Japanese “Inspired” Bento Box

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Build a bento box that is based on the original. This Japanese bento box features a medley of foods influenced by traditional combinations of Japanese bento box fillings. Learn to make a tamagoyaki-inspired omelet to pack alongside cabbage salad, rice, edamame, and smoked or sushi-grade fish.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy bento box recipe inspired by the original, look no further. With these step-by-step instructions, you’ll assemble a classic Japanese Bento Box with fillings influenced by authentic Japanese dishes.

Before discussing what you’ll need to make a Japanese-inspired bento box, let’s talk about what a bento box is.

What is a Japanese Bento Box?

A Japanese Bento Box is a brilliant way to upgrade your packed lunches from boring to a fresh and flavorful variety of nourishing dishes meant to be enjoyed at room temperature. If you are new to traditional Japanese Bento Boxes, here’s what you should know:

  • A bento box is essentially a Japanese lunchbox typically packed with an assortment of single-serving dishes that are just as tasty when eaten at room temperature.
  • In Japan, bento boxes almost always include a side of rice, flavorful protein sources, and nutrient-rich veggies.
  • The lunch box items are quick to make to be prepared the night before or in the morning.

This bento box is packed with foods influenced by traditional bento box fillings. You’ll make a simple omelet inspired by Tomagoyami and a crisp cabbage salad coated in pleasantly nutty, tangy, and salty miso-based dressing. Fill the rest of your box with cooked brown rice (or sushi rice), smoked salmon, and edamame for lunch like no other.

You can also try a vegan bento box for a 100% plant-based meal or change up the flavor and ingredients with a curry bento box, vegetarian bento box, chicken teriyaki, and a Mexican bento box.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Easy, healthy ingredients are all it takes to make this easy meal prep lunch box.

For the Tamagoyaki-Inspired Omelet

  • Extra virgin olive oil: To keep the omelet from sticking, you’ll need EVOO (or avocado oil).
  • Egg: This wouldn’t be an omelet without eggs.
  • Soy sauce: Soy sauce helps develop an authentic sweet and tangy flavor.
  • Mirin: Mirin is a rice wine that adds complexity to the flavor of Japanese foods. If you don’t have mirin, you can substitute it with rice vinegar plus a half teaspoon of brown sugar.
  • Salt: Just a pinch to elevate every flavor.

For the Japanese Salad

  • Cabbage: I like using a blend of red and white cabbage. You can also use green, savoy, or Nappa cabbage.
  • Carrot: Carrots add another layer of crunch and a touch of sweetness. You can also use radish, daikon, parsnip, or jicama sticks.
  • Sesame Seeds: Add black sesame seeds for a subtle nutty crunch.
  • Cilantro Leaves
  • For the dressing: To make a simple dressing with undeniable Japanese-inspired flavor, you’ll need miso paste, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar, water, and freshly grated ginger.

To complete this Bento box

  • Rice: You’ll need about a quarter cup of uncooked rice per bento box. While brown rice is the healthier choice, you can use any rice.
  • Spicy Salt & Chili Edamame: You’re going to love this effortless, healthy, and tasty snack!
  • Sashimi-inspired salmon: Add a couple of slices of smoked wild salmon (as it keeps for longer) or fresh sushi-grade salmon.
Japanese inspired bento box surrounded by ingredients to make it.

How To Make

There are just a few steps to put together this delicious, healthy Japanese bento box.

Omelet (loosely inspired by Tamagoyaki*)

  1. Beat the egg: In a small bowl, beat the egg using a fork (or, in true Japanese fashion, beat the egg with a pair of chopsticks).
  2. Combine the ingredients: Add the soy sauce, mirin, and a tiny pinch of salt to the bowl and combine.
  3. Heat the oil: Warm the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Use a pastry brush or a paper towel to coat the skillet in a light layer of oil.
  4. Cook the omelet: Slowly pour the egg mixture into the skillet, forming a thin layer. Let it cook until the egg is almost set. Then, carefully roll the egg into a cylinder and cook for a few more seconds.
  5. Slice the omelet: Remove the omelet from the skillet and transfer it to a cutting board to let it cool slightly. Gently press down on it and then slice the cylinder-shaped omelet into thin rolls.

*A quick note about the Tamagoyahki-inspired omelet: Traditional Tamagoyaki is made with different layers of cooked egg. This is a simplified version for quick and easy lunches.

Japanese Salad

  1. Make the dressing: Whisk the ginger, miso, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and water together in a small bowl. Set the dressing aside
  2. Toss the salad in the dressing: In a separate bowl, toss the cabbage, carrots, cilantro leaves, and sesame seeds with the dressing. Give it a taste and season with salt only if you need to.

Quick tip: This salad is delicious if you add the dressing a few hours before serving, so the flavors have a chance to mingle. Feel free to toss the salad in the dressing the evening before -or before heading out of the door in the morning.

Assemble

  1. Pack the bento box: After preparing the omelet and the Japanese salad, portion each into individual compartments inside your bento box. Finish with a serving of brown rice, edamame, and smoked salmon.
Closeup of japanese inspired bento box filled with lots of healthy foods.

How to Store

Fridge:

It’s important to let the egg and rice cool completely before sealing the lid. If you plan to enjoy your bento box within a few hours, it’ll be okay stored at room temperature. You can also tuck an icepack into the box.

If you’re not eating it the same day, you can store your packed bento box in the fridge overnight and eat it within 2 to 3 days.

Food safety tip! It’s super important to let everything cool to room temperature before sealing the lid to prevent bacterial growth.

Alternative fillings

For more vegetarian Japanese-inspired bento box filings, check out the list below:

  • Dried Nori Chips
  • Pickled Vegetables
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Cooked Soba Noodles
  • Umeboshi (Japanese preserved plums)
  • Cucumbers

My Favorite Bento Boxes Containers

  • Stainless Steel Bento Box: I love stainless steel bento boxes. These are large enough to hold a good size meal. They are sturdy yet lightweight. Plus, they are still as good as new after over a year in the dishwasher!
  • Leak-proof Bento Box: If you prefer something lighter and less industrial and non-toxic, check out these food-grade lunch boxes or a BPA-free plastic option with a cute bamboo lid. These are a great investment!
  • Classic Glass Containers: These glass containers are of fantastic quality and are very resistant! I even dropped one, and it’s still in one piece.
Japanese bento box at an angle on the table with whole carrots on the side.

Why I Love This Recipe

  • The original Japanese bento box concept inspires it.
  • Gluten-free, dairy-free, and easily vegetarian (omit the salmon).
  • Features a simplified version of Japanese Tamagoyaki.
  • Nourishing balance of protein, fat, and carbs.
  • Delicious served at room temperature.
  • Great for workday lunches.

Other Recipes You’ll Love

And for more inspiring healthy lunch recipes, you can also check these 100+ Vegan Meal Prep Ideas.

If you try this Japanese “inspired” bento box recipe, please leave a comment and a rating and let me know how much you liked it!

Japanese bento box on the counter ready to cover and take on the go.
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Japanese “Inspired” Bento Box

Build a bento box inspired by the original. This Japanese Bento Box features a medley of foods inspired by traditional combinations of Japanese bento box fillings. Learn to make a tamagoyaki-inspired omelet to pack alongside cabbage salad, rice, edamame, and smoked or sushi-grade fish.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Assembly5 minutes
Total Time30 minutes
Course: Lunch
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 1 bento box
Calories: 586kcal
Author: Sara Trezzi

Ingredients

For the omelet (Tamagoyaki)

  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mirin - substitute with rice vinegar + ½ teaspoon raw brown sugar
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil - or avocado oil

For the Japanese salad

  • ½ cup red cabbage - finely shredded
  • ½ white cabbage - finely shredded
  • 1 small carrot - cut into matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • 4-5 cilantro leaves
  • ½ teaspoon miso paste
  • ½ tablespoon soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • ½ tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger

Other ingredients

  • ¾ cup cooked brown rice - around ¼ cup uncooked rice per bento box (50g)
  • ½ cup spicy salt & chili edamame
  • 2 slices smoked wild salmon - or fresh sushi-grade salmon

Instructions

Omelette (Tamagoyaki inspired)

  • In a small bowl, beat the egg well using a fork (or in authentic Japanese style, you can use chopsticks).
  • Add the soy sauce, mirin, and a tiny pinch of salt and mix until all the ingredients are combined. If you don’t have mirin, you can add rice vinegar and a ½ teaspoon of brown sugar to give it a bit of sweetness.
  • Heat a small skillet at medium-high temperature, and with the help of a pastry brush or a kitchen towel, spread a light layer of oil.
  • Pour a thin layer of egg mixture into the skillet. Once the egg has cooked slightly, roll it into a cylinder and let it cook for another few seconds.
  • Remove the omelet from the pan, let it cool slightly, and press it a bit before slicing it into thin rolls.
  • Note: A real Tamagoyaki is made by creating different layers of cooked egg. This is a much-simplified version that you can prepare in a few minutes for your quick and easy lunch.

Japanese salad

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, miso, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and water and set it aside.
  • In another bowl, toss the cabbage, carrots, cilantro leaves, and sesame seeds together with the dressing (see note 1).

Bento Box Assembly

  • Assemble all ingredients into your bento box.
  • Let everything cool down at room temperature before sealing.
  • Enjoy your bento box at room temperature.

Notes

Note 1: This salad is delicious if you add the dressing a few hours before consuming it, so feel free to dress it the evening before or in the morning.
How to Store: Let the egg and rice cool completely before sealing the lid. If you plan to enjoy your bento box within a few hours, it’ll be okay stored at room temperature. You can also tuck an icepack into the box.
If you’re not eating it the same day, you can store your packed bento box in the fridge overnight.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate per serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 586kcal | Carbohydrates: 75g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 23g | Sugar: 21g

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