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The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,388 ratings  ·  94 reviews
Bento fever has recently swept across the West, fuelled not just by an interest in cute, decorative food, but by the desire for an economical, healthy approach to eating in these times of recession. A leading light in the popularization of bento has been Makiko Itoh, whose blog, Just Bento, has nearly 160,000 subscribers in the U.S. alone, all of whom love her delicious ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Kodansha International (first published January 3rd 2011)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  1,388 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cookbook

Now that I actually have a job where I get this break in the middle of the day called a lunch, I found I wasn’t quite sure what to do at lunch. Stop working. Okay, I can try that. Eat. Yes. But what are all these interesting lunches eaten by everyone around me?

We’re not just talking brown bagging it here. We’re talking Mom-stamped, balanced and varied, healthy lunches including salads, yogurt, fruit, soups, lunch entrees of all types. Mom lunches, made by moms used to making healthy
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I can't believe I forgot to review this book! Perhaps that's because I've been so busy using it.
This book is a gold mine of information and recipes. While I don't carry my lunch, I bought a bento box to help me with portion control (and let's be honest, because the box was so beautiful). I ordered this book at the same time as Ten Minute Bento, and I'm here to tell you "Just Bento" wins, hands down! There are many, many recipes for main dishes, sides, even "desserts"--most written for one
May 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like cooking, are interested in all things Japanese, & all who are into the bento culture
Shelves: non-fiction, japan
I am interested in Japanese culture, and I bring my own lunch to work, so I found this book really informative and helpful. Since I don't live in Japan, I like that the Japanese recipes were adapted for Western kitchens, and the section on international dishes adapted for bento was also a great idea.
On the one hand, the recipes are clearly written, detailed and easy to follow. On the other hand, many recipes are followed by alternative ways of making them: what ingredients can be replaced by
Mandy Boman
May 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I haven't felt this excited about a cookbook in a long, long time. The recipes from this book that I have tried (about a third of the book so far) have turned out the first time - no tweaking or perfecting required. It does require a little more planning and organization to put a meal like this together, but it's been totally worth it for us to have economical, healthy, and really yummy lunches for my husband to take to work. It does help that the author puts an organizational timeline with ...more
Apr 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cooking
Concise review of supplies, ingredients, and methods of cooking and creating a variety of (relatively) healthy bento lunches; each style of bento often lists several alternative versions with multiple takes on donburi, sukiyaki, teriyaki, etc. Making onigiri, dumplings, tamagoyaki, fast "pickled" veggies, kinpira, and other common Japanese style foods are covered in an off-hand natural manner as well. You come away with a good grasp on how to shop for, plan, schedule, and improvise these meals. ...more
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-stars
I've followed Makiko Itoh's recipes and blog posts on and for a few years, and I'm happy to report that her informative, accessible style and great photography has carried over from her blogs to this cookbook. Itoh also provides helpful information about how to prep ingredients, how to plan for time-management when making bento in the morning, and how to buy a bento box (or other appropriate food-carrying container) which will suit the user's needs. I can't wait to ...more
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cookbooks
I really enjoyed this cookbook. The recipes are simple and explained well. There was also a good foundation given for making bentos that lent itself, very well mind you, to the alternative options available. The possibilities for many different combinations are many. The one caveat is, it would have been nice for her to explain more about proportions that are used in what makes up a bento. This information is missing from the book but is provided on her website. Overall a nice addition to a ...more
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
This is a beautiful book with beautiful recipes, but it wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting easy, simple, healthy lunch recipes... however, there is a good bit of cooking and prepping involved with these recipes. If I have a lot of time, I'll give them a try, but the fact of the matter is, most of the time I'm making lunches in the morning before we leave for work. This isn't the cookbook for that.
Jul 19, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japanese, cookbooks
One of the better Bento Box Cookbooks out there, primarily for beginners. Full-color, detailed pictures, portraying important, confusing cooking prices steps as well as high quality beautiful completed dish ones (which of course, at least mine, will definitely not be like). Really appreciate the information of the best, authentic locales in which to buy the high quality applied.
May 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My hubby is a vegetarian, while i’m a pescetarian (diet that includes seafood but not the flesh of other animals). So, I’m not actually interested in the recipes inside it but the tips and tricks regarding how to make a bento. I really like the author’s bento rules and i try to apply them to my bentos! I also posted my review on my blog:
A beautiful piece, just like Maki's website. This is full of good advice and tons of recipes. Even more wonderful, though, the book outlines not only recipes good for bento (tasty, healthy, quick, and good eaten cold!) but also showcases different combinations, showing many possible bentos. Really a great read, both for inspiration and for recipes!
Jan 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cook-books
Some potentially interesting stuff in here. I haven't had the chance to fix any of these yet, but I'm planning to. I love how there are vegetarian options on many of the meals and slight variations that make one base idea into multiple meals.
Sep 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, cookbook
Lots of really easy recipes and instructions that you would actually be able to make for lunch. Not over complicated and the food looks delicious.
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I used this cookbook really heavily when I got it to try making bentos in 2014 or so, and I’m about to get back to it. It has great advice for people just getting started with bento-style packed lunches, including how to pack a bento, what proportions of various dishes to pack, what you will want in your pantry, fridge & freezer if you get really into this, and a little bit about cooking & packing doodads. The only other information you probably need to get started, besides this book, is ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A bento book with many tasty ideas and variations on those ideas.

What's especially nice is that many of the recipes are more reasonable in number of servings. Some I've seen in the past are 1 serving and require half a can of this or one of that (that comes in a twelve pack and has a 1 week shelf-life). For example, the Turkey Soboro makes 6-8 servings and uses 1 pound of ground turkey. There are still some that are a bit weird in that they make one serving, like the chicken kara-age (4 oz of
Kit Feral
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is so much less intimidating than most bento cookbooks and really appeals to someone like me with simple tastes. I love love love the cooking timelines included - so helpful when you get overwhelmed when doing multiple things in the kitchen! I will definitely be trying a lot of these. a lot of bento books I read are drool worthy but seem impossible and expensive to attempt, this is all very accessible.
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bento is an art form; it indeed is something remarkable. My opinion, The majority of the recipes (60-70%) in this book are not fast & easy. If you're an athlete, this book would not be a good choice (they are recipes for "puny human"). I think this book's contents are excellent for people who are planning on making lunches for someone else, not for yourself, unless you like being praised for your bento presentation.
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you don't like the cutesy bento books and just want to pack a mighty lunch -- this is the book! Filled with authentic Japanese dishes, it's one of the few cookbooks that I keep. The format and the content are just too useful and actually more convenient to have on hand than looking up recipes on the Internet.
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go
By Makiko Doi

The first of her two Bento cookbooks, this one has a section on Japanese style bento, as well as a section of not so Japanese style bento. The recipes are different from the other book, so I have more lunch ideas to add to my repertoire.

4 Stars.
Allysson Murphy-Floyd
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have yet to try any of the recipes, but reading through the book I found them easy to understand. I also appreciated the tips provided not just for the recipes, but for bento itself, and some that extend to Japanese cooking in general.
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely stellar. Loved this cookbook and I'm feeling very inspired.
Savannah Ray
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Bento made easy!

This beautifully done book comes with detailed instructions, substitutes for foods and lovely pictures to show you how the author had done these recipes. In the beginning of the book there are helpful tips such as cooking the rice and packing the bento! Each recipe has a timeline with it to help you properly set up, cook, add to the bento when you need to. This book also features 'not so japanese' bentos for those who are looking for not just japanese food bentos but
Apr 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As always, it's hard to read a cookbook. I'm one of those people that need to see how to do something then actually do it to be able to do it. I hope that makes sense. Cooking is one of those things and a good cookbook has to be able to portray all these.

The Just Bento Cookbook does. It has pictures, which I think are invaluable in a cookbook and the instructions are broken down in a simple way that even I can understand.

I actually think the biggest strength of this book is the mindset it forces
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic book about bentos for grown ups who are less concerned about how cute their food is and more concerned about the meal itself. It is by far the most practical book I've found on making bentos; and with the exception of only a few ingredients (e.g. mirin, dashi), you can find everything at a typical grocery store. I love this because it makes these recipes and making bentos accessible to everyone, no matter where you live.

The majority of the recipes are not quick, which I
Dec 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always been fascinated with Bento Boxes and enjoyed eating them when I could in restaurants. I like the idea of them and eating healthier, so that's why I picked up this cookbook. The author is very good at explaining to those of us who aren't Japanese the equipment used in bento making, a glossary of terms and most helpful of all, a planning chart for each recipe about how long the entirety of the bento will take. That is my biggest concern as I am not a morning person and trying to throw ...more
Juli Anna
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cookbooks
This book is a gem. It's a slim paperback volume absolutely loaded with useful information on packing bento lunches. Things I love about this book: these are practical, non-cutesy, grown-up-portioned bento boxes, very low in the "sandwiches-cut-into-shapes" department; tons of vegetarian and fish options; almost every recipe includes several variations, so that directions for 50 bento boxes becomes an almost infinite number of combinations; nearly every box can be prepared in 15 minutes, and she ...more
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cookbook/authentic Japanese cooking (with some variations), especially for packaging into bento meals. Nice reference/cookbook. Most of these things I wouldn't take the trouble to make (for example, the Tamagoyaki, p. 19.) but if I find myself with the tools/ingredients in the future, I might want to check this book out again. For a more in-depth history and background on traditional Japanese foods, see also The Japanese Kitchen / Kimiko Barber.

As with most cookbooks, I found it helpful to be

I was hoping for some really great and yummy recipes for bentos, reminiscent of the now nostalgic bentos I once ate in Japan and the bentos my host mom would make for me. But all The Just Bento Cookbook has to offer are boring bentos and lackluster recipes. I know this is a cookbook from Makiko Itoh's rather popular blog, which is why I was so disappointed in the content. The Just Bento Cookbook is divided into two sections: Japanese and Not-so Japanese. Both of which leave much to be
Ed Ashford
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Any bento I make has to taste so good that the eater looks forward to lunchtime all morning."

I first saw this book in the bookstore and was intrigued, so I checked out a copy from my local library. And it awoke an inner bento lover in me! Okay, I didn't follow any of the recipes in here *exactly.* I ended up getting inspired and made my own variations. I suppose I'm going to have to buy a copy of this for myself so I don't have to keep returning it, since I love this book so much. I'm normally
Dec 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cook books aren't my usual type of reading. But I've been interested in bentos for a while now, and apparently there's little better than this book. So obviously, I had to read it.

I quite liked it! Most of the information on how to make a bento can be found on the Just Bento blog. The added value of the book is in the recipes. I really liked how there were quite a number of basic recipes, supplemented with a lot of variations. Not just for Japanese food, but also for 'American/European' style
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