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Recently, bento-style boxes have become the leading style of food containers both for at-home and on-the-go use in North America. Several popular lunch box companies have redesigned their containers to ensure bento boxes for adults will fit. Using more than one compartment makes it easy to keep food from touching each other and affecting the taste, while also reducing the number of containers to clean.
Packed meals are a way to save money, stay mindful of your carbon footprint, meet dietary goals and follow a healthier lifestyle.
Although there are a handful of eco-friendly disposable containers that are good for the environment, packing meals and snacks in reusable containers reduces waste and typically keeps food fresher and maintains the ideal temperature longer. Structured containers also mean fewer instances of food getting smashed at the bottom of lunch boxes.
The Bento Box Philosophy
Bento boxes originate from Japan and come with multiple compartments that are intended for different foods, such as meat, carbs, fruits and vegetables and snacks. By separating the foods with dividers, bento boxes help to cut down on liquid transfer and protect foods from mixing flavors.
The word “bento” is derived from “biandang,” a Chinese Southern Song Dynasty slang term that is roughly translated to “convenient.” If you’ve ever used a bento box before, you’ll agree that’s precisely what these lovely lunchboxes are.
Some of these adult-sized bento boxes can even contain more liquid-based items thanks to their airtight setup. Bento lunch boxes are a helpful way to eat healthy, whether you’re trying to portion control or set other dietary goals.
A quick search of “bento” on social media results in thousands of pictures and videos of creative food displays in bento boxes, including “kyaraben” or “character bento,” which is when food is arranged and paired with decorations to resemble popular anime or manga characters. There are also “revenge bento boxes” called “shikaeshi,” which include unappetizing meals packed by angry spouses. On the flip side, people can also show feelings of love with “aisai bento boxes.”
What To Look For In Bento Boxes
There is a style of bento box for every meal and snack. We’ve included a wide range that includes freezer, fridge, microwave and oven-friendly meals, small, portion-controlled snacks, bento boxes that won’t leak, stainless steel bento boxes, soup-friendly bento boxes, and two styles designed specifically for meal prep.
Kids’ bento boxes have become hugely popular in the past decade (fewer containers to lose at school or camp — parents, rejoice!) and many kid’s styles work for adults as well.
You may need a variety of bento boxes depending on your meal, snacks, and leftovers, and thankfully many bento boxes are dishwasher safe and easy to clean.
Nowadays, there are plenty of sophisticated bento box options to make sure you won’t get laughed at by the water cooler. Here are our picks for the best bento boxes for adults.
1. Original BentoHeaven Bento Box Bundle
Users love this attractive bamboo bento box for its carrying capacity, extra carrying bag, and tightly sealed lid. The BentoHeaven box doesn’t come with its own utensil compartment but does have a sturdy band that can hold a fork, spoon and knife to the upper lid. Chopsticks are a bonus add-on that can prove useful if you frequently eat Asian dishes or pack sushi on the go. The BentoHeaven has a total of 40 ounces of space and includes a small container that fits in either of the two large compartments or can be used on its own. These food containers feature ventilated lids to maintain freshness and are simple to clean thanks to a smooth interior.
2. Bentgo Glass Leak-Proof Salad Container
BEST FOR SALAD
We all know that adding more salads to our day is an excellent way to get and stay healthy, but many of us also know that trying to clean oily salad dressings out of containers is THE WORST. That’s why we love the Bentgo Glass Leak-Proof Salad Container. Bentgo has a huge selection of excellent bento-style containers (we’ve included a few more on this list), but their glass container is a game-changer for anyone who is tired of cleaning their salad container after cleaning their salad container. No oily film is left behind in this glass bowl, which includes a four-compartment bento-style top for snacks and salad contents, a 3-ounce container for dressing, and comes with a fork. The leak-proof bento also has a spacious 7.6-cup glass bowl that is large enough to mix salads. Not into greens? SPY received a sample of the Bentgo Glass Leak-Proof Salad Container and we love using it for freezing leftovers and then putting them directly into the oven or microwave to reheat.
3. Ekobo Bento Lunch Box & Cutlery Set
BEST FOR PORTION CONTROL
Get excited about portion control (seriously!) with the modern and minimalist Ekobo Bento Lunch Box & Cutlery Set. Available in a square or rectangular shape, the set is made from food-grade bamboo fiber and is BPA-free. Designed with bold pops of color and a silicone band to hold the container together and secure a utensil, the Ekobo bento containers can keep food warm and fresh.
4. Mepal Modern Large Bento Box
BEST FOR BIG APPETITES
If you don’t want to be constrained by permanent dividers in your bento box, check out the Mepal Modern Large Bento Box. A great option for big appetites, the Mepal includes multiple removable containers that fit neatly inside the large, 1.5L capacity box. All the containers are microwave safe, making it easy to remove and heat up one dish without having to warm the entire container. Need a big space some days? Take out all the containers and use the Mepal as an extra-large lunch box.
5. Monbento MB Square Black Bento Box
You may need to put a tracking device on your Monbento, because these beautiful bento boxes may ‘walk away’ from your communal kitchen at work. The company makes several styles and sizes to fit any appetite and each Monbento is available in several beautiful and eye-catching designs that will make you the envy of the lunchroom. This contemporary option is a bit more of a splurge than some of its competitors, but it fits more ingredients than the average adult bento box and it’s chic. That’s right, we just called a lunch container chic. A rubber seal creates a vacuum-tight closure that fits sloppy meals, a sturdy strap keeps everything together and Monbento bento boxes are microwave-safe.
6. Bentgo Pop Leak-Proof Bento-Style Lunch Box
BEST FOR SANDWICHES
Okay, so technically the new Bentgo Pop Leak-Proof Bento-Style Lunch Box is part of the company’s line of kid’s products, but you’ll have to excuse us for being adults who love sandwiches as much as the next eight-year-old. Most bento containers keep their divided spaces small, which is why we like the Pop, which has a removable divider that makes it easy to fit a PB and J, a tuna melt, a hammer and cheese, or whatever sammy looks good to you today. The leakproof container also has two smaller sections in the microwave- and dishwasher-safe tray that can fit adult or kid snacks. We don’t judge.
7. Modetro Ultra Slim Leakproof Bento Box
BEST FOR PROFESSIONALS
When traveling with a backpack, briefcase, or another bag that’s tight on space, this slim bento box from Modetro can slide in without taking up much room. We also like that it comes with its own insulated lunch box, which looks more like a tablet bag than something that belongs on the playground, a great feature for anyone who wants to be taken seriously at the office. In addition to its three individually isolated compartments, we also love the sleek and sophisticated aesthetic. It’s both microwave- and freezer-safe, making meal prep more accessible than ever.
8. Freshware Meal Prep Bento Box Containers
BEST BUDGET MEAL PREP
For those who like to prepare multiple meals at a time or are packing for a long trip (don’t forget your meal prep-friendly lunch bag), this affordable 30-pack of adult bento box-style containers keeps dishes separate and lets you stockpile up to nearly one month of portions. These heavy-duty containers still hold up in the microwave so that you can prepare a fast meal after a long day at work, and they also can be stored in the freezer, so you don’t have to worry about spoilage.
9. Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers
BEST OVEN-SAFE MEAL PREP
Take your meal prep dishes from the freezer to the microwave or oven and then directly to your tummy (the food, not the container) with the Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers. Sold in sets of three, four, or five, each container has three compartments and an airtight seal with a leak-proof design. The BPA-free containers are great for regular meals or meal prep and their durable Borosilicate glass construction makes it easy to get oils, messes, and smells out (dishwasher safe, hurray!). The set also comes with 30 meal prep stickers for easy labeling and 20 plastic sauce cups.
10. Eocolz Electric Bento Box
BEST FOR HOT STUFF
If you need to keep your food hot, skip the long lines to use messy public microwaves. Instead, consider investing in an electric bento box for adults. Also a great option for anyone who logs long hours on the road, the Eocolz Electric Bento Box can heat food to the perfect temperature in 20 to 60 minutes depending on the meal. Inside, you can find two compartments with a removable stainless steel tray to make cleaning a breeze. It comes with two plugs — one for a vehicle and another for the office or house. The Eocolz has a 1.5 L capacity, removable compartments, storage for the included spoon and fork, and it also comes with a lunch bag that perfectly fits the bento-microwave hybrid.
11. BKLYN BENTO Stainless Steel 3-Tier Bento Box
BEST FOR OUTDOOR EATERS
This eco-friendly and dishwasher-safe adult bento box is made of sturdy stainless steel and comes with three different tiers. The ultimate buddy for a hike or a stroll to the park, this bento box from BKLYN BENTO can handle drops and falls while still keeping your dry food safe and contained. On the top tier, you can fit more shallow dishes like nuts and trail mix, while the middle and lower compartments are big enough to house fruit and veggies, sandwiches, salads and more.
12. Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Lunch Jar
For those who want to pack their meals up instead of out, there is the warm-food-friendly Zojirushi Mr. Bento Stainless Lunch Jar. A compartmentalized, vacuum-insulated thermos with four inner bowls, the Zojirushi can keep food cold or hot and the individual bowls can be microwaved. The bowls range in size from seven ounces to 15 ounces, making it easy to find space for all your food and snacks. The stainless-steel set has a non-stick coated interior, a BPA-free plastic outside, and comes with a spoon and convenient carrying case.
13. Magewappa Maru
BEST TRADITIONAL GIFT
If you’re looking for a more traditional approach to bento boxes, there’s the beautiful Magewappa Maru from Bento & Co. Ideal for meals eaten at home, the two-piece container is made using Japanese Cedwarwood and polyurethane. An excellent housewarming gift, the containers have an enticing cedar smell and a breathable design that allows food to be enjoyed at room temperature.