Salvadoran Bento Box Lunch!


With Back-to-school only weeks away and Día Nacional de la Herencia Salvadoreña Americana (National Salvadoran American Heritage Day) coming up on August 6th – I decided to make a Salvadoran themed bento box which would be ideal for packing for your child’s lunch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of packing traditional Salvadoran foods for my children when I get a chance. I feel that it roots the boys in their heritage and also gives them a chance to share their culture with classmates.

Although changes have been made to school lunch in the United States, I think they still have a long way to go. Making your child’s lunch gives you control over how much sodium, sugar, fat and calories they’re getting and it allows you to provide healthy foods you know your child likes. This particular bento box contains a balanced alternative to school bought lunches: Bean and cheese mini-pupusas provide plenty of fiber and protein and when cooked without oil, are lower in fat. In place of the traditional cabbage curtido and salsa we have a salad of finely chopped fresh spinach and grape tomatoes which are packed with vitamins. Potato chips are replaced with homemade baked plantain chips cooked without any oil and sprinkled lightly with salt. To drink, horchata stands in for chocolate milk – When made with skim or 1% milk, your child gets calcium for growing bones without extra calories, sugar and fat.

Ready to give this Salvadoran bento box lunch a try? Recipes are below!


You need:

Salvadoran horchata mix (find it at your local Latino Market)
Skim or 1% milk
A thermos or bottle that seals tightly
Optional: Sweetener of your choice


1. Put a couple tablespoons of the horchata mix into the thermos or bottle. (A funnel may make this easier.) Add a cup of milk – make sure you leave some space at the top so the drink can be shaken at lunch time.

2. Optional: Add sweetener of your choice, but depending on the mix you use, you may find it tastes great without these unneeded calories.

3. Another optional step is to pour the horchata through a sieve to remove any clumps of mix that didn’t dissolve. Otherwise, seal the bottle tightly so it doesn’t leak. At lunch time your child can give it a few shakes to make sure it’s well mixed before opening.

Mini-Pupusas de Queso y Frijol

You need:

A quarter cup softened mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup frijoles molidos or frijoles medio molidos
MASECA Instant Corn Masa Flour prepared as instructions on package indicate. (Use the proportions that yield 4 tortillas: 1/2 cup Maseca, 1/3 cup water, pinch of salt.)


1. Mix the cheese and beans by hand until well blended. The beans you use can be molidos (completely pureed) or you can use frijoles medio molidos, (which leaves some of the beans mostly intact or slightly smashed.) I used Salvadoran frijol rojo de seda, which I prepared medio molidos.

(Need help making beans? Click here, here and here.)

2. Now just assemble the pupusas as usual, but using a smaller amount of masa and filling so that the pupusas come out mini-sized. Cook on a hot comal (griddle), flipping once. No need to use any oil on the comal. This will make about 6 mini-pupusas.

(Need pupusa-making tips? Click here.)

Homemade Sweet and Salty Plantain Chips

You need:
1 ripe plantain (yellow with black markings)
Optional: salt


1. Cut the peel off the plantain. Slice the plantain into thin coins. Put the plantain rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (No need to add any oil!)

2. Bake at 350 F, turning once to brown on both sides for about 10 to 15 minutes. Optional: Lightly sprinkle with salt. This makes enough for two servings.


17 thoughts on “Salvadoran Bento Box Lunch!

  1. There’s nothing like Mom’s home cooking! I used to send leftovers from the night before for my son’s lunches when they were in eighth grade and high school. I found out later that they were selling the food to their friends! Apparently a home-cooked meal was in high demand. My kids liked my food but just didn’t want it as leftovers. I applaud you for doing your best to keep your kids healthy and give them tasty, home-cooked meals.

    • What a compliment that they were selling and making money off your food! LOL … You may have to set up a food truck outside the school ;)

      Thanks for your nice comment. I don’t always succeed at feeding my kids healthy foods as I have my own bad eating habits to conquer, but I try!

  2. That looks delicious! You get major great mom points for doing that! Hmmm…I guess I need to get the bolivian cookbook out. You have inspired me to be a little more creative in what I’ve been serving. We did have quinoa the other night and i managed not to mess it up.

    • Well, the kids haven’t started back to school yet and are actually at the beach with their grandparents, so this particular bento ended up being MY lunch jajaja… But hopefully I’ll have the time to recreate it and pack them lunch in general once in awhile this year. They were eating a lot of school lunches because it’s so much easier, but I know packing is healthier. (It’s just time-consuming and more expensive though!)

      I’ve never made (or even eaten) quinoa although I understand it’s a staple for Bolivians? … If you have success with the Bolivian cookbook, I hope you’ll blog about it. I’d love to learn some new dishes :)

  3. What a great idea! The benefit too is that you can make the pupusas in advance and just pack/reheat them when you want. And healthy too … although being fried is what makes pupusas so tasty here. :)

    Do they sell quesillo cheese in any of the local Latino markets in the DC area?

    • Hola Natasha! I hope things have been well with you down there! (I haven’t had a chance to check in on your blog for a few weeks.) … Yes, you can find quesillo at some Latino markets in and outside the DC metro area but I’ve always found mozzarella much easier to find, of course, (and cheaper.)

    • Jajaja, imagine an etsy shop of bento box lunches — unless it’s local delivery, I don’t think that would work out too well ;)

  4. I had no idea that (i) horchata was enjoyed in El Salavador and (ii) there was a mix. I got hooked on horchata decades ago during a hot summer in Madrid — but there it is made not from rice, as in Latin America, but from “chufa”, a plant that my dictionary translates a “ground nut.” It’s a yummy drink whatever type you have.

    Your kids are lucky to have such a caring mom.

    • Hi Judy! The horchata from El Salvador is made from the morro seed — it’s different than the one found in Mexico, (and I prefer it. The scent of it is heavenly.)

      I wonder if chufa and morro seed are the same or similar? I didn’t know they had horchata in Spain!

  5. Pingback: Pupusas Revueltas with Salsa and Curtido | Latinaish

  6. I don’t even have kids & I love this! What a great idea! I really like how you even included a culturally relevant drink & the straw with the colors of the flag. Too cute!!! I may have to make all this stuff for my own lunch one day. :)

  7. Pingback: Feliz National Pupusa Day 2013! | Latinaish

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