a healthy and artistic bento meal

Best Bento Lunch Box

If you spend any time on Instagram, especially in the foodie or parenting circles, who've probably noticed a certain trend cropping up to replace traditional lunchboxes: the Japanese bento box. But before you hop on the wagon and start crafting your own adorable lunches, you need to know which style is the best bento lunch box for you and your family.

What once was only adopted in the West by anime and manga fans (often called otakus or weeaboos, both lovingly and not so much), is now used by trendy bloggers and creative parents.

And with the growing popularity of meal prepping, or pre-assembling meals for the busy week ahead, the bento box is now almost entirely a part of U.S. culture.

But what exactly is a bento box? Where did the concept first originate?

And how do you choose the best bento lunch box out of the seemingly endless options currently on the market?

Comparison Table

What Is a Bento Box?

The concept of a bento box is actually quite simple. A bento lunch box is a reusable, Tupperware-like lunch box from Japan. These boxes can be made from plastic, bamboo, steel, or other durable materials.

Traditionally, bento boxes include foods like rice, fish, and vegetables. However, with the adoption of these boxes in the U.S. and elsewhere abroad, today's bento boxes can contain practically anything.

Where did the bento box come from?

The history of the bento box is surprisingly murky. While we know that Japanese farmers and soldiers packed their food in boxes as early as the 5th Century and that this utilitarian trend spread across China, Korea, and other parts of Asia, things are a little unclear after that.

a bento rice meal on wooden lunch box

Image Source: Instagram.com

We do know that the bento box was a standard for schoolchildren in the early-1900s, and about its role as an economic status symbol between the post-war haves and have-nots. When standardized school lunches were introduced, the bento box fell out of popularity.

That is, until the 1980s.

As frozen dinners and convenience foods dominated the market, the bento box reappeared. This also coincided with Japanese-American immigrants bringing the concept over to their new home.

a bento meal on rectangular containers

Image Source: Instagram.com

A few years later, around the 1990s, character-themed bento boxes became the new trend. Today, we still see these elaborate boxes on Instagram, YouTube, and personal blogs across the Internet.

Why the Bento Box Isn't Just a Cute Trend

Yes, the best bento lunch box photos might dominate social media, but this isn't the only reason why this trend seems to be here to stay. In fact, bento boxes offer several benefits.
Here are just a few reasons you should consider jumping onto this new lunch trend:

They can help save the environment

One of the most important aspects of a bento box is that it's reusable. Unlike plastic sandwich bags and brown paper lunch sacks, the bento box is just as permanent as your ceramic dishes or glass cups.

However, unlike your home dinnerware, a bento box is meant for transport. This means you can also avoid buying prepackaged foods. And, as a result, cut down on the amount of waste you produce with each meal.

a stacked of colorful lunch boxes

Image Source: Instagram.com

Many of the best bento box brands of today emphasize this focus on sustainability by choosing eco-friendly materials and manufacturing practices for their products.

If you care about the environmental impact of your purchases, we suggest seeking out one of these companies for your new lunchbox!

They can save you time and money

Dining out, even if you just make a pit stop at a convenience store or fast food joint, is expensive. This can also be true for children's school lunches, depending on your district.
Actually, reports say that U.S. citizens spend an average of over $1,000 per year on restaurant lunches. And professionals aren't the only ones affected by this, with college students spending an average of $27.47 dining out per week!

a bento box with rice chicken and spinach leaves

Image Source: Instagram.com

If you need a little extra motivation to pack lunch each day, a stylish bento box could be just the thing you need. Plus, when you're not rushing out of the office to grab take-out on your break, you'll have more time to relax before you get back to work.

They can help you eat healthily

Of course, switching to a packed bento lunch won't do much good if you fill it with junk. Fortunately, there are several resources and cookbooks out there for healthy, bento-based meal inspiration.

a healthy bento meal on pink lunch box

Image Source: Instagram.com

First, bento boxes offer built-in portion control. Not only can you only pack so much food into a single box, but most boxes feature individual compartments that let you portion out carbs, vegetables, sweets, and more.

Second, the bento box goes hand-in-hand with creative, brightly colored lunches that are often in the shape of cute animals or cartoon characters. Who doesn't want to snack on a carrot in the shape of a star?

Okay, and they're cute and fun

Alright, while bento boxes are much more than just a cute photo op, we can't deny that the bento community creates some absolutely adorable and delicious-looking lunches.
For example, a bento box can turn a normal, healthy lunch into something out of a culinary magazine:

a bento rice box with honey chicken and fresh veggies

Image Source: Instagram.com

Or, you can use your bento box to scratch that itch for symmetry and organization:

a bento box with different textures and shapes

Image Source: Instagram.com

Obviously, we can't forget the incredibly creative lunches that bento fans are constantly putting together, like this Hermione Granger-themed lunch:

a hermoine themed bento box

Image Source: Instagram.com

You can even celebrate holidays with themed lunches, like this creepy and cute Halloween-themed box (just look at that orange disguised as a spooky pumpkin!):

halloween themed bento box

Image Source: Instagram.com

As you can see, there really is no end to the amazing things you can create with a simple bento box.

So, are you feeling inspired? Well, then it's time for you to find the best bento box for your newfound creative passion!

The Best Bento Box for Every Lunch and Lifestyle

Just a few years ago, buying a proper bento lunch box meant visiting a specialty shop or ordering one online. Today, though, you can find bento boxes almost anywhere.

However, just because you can run to your nearest general store and pick up one of these trendy lunchboxes doesn't mean that you'll necessarily get the best bento lunch box for your needs. With their growing popularity, there are numerous types of bento boxes to choose from for packing your next lunch.

Whether you want something sleek and office-appropriate, or something you can haul around in a backpack all day, here are some of the best bento lunch boxes you can buy today:

For the office

Sure, panda-shaped or colorful bento boxes might be adorable. But if you work in a professional setting, they might not be the most appropriate.

If you want a high-quality bento box that your coworkers won't raise their eyebrows at, may we suggest one of the boxes below?

BentoHeaven Bamboo

Original BentoHeaven Bento Box Bundle with FREE Lunch Bag, Divider,...
  • GET THE MOST STYLISH BENTO LUNCH BOX: Friends, family, colleagues will be longing for your lunch box by BentoHeaven from...
  • EAT SAFE HEALTHY MEALS ANYWHERE: reusable, airtight, leak proof bento box containers made of food grade BPA-FREE...
  • GIVE THE BEST MOMENTS OF THEIR DAY: use your FREE lunch box notes to send a personal message to your beloved ones! Print...

The BentoHeaven Bamboo box, available in black or white, is the quintessential bento box. This classic lunchbox is perfect for the office, or anywhere you don't want to draw attention to your day-to-day lunch.


With two 20-ounce, stackable containers and individual sealing lids, you can pack anything you're craving. Plus, the attached chopsticks and cutlery set mean you don't have to haul around silverware or waste plastic utensils. Everything stays secure with the removable elastic strap.

monbento MB Square

monbento MB Square Matcha - The bento box
  • Microwave-safe
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Airtight

If you want a bit more room for your meal, the monbento MB Square box is what the brand calls a "King-sized bento" option. This square bento box features a modern design and is available in several different colors, from matte black to rose pink.


With this bento box, you get two just over 28-ounce, stacking containers with airtight sealing lids and a secure elastic strap. Unfortunately, this bento box does not come with utensils, though you can purchase them from monbento separately.

While some say this is the best bento lunch box for men, really it’s just a great choice for anyone with a big appetite. 

Bklyn Bento Stainless Steel Bento Box

Stainless Steel Bento Box Lunch Box, A Large Metal 3 Tier Tiffin Food...
  • 3 TIER 100% STAINLESS STEEL LUNCH BOX: Some foods were simply not meant to mingle. Separate containers keep your...
  • 20% LARGER: Ahhh, nothing like market research. We found most people that use bento boxes really like them....
  • ECO & ENVIRONMENTAL FRIENDLY: Not even a touch of BPA, PVC , BPS or PHTHALATES goes into making this food...

Are you trying to limit your plastic use? Even if you choose the best bento lunch box made from reusable plastic, there are still downsides to how these products are created. Fortunately, you can do away with plastic completely with the Bklyn Bento Stainless Steel Bento Box.


This bento box offers a secure, airtight seal for all of your favorite foods. It includes three separate, stacking containers that hold 9 ounces, 16 ounces, and 17 ounces, from top-to-bottom. Unfortunately, because of the lid sealing design, you can't use just one or two of these containers at a time.

For the kids

Being an adult might mean doing away with cartoon-themed lunchboxes and overly bright colors. But that doesn't mean your children can't indulge in these simple pleasures.
For many kids, their school lunchbox is a core part of their identity. Luckily, bento boxes come in all types of cool colors, designs, and themes!

If you're thinking about switching your child to a bento-based lunch, here are some of the best bento lunch box styles for younger kids:

Bentgo Kids Prints

Bentgo Kids Prints (Pink Dots) - Leak-Proof, 5-Compartment Bento-Style...
  • LUNCH IN STYLE: Bentgo Kids has upgraded America’s favorite children’s lunchbox with fun patterns that showcase your...
  • IDEAL PORTIONS FOR KIDS: 5 practical compartments portioned perfectly for a child’s appetite to encourage a healthy...
  • LEAK-PROOF TECHNOLOGY: Keeps meals and snacks fresh and mess-free during transport – Designed with 2 kid-friendly...

One of the best bento box options for kids is the Bentgo Kids Prints collection. These bento boxes come in six different colorways, each with their own fun design on the top (our personal favorite is the Mermaid Scales version!).


Each of these boxes has a hinged outer shell that securely clasps shut and a removable, segmented tray inside. The tray features five different sections of varying sizes. Bentgo states that these sections are the perfect size for portion control in children ages 3 to 7.

YumBox Original

Yumbox Original Leakproof Bento Lunch Box Container (Neptune Blue)
  • PRACTICAL LEAKPROOF DESIGN: Yumbox Original is designed to make your packed lunches easy & delicious. Molded silicone...
  • IDEAL PORTION SIZES FOR KIDS: Yumbox Original is designed for little kids. Our goal is to promote healthy & balanced...
  • PERFECT HEALTHY PACKED LUNCH: YUMBOX is a winner of Good Design Award for a Children's Product. Yumbox makes it so easy...

If your child is a slow or reluctant eater, how about trying a bento box with a design hidden inside? The YumBox Original bento box, with its colorful interior images, is just one example.


These bento boxes come in all different designs, from adventurous astronauts to quaint forest creatures. YumBox even has one design that maps out the different food groups and appropriate portion sizes. Whichever design you choose, your child will be eager to finish their lunch so they can see the scene underneath!


YumBox Original bento boxes feature a hinged lid with a secure but easy to open latch. These boxes are great for toddlers and children up to 8 years old and fit perfectly into a standard insulated lunch tote.

OmieBox

Yumbox Original Leakproof Bento Lunch Box Container (Neptune Blue)
  • PRACTICAL LEAKPROOF DESIGN: Yumbox Original is designed to make your packed lunches easy & delicious. Molded silicone...
  • IDEAL PORTION SIZES FOR KIDS: Yumbox Original is designed for little kids. Our goal is to promote healthy & balanced...
  • PERFECT HEALTHY PACKED LUNCH: YUMBOX is a winner of Good Design Award for a Children's Product. Yumbox makes it so easy...

The OmieBox bento box is specially designed to withstand the use and abuse that comes from young kids. You can even order replacement parts if your child is prone to losing or breaking things!


This bento box features three double-walled, insulated compartments, one of which can be used as a normal segment or hold an insulated thermos (which is included with the box). The OmieBox comes in several bright colors and includes a secure latch that's still easy to open with small hands.

For on-the-go

We don't all have the luxury of walking into the office and tucking our packed lunch in the breakroom refrigerator. If you're constantly on the move, whether for work or for play, you need a bento box that can keep up!

From carrying a whole day's worth of food to feeding a small crowd, you'll find the best bento box for your busy lifestyle below.

East World Bento Box

East World Lunch Box for Kids- Leak Proof Kids Lunch Box - Bento Box...
  • SOUP-SAFE AND LEAKPROOF When lunchtime arrives the last thing you want is soggy bread and a soup catastrophe, right?...
  • NOT JUST A LUNCHBOX: As well as being an insulated lunch box that keeps food safe, Bento Friend comes with a reusable...
  • EASY TO CLEAN AND STORE! The East World Bento Lunch Box is Freezer, Microwave and Dishwasher Safe (hand wash the lid)....

What good is even the best bento box if your food ends up warm and soggy by the time you sit down for lunch? Fortunately, the East World Bento Box has you covered.


This bento box features six compartments with an airtight lid and miniature cutlery set. Each piece is entirely microwave- and dishwasher-safe.


But the key element of this bento box is the insulated carrying bag. This bag is the perfect size to fit your bento box, utensils, and an ice pack to keep everything fresh throughout the day. The handle means you can grab-and-go while the durable material means it can safely go in your standard washing machine for easy cleaning.

YBOBK HOME Cute Bento Lunch Box

YBOBK HOME Cute Bento Lunch Box with Flatware Set Stackable Lunch Box...
  • 【Safe and Durable】The cute lunch box is made of food grade stainless steel liner and high quality plastic outer, it...
  • 【Unique Design】This stacking lunch box mainly has 3 layers, adding 1 mini bowl is equal to 4 layers, keeping food...
  • 【Freedom to Combine】The stainless steel lunch box is designed to be stacked, you could freely combine them into 1, 2...

If you're on the hunt for a versatile and hyper-mobile bento box, the YBOBK HOME Cute Bento Lunch Box should definitely be near the top of your list. Available in several different colors and designs (our personal favorite for this box is the Cactus pattern, in case you were wondering), this bento box can go anywhere and hold almost anything.


The three-tier version of this box includes three sealed containers, one small non-sealed container, a lid that doubles as a bowl, and a convenient carrying handle. Each section is fully insulated, and you can use them all together or pick and choose which containers you need.


In total, this box carries holds over 40 ounces. It also comes with a utensil set and a carrying bag that you can easily sling over your shoulder.

YBOBK HOME Insulated Lunch Box

YBOBK HOME Thermal Lunch Box, Leak Proof Insulated Stackable Round...
  • 【Food Grade Material】High quality food grade stainless steel liner and eco-friendly PP outer, BPA free, toxin free,...
  • 【Keep Food Warm for up to 4 Hours】Insulated lunch box and bag, keeps your home-cooked meals warm, fresh and ready to...
  • 【Leakproof Lunch Box】Each layer has a separate lid with the sealed silicone ring that prevents the spillage of...

If the stacked bento box above isn't quite big enough for your needs, then here's another box from YBOBK HOME that might be a better fit. The YBOBK HOME Insulated Lunch Box offers many of the same features as their Cute Bento Lunch Box but with larger containers and higher overall carrying capacity.


While the bento box above can hold just over 40 ounces of food, all three tiers of the Insulated Lunch Box can hold 71 ounces! That's enough to feed a small crowd or keep you fueled through your whole workday.


Each 23.67-ounce section can be used alone, paired, or as an entire set. With this stacking bento box, you'll also get a portable utensil set and a carrying bag.

Upgrade Your Bento Box with These Accessories

So, you have your new bento box, and you're ready to create a picture-perfect lunch. But, of course, the bento trend isn't fueled solely by the concept of using a box to carry your food. If it was, there would be no difference between a bento lunch and a Tupperware lunch.

Instead, the bento box trend is actually fueled by the use of shapes, characters, and colorful palettes. This concept, which started in the 1990s, is what makes bento boxes so special.

Ready to step up your bento skills? Well, you're going to need some tools.

Fit the mold

What says bento lunch more than anything else? Molded rice balls.

You might not be sticking with the traditional rice and vegetables found in Japanese bento lunches. However, you can still take advantage of cool shapes when creating your own box.

animal themed bento snack

Image Source: Instagram.com

For example, you can mold soft sandwich bread into an adorable panda or create cat face cut-outs with cheese and lunch meat. If you can think of it, there’s probably a bento-approved way to make it!

Make some shapes

Bento lunches are supposed to be helpful for getting kids to eat healthier and learn proper portion sizes. Still, it can be hard to get picky eaters to eat their carrots and zucchini.

star and fish shaped food on bento box

Image Source: Instagram.com

One of the most popular trends in bento box lunches is fun-shaped vegetables. With a set of cute vegetable cutters, you can offer a little extra incentive to that veggie hater in your life. Or, you can use these shapes in your next themed box creation!

Keep it neat

Your new bento box might have its own built-in organization. But that doesn't mean certain foods won't make an absolute mess!

To help keep your lunches even tidier and more aesthetically pleasing, you can use reusable cupcake sleeves. Unlike paper or foil sleeves, these silicone cups can be washed and used many times over.

snacks on a bento box

Image Source: Instagram.com

And since you're likely choosing to use a bento box for its sustainability, the last thing you want is to create unnecessary waste.

Or, you can spring for a whole kit

If you’re not too keen on buying a dozen separate accessories, you’re in luck. With the rising popularity of bento lunch boxes, especially for young kids, it’s easy to find complete kits that contain everything you need to master the best bento lunch box game in town.

Yes, these kits are typically marketed to kids and their parents. That said, we won’t judge if you start sneaking dinosaur-shaped sandwiches into your work lunch!

What's in Your Bento?

If you've made it this far, you're probably feeling pretty gung-ho about your upcoming bento box adventures. Bento boxes offer tons of benefits, from cutting down on food packaging waste to teaching children healthy habits. So, combined with the cuteness factor, it's no surprise that this Japanese trend has taken off around the world.

But remember, having the best bento lunch box doesn't need to be a competition. If you choose to dive into the world of themed boxes, don't let Instagram and Pinterest discourage you.

We promise all your kids will care about is the love and care that goes into their star-shaped carrots — not how many likes their school lunch garnered on social media!

If you decide to try out the bento box for yourself, keep in mind that these boxes aren't one-size-fits-all. What works for someone with an office job might not work for someone who's running errands all day. And vice-versa.

At the end of the day, what's important is that you choose the best bento lunch box for you.

What do you like to pack in your bento box? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured Image Source: Pixabay.com

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