11 Perfect and Healthy Japanese Bento Ingredients

A Japanese bento is truly a work of art. They are carefully crafted to look and taste their best when the lid of the bento box is opened.

The Japanese are particular about the way they pack their bentos, not only because they want them to look beautiful, but also because they want to ensure that different flavours of food are not mixed together. The food in the bento is cooked and seasoned in a way that is appropriate for each ingredient, so if the flavours are mixed up, the food will not taste as good as it should.

The colours and layout of the bento are also designed to provide a visual treat for the person eating it. Sometimes the bento is divided into several tiers, with each level having a different theme to entertain the viewer. Consideration for the person eating the bento is very important in Japanese bento.

Here are 11 perfect and healthy Japanese bento ingredients suitable for picnics.

Kyara Bento & Kyara Onigiri

A bento box is a packed lunch box and is an important part of the Japanese lifestyles. In a bento box, a various dishes are compactly fitted into a lunch box and brought to school and work.

Kyaraben, a shortened form of character bento, is a style of elaborately arranged bento that features food decorated to look like people, characters from popular media. Initially, a decorated bento was intended to interest children in their food and encourage a broader range of eating habits. 

Making cute onigiri (rice balls) is an excellent way for beginners to make kyaraben. You can make cute onigiri by cutting out cheese and seaweed into small facial features. Let’s start to make character onigiri!

Get ideas about Kyara Onigiri? Please check our photo contest page from here. 2022 Kyara Onigiri Photo Contest

Tamagoyaki Japanese Omelette

Eggs are an efficient, rich source of protein and vitamins.  

This popular item in Bento is made by rolling together thin layers of egg seasoned with soy sauce, sugar or mirin, a bit of salt or dashi stock in a frying pan.  

Add a small amount of the egg mixture into the heated pan.  Once the egg has cooked so that the top is still slightly uncooked, push it over to the side of your pan.

Add another small amount of the egg mixture.  Again wait for this to cook a little. You can then begin to roll the first bit of egg over the mixture you just put in the pan until you have a small roll of the egg.  Keep adding the egg in new layers until you have used it all up.  

After cooking, you can place the Tamagoyaki in a sushi rolling mat and roll up tightly to get a solid roll. This is a good idea especially when you first start making tamagoyaki to make sure the roll is tight and easy to cut. 

Baked Salmon

Baked Salmon seems like a no-brainer. However, it can be tricky to achieve the perfect texture without overcooking or undercooking the fish. Let’s go over some important tips.

How to bake salmon:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 ºF (218ºC) and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Place the salmon skin-side-down on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Let your salmon fillets rest out on the counter for 15-20 minutes until they have come to (almost) room temperature. This will help with even cooking.
  2. Bake until the internal temperature of the salmon reaches 145°F (63 ºC), measured with a cooking thermometer in the thickest part of the filet. I use an oven probe thermometer, so the oven will let me know when it’s done cooking, and it takes about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness and temperature of the fillet. You can also test for doneness by inserting a fork or knife in the salmon and twisting it a bit; the fish should be opaque and flake easily.
  3. Brush the salmon with the remaining marinade and broil for 3 minutes (without changing the oven rack position in the middle of the oven). You can also check the doneness of your salmon with a fork. When the salmon flakes easily with a fork, it’s ready.
  4. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the salmon to a serving plate. Serve the salmon with steamed rice (optional furikake rice seasoning on top), roasted miso garlic cauliflower, and sautéed greens with ginger.

Pickled Vegetables

Japanese pickled vegetables have been enjoyed for centuries as a side dish. Though many pickled vegetables exist, differing in both pickling methods and ingredients used, they all serve to provide a unique flavour to accompany any meal.

Aside from their taste, pickled vegetables also have several health benefits. Being vegetables, they are an excellent source of dietary fibre and different vitamins and minerals. Their light seasoning also ensures they remain low in carbohydrates while packing heaps of flavour.

Probiotic cultures resulting from the pickling process are another crucial health benefit of pickles. These aid in digestion and promote gastrointestinal health. Pickled vegetables are also excellent healthy palate cleansers between courses.

With the endless variety and myriad of health benefits, it is no wonder that pickled vegetables have enjoyed centuries of history and continue to be eaten up to the present day.

Tofu Hamburg Steak

Tofu, made from soybean curds, is naturally gluten-free and low in calories.  It is an excellent source of iron and calcium and an important source of protein for many vegetarians and vegans. It may help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol.  

Tofu is available in Asian groceries and nearly all supermarkets.  

Mixing with chicken/pork/beef mince, onion, shitake mushroom etc, makes for fluffy juicy burgers.  

You don’t need to drain tofu. Make tofu paste by mixing tofu with a whipper, add Panko breadcrumbs, which is also available in the shops above, to soak up moisture, add your preferred mince and ingredients, and season to make burgers.  

Cook them in a frying pan and enjoy with a soy sauce glaze, ketchup sauce, ponzu or whatever you like! 

Breaded Fried Shrimp (Ebi Fry)

Seafood has long been a staple part of the Japanese diet, and shrimp are no exception. Shrimp provide a medley of vitamins and minerals while also serving as an excellent low-carbohydrate source of protein.

One serving of shrimp provides almost half the recommended daily intake of selenium, a mineral essential for metabolism and that promotes heart health. That aside, shrimp is one of the best sources of the mineral iodine, which is crucial for thyroid function.

Despite being high in cholesterol, shrimp also act as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, they are an excellent source of antioxidants, due to their diet of algae.


Edamame is a type of immature soybean commonly found in Japanese cuisine. The round, bright green beans are often still encased in their pods and are popped out before consumption. Edamame is rich in soy protein, which is well-known for enhancing heart health. There are several different options for cooking edamame, which makes it easy to find something to satisfy nearly any palate.

Depending on your preferences, you can steam, sear, boil, roast or microwave edamame and consume it either hot or cold. Edamame is available in fresh and frozen varieties, both of which are nutritious and easy to prepare.

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

Asparagus is an excellent source of fibre, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K.  The excellent is that 1 cup of cooked asparagus has only 40 calories! 

It pairs nicely with the saltiness of the bacon.  To remove hard and woody ends, bend asparagus in your hands, and it’ll break precisely where you need it to.  It’s almost as if that asparagus wants to be trimmed.  

Cut asparagus a little longer than the width of bacon.  You don’t need to pre-cook the asparagus.  

Wrap 2 – 3 asparagus with one piece of bacon and attach the wrap with a toothpick.  Fry the wrap in a frying pan.  When the wrap is coloured, put the lid on for 1 – 3 minutes to cook asparagus through.  

Drizzle some soy sauce from the edge of the frying pan.  

Miso Soup

Miso means ‘fermented beans’ in Japanese. A traditional ingredient in Japanese and Chinese diets, miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and grains and contains millions of beneficial bacteria. The most common type of miso is made from only soybeans, but the variety and ratio of raw ingredients can vary. Some miso pastes are made from cultured wheat or millet, or combinations of different grains and beans.

The fermentation process involved in the production of miso promotes levels of beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics. These bacteria are thought to help various health issues, including digestion and gut health. In addition to supporting gut health, Being a rich source of probiotic bacteria, miso may support immune function and help fight infections.

Mandarin Orange (mikan)

Since mandarin is rich in “vitamin C”, it is said to be effective in preventing skin damage and colds. The pulp skin also contains a lot of “pectin”, which improves constipation.

In addition, the skin and white pith contain a type of flavonoid, “hesperidin,” which is said to be effective in preventing hypertension and arteriosclerosis.

According to a recent nutrition epidemiological study, the orange pigment “β-cryptoxanthin” has the same function as vitamin A in the body, and is expected to have the potential to prevent cancer. There are also reports that it reduces the risk of osteoporosis, rheumatism, diabetes and arteriosclerosis.

Green Tea

Japanese green tea is rich in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, providing various health benefits in conjunction with a unique and pleasant taste and aroma. 

The astringent taste of the tea is provided by catechins, an antioxidant that serves to reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure. Meanwhile, caffeine imparts the bitterness of tea while also helping to increase alertness and stamina. 

In addition, tea also uniquely contains the amino acid theanine. This imparts a sweet, umami flavour, counteracting the bitterness of caffeine, and the astringency of catechins. Theanine also relaxes the body, softening the effects of caffeine and lowering blood pressure. 

These three main flavour components combine with vitamins such as vitamin C, B2 and E, and minerals including potassium and calcium to provide a drink that is both rich in nutrients and pleasing to the palate. For these reasons, it is no wonder that green tea has been so widely enjoyed for centuries.

For craft Matcha & Tea from Kyoto to Melbourne, you may want to check Matcha Boy.

Special MJSF Price Campaign