The time from breakfast until noon is the longest stretch of the work day, and while most of the time you settle on soggy leftovers or some sad attempt at reinventing avocado toast, today, you want more. Why? Because you’re on Emily Mariko TikTok, and you now know that lunch can be more than a check point separating the start of your day from the end. In Mariko’s world, lunch can be the main character.
The 29-year-old Bay Area-based lifestyle and food-fluencer and her completely un-chaotic kitchen have taken over TikTok with quiet cooking videos. Mariko prepares everything from deconstructed sushi bowls to toast with care and precise attention to detail — like zesting citrus and grating her own cheese. The only reason you wouldn’t know her most viral recipe by heart is if you lost internet for the past month; her viral salmon rice bowl has been viewed over 50 million times on TikTok.
While some meals are more complicated than others, they’re all made with careful precision, and the kind of patience it seems no one else on the planet has for lunch food. Baked chicken thighs before sundown? Clam linguini on a weekday? Sweetgreen nation can’t even.
Before Emily Mariko (B.E.M., as future anthropologists will term this era), you didn’t know that lunch could call for chopping and baking and zesting — and that it would be all worth it, because, self-care! But now that you do, sharpen your knives, gather your produce, slip into some monochrome athleisure, and get ready to make lunch time part of your wellness routine. Here are Mariko’s eight best lunch recipes — other than, well, you know the one:
Toasted Nut Salad
Mariko often toasts nuts and seeds before adding them to salads, which gives them a little bit more crunch and a deeper flavor. It only takes a few extra minutes but elevates a salad from just a cold wet thing from your fridge to the kind of dish you might get at a restaurant as an entree. This beet, cheese, and toasted almond salad will make you aspire to be the kind of person who takes the time and effort to warm their nuts.
Prosciutto-Wrapped Fruit Salad
This is the kind of thing you might imagine seeing on a menu in a coastal town in Italy — not plated on your perma-sticky kitchen counter. But for only a few extra dollars at the grocery store, this could be your state-side lunch, too. Here, Mariko cuts into a ripe melon and pear, and wraps the juicy crescents with salty strips of prosciutto. To really round out the meal, she cuts open some tomatoes, piles them around a creamy mound of burrata, and sprinkles a heavy shower of salt, pepper, and olive oil on top.
It’s so simple, but more special than plain old buttered toast. Mariko warms up some rustic bread, spreads on a thick layer of cream cheese, and then decorates it with some perfectly seasoned tomatoes. Sound on for a bone-tingling crunch.
One of Mariko’s greatest gifts is turning leftovers into inspiration for new meals. While last night’s dinner might not dazzle you from the confines of refrigerated Tupperware, re-imagining them in the warm embrace of a stove-toasted tortilla with fresh seasonings will surely give them the makeover they deserve. Here, Mariko turns last night’s Mexican rice bowls into today’s guacamole-topped tacos.
If your fridge is full of cucumbers and carrots that aren’t calling your name like drool-worthy sirens, you have not seen Mariko’s finely shaved veggies star as the main characters of her poke bowls. Here, she mixes together farmer’s market bounty with leftover rice and Asian-market staples like kimchi and sesame seed seasoning to create a technicolor lunch in minutes.
Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
With this vegetarian spin on buffalo wings, Mariko roasts cauliflower florets, marinates them with the spicy-tangy sauce, and pairs them with carrots and ranch dip, apple slices, and fresh juice, for what she’s calling “school lunch box vibes.”
In this video, Mariko displays an act of bacon preparation that will blow your mind. It involves no splattering grease, no fanning of smokey fire alarms, and no scrubbing of bacon fat-coated pans: She simply lays out bacon on a baking sheet, places it in the oven, and what emerges is the most civilized you’ve bacon you’ve ever seen. A pile of fresh lettuce, slices tomato, avocado, and creamy mayo between rustic slices of bread serve as a worthy stage for this low maintenance bacon to really shine. The queen of umami adds a pickle for a salty, vinegar-y sweet crunch.
How long is your lunch break? If you have an hour to spare and don’t have a fear of soiling too many pots and pans, go for this epic stuffed pepper dish. Mariko roasts halved peppers, and then fills them with a cheesy, meaty sauce that she makes from scratch.