The Goal: Find a bento box that’ll satisfy both second-graders going back to school with PB&Js and grown-ups who want to bring last night’s leftovers to the office.
The Verdict: The Red Dot Design Award–winning Monbento Original bento box was created by a French physical therapist who couldn’t find a suitable model in all of Europe. So she left her job in 2009 and made her own. It comes with two stackable layers to keep dressings separate from sandwiches and holds about four cups of food (far more than most boxes, which average two cups). Internal lids are fitted with a silicone hinge to keep them extra-snug, and the whole thing is wrapped with an elastic band, making it leakproof (though we don’t recommend it for soup). It’s made of highly durable, BPA-free plastic that’s soft to the touch, and unlike others, the Monbento is dishwasher-, freezer-, and microwave-safe.
It comes in a variety of colors, too.
More Strat-approved bento boxes
To find the best Japanese-style lunch boxes for students, we spoke with Angelique Chmielewski, owner of Japanese home-goods store Nalata Nalata. According to Chmielewski, the best portable bento container is airtight, with a rubber gasket that is leak-resistant, and easy to wash. Below, options that’ll render Tupperware containers (let alone brown paper bags) obsolete. A tip: To avoid stealing your kid’s lunch box, we’d advise ordering two upfront.
A simple aluminum option from Muji.
An airtight, double-stacked bento with ventilation locks for hot food. And it comes with a pair of chopsticks.
While not technically a compartmentalized bento box, this is a very functional and handsome stack of containers that includes its own lunch bag, stainless-steel bowls, and utensils.
This traditional bento box is made of Japanese cypress Thujopsis wood, known for its antimicrobial properties and water-resistance.
Bento boxes have even infiltrated Pottery Barn — these compartmentalized versions are like the plastic lunch boxes you toted as a child, only with sensible portion separators.
Not exactly a bento box in the traditional sense, but these are Chmielewski’s favorite containers for lunches on the go — the three size options, she says, help with portion control.
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