Packing a lunch doesn’t have to be a drag, especially when you’ve got the right gear to ensure that your meals and snacks stay food-safe, fresh, and secure. Whether you're sending a kid off to school with lunch or packing your own food, homemade lunches can save you money and allow you to enjoy a meal that you've customized exactly how you like it.
Even the most thoughtful meal planning, cooking, and packing can result in a disappointing lunch if it’s the wrong temperature, soggy, stale, or spilled. That’s where having the right vessel comes in. Not all lunches are created equal, though, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to the perfect lunch container.
We rounded up top-rated lunch containers in a variety of styles—everything from traditional lunch boxes to bento boxes to kids' lunch boxes to salad containers—and sent them to the homes of our product testers to try out in their everyday lives. They evaluated several factors, including design, size, versatility, and insulation, and gave feedback on which type of lunches each one would best accommodate.
Ahead, the best lunch containers, from spill-proof and kid-friendly to plastic-free.
Best Lunch Box: Mier Adult Lunch Box
Easy to carry handle or strap
Top-heavy when bottom compartment is empty
May be too large for kids
This well-designed, dual-compartment tote has everything you need for taking your meal on the go—especially if you don't have access to a refrigerator. While it's probably larger than what most children would want, our adult testers loved its capacity and versatility. Two insulated areas are lined with food-grade PEVA, which is easy to wipe clean should you have any spills, and they let you store hot and cold foods separately. In testing, food stayed cold for several hours, but if you want it to stay cool all day, you can throw an ice pack in as well.
The upper compartment is perfect for snacks, cookies, or fruit. The bottom is leakproof and large enough to house drinks, sandwiches, and other entrees. Our tester was impressed with how much she could fit in both compartments. You could easily pack multiple meals or snacks for a long work day or outdoor picnic. She preferred placing heavier items, like water bottles and canned drinks, in the bottom compartment and more delicate items, like crackers and berries, in the top compartment.
The easy-access zipper exterior compartment can be used for stashing utensils and napkins, while a pair of side pockets provide extra storage for miscellaneous necessities. It comes with a detachable cross-body shoulder strap and is available in both medium and large sizes. Our tester found the padded strap comfortable, but the lunch box is a bit bulky to wear over your shoulder. Not to worry, though. There’s also a built-in carrying handle.
Price at time of publish: $35 for Large in Black
Includes: Two-compartment fabric lunch bag with a front zipper compartment for utensils
"I had no problem fitting multiple water bottles, canned seltzers, food storage containers packed with leftovers, and a full-size tub of hummus inside."—Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Bento Box: Bentoheaven Deluxe Bento Lunch Box
Spacious and includes divider
Dishwasher- and microwave-safe
Lids can be difficult to open
A bento box makes it easy to carry everything you need for lunch in a multi-compartment carrier, and this model is particularly well-made, earning our top spot after we tested a full lineup. One of the selling points of the bento box style is that it encourages a variety of foods by design—and this one is quite spacious. This bento box contains three separate compartments for storing food: There are two large compartments (one features an adjustable divider) and another smaller lidded container where you can put sauces or small snacks, like sweets or nuts.
Our tester liked the compact shape. It easily fits in the bottom of a tote or backpack, and it has secure lids so you don't have to worry about spills. While it's not insulated, one standout feature of this box is that you can pop it in the microwave because of the vents in the lids. It's also dishwasher-safe and very durable, according to our tester, who said that it was unscathed even after a few drops.
This set comes with utensils (a fork, spoon, knife, and mini chopsticks), and the entire set is held together with a thick elastic band. You can choose from several color options.
Price at time of publish: $27
Includes: Adjustable divider, sauce container, chopsticks, fork, knife, spoon, sealing strap
"The gaskets around the edges of the lids ensure that the containers are leakproof."—Bernadette Machard de Gramont, Product Tester
Best Thermos: Thermos 10-Ounce Funtainer Food Jar
Wide variety of colors and designs
Insulates hot and cold foods
Convenient wide-mouth design
May be too small for adult meals
An insulated Thermos is the best way to tote hot soup, stew, or chili to work, school, and beyond, and this one lived up to its insulation claims—it promises to keep your food hot for five hours or cold for seven—during testing. This size holds 10 ounces or 1 1/4 cups of food for the perfect midday portion. Not to mention, the wide mouth makes it easy to fill and eat out of at lunch.
“Kids don’t have microwaves or refrigerators, so you need to put some thought into packing for them,” says Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD, and author of "Best Lunch Box Ever." To maximize the time hot food will remain hot, Morford suggests pouring boiling water into the Thermos to preheat it before adding your steaming-hot lunch.
Designed with vacuum-insulation technology, this container is especially good at maintaining food temperature. It’s made from durable stainless steel and will last for many years. While it's safe to wash the Thermos in the top rack of the dishwasher, our tester chose to hand-wash the Thermos to help retain the finish of the container. However, the tester found that cleaning out the Thermos lid was a little tedious, requiring you to remove the gasket from the lid to really get all of the food and liquid out.
The Thermos FUNtainer is available in various colors, patterns, and styles. Kids can choose from designs that show their favorite characters, including Batman or the sisters from "Frozen."
Price at time of publish: $30 for Teal
Includes: One stainless steel food jar with lid and spoon
"The 10-ounce container is lightweight and easy for small hands to hold. Additionally, it has a simple twist-off lid that’s easy for kids to maneuver and a large mouth that’s easy to fill, eat from, and clean."—Suzie Dundas, Product Tester
Best for Kids: Wildkin Insulated Lunch Box
Over 20 colors and patterns available
Easy for small hands to carry
Insulated soft body design
Coordinating gear sold separately
Kids and kids-at-heart love the bright, fun patterns of these lunch boxes, and parents appreciate the durable, high-quality design. In fact, the Wildkin brand has won the prestigious Mom’s Choice Award.
This kid-sized lunch box features an easy-access zipper front pocket—ideal for grab-and-go recess snacks—and an interior mesh pouch to stash utensils, napkins, or an ice pack. It’s made from materials that are 100 percent BPA- and phthalate-free, and the food-safe PEVA liner is quick and easy to wipe clean.
The interior is spacious enough for an adult-sized lunch and compatible with lunch containers from Wildkin or other brands. It’s insulated to help keep temperatures food-safe, but Morford says you’ll still want to include an ice pack or fill up a water bottle and freeze it overnight to keep perishables safely chilled. The bottle will act as an ice pack as it thaws and will be drinkable come lunchtime.
Our tester was successfully able to fit sandwiches, fruit, and snacks for both her toddler and herself in this lunch box without having to cram anything in. It fit into her backpack-style diaper bag and would easily slide into a child’s backpack for school lunches, too.
Price at time of publish: $25 for Dinomite Dinosaur
Includes: One children's-sized fabric lunch box; coordinating bags and accessories sold separately
"The print is fun and colorful, and 100 percent caught the eye of my toddler. The interior is spacious with plenty of room for a sandwich, fruit, cheese stick, and snacks. It can easily fit a bottle of water or juice box."—Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best for Salads: Oxo Prep & Go Salad Container
Perfect for difficult-to-transport salads
Leakproof compartments and dressing cup
Dishwasher-, microwave-, and freezer-safe
Dressing container on the small side
If you like to pack a salad for lunch, you know that finding a container that isn’t too small or too large can be a challenge. This container includes a small 2-ounce container with a lid to hold your dressing, which helps keep salads fresh and crisp. (Salads that are dressed in advance get soggy.) The container itself is divided into two compartments, so you can separate those delicate salad greens from other ingredients that might wilt them.
Our tester liked keeping proteins in the stacking tray, so the weight of them didn’t damage lettuce. It was also helpful for keeping crisp items, like breaded chicken and croutons, away from the moisture of salad veggies so they were still crunchy at lunchtime.
The lid features a removable silicone gasket for deep cleaning plus locking tabs to ensure that nothing leaks. With a little over 5 cups of capacity, you’ll have plenty of space for big, hearty salads. On days you might not want a salad, you can use it to carry fruit slices and yogurt, among other combinations. When you’re done, just toss it in the dishwasher for easy cleanup.
Price at time of publish: $15 for 6.3 Cup-Salad Container in White
Includes: Two-level hardshell leakproof lunch box and one leakproof salad dressing container
"Spacious and versatile, this container lets you separate proteins and crunchy toppings from your salad base or fruit from your yogurt or overnight oats. Nothing shifts around in transit, so the result is a fresher meal with ingredients that retain their original texture."—Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best Glass: Pyrex Circular Glass Storage Container Set
Multiple size options
Microwave- and dishwasher-safe
Nonporous glass won't absorb flavors and colors
Heavier than other container options
May break if dropped
For those who don’t like using plastic storage containers, this set of glass containers will meet all of your lunchtime container needs. It includes three containers in 7-cup, 4-cup, and 2-cup capacities plus matching BPA-free plastic lids.
Although the 7-cup size might be useful for building big salads, our tester found the large container a bit oversized for most lunch items and lunch bags. The 4-cup size is ideal for packing leftovers for lunch, like chicken breast or salmon with a pile of roasted veggies, and the 2-cup size could be used for soup, stew, fruit and yogurt, or a few hard-boiled eggs. Our tester notes that the lids are tight-fitting, but they aren’t 100 percent leakproof, so you'll want to be sure to keep the containers upright if you’re transporting broths and sauces.
Although glass is breakable, Pyrex’s durable high-tempered glass isn’t exactly fragile. You might encounter some chips if you’re rough with these containers, but they don’t break easily. The glass is also nonporous, so it won’t pick up flavors, colors, or smells from lunches. The containers are microwave-safe so they can go from your fridge or lunch box straight to the microwave for reheating. The containers nest inside of each other for compact storage, and both the containers and lids are dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.
Price at time of publish: $20 for 6 PC Set Variety Pack Containers
Includes: One 2-cup container with lid, one 4-cup container with lid, and one 7-cup container with lid
"My favorite way to use these containers is for storing leftovers. They are spacious, can be reheated in the microwave, and stack neatly in the fridge or in a lunch bag."—Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
Best for Snacks: Lunchbots Round Leak Proof Stainless Snack Container Jar
Ideal for small servings
Leakproof for dressings and liquid foods
Dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning
Will need additional containers for larger meals
Expensive for how much they carry
When it comes to packing snacks, these containers from LunchBots are a perfect size. An alternative to plastic, these are made from stainless steel. At 4 ounces, they’re ideal for snacks like yogurt, applesauce, and hummus. While the colorful containers are great for kid-friendly snacks, adults who bring their lunches with them will find many uses as well. You could stash potato or pasta salad in them or a handful of nuts, potato chips, pretzels, cheese cubes, edamame, or olives. The options are only limited by what you have at home.
The lids are made of BPA-free plastic and have silicone seals to help them close tightly. Our tester found the lids easy to grip and open, although very small hands may need help twisting them on and off. They’re also leakproof, so you don’t have to worry about any drips or spills if these containers shift around inside of a lunch box, but they are not insulated, so you’ll want to keep cold items in the fridge or an insulated carrier. They’re dishwasher-safe, but our tester opted to hand-wash them to prevent premature wearing of the lids.
Price at time of publish: $22
Includes: Two 4-ounce round stainless steel containers with lids
"These 4-ounce containers are made from durable stainless steel, so they're excellent for keeping delicate sides and snacks, like berries or pretzels, separate and intact in a lunch box."—Sharon Lehman, Product Tester
If you are looking for a versatile lunch tote that will last, go with the Mier Insulated Adult Lunch Box. It's spacious and easy to carry, and it can even serve as a small beverage cooler on a picnic. For a kids' lunch box, we recommend the Wildkin Insulated Lunch Box. It features toddler-approved designs, has a roomy interior, and is easy to carry.
How We Tested
We researched lunch containers of varying types and sent top-rated models to our at-home testers to evaluate with real lunches. They packed everything from sandwiches to salads to soups to snacks and rated each lunch container on its design, versatility, size, and insulation. They even performed durability tests, like throwing the Thermos option down the stairs, and assessed whether the kids' lunch box would leak in a child's backpack.
What to Look for in a Lunch Container
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to lunch containers anymore. Lunch containers are as diverse as the people using them, and they're suited for everything from a small snack to a full day’s worth of food and drinks. Keep in mind whom this container is for when shopping, and look for descriptors like “kids” and “adults” to get a quick idea of how much food it will hold. Next, consider how much food the person using the container will need to fit into it. If necessary, choose a container that will accommodate a drink, ice pack, or additional sealed container inside. If you consistently eat a specific style of food (for example, salads, dry snack foods, or soup), look for a container made especially for that type of food.
When buying a lunch container, consider how long it will keep your foods hot and cold. A high-quality insulated container will indicate how long it can hold food at a warm or cold temperature, and some containers will specify whether an ice pack is needed to help preserve foods. Lunch containers with padded insulation usually keep foods at moderate temperatures for several hours but often need the help of an ice pack or frozen bottle.
Materials and seals
Hardshell lunch containers made of plastic, glass, or stainless steel offer the best protection for foods that may be damaged during transit, but they are often heavier than the softshell options. Softshell lunch containers are sometimes easier to fit into a bag or safer for kids who may swing the bag around more. Many softshell and hardshell options come with leakproof seals, which come in handy when transporting foods that may defrost, or carrying the container in a purse or backpack. Most softshell containers can only be wiped out, whereas many hardshell containers can be cleaned in the dishwasher.
What makes a good lunch box?
A good lunch box should be made of insulating materials, and it should also be durable and easy to clean. If it has compartments, consider the size and what foods and drinks it accommodates. You also should factor in whether these compartments are necessary for you or your child.
What are lunch boxes insulated with?
Typically, lunch boxes will be made of an outer layer of vinyl, polyester, or nylon, which is durable and can be wiped clean easily. The interior is usually made of a water-resistant and easy-to-clean material such as plastic, aluminum, vinyl, or even foil.
How do you keep lunch containers safe?
The food stays safe if the container is well-insulated. You can ensure that in several ways. Pack the lunch the night before, and store it in the fridge. Add a cold pack to the lunch container before leaving the house, especially if it contains yogurt or cheese. Finally, if applicable, keep the container out of direct sunlight or heat.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Joy Manning is a food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in many publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. She’s the author of "Almost Meatless" and "Stuff Every Cook Should Know."
Sharon Lehman, who is a registered dietitian nutritionist, product tester, food writer, and mom, updated this roundup after personally testing five of the items on this list.