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The Bold and The Bento

August 29, 2022


Reimagined traditional favorites developed by thinking outside the bento box

As long as there’ve been people going to work, it seems, there have been bento boxes. Compact and convenient, divided into small compartments, they were a staple as far back as twelfth-century Japan. And they’re still remarkably popular in the land of the rising sun today, where they’re used to take food to work, to serve food on trains and bring lunch to school.

Each compartment is another way to show you care

Now, parents and kids around the world are rediscovering bento. At Hormel Foods, we’re bringing bento boxes back. Back as is back to school, that is. And really, its more than school – work, when you’re on the move or any time you need a meal that’s tasty, fun, nutritious and convenient.

We’re taking up the box and running with it, in the form of these three globally inspired twists on traditional bento. We’re introducing new ideas, flavors and combinations to fill each and every compartment.

Japanese workers carried them to work in the 12th century; we’re carrying them forward to today.

Traditionally, a bento box is an all-in-one lunch box, with compartments for a starch (rice or noodles), a protein, and various vegetable and fruit side dishes. But their appeal goes beyond taste. Japanese are know to “eat with their eyes;” that is, there is an emphasis on visual appeal in Japanese cuisine that ranks with the world’s finest.

And, another point that’s become increasingly important in today’s world: bento boxes are, by definition, reusable. It’s a great way to reduce your environmental impact by replacing single-use plastic and paper products.

The freshest trend in back-to-school lunches is a thousand years old

We’re proud to introduce three new twists on the traditional bento box, each a beautiful fusion of the traditional with the new. We think, in true bento fashion, that each looks just as good as it tastes. Perfect for back-to-school, or whenever you need a tasty break on the go.

It’s like art that tastes good.


Did you know that the bento box was introduced to the United States in the early 20th century by Japanese-American sugar plantation workers? Here’s a fresh take on bento that we think even they would love. The vegetables provide a nutritious and satisfying crunch, and paired with cream cheese and other Mexican-inspired ingredients make this a mouthwatering meal-on-the-go.

Chipotle Veggie Pinwheel Bento Box

  • Total Time

    20 minutes
  • Serves

  • For pinwheels:
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 large red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/2 cup packed spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon HERDEZ® TAQUERIA STREET SAUCE® Chipotle
  • 3 CHI-CHI’S® Flour Burrito Style Tortillas
  • For assembly:
  • 1 cup CHI-CHI’S® Thick & Chunky Salsa Medium
  • 1 (8-ounce) package HERDEZ™ Traditional Guacamole Mild
  • 1 pound mini sweet peppers
  • 2 mangos, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges


For pinwheels:

  1. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, peppers, beans, corn, spinach and street sauce together until combined.
  2. Spread a heaping 1/4 cup of cream mixture evenly over tortillas. Roll up each tortilla and place seam-side-down on cutting board. Cut tortillas into 1 ½- to 2-inch-thick pinwheels.

For assembly:

  1. Place pinwheels, salsa, guacamole, peppers and mangos decoratively in bento boxes. Top mangos with chili powder. Serve with lime wedges.

While bento boxes originated in Japan nearly a thousand years ago, it didn’t take long for them to become popular in China and across the Pacific Rim. In fact, the term bento is derived from the Chinese term biandang, which means “convenient” or “convenience.”

Now, we’re taking bento further by embracing flavors and ingredients that are traditionally Italian. “Motherboard” takes the spirit of savory, satisfying charcuterie, and puts it into the compact compartments of a traditional bento box. Motherboard is a great example of “what grows together, goes together” because meats, cheeses and fruits raised and grown in a single region pair deliciously.

Motherboard Bite Bento Box

  • Hands-On Time

    15 minutes
  • Total Time

    25 minutes
  • Serves

  • For panini:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 slices cracked wheat bread
  • 1 cup packed baby spinach
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages COLUMBUS® Prosciutto
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • For bite and assembly:
  • 8 ounces COLUMBUS® Italian Dry Salami, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, broken into rustic bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives
  • 2 cups seedless green grapes
  • 2 cups salted mini pretzels
  • 2 large Honeycrisp or Gala apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 cups water crackers
  • 2 cups Marcona almonds


For panini:

  1. Heat panini press or skillet over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Brush outer side of each bread slice with olive oil. Evenly divide spinach, mozzarella, prosciutto and tomato on 2 bread slices, oil-side-down. Top with remaining bread slices, oil-side-up.
  3. Working in batches, place sandwiches on panini press or in skillet. Cook 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bread is golden-brown. If using a skillet, lightly press sandwich with a spatula and cook until cheese is melted and bread is golden-brown. Cut each sandwich into 4 triangles.

For bite and assembly:

  1. Place salami, Parmigiano, olives and grapes together in bento boxes. Arrange panini triangles, pretzels, apples, crackers and almonds decoratively in bento boxes. Serve at room temperature.

We could have called this one, “How to make other kids envious of your kid’s delicious lunch.” Empanada pastry is filled with an unbelievably tasty blend of black beans, corn, cheddar cheese and, for that slightly salty and chew “chef’s kiss,” our HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® Honey Deli Ham.

The empanada is joined by plantains and ingenious fruit skewers of pineapple, mango and mandarin orange.

Ham-and-Cheese Empanada Bento Box

  • Hands-On Time

    30 minutes
  • Total Time

    1 hour, 35 minutes
  • Serves

  • For empanadas:
  • 4 ounces HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE® Honey Deli Ham, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen empanada dough for turnover pastries, thawed
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • For tostones:
  • 2 large green plantains, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • For skewers:
  • 1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch stars
  • 2 mangos, pitted, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 3 mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented
  • For assembly:
  • 2 cups cooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups HERDEZ™ Salsa Casera Mild
  • 1 (8-ounce) package HERDEZ™ Traditional Guacamole Mild


For empanadas:

  1. Heat oven to 375°F and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine ham, beans, corn and cheddar.
  2. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of ham mixture in center of pastry rounds. Brush edges of rounds with egg. Fold pastries in half and crimp edges with a fork. Transfer filled pastries to prepared baking sheets, 1-inch apart. Brush tops with egg.
  3. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden-brown.

For tostones:

  1. Heat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss plantains and olive oil together until coated. Place plantains, cut-side-down, on rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, until tender. Remove from oven.
  2. Using the bottom of a glass, press plantains into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Continue to bake 15 to 20 minutes, flipping halfway through, until golden-brown.

For skewers:

  1. Thread 12 4-inch skewers with pineapples, mangos and oranges, alternating ingredients evenly.

For assembly:

  1. Arrange empanadas, tostones, skewers, rice, salsa and guacamole decoratively in bento boxes. Serve at room temperature.