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Vegan Hot Lunches–What to Put in a Thermos

Vegan hot lunch thermos

I am married to a hard-working man! He works outside all year around, and so when Fall and Winter come, we have to be creative to give him something warm for lunch. Nobody wants to eat a cold lunch on a cold day! Thankfully we have figured out a few ways that work very well to provide a nice hot lunch to warm up my hard-working man!

It all starts with a thermos!

THERMOS Stainless King Vacuum-Insulated Food Jar with Spoon, 16 Ounce, Matte Steel“>Thermos

Yeah, thermoses are old school. That’s ok. Some things last because they work

Back in the day…

I remember my old lunchbox and thermos! I loved that set! I carried around my Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox daily, and lunchtime was so fun!

What I don’t remember is actually using that red and white thermos much! Not regularly. Maybe we tried it a couple of times, but I remember it being kind of messy. And not so hot. I was in first grade, though, so at that time PB&J was more interesting by far than soup!


I get the idea that lunchbox thermoses weren’t quite as good as working men thermos bottles.

The new Thermos—it’s actually the old Thermos!

Nowadays, they have perfected the Thermos containers for style, and they work to keep foods hot for hours!  Piping hot!  But it’s still essentially the same original thermos design!
Vintage thermos

The old Thermos bottles really did work, because they were designed for outdoor working men, just like my husband!

A little bit about Thermoses

If you’re kinda nerdy like me and like to learn about the history of things, you might find this article on the history of vacuum flasks, or thermoses, interesting. Did you know that William Shackleton and the Wright Brothers took thermos bottles on their voyages? I’m pretty sure theirs were not like my Strawberry Shortcake bottle!

Just for fun, here’s a human interest story about a quirky thermos hoarder!

From the hoarder’s collection

Thermos Tips

There are a few keys to keep in mind when using a Thermos for your hot lunch.

First, you can put pretty much anything inside that you want to serve hot, so leftovers are great! I personally notice that wet ingredients stay hot for longer than non-wet foods. That’s why soups do so well in a Thermos!

Size Matters

Next–to get the best results (aka keeping your food hot), you must chose the appropriate size for your meal. You don’t want dead air space, because that will cool your food, and possibly risk spoilage.

We’ve decided that for us, the best lunchbox size is the size with the spoon attached to the lid! See the 16-oz size here This gives about 16 oz of entree, and, since my husband and teen boys take a couple of sandwiches too, that’s plenty! Plus, we really love the folding spoon! Sometimes little things make a big difference!

We have two of this 16-oz size, plus one, which you can purchase at Walmart, that’s slightly smaller. I find that the smaller, 10-oz Funtainer Thermos is pretty good, but I end up grabbing the 16-oz bottle more frequently for my husband. The 16-oz Thermos comes with the cup/lid, so that’s a plus. But in all honesty, when I pack two lunches, one with the Funtainer, and one with the 16-oz Thermos, the guys say they are both hot by lunchtime.

There are also some slightly larger lunchbox sizes if you need more volume, like 18 and 24 oz! Also, now they make some pretty neat Thermos bowl sets, made just for lunches.

You don’t have to stick to just Thermos brand! Stanley thermos containers are excellent, and are rated to keep food hot for 15 hours, and I believe it! We’ve sent hot tea in the very large (2 liter) Stanley thermos, and at the end of a cold day, 14 hours later, the tea was still hot! I saw some look-alike containers at Aldi, even with the spoon, but when I read the label, it said food would stay hot for up to 4 hours. That’s not good enough for me, so I skipped those. You can get that big Stanley thermos here at amazon

Preparing your Thermos for a Hot Lunch

ThermosA couple of simple tips can make a difference in how hot your food stays in your man’s lunch!

  1. Fill your Thermos with boiling water and close tightly 15 minutes before you plan to fill it with food
  2. When you’ve let the Thermos pre-heat for at least 15 mins, then you can pour out the water and fill with piping hot food! (I use a mason jar funnel to help with this!)
  3. Close up quickly, and the food will stay hot in the vacuum packed Thermos for hours!
  4. Note that you’re not supposed to leave food for longer than 24 hours or it could explode when opening, because of the vacuum seal. Thankfully, we’ve never experienced that!


Family picnic with thermos

  1. Beans or Lentils. Thin down beans with broth or water/diced tomatoes to make them soupy. Hearty Red Lentil Stew  sabbath soup
  2. Soup–any leftovers heat up easily to add to your thermos.Soup
  3. Tofu noodle soup. Add boiling water to thermos, add Copycat McKay’s Chicken Seasoning, cooked or small uncooked noodles–Ramen work well (they will cook by lunchtime) add cubed tofu, mushrooms, and veggies for a quick and delicious soup!!Tofu soup
  4. Mac and cheese. Vegan cheese + your favorite pasta!Vegan Cheese Sauce recipe
  5. Spaghetti and meatballs. Like this recipe 🍝Vegan spaghetti and meatballs
  6. Seasoned Rice & Beans or the base of Haystacks. See this post:  Let’s Make some Haystacks!! My husband happens to prefer soupy meals, so I’d have to serve this for myself.Rice and bean meal
  7. Rice and Plant Based Pesto.
  8. Potatoes and pesto or gravy Potato soup
  9. Oatmeal patties and gravy.Oat patties and gravy
  10. Refried beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms–so simple, but my husband loves it! You can open three cans in the morning and season as desired, and have this ready in a flash!
  11. Scrambled tofu and diced potatoes! See tofu recipe heretofu breakfast scramble


Apple dessert

Use your imagination if you’d like to try something warm for dessert!  I don’t usually get this creative for a weekday lunch!

  • Warm apple crisp
  • Warmed bake apples or applesauce. Send a bag of granola to top it off! 

The possibilities are endless!

Truly, the only thing limiting what you can put into your thermos for a hot vegan lunch is your imagination! If you can cook it, you can use a Thermos to keep it warm! I’ve even heard of people sending corn on the cob in a Thermos! If my guy had time to sit down and eat an ear of corn, I dare say he’d want it on a plate with vegan butter and the fixins! But, do what you like, and what sound good for lunch!

I hope this gives you some warm vegan ideas for lunch.

Why don’t you let me know what you like for lunch on a cold Winter’s day? Maybe your idea will inspire someone else!

Stay warm out there!!

22 Replies

  1. Interesting post. Thank you!
    I’m a thermos beginner, but I have to learn. My boy plays hockey, and sometimes their away game takes them on a long-ish road trip.
    The thing is they leave as early as 5am. If I undertand you correctly though is I should be able to prep the night before, and his food would still be warm at lunchtime? That would literally take a load off my shoulder.

    1. Well…some of the thermoses will keep food hot that long. I have not tried that long with food, only liquids. I’d be leery of leaving beans for that long in a thermos. But it would just take some trial and error.
      Make sure you fill to the top and try it.

  2. I wanted to pack lunches for my son in a Thermos but he was not interested! Now, my daughter isn’t interested… oh well… But those are great lunch ideas!

    I remember that Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox! Does that make me old?

  3. My mind is blown. I am going to get one of those thermos’ and start packing soups for when I hit the hiking trail! The red lentil stew recipe looks amazing! I’m also going to pass this along to my daughter – she packs both herself and her husband lunches so this will be beneficial for her as well. THANK YOU!

  4. I remember when I was in grade school my grandmothe would pack my lunch box. My thermos was always bagged with delicious homemade soup. Now Lia has her little lunch box and thermos. Thanks for memories!

  5. Nothing like a hot lentil soup! Such a good idea to pack some in a thermos on a day out or a hike. I’d need to get a bigger thermos lunchbox and try all these meal ideas!

  6. Those old school thermoses are so cool! Love the retro factor. I also love your old Strawberry shortcake lunch set! You’re right though, they did leak 😅
    These are some delicious vegan thermos lunch ideas. Thanks for sharing 🙌

  7. This is a great post heading into the cooler months. My kids want warm lunches like soups for school and putting them in a thermos is a great idea.

  8. This is a great post! I love the old thermoses!! Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party! I appreciate you sharing your goodies. Have a fabulous weekend and see you again on Sunday!

  9. I never knew about the hot water before using. We always used them for liquids but never thought of them for soups, etc. What a great idea. One of the challenges in school is cleaning the stuff up. I always preferred stuff that could be quickly cleaned up even when I was teaching as I didn’t always have access to a sink and depending on what you bring it can start to have an odor if not cleaned.

  10. Some old thermos bottles are valuable! Recipes look yummy! Thanks so much for linking up at the 25 and Done Link Party 3. Shared onto Fb, Pn, and Tw!

What is your experience? 💜 I read every comment, and so many times I find that I gain encouragement from what’s shared. ❤️