And while we're at it...what are your favorite bento staples?

instant tsukemono mixI mentioned a few bento-oriented staples to keep around in my previous post about maintaining variety in your bentos. I’ve just done a quick look around my kitchen, and here are the things I have stocked as staples that I bought or made with future bentos in mind, besides the things I’ve mentioned already.


  • Various little cans of Japanese fishy things - clams (asari), mackerel (sanma), etc.
  • Inari zushi skin cans
  • A couple of furikake packs
  • A little bit of instant pickling mix, pictured above (need to make some more soon)


Freezer - here I have quite a lot!

  • Frozen vegetables - peas, edamame, mixed veg
  • Some frozen salted salmon
  • A little zip bag of about 10 mini-burgers that I made the last time we had meatloaf
  • A 500g bag of sesame seeds (they keep fresh longer in the freezer)
  • Frozen thin fried tofu (aburaage)
  • Some packs of boiled soybeans in liquid
  • Some packs of hummus
  • Thinly sliced beef that’s been wrapped in individual-use portions
  • Half a pack of frozen shrimp shumai

What are your favorite bento staples?

[Update:] Some great ideas in the comments - be sure to check them out. One new to me that I’ll have to try out - Zoe’s idea of using dressing mix as furikake! It’s also great to see how popular edamame has become. Just a few years ago I could only get it at Japanese groceries, and not even at all of them!

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I’m addicted to furikake. I have 4-5 kinds I think (can’t check since i’m at schoo now!)

summer sausage

I’m just barely beginning (got Mr. Bento for Xmas), but I find summer sausage is a good staple; keeps a long time, and a few slices makes a nice protein portion w/o being overwhelming.

I didn’t know hummus can

I didn’t know hummus can be frozen. Doesn’t it get grainy?

I am just starting out with bento too but I always have some Boca Burgers in the freezer. I cut them frozen into wedges and pan fry them, then add some ketchup. They aren’t as nice as your black bean fritters but they’re much less work for me!

Inari zushi

Do you know anyplace online that sells Inari zushi? I’ve been looking online and in every store (we have asian sections but no whole stores).


Re: Inari zushi

I actually found some of the canned pouches at my local Krogers. If I remember right it was a snall blue and white can.

Frozen vegetables. Always.

Frozen vegetables. Always. Indespensible. Also canned isn’t bad.

Whatever Pasta I Made. Now pretty much make a whole box (I use Barilla pasta that’s derived from legumes as its more protein less carbs) when I cook it, often in sauces. That gives us 7 dishes right there.

Fruit. Fruit is often forgotten as easy, quick, portable, wrapped by itself, and nutritious. Oranges and apples.

hummus, inari

Yes hummus freezes pretty well. I divide it up into about 1/2 cup portions, flattened out onto plastic wrap, wrapped up and then in a ziplock bag.

Inarizushi skin cans - I found them on the Koamart site for starters -

also kgrocer:

For European people, Japancentre has it

Korean and Japanese groceries are sure to have it, either in cans or in vacuum packs. (There are also frozen kinds)

I love the freezer, too

I keep most of my bento throw-ins in the freezer:


Onigiri and over leftover rice (these keep so beautifully and reheat in under a minute),

Homemade waffles,



Croquettes (One day a month, I make a bunch of fried foods, then freeze them. Tenpura freezes very well. Tonkatsu, not so much - comes out too dry/crewy when reheated.),

Inari (already rice-filled),

Pork buns (not a fan of the way these taste reheated in microwave ;p)

I've become a big fan of reheating some rice and throwing some canned tuna on top with Bulldog sauce on it, along with a bit of mayo mixed into the tuna. I'll put some leftover veggies in with it (sliced cucumber and avocado) with a few shredded up sheets of seasoned snack nori.

I just made my first good homemade miso soup the other day and I can't wait to implement your ball-o-miso-in-cellophane technique. :D

Pantry: furikaki…recently

Pantry: furikaki…recently found some Korean ones I love with whole baby anchovies (yum),canned tuna, wasabi, holy basil seasoning, variety of instant chazuke, Pocky and Ramune candy.

Fridge: several varieties of kimchee, pickled daikon, boiled eggs, fresh fruit, cucumbers, and carrots.

Freezer: kimchee dumplings, salted mackerel, frozen smelt, pork belly, and I always try to set aside small 1 cup containers from each meal I cook for later on in the week (if the entree is freezeable).

Staples for my bento (and my

Staples for my bento (and my son’s) include carrots, cucumbers, edemame, rice with furikake, various pastas with sauce, sausage, rice crackers, mini jellies and pocky. I try not to pack a lot of sweets but three or four pocky in the top compartment of my bento is just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth and it’s pretty easy on the calorie count. In the spring and summer I pack a lot of berries.

Go-To stuff for my bento

Furikake is great for when I’m feeling lazy so I keep a few different ones on hand. In my freezer, I generally stock frozen soybean, thin sliced beef, potato croquette, gyoza, unagi, and rice. In the fridge, I keep a stock of shoyu hard cooked eggs, some sort of tsukemono (sakura zuke is the current favorite), kizami shoga (the sliced, salty red ginger), umeboshi, tofu, and shirataki noodles along with a batch of sukiyaki sauce that I mix up in big batches. I don’t think I could survive without my stock of sukiyaki sauce since it makes for a great addition to anything I happen to be stir frying, not just for sukiyaki nights. It’s a trick my mom taught me and it really saves time since you don’t have to mix up a fresh batch every time you need it.

My staples

Every week I buy fresh veggies, usually broccoli, asparagus, snow peas, carrot, spring onions & ginger and fruit that’s in season (right now it’s stone fruit & berries). I also have homemade ponzu and miso dressings (I usually mix these with only one of my veggies to add interest), Kewpie mayo, sesame seeds, eggs and occasionally cheese or similar. I usually have a batch of simmered kabocha too.

In the freezer, I have edamame, corn, peas, shu mai, gyoza, aburage, crumbed prawns, meatballs, Chinese sausage, salted salmon, 1/2 cup portions of leftovers, rice and chicken fillets pre-cut into bento-size portions.

In the pantry, I have ramen, soba & udon noodles, jasmine & sushi rice, umeboshi, several kinds of furikake, including black sesame (my favourite), canned tuna, noodle sauce, and Pocky or mochi.

Sunday night is usually my prep night for the week. I cook a batch of rice, form some into onigiri and put into the freezer. I top up any sauces and make simmered kabocha.

All this and somehow it still takes me 45 mins to make a bento!!! :)

Two must-haves.

Since I try to make my bento by what my family has in the pantry, I rarely go buy anything special unless I’m just dying to make something new but there are two must haves:

Cavender’s Greek Seasoning. I use it as an all-purpose furikake. I love it on rice. Better than any furikake I’ve had. Edamame is the other necessity. Nice filler if I don’t want any other veggies.

Re: Two must-haves.

I love Cavendars! I'll have to try it on rice. I use it on almost everything else.

In Hawaii ...

our popular local bentos are a mix of island foods and Japanese. Some of the things I like are shiso furikake to coat musubis, corned beef hash, shoyu hotdog, kinpira gobo, and tempura.

kinpira gobo

Yes…gobo (burdock) is one of the vegetables we can’t get here…I miss it a lot but not quite enough to want to grow it (yet)…

Bento staples for someone with a huge appetite

I’ve had to stay at home due to back problems - which also means we’ve had to economise. As a result I usually make bento for my husband who likes a classic rice, topping and a little something on the side rather than an assortment of onigiris.

So our bento staples are rice, mugi soy sauce, vinegar, mirin, ponzu, sesame oil, chilli oil, worcestershire sauce, sake, beer, corn-flour miso, gochujang/kochujan, chilli flakes, garlic, ginger, honey, lemon, sesame seeds, shiso flavoured furikake, shaved bonito flakes Frozen Quorn (minced or in pieces) canned tuna, mackerel, eggs onions, pepper, spring onions, cucumber, cabbage, mushrooms, courgettes/zuchini, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, buckwheat greens Selection of Tsukemono (half home made - half store bought), dried shitake mushrooms

Soy sauce and beer make a great sauce base for stir fried vegetables

If you soak 20 shitake mushrooms overnight, stir fry those shitake for 5 minutes on a high flame and then cook those mushrooms under a very, very low one with 120mls of the soaking liquid, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and just under a tablespoon of caster sugar until all the liquid has been absorbed, sliced, these mushrooms are a gorgeous addition to a bento (drizzle over a little sesame oil). They last for a week in the fridge.

Buckwheat can be grown from scratch in a week - they require only water (and get by with very little sunlight) and make a delectably tender salad. It’s ridiculously easy - so we always have 3 pots growing at a time. (There are health concerns with over eating these, but I believe you’d have to juice them in order to ingest enough for this. I’m sure they are no more dangerous than potatoes for anyone eating them normally)

A few things I keep handy

My favorite bento staple is frozen berries. If you pack your bento at night, just put them in frozen. They will be thawed by the next day. You can sprinkle them on anything or eat them plain or with sugar. Such a nice treat in winter.

I agree that the best staples are frozen. We keep frozen broccoli, homemade potstickers and spring rolls, onigiri, and fried tofu puffs.

Re: And while we're at it...what are your favorite bento ...

crepes, french toast, or pancakes that I make ahead when I make weekend breakfasts
fresh fruit
boiled eggs
fresh veggies - peas, cucumber, zucchini pre-cut
deli meats (in case I am really feeling lazy)

shu mai
cooked diced chicken
slices of meatloaf

tiny cookies
individually wrapped candies
dried fruit - from the bulk food aisle at the grocery, adds a nice sweet and a bit of color
sealed single-serve applesauce and salsa for the kiddo, who can't be trusted not to slam his bento around in his bag
tiny bottles of honey and tobasco
cans of inari zushi skins
cans of tuna

Re: And while we're at it...what are your favorite bento ...

Cherry or grape tomatoes.

Umeboshi -- these were my gateway drug to Japanese food so having a whole tub of them in the fridge is incredibly exciting!

Salted wakame (haven't tried dried yet). (It has such a delightful texture, plus rinsing it might be my favorite kitchen task ... like playing with giant rubber bands!)

Tamagoyaki is not a staple item so much as a staple dish, I suppose. But I have put more of those in bentos than anything else (except rice).

I have some shiso furikake now which is shiso with salt and sugar ... if I can find some shiso powder, I'll be applying it liberally!

Re: And while we're at it...what are your favorite bento ...

Peanut butter with cinnamon and red chile powder.
Canned tuna.
Fresh veggies.

Cheap, versatile, and delicious!

Re: And while we're at it...what are your favorite bento ...

Olives, either kalamata or green (usually manzanilla). If I can get them, the kind you scoop fresh out of a bin of brine at the store. If not, the usual jars. Has a lot of salt, yes, but I love them and use them in so many dishes.

Various salad dressings as dips for veggies and for salads of course.

I'm a big fan of smoked cheeses, so usually smoked gouda or similar in the fridge.

Various crackers, with bagel chips being the main favorite.

Berries, either fresh or dried. I'm not big on grapes but I've had them from time to time.

The usual Asian staples of good soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, rice vinegar, etc.

I use Nature's Seasonings for a lot of things, and would probably be good as a furikake.

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