Maple Miso Chicken Bento
Bento is the Japanese word for “lunchbox,” and it’s used to refer to any full meal packed into a container to go. Aside from rice, bento boxes are filled with various vegetables and proteins, making them both delicious and nutritious. This easy Maple Miso Chicken recipe is a satisfying bento idea that comes together in minutes from just five basic ingredients.
The maple syrup and miso caramelize to create a gorgeous glaze that’s similar to teriyaki but with a rich earthy flavor that will have you smacking your lips with delight.
Table of contents
Why This Recipe Works?
- The ratio of the ingredients is similar to teriyaki sauce, but instead of soy sauce, there’s miso, and instead of sugar, there’s maple syrup. This makes for a savory-sweet glaze that clings to the chicken (or whatever protein you decide to use) and takes like it’s been soaking in a marinade.
- The nutty flavor of maple syrup goes really well together with earthy miso.
- The skin on the chicken not only protects the meat from getting tough and leathery; it also renders out some flavor fat that you can pan-fry the chicken in. This can then be soaked up and discarded using a paper towel.
Ingredients for Maple Miso Chicken
- Chicken – I highly recommend using skin-on chicken thighs for this. Chicken thighs are not only more flavorful than chicken breasts, they’re also much harder to overcook. The reason for using skin-on chicken is that the skin helps protect the meat from the high heat of the pan. By browning the skin-side first, the fat in the skin renders out and provides a flavorful oil to cook the chicken in. If you can’t get boneless skin-on thighs, you can debone whole thighs or legs.
- Maple syrup – I use dark maple syrup, which tends to have more maple flavor than one that’s lighter in color. You could also use honey if you don’t have any maple syrup (of course you’ll need to rename the dish honey miso chicken😆).
- Miso – Miso paste is a seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with koji. The fermentation breaks down the protein in soybeans into amino acids, which is why miso is so rich in umami. One thing to keep in mind is that miso can vary in the amount of salt it contains so you may need to adjust the amount of miso.
- Sake – The brewing process of sake produces a lot of amino acids, which give food the taste of umami. As you caramelize the maple miso sauce, the alcohol burns off, leaving you with the umami from the sake. I don’t recommend using mirin for this recipe due to the sweetness of the maple syrup.
- Scallions – I used scallions because they add a vibrant green color in addition to their taste, but yellow or red onions would also work.
How to Make Maple Miso Chicken
The first thing you want to do is whisk the miso, maple syrup, and sake together in a bowl to make the miso glaze.
Then you want to pan-fry the chicken by placing the pieces skin-side down in a frying pan preheated over medium heat. This will allow the fat in the skin to render out. If you’re using skinless chicken, you’ll need to add some vegetable oil to the pan before adding the chicken. Once the skin has browned, flip the chicken over and brown the second side. This should take another minute and a half to two minutes.
Once the chicken is golden brown on both sides, use a paper towel to soak up as much chicken fat as possible. Next, pour the maple miso mixture into the pan and turn up the stove to medium-high heat to bring the sauce to a full boil. Stir and flip the chicken to coat it evenly with the glaze.
When the chicken is fully cooked, and the maple miso has caramelized, add the scallions and toss them in the sauce until they wilt.
If you are packing this into a bento, let the chicken cool completely before putting the lid on the bento box.
How to Packed this Bento
I’ve gone over the basics of how to pack a bento box before, and all you really need to pack a bento is a small container with a tight-fitting lid. For this Maple Miso Chicken bento, I’ve filled it with cooked Japanese rice, edamame, a boiled egg, some carrots cut into maple leaves, and lettuce.
Tips for Packing Bento
- The trick is to start by packing the rice on one side of your container and then adding the food in layers, so you don’t leave any gaps. This allows you to pack plenty of food in a small container and prevents the contents of your bento box from shifting around as you transport it.
- If there are foods that you don’t want touching each other, you can use lettuce leaves to act as edible separators to keep the food apart.
- A colorful bento is not only visually appealing but also helps ensure you have a variety of nutrients in it.
Other Easy Bento Box Ideas
Bento (弁当) refers to both a portable container used to hold food as well as the meal the boxes contain. They’re typically packed with rice, an entree that goes with the rice (such as this Maple Miso Chicken), and a few side dishes or vegetables.
I used standard yellow miso (sometimes mislabelled white miso) to make this chicken, but other types of miso will work as well. If you want to learn more about the different kinds of miso, check out my miso soup tutorial.
Yes, this maple miso caramel will work with types of protein such as salmon, pork, or even tofu. If you decide to do this with tofu, I recommend following the method for my tofu steak and switching out the sauce for the one in this recipe.
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons miso
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 250 grams boneless skin-on chicken thighs (cut into bite-sized pieces)
- 40 grams scallions (sliced at an angle)
- Mix the maple syrup, miso, and sake together until the sauce is free of lumps.
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat, and then add the chicken pieces skin-side down. Let the chicken brown on this side (about 2 minutes).
- Flip the chicken over and brown the second side (1.5 to 2 minutes).
- Wipe as much of the fat out of the pan as possible using a waded paper towel, and then add the maple miso glaze to the pan. Turn up the heat to boil off the alcohol in the sake and caramelize the miso and maple syrup.
- When the maple miso sauce is nice and thick, add the scallions and toss a few times to cook the green onions.