Bento is a Japanese tradition of packing lunch in a small, single-serve container that dates all the way back to the 1100s. When you think about how old it is, it seems crazy that the bento craze only reached the United States a couple of years ago.
Kawaii character-inspired bentos, called kyaraben, are one of the cutest ways to pack lunch. Just looking at bento box ideas on Pinterest is enough to brighten up your lunch break — and make you hungry! Better yet, they’re versatile: even the pickiest eaters can customize a kawaii bento box to their tastes.
In this blog post, you’ll learn how to pack your very own kawaii bento, including what tools you need to get started and what to pack in your bento lunch box. Let’s get started!
What You Need
The foundation of your meal is the bento box you will pack it in. These days, there are many different styles of bento boxes, including Japanese and Western brands, for you to choose from. Some bento boxes have multiple layers for you to store snacks and side dishes on top, with a larger compartment on the bottom for a main dish. Others come with removable dividers you can use to divvy up the bento box however you see fit. Still others come with their own utensils for easy eating!
A traditional Japanese bento lunch is built around rice balls. Rice molds are a fun way to make your lunch box more kawaii. They come in adorable shapes, like bears and bunnies. You can even find rice molds to create rice balls in the shape of your favorite kawaii characters, like Hello Kitty!
Different sized cookie cutters are a must-have for personalizing your bento box. You can use them on sandwiches, slices of meat or cheese, veggies, and fruits to make your bento lunch more unique. These sweet shapes can make even the most boring lunch kawaii!
Cupcake liners are perfect for divvying up the compartments of your bento box or keeping a picky eater’s food from touching. You can fill them with berries, pieces of melon, cherry tomatoes, crackers, or cookies to add a little bit of extra to your bento box.
Cute cocktail toothpicks are the perfect decorative accent for any bento box lunch. You can use them for clean and easy pickup on melon balls or cherry tomatoes, or even use them to create meat and cheese or caprese skewers.
Kawaii Bento Lunch Ideas
Many of us think of sandwiches as boring lunch fare, but that couldn’t be further from the truth when you’re talking about bento boxes. Sandwiches’ ability to be cookie cut into unique shapes makes them extremely versatile for themed bentos. You can use slices of meat and cheese to create faces and other accents on your sandwich creations!
Pasta salad makes for a versatile lunch because of the many ways you can make it. Traditional macaroni salad, pesto and caprese, Caesar salad… the list goes on and on. Or, alternatively, serve up warm pasta with your favorite sauce in a thermos, or even a noodle stir fry.
Meat and Cheese Crackers Lunch
A meat and cheese crackers lunch feels nostalgic to me, probably because it reminds me of those little turkey Lunchables I used to eat in elementary school. You can make it kawaii by cutting the meats and cheeses into cute shapes with your mini cookie cutters!
Rice Ball Lunch
The rice ball lunch is a staple of the Japanese bento tradition. What’s awesome about rice balls is that they can be sculpted into any shape your heart desires. Want Rilakkuma-shaped bear rice balls? Do it. Pink-dyed Hello Kitty cat-shaped rice balls? Go for it!