When your days are packed with meetings, workouts, appointments, work, and a social life, sometimes the only time to eat is when you’re on the go. Which is why we’re big fans of portable snacks and meals here at Greatist.
So we went on a mission to find as many recipes as possible that we could eat with our hands. After all, pretty as that mason jar salad may be, we’ve forgotten to also pack a fork a few too many times (oops). These dishes reimagine favorites into breads, pies, and even muffins, so you can forget about utensils—just bring a napkin (because you still want to look civil when eating with your hands).
There’s nothing more delicious than a pile of chicken wings. There’s also nothing messier. These little pies wrap up all that tangy, spicy flavor into a portable package. Cooking bone-in chicken thighs might take a little more time, but the meat stays extra moist. You can also use any leftover chicken you have for faster cooking. Though the recipe calls for frying, baking works just as well, takes a lot less effort, and means less greasy hands.
Tired of the same boring breakfast burrito? Switch things up by making a batch of empanadas. Bacon and eggs bring classic morning flavors, sweet potato packs in some vitamin A to support the immune system, and spinach offers up vitamin K for healthy bones. Portable, healthy, and delicious—these might be one of the best ways to start the day.
For days when you’re on your feet nonstop, soup isn’t exactly the best choice. Who can spoon pasta e fagioli into their mouth while walking? (Not us.) This recipe wraps up a classic in some pastry to make it handheld. Filled with mushrooms and broccoli, these savory pies offer a good dose of fiber that makes them super satisfying. A little bit of cheese takes these over the top. Though you’ll still want a napkin handy.
On cold days, or days when the AC is cranked a little too high, this meaty meal is just the thing. A hearty stew gets the to-go treatment when it’s packaged in some puff pastry. Making the stew, letting it cooling, and assembling the pies takes a bit of time, so it’s the perfect project for a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s also the perfect opportunity to find something else to do with the rest of that beer…
A seriously hectic day demands a heartier lunch than anything that can be scrounged up from around the office. Be prepared for whatever the day brings by whipping up a batch of these pies. The best part? This recipe uses up leftovers that are already lying around the house. Pop a few pies into a zip-top bag, and they’ll be ready to eat whenever the craziness lets up for a few minutes.
Meat pies might be U.K. fare, but these fiery empanadas showcase some seriously delicious Mexican flavors. Simply sauté a mixture of sweet potato, vegetarian chorizo, and spices until everything is tender. Let the mixture cool, wrap it up is some pie crust, and send it on a quick trip to the oven. A batch makes at least eight, so meals for the rest of the week are taken care of.
Most recipes for pies leave those on a Paleo or gluten-free diet in the dust. Not these flaky beauties. The crust comes together in just a few minutes from a mixture of almond flour, arrowroot flour, coconut oil, and eggs. A hearty beef filling means these pies will be packed with plenty of protein and iron. It doesn’t hurt that they’re delicious, either.
Spanakopita is available at just about every Greek diner, but a packed schedule rarely allows an opportunity to sit down to this comforting classic. Fortunately, these pies loaded with spinach and cheese are perfectly portable. Wilt the greens with garlic and onion, mix in cheese, and load into puff pastry. The finished pies are deliciously gooey.
Eating seafood on the go usually means a pouch of stinky tuna haphazardly scooped with a fork. We think these shrimp pies are a much tastier and easier way to go. Loaded with spices, garlic, and tomato, these little pies pack a ton of flavor. Shrimp are a good source of protein and B vitamins to help you stay energized all day. And no need to eat a handful of breath mints afterward!
Grabbing a fast breakfast is easy enough, but it’s usually a sugary muffin or croissant that can lead to a growling stomach in just a few hours. Filled with eggs, spinach, potatoes, and a bit of cheese, this tasty pie is like a frittata in an edible wrapper. Need more reason to make eggs a part of your morning meal? The breakfast staple may help reduce the risk of diabetesEgg consumption and risk of incident type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Virtanen JK, Mursu J, Tuomainen TP. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2015, Apr. 1. .
Breads, Rolls, and Pockets
Spinach salads are a pretty typical lunch, and they’re totally delicious. Unfortunately, they’re not always substantial enough to quell hunger for more than about an hour. When a busy day demands your full attention, this bread with greens, onions, and a little cheese is definitely in order. Replacing the usual butter with olive oil offers up a unique taste that’s perfect with the salty cheese, and it provides a good amount of monounsaturated fat to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Any barbecue junkie knows a good sandwich practically requires a beach towel to stay clean, so these calzones are a complete life-saver for busy days when grazing (and getting messy) simply won’t do. Just toss some cooked chicken with a mix of cheese, barbecue sauce, and caramelized onions for a really flavorful filling. No time to make the dough? Stop by a pizza place on the way home and pick up some of theirs.
A sloppy joe makes for a really satisfying meal. Unfortunately, those packaged sauces are so loaded with sugar that they almost qualify as candy. Making it at home is a lot healthier and more flavorful. This version gets bonus points for being completely vegetarian with soy crumbles instead of beef. No veggie sandwich from the local deli can compete.
Pizza might seem like a good on-the-go meal, but skipping a plate and napkins usually means ending up with sauce stains on your clothes. This quick bread offers all the taste of a slice of pie minus the greasy mess. Pepperoni is classic, but you can up the nutritional value by adding in some bell peppers, mushrooms, or broccoli.
If you think all morning rolls have to be smothered in cinnamon sugar, frosting, or caramel, think again. This recipe takes the breakfast classic to the savory side of things with some ham, broccoli, and cheese. But breakfast shouldn’t get to have all the fun; these are perfect any time of day.
It seems like banana and pumpkin always win the quick bread popularity contest, which is a real shame. We think savory versions deserve some time in the spotlight, and this ham and cheese one is a great place to start. Just mix up the dry ingredients, add in the wet, then stir in the ham and cheese. It’ll take close to an hour to bake, so feel free to catch up on a few episodes of The Mindy Project while the house fills with heavenly smells.
For a super sophisticated way to use canned tuna, try out these calzones. They’re loaded with the fish to get a good amount of protein and B vitamins, plus tomatoes add a dose of lycopene. Simmer up a quick tomato sauce, stir in the tuna, olives, and some cheese. Load the mixture into some pizza dough, and all these beauties need is a quick trip to the oven before they’re golden and delicious. When canned fish can be this fancy, you might never make another boring tuna salad sandwich again.
The call of Mexican fast food is pretty hard to resist when a packed schedule means minimal time to grab something to eat. That stuff can be loaded with all kinds of preservatives, though. For a satisfying meal with the same Tex-Mex flair, these portable pockets offer plenty of protein and iron without all of the scary ingredients. Don’t forget to add the avocado.
When a busy day means hitting the road extra early, breakfast is all but forgotten. A slice of this sweet and savory loaf is perfect for those days, and it works just as well in the morning as it does in the evening. It’s so packed with eggs and sausage that just one slice is sure to keep hunger at bay for hours. Browning butter is an extra step that isn’t necessary, but it tastes kind of like a savory version of caramel. That’s bound to make any meal pretty great.
Carrot cake isn’t the only veggie option for pastry lovers. This cauliflower concoction completely transforms cake into something savory that’s nutritious enough to eat as a meal thanks to a whole head of the vitamin C-rich veg, loads of protein-packed eggs, and just a bit of flour to hold the whole thing together. It’s easy to eat on the go, but we like it even when there’s enough time to sit down and enjoy lunch at the office. It’ll make any day worth celebrating, no candles required.
Zucchini bread usually tastes like banana bread minus the banana: sweet and moist, and also kind of forgettable. Instead of trying to mask the flavor of the squash, try a savory version spiked with black pepper and feta. One bite of this quick bread will convince you that squash-flavored bread is definitely a good thing.
When an unpredictable day means arriving home too late to cook a meal, a stash of this salty cake makes the perfect last-minute meal. It’s portable enough for noshing on the train, while running the streets, or immediately after stepping through the door. Think of it as the best way to marry all of your favorite tapas flavors: pistachios, chorizo, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Not everyone has a sweet tooth. Some people have a salt tooth, and this delicious bread is for them. This loaf is loaded with spinach, olives, roasted peppers, and Parmesan cheese for a seriously savory treat. There might not be enough hours in the day to go out to an Italian deli to enjoy lunch, but this all-in-one meal makes getting that salty fix a possibility any day
French toast sticks from the drive-through aren’t the only way to make that breakfast favorite portable. This recipe wraps cooked bacon with a slice of bread before dunking in an egg and milk batter. A couple of minutes in a sauté pan are all these rolls need before they’re ready to jet out the door. Breakfast just got a lot more fun.
Patties and Cakes
Takeout Thai food makes a tasty meal when you’re in a hurry, but trying to slurp noodles while powering down the sidewalk isn’t very practical. Whipping up a batch of these turkey patties is just the thing to satisfy a craving for something a little bit exotic during a crazy week. Think of these as a seriously enlivened meatloaf.
Morph quinoa into an easy-to-eat meal with these patties flecked with broccoli. Simply combine cooked quinoa with some steamed broccoli, a few eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, and herbs. Form the mixture into patties and fry them up in just a few minutes. With protein, fiber, and vitamin C, these patties will make running from place to place a breeze.
Making risotto is definitely a time commitment. But cooking the creamy treat ahead of time and turning it into patties makes it into a handheld lunch or dinner for busy weekdays. Fontina makes these cakes deliciously cheesy and chives add just enough freshness. Who says brown-bagging is boring?
When unpredictable schedules mean arriving home at 10 p.m. is just as likely as 6 p.m., recipes like these falafel patties are perfect. They’re great as a topper for a salad or sandwich but just as good eaten right out of hand on the way to work. Loaded with ingredients like kale, broccoli, farro, and lentils, they’re just about as healthy as it gets. Plus lentils may help reduce the risk of heart disease Lentil-based diets attenuate hypertension and large-artery remodelling in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Hanson MG, Zahradka P, Taylor CG. The British journal of nutrition, 2013, Sep.;111(4):1475-2662..
Crazy schedules usually mean the only way to enjoy seafood is in stick form, with loads of ketchup. These patties offer a delicious, and way more nutritious, alternative. It also means you won’t end up smelling like a deep-fryer after enjoying lunch!
A twice-baked potato with bacon is pure comfort food that always tastes great. This dish captures the same flavors, but transforms the knife-and-fork classic into a portable meal. Swapping regular spuds for sweet potatoes adds even more flavor and boosts the fiber and vitamin A. Save extras for easy meals all week, or top with poached eggs for an elegant brunch.
These clever muffins make the cheesy favorite practical for any frantic day. Whole-wheat pasta offers way more nutrients than the white kind, and spinach provides vitamin K to keep bones healthy. The muffins cook for 10 to 15 minutes, which gives just enough time to sneak in a few sun salutations or maybe buy that cute dress you saw online before heading out the door.
Turn a standard Caprese salad into a mobile meal with these clever muffins. Cook up some quinoa and then stir it together with eggs, tomatoes, and cheese. Divide the mixture into muffin cups and bake. With more protein and fiber than the usual veggie and cheese combo, these might become your new regular.
Think muffins are just for breakfast? Not when they get a savory addition of tuna salad. These baked goods get all the flavor of the classic sandwich for a lot less mess. We recommend keeping extras in the freezer for fast meals any time.
For those who can’t decide between sweet and savory in the morning, these French toast cups (yes, French toast you can eat with your hands!) are the perfect solution. Battered whole-wheat bread makes a perfect crust for sweet apples and salty sausage. Not a fan of sausage? Swap in diced ham or smoked turkey instead.
Take kale out of the salad bowl and introduce it to your muffin tin to turn this powerful green into a travel-friendly meal. Chop up the kale in a food processor and then mix with some cheese, eggs, and a few seasonings before sending everything to the oven. All of those antioxidants and vitamins make these a super smart choice for busy days. Bonus: No need to massage leafy greens!
It’s easy enough to make oatmeal in a snap, but trying to eat it during your commute is a challenge no one needs first thing in the a.m. These stick-to-your-ribs goodies make the creamy porridge into a transportable breakfast that’s good warm or cold. Any of your favorite oatmeal toppings can go right into the mix.
Make these for south-of-the-border taste with lots of satisfying protein, filling fiber, and bone-strengthening calcium. The recipe is really simple and freezes well, so you can always have a stash of meals for hectic days. They’re so good you may forget about Taco Tuesday.
Eating lasagna without silverware sounds like a recipe for disaster, unless it’s made in a muffin tin. These adorable mini-meals make the Italian classic practical for any weekday. Layering the pasta with sauce, veggies, and cheese might be a little bit of a project, but it goes really fast if you blast a little bit of Maroon 5 while you work.
Some days it’s too much hassle to pack a granola and yogurt parfait, remember a spoon, and then have to clean your dirty dishes at the office. These adorable, portable treats feature an oat, applesauce, honey, and coconut crust that packs tons of great crunch. Topping with Greek yogurt and fresh fruit means this morning meal will be sweet, creamy, and full of protein and vitamins.
Mom might have made meatloaf back in the day, but it definitely wasn’t as adorable as these miniature versions. Ground turkey is a great, lean protein and adding zucchini to the mix keeps the muffins moist. Swapping out traditional breadcrumbs for oats means these mini meals will have even more staying power. Leave off the ketchup topping for less mess.
Let’s be honest, muffins are usually just an excuse to eat cake for breakfast. We’re all for a treat now and again, but there are other options that won’t leave your belly growling in a few hours. These baked goods take a savory turn with spinach and black pepper. New to amaranth? It’s a seed (not a grain!), that’s filled with protein, calcium, and iron. Eat up!
For a really fun way to transform breakfast, these egg cups can’t be beat. They’re also about as simple as it gets. Simply line a muffin tin with ham (smoked turkey is also delicious), fill each cup with an egg, and toss them in the oven. With two ingredients (plus whatever you want to add), we’re in love!