Best Bento Boxes

Updated June 2021
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

51 Models Considered
20 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best bento boxes

Brown-bagging might be okay if you’re packing a sandwich and a bag of chips, but more adventurous lunches need a more suitable container. Bento boxes are ideal for all kinds of packed meals, from stews to salads to rice. Some can even hold soup without leaking.

However, there’s more to bento boxes than meets the eye, so picking out your first one can seem daunting. With so many of these handy lunch solutions on the market, how do you find the right bento box for your on-the-go food?

At BestReviews, we aim to answer all your shopping questions with our top product recommendations and in-depth shopping guides. For everything you need to know about bento boxes before you buy, read on.

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Bento boxes are ideal for kids (or adults) who have an aversion to different foods touching one another.

What is a bento box?

Originating in Japan, a bento box is essentially a lunch box. However, because it’s common in Japan to pack meals consisting of rice or noodles and meat or fish (plus usually some added extras, such as cooked and pickled veggies), bento boxes are compartmentalized to keep the different food items separate. Some bento boxes have dividers inside, whereas others have multiple tiers.

Types of bento boxes

Stackable bento boxes

Stackable bento boxes feature a number of separate boxes that stack together. They’re traditionally fastened with an elastic strap, but some models clip together or stack inside an outer shell. Stackable bento boxes are ideal if you like to keep your sweet and savory dishes in different boxes or you want to make certain that runny foods won’t seep into the other compartments.

Single-tier bento boxes

As the name suggests, single-tier bento boxes are single boxes. They have compartments or come with dividers to keep different foods separate. Depending on the model you choose, these compartments may or may not be leakproof, so single-tier bento boxes aren’t always ideal for packing wet foods like soup.

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For your safety
If you choose a plastic bento box, you may want to ensure that it’s BPA-free.
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Features to consider for bento boxes

Material

Though wood is the traditional material for bento boxes, the most common materials today are plastic and stainless steel.

Lightweight, durable, and easy to clean, plastic is probably the most popular material for modern bento boxes. It’s generally easy to get a good seal on plastic food containers, so plastic bento boxes tend to be the best at preventing leaks. Some people, however, prefer to avoid buying plastic items for environmental reasons.

One of the main benefits of stainless steel is that, unlike plastic, it doesn’t absorb flavors, odors, or colors, so it’s ideal for anyone who often packs strong-smelling or well-spiced dishes. However, stainless steel bento boxes usually aren’t leakproof.

Although uncommon in today’s market, you can still find traditional wood bento boxes for sale. These look great, but they’re not the most practical option as they leak and can be hard to clean.

Size

One of the main considerations for choosing the right bento box is making sure it’s the correct size to fit your needs. Some bento boxes are so compact that each compartment will only fit about a quarter of a sandwich, a couple of apple slices, or three or four grapes. This might be fine for a preschooler but isn’t going to cut it for an adult.

Look at the total dimensions of the bento box, and try to find out the size of each compartment, too. If you generally pack salads or fruit- and vegetable-heavy lunches, you’ll probably need a larger bento box than if you usually eat smaller amounts of more calorie-dense foods.

Design

Bento boxes range from strictly utilitarian to highly decorative. You can find many bento boxes featuring kawaii designs, including popular Japanese anime or cartoon characters, such as Hello Kitty or Totoro. These fun bento boxes are ideal for kids’ lunches.

You can also buy a wide range of basic or minimalist bento boxes that are better suited for adults. Many bento boxes come in a range of colors, so you’re sure to find one that appeals to you.

Prices for bento boxes

How much should you spend to get the perfect bento box? You can find bento boxes in a range of prices, so you should be able to find one that fits your budget.

Basic plastic bento boxes start at around $5 for very small models, though these usually aren’t the best quality. For $10 to $15, you will get a basic but functional bento box.

Mid-range bento boxes cost around $15 to $30. At this price point, you can find some excellent, completely leakproof models and plenty of generously sized options.

High-end bento boxes cost between $30 and $50. You’ll find stainless steel options and insulated boxes to keep food warm or cool at this price.

Tips

  • Consider whether you need a leakproof bento box. If you’ll be packing dry items, such as sandwiches, fruit, and baked goods, you don’t need a completely leakproof bento box. But you will need a leakproof option for wet foods, such as salads with dressing, noodles with sauce, stews, and soup.

  • Decide if you want a traditional bento box. Some modern bento boxes have interesting features, such as interchangeable food containers or gasket-style lids to avoid leaks. But traditionalists might prefer to do without these kinds of modern features in favor of a more authentic bento box.

  • Choose a bento box that’s resistant to staining. If you don’t choose a stain-resistant option, you’ll waste time scrubbing your bento box. This is especially important if you plan to pack curries, tomato sauces, sweet and sour dishes, or other foods that are prone to staining plastic.

  • Think about how often you’ll use your bento box. Planning to use your bento box to take lunch to work five days a week? Invest in a high-quality bento box that will stand the test of time. On the other hand, a simple, inexpensive bento box will suffice for occasional use.
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Some people get extremely creative with bento box lunches, using cookie cutters to make shaped sandwiches or turning rice balls into cartoon characters.

FAQ

Q. Are bento boxes suitable for packing kids’ lunches?

A. Bento boxes are not only suitable for packing kids’ lunches, they are ideal. The divided design gives you plenty of slots to pack sandwiches, crackers, fruits, veggies, and other favorites. Many children enjoy having their lunches packed into separate compartments, and the fun layout can encourage them to enjoy healthy, balanced meals. What’s more, you can find a number of kid-friendly designs, such as panda-shaped bento boxes or bento boxes featuring familiar cartoon characters.

Q. Can I put my bento box in the microwave?

A. Most plastic bento boxes are microwave-safe, though always double-check first. Never attempt to microwave metal or wood bento boxes.

Q. How easy are bento boxes to keep clean?

A. You’ll need to clean your bento box after each use, but the good news is, it’s not hard. Unless you go for an uncoated wood model, bento boxes tend to be made from materials that are easy to wash and wipe down. Many bento boxes are even dishwasher-safe. Just check the manufacturer’s specifications to confirm. If your bento box can’t go in the dishwasher, you can wash it by hand in hot, soapy water.

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