Web Only ArticleJuly 16, 2015

Let's Do Lunch:
12 Best Gluten-Free Lunch Recipes

Your midday meal can be quick, creative, and delicious—and gluten-free and allergy-sensitive, too. Our archive of recipes includes the following 12, ranked by our readers as their favorites.

We always hear that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” And dinner? We still like to make it a special event as often as we can, even in these changing times. But what about lunch?

We often grab our mid-day meal while on the go, or we wolf it down at our desk as a working lunch—not ideal, but it's the way life is in the time-crunched 21st century. For those of us on a gluten-free or allergy-sensitive diet, it's even tougher, because lunch takes planning and preparation. But ultimately, a "DIY" lunch prepared in your own safe kitchen is a great way to go, whether you have time to eat it at home or pack it for tomorrow's lunch on the run.

As always, it helps to have creative ideas in preparing your lunch. Here, we present our 12 best gluten-free lunch recipes, ranked per reader feedback. Over the course of a couple of weeks, you can give ’em all a shot.

Gluten-Free Blackened Chicken Tacos

No. 12: Mary Capone's light and lively Gluten-Free Blackened Chicken Taco.

12. Gluten-Free Blackened Chicken Tacos

Author Mary Capone serves up a light and tasty lunch (or dinner) recipe that will appeal to adults as well as kids. As the centerpiece, she uses chicken breasts lightly buttered in potato starch, lime juice, and roast spices, and wraps them in gluten-free corn tortillas in a shell. Not only is it delicious, but it’s a healthy meal: only 171 calories per serving. (See photo above.) Click here for Capone's instructions.

 Gluten-Free Pizza Pasta Salad

No 11: Creative and quick Gluten-Free Pizza Pasta Salad.

11. Gluten-Free Pizza Pasta Salad:

Here’s a creative dish you can whip up in no time, one that you’ll likely come back to again and again. Created by Sueson Vess, this unique salad calls for a half-pound of the gluten-free pasta of your choice. You’ll augment it with a host of appetizing ingredients: tomatoes, red onion, mushrooms, peppers, olives, and, if you like, gluten-free sausage or pepperoni. Calorie count per serving: 302. Find the directions here.

Gluten-Free "Fried" Drumsticks

No. 10: They look fried, but these Gluten-Free Drumsticks actually aren't.

10. Gluten-Free “Fried” Drumsticks

Note that the word “fried” is in quotes above. That’s because these drumsticks aren’t actually fried. Author Lisa Lewis, PhD, uses gluten-free cracker crumbs or (if tolerated) ground nuts in combination with various spices to create the effect of fried chicken. These drumsticks are low in fat, too; the recipe calls for removal of the skin before cooking. The result is a healthy dish that both adults and kids will enjoy. Click here for more.

9. Gluten-Free Party Chicken Nuggets:

The chicken just keeps on comin’…. In this case, it’s Chicken Nuggets, another appealing choice for “children of all ages,” as author Sara Pluta notes. Like the previous entry (see above), these nuggets aren’t fried but look like it, thanks to the good ’ol “shake and bake” method. And the special ingredients—from yogurt (or non-dairy yogurt) to cornmeal to garlic salt and onion powder—make them a tasty treat. Click here for details.

Dairy-Free Super Mac and Cheese

No. 8: A nutritious Dairy-Free Super Macaroni and Cheese.

8. Dairy-Free Super Macaroni and Cheese

A mac-and-cheese lunch prepared with this gluten-free recipe is a “powerfully nutritious version of America’s favorite comfort food,” as author Christine Doherty notes. Paprika, cumin, and yellow mustard combine to give this dish a unique taste—and it’s only 243 calories per serving. Find the recipe here.

Gluten-Free Apricot Chicken Wings

No. 7: Gluten-Free Apricot Chicken Wings.

7. Gluten-Free Apricot Chicken Wings:

Sueson Vess’s Gluten-Free Apricot Chicken Wings are real “crowd-pleasers,” she says, and they're "ideal for watching the big game.” Her inventive recipe, featured in (and on the cover of) Vess’s book Simple, Delicious Solutions for Gluten-Free & Dairy Free Cooking, serves 6 to 10 people, enough for that small party. Click here for the details.

6. Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chili Mac and Cheese

This recipe is fun, flavorful, and fast. As Food Editor Beth Hillson notes, the idea of making macaroni and cheese from scratch was daunting ("Let's just say it seemed like a lot of work," she said in our February/March 2011 issue ). But she finally “gave into the craving and headed to the kitchen to develop a gluten-free, dairy-free version of this universal favorite.”

Gluten-Free Summer Chicken Pasta Salad

No. 5: Easy does it... Gluten-Free Summer Chicken Pasta Salad.

Start to finish? It’s just 25 minutes. The result? As Hillson tells us, it’s a “wonderfully grown-up version of mac and cheese that speaks comfort. It’s so delicious and easy to make, I wonder why I waited so long.” Click here to give it a try.

5. Gluten-Free Summer Chicken Pasta Salad:

If you like your lunches easy to prepare, high in protein, and satisfying to taste, take a crack at this Chicken Pasta Salad recipe. Besides the ingredients evident in the title, there are green beans, carrots, tomatoes, and various spices. The recipe serves six, with each serving accounting for 355 calories. Find the instructions here.

Gluten-Free Specialty Pizza

No. 4: Crispy-crust Gluten-Free Specialty Pizza.

4. Gluten-Free Specialty Pizza:

Do you not get enough pizza because of gluten? Here’s a recipe that'll encourage you to make it a regular creation in your kitchen. Our recipe gives you a “crispy pizza crust that tastes so delicious that your family and guests will never guess that it’s wheat- and gluten-free.” Try it out by clicking here.

Gluten-Free Barbecue Chicken Wings

No. 3: Gluten-Free Barbecue Chicken Wings.

3. Gluten-Free Tangy Barbecue Chicken Wings

An all-purpose dish, chicken wings work for parties, dinner appetizers, snacks… and lunch. This recipe makes enough Tangy Barbecue Chicken Wings for 16 to 24 people; check it out here.

Author Beth Hillson, GFM’s longtime food editor, also links you to an alternate recipe for Gluten-Free Teriyaki Chicken Wings. Click here for that one.

Gluten-Free Coconut Chicken Tenders by Rachel Albert-Matesz

No. 2, Version 1: Here's Rachel Albert-Matesz's Gluten-Free Coconut Chicken Tenders...

Gluten-Free Coconut Chicken Tenders by Rebecca Reilly

No. 2, Version 2: ... and here's an alternate version by Rebecca Reilly.

2. Gluten-Free Coconut Chicken Tenders (Version 1 and Version 2): 

Fittingly, we’ve got two similar recipes holding down the No. 2 slot. The first comes from author Rachel Albert-Matesz.

“Most recipes for pan-fried or oven-fried chicken call for dipping chicken pieces in beaten egg and then in flour before frying,” Albert-Matesz says. “In this egg-free rendition, coconut flour and cornstarch batter stand in for the eggs and flaked coconut stands in for the flour.” Her recipe gives you tenders that are perfect when served with a green salad, potatoes, or soup. Click here for instructions.

Author Rebecca Reilly also checks in with a popular Gluten-Free Coconut Chicken Tenders recipe. In fact, if you don’t like coconut, she notes, you can “replace the coconut flour with rice flour and the shredded coconut with gluten-free breadcrumbs.” Access Reilly’s recipe here.

1.Gluten-Free Asian Pasta Salad

One recipe feature… enough recipes for a full week! Pick up your favorite brand of gluten-free pasta and then get going on one of the dishes that author Sueson Vess suggests here: an Asian Pasta Salad or a Gazpacho Pasta Salad, for example—or a Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad or a Mexican Pasta Salad. She also gives you directions for Pizza Pasta Salad, Indian Pasta Salad, and Asparagus Pasta Salad. Find each recipe here.

Gluten-Free Asian Pasta Salad

And our No. 1 gluten-free lunch recipe... Asian Pasta Salad, as concocted by Sueson Vess.

Compiled by Larry Canale. Original recipe authors cited above.

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