15 Hearty Homemade Sandwiches that Beat the Heck Out of Cafeteria Food

Give your teen something scrumptious to look forward to at lunchtime!

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 15 Hearty Homemade Sandwiches that Beat the Heck Out of Cafeteria Food 

Written by: Marybeth Bock

I remember when I was in school, the cafeteria food was awful! Pizza that tasted more like cardboard, tater tots that were only edible if you doused them with ketchup, and a host of other unidentifiable items that only the bravest kids had the courage to try.

Thankfully for our kids, it seems to have gotten at least somewhat better. Still, nothing really beats a great lunch from home

If your teen loves hearty, homemade sandwiches, we rounded up a handful that are easy to whip up, brimming with flavor and way better than anything they’ll find in the cafeteria line at school (and a whole lot less expensive, too!)

Before you get started, here are a few great tips to help make your sandwich-making easier!

TIP 1: Take Advantage of Dinner Leftovers

When you’re making dinner, plan ahead and cook a bit extra so you have ready-made ingredients on hand for school lunches. A chicken breast can be used to whip up a hearty chicken sandwich or leftover bacon could add a ton of flavor to an otherwise boring sandwich. 

Tip 2: Stock Up on Key Sandwich-Making Ingredients

Have a loaf of good bread, tortillas, pita pockets or bagels on standby in your freezer at all times. These can quickly be defrosted the night before or microwaved in the morning for sandwich assembly.  Mayonnaise, mustard and butter are great staples for sandwiches and all the extras like deli meat, cheese, lettuce and other veggies are great to have on hand so your teen can whip up a quick sandwich the night before.

Tip 3: Invest in a Quality Lunch Container

A good insulated container or bento box will keep your teen’s sandwich fresh so they’re not faced with warm mayonnaise or wilted lettuce when they dive into eat. There are all kinds and sizes of cooler bags and containers with separated compartments for every homemade lunch. Check out this leak-proof box on Amazon that holds up to 5 cups of food.

Tip 4: Make Sandwiches in Bulk

Making your teen’s sandwiches in bulk and freezing them means less time for you (or your teen) in the kitchen. You may not realize it, but several types of sandwiches freeze well including peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese and others. Bonus, the sandwiches act like an ice pack in your teen’s lunch but will thaw by the time lunch rolls around. Check out this clever method by Pinning Mama to make a week’s worth of sandwiches in twenty minutes!

Tip 5: Pack It Separately

Most of the sandwiches in our round-up will pack pretty well. But some sandwiches may have a tendency to get mushy when they’re packed for lunches. To prevent that from happening, you can pack chicken salad separately from the bread, for instance. Or, pack the sauce or condiments in a separate small container so your teen can add them to the sandwich right before they eat it.  

15 Hearty Homemade Sandwiches that Beat the Heck Out of Cafeteria Food


#1 Tuscan Turkey Sandwich

What really makes this delish sandwich a total stand out is the focaccia bread – an Italian flatbread you can find in most grocery stores. This yummy sandwich has sliced turkey with Provolone cheese, spinach, roasted red bell peppers, and a pesto sauce. Waaaayyy better than the cafeteria food, right!?

Check out the recipe at Cooking with Cocktail Rings HERE


#2 Crunchy Southwest Chicken Wrap

This crunchy wrap will have your teen thinking they’re eating at their favorite fast food restaurant! A cool hack to make prep easier is to purchase a store-bought rotisserie chicken. Add in your teen’s favorite taco accompaniments, including shredded cheese and lettuce, diced tomato, avocado, and green onions. A creamy, spicy sauce paired with crushed Fritos gives this wrap the perfect amount of crunch and salt.

Check out the recipe at Dinners, Dishes and Desserts HERE


#3 The Ultimate Submarine Sandwich

Move over Subway, there’s a new sandwich in town! You really can’t go wrong with a classic submarine sandwich! Filled with roast beef, ham, turkey or chicken, cheese, veggies, Italian dressing and herbs, this is one of those irresistible sandwiches your teen won’t be able to get enough of.

Check out the recipe at The Kitchen Magpie HERE


#4 Honey Avocado Turkey Bacon Sandwich

Just the picture has our mouths watering!  And, the best part is, it’s pretty darn healthy! With turkey, bacon, tomato and cucumbers along with a killer avocado dressing, this is one sandwich your teen won’t be sharing with their friends. 

Check out the recipe at Oh Sweet Basil HERE


#5 Italian Pinwheel Sandwich

These super easy Italian pinwheels are packed with all of your Italian sandwich favorites! Salami, pepperoni, ham, provolone cheese…need we say more?! Of course, you can always add the same meats to boring ole’ bread, but it’s always more fun to wrap them up in a tortilla!

Check out the recipe at Krolls Korner HERE


#6 Cold Roast Beef Sandwich with Horseradish Cheese

If your teen loves roast beef, then THIS is the sandwich for them! This hearty sandwich is a two-handed, eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head kind of sandwich that’s made with thinly sliced roast beef, a savory homemade horseradish cheese spread and all their favorite veggies. Perfect for “always hungry” teens! Seriously… who says sandwiches have to be boring?

Check out the recipe at Garlic and Zest HERE


#7 Easy Classic Chicken Salad Sandwich

This yummy classic chicken salad comes together in a jiffy with store-bought rotisserie chicken, celery, green onions, and mayo – all seasoned with fresh dill, salt and pepper. Serve on a croissant or hearty bread for a lunch your teen will love!

Check out the recipe at Small Town Woman HERE


#8 Mexican Avocado Spread Sandwiches (Healthy Meatless Lunch!)

These meatless, gluten-free sandwiches are layered with a creamy Mexican avocado spread, spicy sprouts, fresh tomatoes, and crunch cucumber slices. Yep… it’s healthy, but it’s still hearty!

Check out the recipe at Food Faith Fitness HERE


#9 Irresistible (and EASY) Classic Club

When it comes to hearty homemade sandwiches that beat the heck out of cafeteria food, this might top the list! If you’ve never sent your teen off to school with a crazy good club sandwich in their lunchbox, your teen is definitely missing out! This classic club is packed with turkey, ham, bacon, avocado, two types of cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and more! It’s always a hit with my kids. Trust me… they’ll request this sandwich again and again!

Check out the recipe at Deliciously Seasoned HERE


#10 Original Po Boy Sandwich

This delectable and easy Po Boy Sandwich (also known as a Poor Boy Sandwich) combines classic ingredients like ham, Swiss cheese, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles. What makes it really delish, though, is the easy 3-ingredient spread made with mayo, mustard and Sriracha!

Check out the recipe at Small Town Woman HERE


#11 Honey Mustard Ham & Cheese Sandwich

The honey mustard spread turns this ordinary ham and cheese sandwich into a mouth-watering, crazy delish sandwich that will have your teen begging for more. Plus, the cool part is, it’s easy to pull together! 

Check out the recipe at Lemon Tree Dwelling HERE


#12 5-Ingredient Chicken Ranch Wraps (258K Shares on Pinterest!)

Healthy grilled chicken and ranch wraps are loaded with chicken, cheese, and ranch dressing! And, if you’re looking for more flavor, simply add lettuce, tomatoes, sprouts or avocado. This sandwich comes together in no time and makes a perfect packable lunch for your teen!

Check out the recipe at Gimme Delicious HERE


#13 Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

There’s no question that grilled cheese sandwiches taste best straight out of the pan. But I’m here to tell ya, that they taste JUST as good cold and they pack remarkably well for lunches IF you know how to pack them. The trick (according to cooking experts) is to let the sandwich cool completely before wrapping it up.  THIS sandwich is to die for packed with bacon, cream cheese, jalapenos, and two different types of cheese – all on hearty Italian bread. Your teen is going to flip over this sandwich!

Check out the recipe at Small Town Woman HERE


#14 Vegan “BLT Bagel Sandwich

A healthier twist on the classic BLT sandwich everyone knows and loves, this vegan version is just as delish! Start off with a toasted bagel and spread with vegan cream cheese (or hummus). Along with tomato slices, you can add lettuce leaves or sprouts and even onion to give it more of a kick. For the bacon, check out these vegan recipes! You might be surprised when the whole family asks for this sandwich.

Check out the recipe at Simply Quinoa HERE


#15 Pizza Grilled Cheese

Got a teen who loves cold pizza? Here’s an easy sandwich they’re going to love! Grab your bread slices and instead of buttering the outsides like you would for a regular grilled cheese sandwich, brush on a mix of olive oil, garlic powder, and oregano. Spread the inner sides of the slices with pizza sauce and cover with two slices of Provolone cheese. Add pepperoni slices or other pizza toppings such as sliced olives, green pepper or mushrooms. Heat on a skillet until golden brown and then pack it up for lunch. (Let it cool thoroughly before packing!)

Image: Pinterest


Here’s hoping your teen finds a few new sandwich favorites!

Marybeth Bock, MPH, is Mom to two young adults and one delightful hound dog. She has logged time as a military spouse, childbirth educator, college instructor, and freelance writer. She lives in Arizona and thoroughly enjoys research and writing – as long as iced coffee is involved. Her work can be found on numerous websites and in two books. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.



If you enjoyed, “15 Hearty Sandwiches that Beat the Heck Out of Cafeteria Food,” check out these other posts!

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25 Killer After-School Snack Ideas for Hungry Teens

25+ Healthy Teen-Approved Snack Ideas

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