowl (save any extra lentils for another use).
  • To cook the amaranth, add the amaranth to 1 cup boiling water. Lower the heat and cover until the amaranth is cooked and all the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Add the cooked amaranth to the mixing bowl.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion, carrot, and celery seeds until the carrot is soft, about 8 minutes. Add to the mixing bowl along with the oats, ketchup, nutritional yeast flakes, and salt.
  • Grind the sunflower seeds into a coarse meal using a food processor. Add them to the mixing bowl and mix and mash everything together. Form mixture into 12 to 13 small patties, about 2 3/4 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick, and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Moisten your fingers with a bit of water to keep the mixture from sticking as you work.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until dry on the top, then flip the patties over and bake for another 10 minutes, until firm and brown.
  • Serve immediately or let cool completely before packing. (Mini Veggie Burgers also freeze well.)

Allergen Information

Gluten-free (if using certified gluten-free oats), wheat-free, soy-free, nut-free.

Grilled Vegetable Stromboli

Grilled Vegetable Stromboli

   Typically, this Italian rolled sandwich is made with a filling of cheese and meat, but I like a filling of grilled eggplant and zucchini instead. Next time you pull out the grill for a vegan BBQ, throw on a few extra veggies and save them for Stromboli.

Makes 4 servings

1 large eggplant

2 medium zucchini

Kosher salt as needed

Olive oil for grilling

1 1/8 cups warm water (110°F)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

Pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour or white bread flour

1 head of roasted garlic

Italian herb seasoning mix, to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

  • To make the vegetables, trim off the tops of the eggplant and zucchini, then slice them lengthwise into strips, cutting them as thinly as possible (a mandolin may be helpful here). Lay the strips out in a single layer and sprinkle both sides of them with salt. Let the strips sit for 30 minutes (this will help remove some of the moisture from the vegetables).
  • Heat a nonstick grill or grill pan. Pat the vegetables dry and brush them lightly with olive oil. Grill, turning halfway, until the strips are soft and have brown grill marks. Set the vegetable strips aside to cool, or refrigerate until needed.
  • To make the dough, place the warm water in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar into the warm water and stir well. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to dissolve the yeast.
  • Add the olive oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. When the dough begins to form a ball, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead. As you knead, add just enough of the remaining flour to keep the dough from sticking. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic, and supple.
  • Place the dough in a well-oiled mixing bowl, turning to cover the top of the dough with some of the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray with nonstick spray, and set aside.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a flat rectangle, about 10 by 12 inches.
  • Squeeze all the roast garlic out into a small bowl and mash together with a fork. Spread the mashed garlic across the surface of the dough and top with one or two layers of grilled vegetables. Sprinkle with the Italian herbs, salt, and pepper.
  • Roll up the bread (like rolling up a cinnamon roll) to form a long narrow loaf, pinching the seam and ends closed. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the top of the loaf with a little water and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  • Bake 30 minutes, until the loaf is nicely browned. Allow to cool before slicing.

Variation: Feel free to substitute other grilled vegetables, such as bell peppers strips, onions, or thin slices of Portobello mushrooms, for the eggplant and zucchini. Just make sure that all vegetables are sliced thinly and grilled well. If your filling is too thick or too wet, you’ll have a soggy Stromboli on your hands.

Quick and Easy Variation 1: Use prepackaged pizza or bread dough from the store.

Quick and Easy Variation 2: Substitute vegan turkey or ham deli slices and slices of vegan cheese for the grilled vegetables and roasted garlic.

Allergen Information

Soy-free, nut-free. Contains gluten and wheat.

Vegan Lunch Box Around the World

From the book Vegan Lunch Box Around the World, by Jennifer McCann. Excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong (, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2009