Best Foods to Include in a Bento

Packing a Japanese style bento lunch box is easier than you might think. Simply plan ahead and make an extra portion of your dinner to include in your bento box the next day. 

This article includes a list of bento items that can easily be made a day ahead and enjoyed for both dinner or lunch the next day.

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    Bento Box and Chopsticks. Tomohiro Iwanaga/a.CollectionRF/Getty Images

    Don't know where to start? Read this primer regarding How to Make a Bento, to help you get started.

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    Onigiri (Rice Ball) with Karashi Mentaiko (Spicy Cod Roe) Filling. Naho Yoshizawa/Aflow/Getty Images

    Rice balls can be made quickly and they're easy to eat with your hands. It can be made with many different fillings and is considered a staple item for Japanese bento.

     

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    Teriyaki SPAM Musubi. © Judy Ung

    While SPAM musubi is more popular in the West than it is in Japan, it is often a bento favorite among kids and adults alike.

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    Instant Inari Sushi in 15 Minutes. Tomohiro Iwanaga - a.collectionRF/Amana Images/Getty

    Inari sushi can easily be prepared in 15 minutes with this quick recipe. It’s a great finger food to include in the bento.

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    Tamagoyaki (Japanese Egg Roulade). MIXA/MIXA/Getty Images

    Tamagoyaki or egg roulade is a classic bento item that is commonly found in Japanese bento and is a great filler or side dish.

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    Soy Sauce Eggs (Shoyu Tamago). © Judy Ung

    While soy sauce eggs are a popular food that is often served with ramen noodles, it's also a great addition to bento and acts as a great filler. 

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    Spicy Konnyaku (Yam Cake). © Judy Ung

    Japanese cuisine often has many side dishes, and including small side dishes in a bento is common. This spicy yam cake recipe is one such example.

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    Baked Chicken Karaage. © Judy Ung

    Baked chicken karaage, is a healthier version of Japanese fried chicken which is loaded with umami flavor and is a wonderful addition to bento. 

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    Teriyaki Chicken Meatballs (Tsukune). © Judy Ung

    Teriyaki chicken meatballs, or tsukune, are great for an evening meal but are even better as a bento item. These are also easy to eat as finger food or with small food skewers.

     

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    Shio Koji Salmon. © Judy Ung

    Grilled, baked, and fried fish are all very popular Japanese bento items. Shio koji salmon is easy to prepare and leftovers are perfect for adding to a bento.

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    Beef and Asparagus Rolls. © Judy Ung

    While these rolls are often a popular appetizer or item for dinner, they are a particularly special dish when packed in a bento.

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    Sui Gyoza, Boiled Japanese Dumpling. © Judy Ung

    Gyoza is a popular food item for Japanese bento and also an easy finger food.

     

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    Ground Beef Wontons. © Judy Ung

    Wontons are an easy finger food and always a favorite to include in a bento.

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    Japanese Pumpkin Croquette (Kabocha Korokke). © Hideki Ueha

    Croquettes are a very popular food item for Japanese style bento. Traditional korokke are made with potatoes, vegetables, and meat. Try Japanese pumpkin (kabocha) korokke for a fancy treat.

     

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    Spicy Edamame. © Judy Ung

    Edamame is quick to make, packed with protein and adds beautiful color to any bento. Try an easy spicy version of edamame with the recipe here.

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    Soy-Vinegar Pickled Cucumbers. © Judy Ung

    Tsukemono pickles are often included in Japanese bento as they often compliment the rice portion of the bento. Try easy soy vinegar cucumbers or sweet and tangy daikon radish pickles.