Twisting open a thermos full of fragrant, steaming hot food on your lunch hour or staying warm on a hike with a thermos full of tea demonstrates the versatility of the modern insulated food thermos. Great for taking food and drinks to work, while traveling, or on the go, many models on the market accommodate both food and drink and are capable of keeping contents either hot or cold.
While some thermoses are lined with thermoplastic, stainless steel lining is generally the most effective to keep your food at temperature and is therefore preferred. Some containers also have stainless steel on the inside of their lids for even more insulation, while others use hardened plastic. Concerns about plastics containing BPA and other chemicals that can leach into food products have led to increased use of stainless steel on lids, but many quality thermoses on the market today use BPA-free plastic in the lid.
The best food thermos options have double-walled construction with vacuum insulation, which is a standard across quality models. The exterior coating will decide how your thermos looks after a few months of knocking around in a lunch bag or backpack, so stainless steel and powder coatings are the most durable. Kid-friendly decals and laminated colors and should also withstand daily use.
Other details to look out for while shopping are the shape and function of the lid, seals, and capacity—make sure the size of the thermos is appropriate for the quantities of food you plan on storing. Some thermoses also come with accessories such as built-in spoons or handles, so keep an eye out for them if their added convenience appeals to you.
Our Top Picks
With those shopping considerations in mind, we’ve studied the market and found these great recommendations for the best food thermos for on the go.
Vacuum-insulated and double-walled stainless steel rest behind the exterior of this shiny metallic food jar from Thermos King, offered in seven deep metallic shades. The double-wall prevents the thermos from sweating when filled with cold foods or transferring heat to the outside when keeping food hot. Its outer cap functions as a bowl and keeps the inner vacuum-sealed cap clean. A folding full-sized spoon fits neatly into the inner cap as well and can be used as a handle to turn the inner cap to open if it’s vacuumed shut.
This Thermos King container holds 16 ounces of food or liquid and fits neatly into most lunch boxes or bags. It’s completely leak-proof, capable of keeping food hot for up to 9 hours and cold for up to 14. Sufficiently durable for daily use, this sleek-looking thermos is easy to clean and is safe on the top rack of the dishwasher.
Available in eight colors and a series of dual-tone sets, the MIRA thermos brings a pop of color to your lunch in a sleek silhouette. The MIRA is large enough at 13.5 ounces to hold a full meal, while the slim 3.5-inch width makes it easier to fit into lunch bags and boxes. The MIRA is constructed from BPA-free, heavy-duty 18/8 stainless steel for durability and easy cleaning. A solid matte powder-coated finish protects the exterior from scratches and dents. The versatile MIRA is easy to carry along, able to keep food hot for 5 hours and cold for 10.
The LunchBots Thermal Triple Insulated Food Container proves that small can be mighty. Ideal for smaller appetites, sides, or portion control, the LunchBots container will keep 8 ounces of soup hot for six hours or yogurt cold for 12. Stainless steel makes up the entire interior—there is no plastic at all—and LunchBots’ triple-insulation technology effectively maintains the temperature. Additional insulation is provided by a silicone wrap, which also makes gripping the container easy for small hands. The LunchBots food container is available in bright 11 color options and is conveniently dishwasher safe.
The Stanley Classic Legendary Vacuum Insulated Food Jar can hold a massive 24 ounces of food or beverage in its double-walled, vacuum-sealed compartment. Stanley provides one of the most impressive temperature retention spans on the market: this jar will keep hot or cold foods at temperature for 15 hours. A double-cap system renders the jar completely leakproof, and the inner cap can be replaced to keep food hot while the outer cap is used as a cup or bowl.
The Stanley thermos features a carry handle for easy transportation and a hammered-green powder coat finish to prevent scratching and damaging, even with hard use. The Stanley food jar will hold a day’s worth of food or drink and is ideal for work, camping, or travel.
The Thermos Foogo Vacuum Insulated Food Jar is a small thermos, designed to keep up to 10 ounces of food hot for up to 5 hours. The double-walled stainless steel prevents condensation or heat transfer on the outside, so everything else in the lunchbox stays dry. Both the top and bottom are ringed with a nonslip rubberized material that makes opening the jar much easier—great for sending lunches into school for younger children. The Foogo’s 10-ounce size is ideal for smaller appetites, fitting easily into smaller lunch bags. It’s available in fun five colors, so kids can choose the one that suits them best.
The Energify Vacuum Insulated Food Jar has the features shoppers would expect to find in a quality, large-size insulated food thermos: vacuum-sealed double-walled construction, BPA-free stainless steel, a compact size, and 17-ounce capacity—but the real innovation is in the top seal. The Energify thermos features a double lid: an outer screw-on lid that can be used as a bowl, and an inner screw-on lid that actually seals the jar. The inner lid has an integrated spot for a folding spoon but also features a pressure release valve. When hot foods are sealed in a Energify jar, the steam from the food helps create a vacuum inside the jar that helps retain the heat, but this can make thermos lids very difficult to open.
Energify solved the tricky lid problem by adding a release valve, which serves the dual purpose of making the thermos much easier to open and preventing the user from getting a blast of hot steam to the face when they open the jar. The Energify is available in five colors and two sizes and boasts that it will keep food hot for 12 hours or cold for up to 24 hours. A handy carry strap makes it easy to tote the Energify along with you or snap it to a backpack.