C'est la Rentrée! 7 Easy, French-Inspired Recipes for Back-to-Work Lunches

By Vicki Denig

The beginning of September can only mean one thing: la rentrée is upon us. Although summer-like temperatures now linger on well into the month, the back to school and back to work mentality of la rentrée carries on regardless however, la rentrée doesn’t necessarily need to be a bad thing.


C'est la rentrée

Despite its significance that summer holidays are over, la rentrée brings a comforting feeling of normalcy back to daily life. Routines are restarted, activities are resumed, and after-work drinks, dinners, and gatherings are much easier to plan with friends and family.  

Playing into the positive spirit of la rentrée, we’re sharing seven easy-to-make, French-inspired recipes for back-to-school / back-to-work lunches, perfect for reminiscing on long afternoons spent holidaying at French bistros, beaches, and countryside getaways everywhere. Get your lunch boxes ready! (Pro tip: Most of these recipes are equally delightful for repurposing into post-work apéro bites as well.)  


On-the-Go Ratatouille 

There’s no better dish to make the most of late-summer vegetables than classic Ratatouille. Our go-to recipe features eggplant, zucchini, and potato slices in a tomato and fennel sauce, though really any “summer squash” vegetables will do the trick. For a fall-inspired version, simply incorporate a handful of early fall root vegetables to add some various textures and flavors to the dish. We’ve also found that this classic Nice-born recipe is just as enjoyable at room temperature, so no worries if you don’t have access to a means to reheat it.  

Bistro-Inspired Salads 

Who says that eating French-inspired lunches can’t be healthy? Contrary to popular belief, not all French food is rich—and in fact, the country is home to some of the biggest, greenest, and most delicious salads on the planet. From salad with chévre chaud to protein-rich salade niçoise, building your own French-inspired salad at home is as simple as reaching for your favorite ingredients. For a French take on an classic American favorite, look no further than thisC Caesar salad with chickens and herbes de provence.  

Pasta Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Pistou 

Pasta salad is a classic American staple for picnics, barbecues, and easy-to-pack lunches, and adding a touch of French flare to your recipes is as easy as adding a generous dash of Provençal pesto (known by the locals as pistou). This easy-to-make recipe simply calls for boiling a pot of water, cooking up some pasta (we recommend using rotini), and roasting up your favorite late-summer vegetables, then adding a hefty dollop of pesto. Although this recipe calls for homemade pesto—which we always recommend making, should you have the time and ingredients—any store-bought option will do just fine here.   

Steak Frites Skewers 

While steak frites may sound fancy, this traditional French dish has long been a bistro lunch staple—and taking it on the go via homemade skewers is actually easier than you think. Simply grill up your favorite steak (or even better, repurpose dinner leftovers from the night before), whip up some fries or mini potatoes, and alternate them on a long wooden skewer. Throw them in a tupperware and voilà! (Red table wine not required, though definitely recommended, should your work situation allow it.)  


Tomato and Goat Cheese Tartelettes Tatin 

What better way to celebrate tomato season than with a savory homemade tartelette? Although tartelettes are generally better known Stateside in their sweet dessert form, maximizing fresh produce via a delicious baked good always promises a good time. Crafted from ripe cherry tomatoes, fresh goat cheese, delicious pastry, and a drizzle of sweet honey, this versatile tarelette is perfect for enjoying as a light lunch with a side of green salad, and can equally be repurposed as a delicious appetizer for happy hour later in the day. Our tip? Be sure to execute the Tatin-style cooking technique to allow the tomatoes to slowly unfurl all of their sweet and tangy goodness.   

Classic Jambon Beurre Sandwich 

Looking to recreate your last Parisian boulangerie run? Whipping up a simple-yet-delicious jambon beurre sandiwch is a great place to start—and hardly requires any effort whatsoever. Simply grab your favorite baguette, slice it in half, smear some salty butter on both sides, and layer on a few slices of your favorite ham. We recommend reaching for lightly salted, melt-in-your-mouth Bayonne Ham if your store has it, though any dried ham will do here. For a true boulangerie-inspired experience, be sure to grab one of your favorite French pastries for dessert—éclair, madeleine, or millefeuille, anyone? 


Mini Croque Monsieurs 

Few French dishes evoke the nostalgia of French bistro-inspired lunches than the classic Croque Monsieur. At its simplest, this gooey sandwich is made with ham, cheese, and copious amounts of butter, as well as some classic Béchamel sauce to add an extra level of savory deliciousness. For those working from home, we recommend going as hard on the goo as you’d like, though if taking to go, simply lose the Béchamel sauce and cut into small triangles for a savory, bite-sized lunch addition. 


Shareable Quiche Lorraine 

In the realm of French cooking, quiches are truly the gift that keeps on giving. Versatile, crowdpleasing, and quite easy to make, it’s no surprise that these go-to, egg-based tarts have long been a staple for French breakfasts and lunches everywhere. Whether classic quiche Lorraine or vegetarian-friendly options are more your style, these easy-to-transport lunch items are enjoyable both warm and at room temperature, and are even better when completed with a side of fresh green salad. For a fun twist on this beloved tart, check out our quiche Lorraine muffin recipe.  

Lastly, when in doubt, throw a few chunks of flavor-packed French cheese into your lunch bag for an instant pop of French-inspired lunch flare. Pro tip: As much as we love stinky cheeses, we recommend keeping your lunch cheeses as neutral as possible—think Comté, Brie de Meaux, or Mimolette—your coworkers will thank you! 

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