6 Best Bento Boxes to Upgrade Your Lunch
From traditional Japanese models to adorable French designs, these are some must-haves for bento aficionados and novices, alike.
Our Top Bento Box Picks
Bentos or bento boxes are a type of food container that originated in Japan. They are often described as Japanese lunch boxes, but that’s only part of the story. Bento is a whole artform surrounding packing meals to-go. Typically, bentos feature during lunch time, especially in schools. However, there are bentos you can get at train stations to eat while traveling and even luxurious haute cuisine bentos for special occasions, including weddings. Bento is just as much about how beautifully you arrange the foods inside a box as it is about the box itself. The goal of a bento is to get you excited about eating and make it a feast for your eyes as well as your palate.
The idea of bento has traveled throughout the world and become very popular in Europe and North America as a more aesthetically pleasing approach to packing lunch. At the same time, bentos have adapted to meet different cultures’ aesthetics and dietary needs. Whether you are looking to get started expressing yourself creatively through your packed lunches or simply want a beautiful new lunch box, we’ve rounded up some of the best bento boxes available online. From high-tech insulated models to ancient handcrafted styles, you’re bound to find the perfect bento box for you.
What to Look for in a Bento Box
When deciding which bento box is right for you, think about how you're planning to use these on-the-go-ready food containers. Consider the versatility you might need in a box — some boxes have adjustable inserts to accomadate a wide-variety of foods, others offer insulation for soups and warm foods. If you're looking for something authentic or aesthetically pleasing, take that into account, too. Overall, you want to make sure you're trying to save money by bringing your lunch or make the most of your meal by packing up the leftovers, having an container that fits your needs will make those goals easier.
This is the ideal model for someone with a big appetite who really appreciates the traditional Japanese bento box aesthetic. This bento holds an impressive 68 ounces of food, which is more than twice as much as many traditional Japanese models. It features a sleek rectangular design with rounded corners and an attractive bamboo lid that doubles as a miniature cutting board. As well, this GRUB2GO model includes removable dividers, which aren’t present in most bento boxes, and the lids to each container (there are two food containers in this set) are lined with silicone, making them leak-proof. The beautiful thing about the design of this bento box, along with including enough space for a large appetite or several meals, is that you can customize your bento depending on the types of meals you have. Many more traditional bentos determine your meal format with fixed dividers, and many cannot be closed without including all the containers in the set. To complete this bento set, the manufacturer includes a knife, fork and spoon, as well as a spill-proof container for sauces or dressings.
Zojirushi is a household name in Japan, Asia and among the Asian diaspora for their top-of-the line, high-tech rice cookers. However, they are also well known for their insulated lunch boxes. The Mr. Bento model is one of the most iconic of the lunchbox line. The design is closer to an Indian tiffin carrier than to what most people imagine a bento to look like. This set consists of four covered bowls that stack inside a highly insulated cylindrical container. The insulation keeps your food hot or cold for hours, so you don’t need a refrigerator, microwave or toaster oven to enjoy your meal. As well, this model comes complete with a zippered back with a handle to put everything inside, plus a spork with a cover to keep your eating utensil clean. This is definitely a bento for those who prefer functionality over aesthetics as the design leans utilitarian. It is also fairly heavy at nearly two pounds without food.
Whether you want to use one, two or three of the layers, this bento box fits together to accomodate as much food as you need for lunch each day. The lunch box comes with an insulated bag, which keeps your food warm and makes transporting lunch easy. Plus, this set includes a 13-ounce insulated jar for hot foods.
Bentgo is a California-based company that launched its first bento-style lunch box in 2013. Since then, it has expanded its inventory to include all types of lunch boxes. While Bentgo takes inspiration from the concept behind a traditional Japanese bento box, its approach and designs are geared toward American consumers. As such, these bentos tend to be roomier than Japanese-made models and their construction isn’t so centered around rice as the focal point of the meal. These are great options for those who are just getting started with bentos and perhaps want to maintain a typical North American-style lunch. The Bentgo classic comes in a variety of colors and is closest in design to traditional Japanese bentos and features two stackable containers. It includes a three-piece Western utensil set (no chopsticks) and an elastic strap to keep everything together.
We know adults love bento boxes, but they're also perfect for kids — especially picky eaters. This five-compartment bento box from Bentgo boasts nearly 60,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.5-star rating. Fans love it for its leakproof lid that seals food into place so you don't have to worry about cross-contamination of your kiddo's pretzels with their fruit snacks. Plus, it's dishwasher-safe, so cleanup after a messy day at school is a breeze.
If you want Japanese bento boxes, then there are fewer places to find your perfect lunch box than Bento & Co. The company carries a wide assortment of Japanese bentos from the very traditional to the very conceptual (with a few Indian-style tiffin carriers and non-Japanese models thrown in). If you are seriously getting into the traditional art of packing Japanese-style bentos, this is also the place to go for beautifully handcrafted pieces that are closer to works of art than mere lunch containers. This magewappa model is an example of the traditional Japanese craft of fashioning bentwood containers called magewappa. The best bentwood crafts come from the town of Odate, and that is where this bento box was made. The wood is Japanese cedar, which allows the rice inside the bento to breathe. The natural oils in the cedar give off a beautiful aroma and also have antimicrobial properties. Because this is a traditional Japanese bento box, it is intended for holding rice with various toppings, so take that into consideration before adding this model to your collection.