When you can’t go out to eat, you can bring the fun of restaurant-style meals home. And it’s much easier than you think! This miso salmon bento box is a healthy, Japanese lunch or dinner that’s relatively fast and simple to make. In fact, even kids could help to prepare and serve it.
This miso salmon meal is also naturally dairy-free, gluten-free, and nut-free. I’ve even included options for making it soy-free and paleo-friendly.
Japanese Miso Salmon Bento Box with Quick Pickled Cucumbers
Some of the ingredients in this miso salmon recipe might not sound familiar to you, but they’re all available in most full-size grocery stores. Here is a quick run down of these popular Japanese condiments, where to find them in the store, and how to substitute them.
This salty, fermented condiment is the base of miso soup. In a pinch, you can substitute soy sauce (1:1), but I highly recommend using miso if you can pick some up. Some miso pastes are shelf-stable, but the ones I always purchase are refrigerated. You might need to ask someone at the grocery store where it is located – miso can be elusive in stores! When a recipe, like this one, just states “miso” it is usually referring to white miso. Most miso is soy-based, but since it’s fermented, it’s usually okay for most diets, including the paleo diet. If you need soy-free miso, look for chickpea miso.
This is a popular Japanese seasoning that could be likened to sweet cooking wine, but it’s lower in alcohol than sake. If you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute 1 part rice vinegar, 1 part water, and a pinch of sugar.
You might see it served hot as a beverage at Japanese restaurants, but sake is also used in cooking. It’s a rice-based alcohol that’s quite strong. This miso salmon contains just a little bit of sake in the marinade, which is then cooked. But if you don’t have sake, you can substitute more mirin for the sake. If you need alcohol-free, you can omit or increase the rice vinegar.
Once you discover rice vinegar, you’ll be hooked! It’s usually in the Asian food section, but is sometimes lumped in with the vinegars.
You can technically use any type of cooked rice. Sushi rice is a short-grain rice that’s a little sticky, so it is easier to eat with chopsticks. The texture also complements this type of meal nicely. For a low carb dish, you can use cauliflower or broccoli rice in place of sushi rice. Or you can use half cauliflower rice and half sushi rice if you just want to sneak in more vegetables.
This miso salmon bento box recipe with photo was shared with us by Mizkan America, makers of Japanese sauces found in the Asian section of supermarkets.
Special Diet Notes: Miso Salmon Bento Box
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, and optionally soy-free, and optionally paleo-friendly.
- ¼ cup miso paste (use soy-free, if needed)
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 2 (6-ounce) skinless center-cut salmon fillets
- 1 cup thinly sliced seedless cucumbers
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 cups cooked short-grain sushi rice, cooled
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- 6 cherry tomatoes, for garnish
- 2 lemon wedges, for garnish
- Soy sauce or gluten-free tamari, for serving (optional)
- In strainer, toss the cucumbers with the salt, and let sit for at least 5 minutes, or up to 1 hour. Briefly rinse the excess salt and squeeze out any excess liquid. Toss the cucumbers with the rice vinegar.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the miso paste, mirin, and sake until smooth. Add the salmon, and turn it to evenly coat with the marinade. turning to coat evenly. Let it marinate, turning periodically, for 10 to 30 minutes. Discard the remaining marinade.
- Heat large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until the internal temperature of the fish reaches 145ºF.
- Cut each cooked salmon fillet into four small pieces.
- Pack each bento box evenly with rice, pickled cucumbers and salmon. Sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds. Garnish with tomatoes and lemons. Serve with soy sauce, if desired.