The 6 Best Bento Boxes of 2022

Pack perfectly portioned lunches with these Japanese-style boxes, including our favorite pick: the Bentoheaven Premium Bento Lunch Box.

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Whether you’re trying to eat healthier, save money, or make the most of your weekly grocery hauls, packing a lunch for you and your family can be a big step towards helping you achieve those goals. But when you picture a traditional lunch box with its zipper, soft sides, and floating ice pack, it’s difficult to imagine how it can safely and successfully transport your meal.

Enter the bento box: the traditional Japanese lunch box. “In Japan, bento has many forms and fulfills many different roles,” says chef Tim Anderson, author of JapanEasy Bowls & Bento. “They range from ho-hum, grab-and-go lunches to grand, colorful arrangements of dishes artfully assembled and imbued with symbolism, as in the extravagant osechi bento prepared for New Year’s celebrations.” 

Whether you’re looking to get yourself excited about packing lunch or your kids excited about eating food from home, we spoke with chefs and experts to compile a list of the best bento boxes on the market. Read on to learn more about our top picks, including our winner: Bentoheaven Premium Bento Lunch Box.

Best Overall: Bentoheaven Deluxe Bento Lunch Box

4.8
Original BentoHeaven Bento Box

 Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: This two-tiered bento box allows you to pack food you intend to reheat along with food to eat cold, plus you can toss all components in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.

Cons: Despite a pretty good seal, this box isn’t entirely leakproof, so we don’t recommend it for soup or super saucy dishes.

Anderson recommends getting a tiered bento with two chambers because it “allows you to heat certain items separately while keeping others cold.” One such bento box is this one from Bentoheaven, which comes with two 20-ounce stacking compartments with removable dividers, plus a tray to hold cutlery and a separate smaller container for sauces and garnishes. This design lets you can pack fresh or pickled vegetables in one compartment to eat at room temperature and then protein and rice in the other to heat up. Plus, with eight stylish color options, all of which are dishwasher-safe, you or your child can pick out their favorite.

Price at time of publish: $27

  • Dimensions: 7.28 x 4.02 x 4.29 inches
  • Material: Food-grade polypropylene
  • Includes: Two compartments with removable dividers, one small container for sauce or garnishes, and cutlery

Best Stainless Steel: LunchBots Duo Snack Container

lunchbots-duo-snack-container

Amazon

Pros: This durable stainless steel container is a cinch to clean and the lid snaps on firmly and snugly.

Cons: A bit on the small side, this bento will best hold a child’s or a light lunch.

Namiko Hirasawa Chen, Founder of Just One Cookbook, a resource for authentic and modern Japanese recipes, uses Lunchbots Stainless Steel Containers because they are easy to clean and dishwasher-safe. “I put rice on one side and protein, vegetables, and side dish on the other,” she says.

This bento box and its snap-on lid are made of durable, chemical-free stainless steel. While Chen favors the two-compartment box (which is also great for lunches like half a sandwich and simple sides), LunchBots also makes boxes with one, three, four, and five compartments, depending on how many dishes you want to include in your bento.

Price at time of publish: $27

  • Dimensions: 6 x 5 x 1.75 inches
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Includes: Two compartments and a snap-on lid

Best Insulated: Zojirushi Stainless Steel Food Jar

zojirushi-stainless-steel-food-jar

Amazon

Pros: This small vacuum-insulated jar is perfect for one-dish meals, like rice or noodles, and is shallow enough to eat out of directly. 

Cons: The lid seals on tightly, so fresh ingredients or garnishes will most likely get soggy.

Chen recommends Zojirushi’s insulated cylinder jar for one-dish meals, such as fried rice, pasta, or yakisoba (Japanese stir-fried noodles). The 11.8-ounce stainless steel jar looks like a more compact version of a travel coffee mug, which means it’s not too deep to eat out of directly yet still holds a nice amount of food to keep you satisfied. The lid screws on tightly screws to prevent leakage and keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Since the seal is tight enough that no moisture will escape, this isn’t the best container to use if you have fresh ingredients in your lunch that you don’t want to wilt or get soggy.

Price at time of publish: $30

  • Dimensions: 3.63 x 5 inches
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Includes: Screw-on lid with gasket

Best for Kids: Bentgo Kids Bento-Style Lunch Box: Bentgo Kids Lunch Box

4.8
Bentgo Kids Childrens Lunch Box

Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: This extra slim bento box is perfect for stowing in children’s backpacks, and the easy-to-close latches and rubber edges ensure it will survive the occasional drop.

Cons: The largest compartment in this box is only one cup, so if you’re planning to borrow it from your kid, be prepared to pack small amounts of food.

“A key feature of a bento box is portability,” says Kanako Koizumi, chef and owner of Kozmo Kitchen, a private chef and catering business that specializes in Japanese home cooking. “These days slim bento containers with an air-tight lid, which fit in thin bags and backpacks, are popular in Japan for better portability.” 

This ultrathin box from Bentgo fits the bill. Its size and snap-shut lid make it ideal for tucking into kids’ backpacks, while the five compartments are perfect for Japanese-style bento and beyond. The food-safe plastic is safe to put in the microwave to reheat foods when needed and then pop in the dishwasher at the end of a busy day. Plus, it comes in five bright colors that kids will be excited to pull out in the cafeteria.

Price at time of publish: $40

  • Dimensions: ‎8.5 x 6.5 x 2 inches
  • Material: Food-safe plastic
  • Includes: Five compartments and an attached lid with easy-to-open latches

Most Authentic: Bento & Co Magewappa Maru

bento--co-magewappa-maru

Bento & Co

Pros: This traditional, handmade wooden bento box will keep food fresh, delicious, and never soggy.

Cons: It’s an investment for a lunchbox, but as long as you hand-wash it, this bento box will serve you for years.

Koizumi recommends wooden bento boxes because they absorb excess moisture, which allows foods to stay fresher longer. The traditional and authentic bento box, like this layered one from Japanese-based company Bento & Co, is handmade with wood. “My personal favorite is the Magewappa bento box, handcrafted with Akita cedar or Hinoki wood,” Koizumi says. “Akita is my hometown, so I might be biased, but Magewappa is definitely the most popular high-end bento boxes.” 

Magewappa refers to the technique of bending the wood that Japanese woodworkers have been using to craft bento boxes for more than 400 years. A wooden box, while it requires handwashing, keeps the food packed inside moist and delicious (especially rice) without needing to reheat. “Authentic Magewappa is not cheap, but once you own it, it’s your lifetime companion,” Koizumi says.

Price at time of publish: $124

  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 4.7 inches
  • Material: Japanese cedar wood
  • Includes: Two stackable compartments

Best for Soup: Thermos Funtainer with Folding Spoon

thermos-funtainer-with-folding-spoon

Amazon

Pros: Pack your favorite warm and cozy soup in this vacuum-insulated container — you don’t even need to remember a spoon.

Cons: Since it’s on the smaller side, you may need to add more food to make it a complete meal.

“Soup is a great satisfier, and I often feel like lunch isn’t quite complete without some,” Anderson says. “You have two options for bringing soup along with your bento. You can either pack it into an insulated container while still hot or pack the ingredients to make instant miso soup and then prepare it wherever you’re eating, provided you have a kettle and a mug, a cup, or a bowl.” 

Considering the first method is much easier, what better container than this Thermos food jar, which comes with a folding spoon hidden in the lid? Recommended by Chen, this jar has a vacuum-insulated stainless steel interior with an easy-to-open, leakproof lid that makes it perfect for transporting this Japanese lunch staple. For cleanup, make sure to hand-wash it for optimal longevity. 

Price at time of publish: $18

  • Dimensions: 9.44 x 8.8 x 13.55 inches
  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Includes: Screw-on lid and folding spoon

Our Favorite

The Bentoheaven Premium Bento Lunch Box earns the top spot on our list. A cross between a traditional bento box and a more modern one, it has two large compartments with removable dividers and an additional small one for extras. The food-grade plastic is microwave- and dishwasher-safe, plus it’s stackable and stylish. 

Factors to Consider

Material

You should base the material you choose on whether you plan to reheat your food or enjoy it at room temperature. Of the materials found on this list, the Bentoheaven and Bentgo boxes, made from food-grade plastics, are microwave-friendly, and the stainless steel and wooden bento boxes are not.

Compartments

The number of compartments in your bento box depends on the types of meals you plan to pack in them. Koizumi says that bento boxes typically have three or more compartments to fit all the traditional components of a bento meal, though that’s not totally necessary. “A bento box without compartments is becoming more popular these days for more flexible, personal packing styles,” she says. “You can use small paper cups like muffin liners for each dish or fresh greens and other natural ingredients for dividers.” So if you plan on packing single-dish meals, such as noodles, soup, or fried rice, consider a single-compartment box. But if you’re going the traditional route with three or more dishes included, having that many compartments will make packing easier.

Features

When considering what additional features you may want in your bento box, think about the meals you plan to pack. If you enjoy soups or saucy dishes, you may want an insulated jar with a screw-on lid. For kid-friendly lunches, you’ll want a bento box with an easy-to-open, leakproof lid. And if you’re going to mix things up between warm and room-temperature meals, a tiered bento that lets your food breathe is the best option.

Pro Panel Q+A

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is a bento box?

    “Bento originally meant a portable food container,” Koizumi says. “This started back in the 16th century. But today, it refers to a boxed meal, usually for lunch.” Bento boxes are incredibly common in Japan, notes Chen, because students and workers almost always bring their lunch with them as opposed to ordering out. “Home-cooked food is healthier, has more variety, is cost-saving, and sometimes the school or workplace is not accessible to restaurants or food stalls,” she says.


    It's also important to note that traditionally, bento refers to both the type of box and the food it contains. “What goes into a bento can be as varied as the containers themselves, incorporating the entirety of Japan’s cuisines — if you can name it, it’s probably been put into a bento somewhere,” Anderson says. “Even at their most basic, there is an aesthetic sensibility to bento; they should have a certain balance to them and ideally that balance should be included in the visual impact of the bento as well as the flavor.”

  • What do you put in a bento box?

    The traditional bento contains three to five small dishes. “Bento usually consists of rice or rice balls accompanied by a variety of small dishes: a main dish of animal or plant-based protein, side dishes with egg, simmered or blanched vegetables, and different types of pickles. The rice portion can also be sandwiches or stir-fried noodles,” Koizumi says. 


    But you don’t have to stick to this formula. When Chen packs bento lunches for her children, she often starts with leftovers from dinner the night before. “I try to make it a balanced meal with a main dish, rice or a sandwich, and small sides that are usually vegetables and fruits,” she says. “The key is to make the bento colorful, so not only does the food taste good, but it also looks appetizing.”

  • Are bento boxes microwavable?

    It depends on the material of the box. Some boxes on our list, such as Bentoheaven and Bentgo, are microwave-safe for a quick reheat but nothing more. “Bento is supposed to be eaten at room temperature, so any material should be fine,” Koizumi says. “But if you intend to reheat the food, you should look for a microwave-safe feature.”

Our Expertise

Alyssa Sybertz is an experienced food and cooking writer and recipe developer who covers anything and everything you may find in your kitchen for Food & Wine. For this list, she spoke with expert chefs who specialize in modern Japanese cooking.

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