These add new meaning to picnic perfection. 

By Laura Fisher
Updated May 31, 2019
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If you have kids in school or pack office lunches, you may have heard talk of the emerging bento box trend, or seen the adorable, pinterest-worthy boxes around the breakroom. Despite its recent popularity, the bento box actually originated approximately 1,000 years ago, and is a staple of Japanese culinary history. Originally, the conveniently single-portion boxes were used to pack a well-rounded lunch for Japanese workers. Traditional bento boxes were filled with noodles, fish or meat, and pickled vegetables, but you can fill them with a countless range of options that will please the palates of both picky and mature eaters. The modern bento has reached new heights of crazy-cuteness—search the hashtag #bentobox on Instagram and you'll discover thousands of foods that have been crafted into adorable, edible art.

But there's no pressure to pack a bento that looks picture-perfect. If your family is the type that likes to have a little of this, a little of that, the bento box is made for you. It’s not just for packing up lunches, though. Bento boxes are the perfect thing to pack along for picnics, road trips, soccer games, and everything in between. We love this leakproof, stainless steel bento box with three compartments, perfect for a main and two sides. If you’re packing for multiple family members, this double-stacked bento box can accommodate larger portions, and even includes a snap-in fork for utmost convenience.

Now that you’re sold on the bento box for all your summer adventures, it’s time to talk about what delicious little nibbles can go inside. The possibilities are endless, but start with some of our favorite bento box recipe ideas that are sure to please the whole family.

The Purist: Asian-Style Bento

While this version may not be a true Japanese bento box, it pays homage to bento’s roots with delicious Asian-inspired flavors that the whole family will love.

Compartment 3: Sliced red bell peppers and baby carrots with sesame seeds sprinkled on top

The Mozz: Italian-Style Bento

Who doesn’t love a good pasta meal? This creamy pasta salad packs well for picnics and other summer outings. If you want to go to the next level, pack along a bottle of balsamic glaze for the adults to drizzle over the caprese skewers.

Compartment 2: Cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and basil leaves skewered on toothpicks

Compartment 3: Green and red grapes cut on the bias

The Diner: Burger & Fries Bento

Inside of hitting up the roadside diner on your next road trip, pack up these adorable (and delicious) sliders, nourishing sweet potatoes, and berries for a sweet finish. Trust us—no one will miss the greasy burger and fries.

Compartment 1: Mini ranch burgers

Compartment 3: Sliced strawberries with chocolate chips

The Kid-Friendly Classic: PB&J Bento

Everyone loves the sweet and salty combination of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but for a meal every family member will love, ditch the standard, squishy peanut butter and try this crunchy, easily-packable muffin version. Just use a smaller muffin tin to make your muffins fit in your bento box.

Compartment 2: Halved hard-boiled eggs

Compartment 3: Celery and carrots (with an optional side of kid-friendly dipping sauce)

The Dipper: Snacking Bento

Whether you’re heading out for an afternoon picnic or have a long road ahead, sometimes you don’t need a whole meal. Bento boxes are perfect for packing family-friendly snacks and treats to pass around. Some bento boxes come with dipping compartments, or you pack along a set of these leak-proof condiment containers.

Compartment 1: Sliced apples and strawberries with raspberry greek yogurt dip

Compartment 2: Raw carrots, broccoli and peppers with five-minute hummus

Compartment 3: Cheddar cheese cubes