Bento no. 5: Black bean burger and mushroom rice vegan bento


Bento contents:

  • Vegan mushroom rice, with 1 cup white rice (190 calories)
  • Black bean mini burgers with tomato sauce, using about 3/4 cups black beans (250 calories)
  • Instant radish pickles (5 calories)
  • Blanched spinach (20 calories)

Total calories (approx.) 465 calories (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 30 minutes total (20 the night before, 10 in the morning)

Type: Japanese vegan

At first glance this traditional sho-jin ryo-ri (vegan cuisine created by Zen Buddhist monks) inspired bento may look a bit complicated. It does takes a little more time to prepare, but you can (and should) do most things the night before or earlier, so you just need a few minutes to assemble everything in the morning. You can make the bean burgers a couple of days in advance, and just heat them through in the morning. The mushroom rice should be made the day before at earliest, or frozen. 30 minutes is really the maximum time it should all take, presuming you make both the burgers and rice the night before.

Everything here is low-fat, vegan and gluten free (with some precautions - see the bean burger recipe), yet it’s very filling and I think quite tasty.

I’ve given the complete recipes for the mushroom rice and the black bean burgers on Just Hungry, with instructions for the instant radish pickles and assembling the whole bento here.


Per person:

  • 4 to 6 black bean mini-burgers
  • 1 cup vegan mushroom rice
  • 2 large handfuls fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 4-5 radishes, or equivalent amount of daikon radish, or a mix
  • 1 tsp. Anardana (pomegranate) powder
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. salt
  • A little red pickled ginger (beni sho-ga) for decoration, optional


  • 1 small frying pan
  • rice cooker
  • bowl for the pickles
  • pan to blanch the spinach

Steps - the night before or earlier

  • Make the black bean burgers. You can form them into patties and finish cooking them in the morning, or cook them off and then re-heat them in the morning.
  • Make the mushroom rice, or make it ready to cook in the rice cooker, and set the timer so it’s done in the morning.
  • Wash and blanch the spinach in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then drain and refresh under cold running water. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible, into a sort of log shape. Wrap well in plastic.
  • Make the pickles: slice the radishes very thinly (a mandoline helps here). Sprinkle with the anardana powder and the salt, and massage well with your hands until the radish slices are limp. Cover well.

Steps - in the morning

  • Put the hot rice in the bento box, and let cool.
  • Crisp up the patties in a hot pan with a little oil. Let cool a bit before putting into the bento box. (It is always a good idea to re-heat pre-cooked food before putting into the bento box.)
  • Drain the radish pickles, and put in a bento seperator cup or in a piece of plastic wrap. (I prefer the plastic wrap since I can twist it closed, and well, it’s cheap.) Put in the bento box.
  • Cut the spinach log into bite-size pieces. Put in the bento box.
  • Put the patties in the bento box. Sprinkle a little red pickled ginger (beni sho-ga) if desired.


I’ve given the timelines in two parts: one for the night before, and one for the morning. I’ve assumed in the Night Before timeline that you will be making both the rice and the bean burgers, but as I’ve described above you can do one or both further in advance. What I like to do is to have some of the mushroom rice for dinner, and the rest in the bento boxes.


The larger view timelines are split into two: the night before, and in the morning.


Anardana powder is made from dried pomegranate seeds. It has a very interesting, slightly sour, almost salty flavor. You can get it at Indian or South Asian grocery stores.

You can also use an instant tsukemono (pickling) powder available from Japanese grocery stores, or use my homemade instant tsukemono powder. Or, just use salt (a nice sea salt would be good), and add a squeeze of lemon or lime.

Red pickled ginger or beni sho-ga is available at Japanese grocery stores. It’s mainly added for the bright color here. That red is artificial coloring, so you can omit it if you want to keep this all-natural.

I used white rice for the mushroom rice instead of brown, since I think the recipe worked better with white. There’s more than enough fiber in the bento as a whole.

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Thank You

Thank you for the black bean burger recipe! We will be making up a batch this evening.

I love this site!

I agree, the bean burgers

I agree, the bean burgers sound great. I also really like the way you packed the spinach. Really enjoying justbento btw, I’m sure it’s going to be a great resource.

Black Bean Mini-burgers

Is there something that can be used to replace the fermented black beans/miso in the mini-burgers? Unfortunately I am soy intolerant, so soybeans are out of my diet.

Like both of your blogs and hope to get some good lunch ideas and recipies.

You could just leave it out

You could just leave it out and add a little salt to season the beans instead - it will taste different but should still be good! You can try increasing the amount of mushrooms to compensate. Mushrooms have lots of umami in them (which is what the fermented soybeans or the miso add).

great burger recipe

Thanks for this great recipe… even my non-vege husband loved them. I increased the mushrroms to 1 cup and added parsley. Great site s well.

Leaving out the fermented black beans/miso

I would want to be carefull about adding to many mushrooms, since that might affect the ability of the patties to stay together. I was thinking that I could add either a reduced soy/tamari sauce or even some mushroom stock base or even vegetable stock base might be the best solution. The it would add both flavor and mosture, which is one thing that the fermented soy beans/miso add to the recipie.

The reduced soy sauce/tamari would be the easiest since I always seem to have tamari in my refrigerator. I guess some experimentation is in order, since these would be great for me to make and keep in the freezer and bring in my lunch once a week.

Tried it

I made the black bean patties yesterday to put in bentos for myself and the hubs. Turned out great and it’s good to know that they freeze well. My problem with bentos are that I rely a little too heavily on leftovers. It’s nice to have something new and exciting.


That’s great to hear! I rely on leftovers also but it’s good to have at least 1 (or 2) things that are not leftovers in a bento I think.

Black Bean Burgers

Just wanted to let you know that I finally made these. I had an idea to use reduced tamari (since I am soy intolerant) and it worked out alright, but they may have needed more moisture. I think the next time I make these, I will use more mushrooms ( as you have suggested) and if they seem dry, I can always add some tamari at the end.

I havn’t used salt since I was in high school (long time ago) so I don’t really miss it in my foods. And since I will most likely use either a BBQ sauce (my weakness) or a curried kechup on them, I probably won’t notice any different.

I only got 8 patties though, using a scant 1/4 cup of the mixture for each patty. For the tiny burgers, how much of the black bean mixture should be used?

tiny burgers

Janelle, adding more mushrooms would make it moister for sure I think.

I just divided it up into 12 portions by flattening it out and cutting it with a knife. Tiny burgers just means more crispy surface, which is the best part o f the bean burgers! But bigger burgers will work too of course.

Excellent lunch

Since it’s spring, I made a picnic lunch using this bento recipe for me and one of my friends. It took a while to prepare, but I made most of the night before as you suggested, and so it was relatively easy to put all of the pieces together in the morning. Unfortunately, my kitchen access right now is somewhat limited, or else I would do things like this more often.

This was my first time making bento, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was highly impressed with how well all of the different flavors went together. I never realized how easy it was to pickle vegetables before (I used salt and lemon juice) and, to my surprise, found myself devouring all of the radishes, a vegetable I had hitherto been somewhat suspicious of. The black bean burgers especially were very filling — I think we’ll still have plenty of leftovers! I didn’t put enough flour in, so they were falling apart right and left, but though they looked a little funny, they still tasted great. I noticed they took a lot longer to cook than the recipe called for — was this because I made them pretty big, or put miso in them, or what?

There was something really idyllic about sitting outside on a beautiful spring day, drinking green tea and eating a delicious bento! Thanks so much for posting the recipes! I love this site!

Black bean garlic sauce

In place of the fermented black beans I used a jarred black bean garlic sauce, which is pretty easy to find in an American supermarket that has a decent “Asian foods” section. The kind I bought had fermented black beans as one of the ingredients, plus garlic, soy, sugar, and other flavors. I replaced it in equal volume for the fermented black beans. It adds a little different flavor than the regular fermented black beans, I assume, but I liked it.

Re: Bento no. 5: Black bean burger and mushroom rice vegan ...

this is lovely! I've just been posting about yochien bentos - bentos for children, since my children were in Japanese kindergarten. They are now in elementary, and don't usually need to bring bento to school, but they will this week for a special school event so I am going to try these black bean burgers. Thank you for your inspiring blogs!

Re: Bento no. 5: Black bean burger and mushroom rice vegan ...

I adore you, your site, and your recipes! I would adore it even MORE if people could become members, and save their favorite bento examples and websites on their own bento page! (Just an idea!) Thank you for a wonderful, calorie conscious, and informative site!

Re: Bento no. 5: Black bean burger and mushroom rice vegan ...

Hi Wickedvox, although we do have that kind of feature here, I would recommend using a bookmarking site like to bookmark your favorite recipes and other pages all over the web.

Lack of pomegranite powder

This is just a note for anyone who, like me, hasn't any anardana in stock and so tries to omit it. You will end up with limp, salty slices of radish and they will be disgusting :) I guess the anardana causes some sort of magical alchemy... I'll have to get hold of some and try!

I rinsed mine well with cold water, and doused them with lemon juice. By the time I'd put the rest of the bento together, the radishes had gone a lovely rosey pink. I drained the juice off before packing them. I've no idea if they tasted anything like they were meant to, but I quite liked them :)

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