Japanese rice balls, Onigiri is a delicious and easy snack that will satisfy your taste buds. Get started with this recipe today!
Onigiri (rice ball) is a traditional Japanese staple that we eat daily for any occasion.
You've tried onigiri at a Japanese restaurant or somewhere and want to make your rice balls, but you're unsure where to start?
This recipe will share how we go about it and guide you in making these delicious rice balls.
You will learn the most basic and traditional one, a triangular shape wrapped in nori sheets with six old-fashioned fillings inside, plus a variety of fillings, and our onigiri culture!
- This recipe is for you if:
- You love onigiri (rice balls).
- You want to make simple onigiri with nori seaweed
- You are looking for onigiri recipe with great details
- You are looking for onigiri filling variations.
By the way, I have another recipe: Onigiri without nori; if you love onigiri, please check it out as well!!
Let me walk you through the ingredients and instructions. If you want to check the recipe, please use the link below. Let's dive in!
About this recipe
- How to make Onigiri
- Japanese rice balls
- Use Japanese short-grain rice
- Six classic fillings
- Lots of variations
- Include vegetarian fillings
what is onigiri?
Onigiri, or rice balls, is traditional Japanese food, which is Japanese rice formed into shapes and wrapped in nori seaweed (or without).
The typical shape is triangular, but you could also create forms such as a round, small ball, or cylinder shape.
They are all onigiri!
You can eat them at any time of the day, like breakfast, dinner, or as portable snacks when you're on the go.
Here are the ingredients (amounts are in the recipe card below).
Let's go over each ingredient in the following section.
What type of rice should I use?
The best rice for onigiri is Japanese rice (or Japonica rice), which is:
- Short-grain rice
- Sticky texture
- More starch than long-grain rice
- Easy to stick together
If you are looking for specific rice, Koshihikari rice is the most famous and popular rice, and it's easy to find outside Japan.
We use plain white rice for onigiri, but you can also use brown rice.
You can find Japanese short-grain rice at a Japanese supermarket or Asian grocery stores, or online stores.
If you make onigiri with long-grain rice like Jasmine rice, your onigiri will fall apart, so I don't recommend using it.
How to cook Japanese rice
If you are not familiar with cooking Japanese rice, please see: how to cook Japanese short-grain rice.
You can find helpful tips, equipment to use, and step-by-step instructions.
Can I use "Sushi rice" for onigiri?
Let me clarify about Sushi Rice because there are two usages:
- A: Sushi rice - It's vinegar rice, which is seasoned cooked white short-grain rice with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. This rice is for making sushi.
- B: Sushi Rice - It's Japanese rice labeled like this by the seller. This rice is not only for sushi but for any rice dishes.
We usually don't use A: Sushi rice for regular onigiri or yaki onigiri, it's for sushi, but you can use it for your preference.
If you mean B: Sushi Rice, and yes, it's regular uncooked Japanese rice so that you can use it.
6 Best Onigiri Fillings
I cover the six most popular onigiri fillings in Japan in this recipe. Let's go over each one of them.
- Mentaiko: Spiced cod roe. It's made by marinating with salt, soy sauce, chili, and other seasonings, so it tastes salty and spicy. The plain cod roe, called Tarako, is also a popular filling.
- Salmon: Grill salmon fillet and flake it. You can also buy salmon flakes at a store.
- Tuna: I use water-packed canned tuna. You can also use oil-packed tuna. Drain and combine with mayonnaise. If you copy authentic taste, use Japanese mayonnaise.
- Umeboshi: Pickled plum, which is sour and salty and goes well with plain Japanese rice. The seed is inside, so we remove it and make a paste for filling.
- Katsuobushi: Bonito flakes are an essential ingredient for making dashi stock in Japanese cuisine. We combine it with soy sauce for the filling.
- Kombu tsukudani: Kombu is seaweed and an essential ingredient for making dashi stock. Kombu tsukudani, seasoned in soy sauce and mirin, is a very flavorful side dish.
Nori is dried seaweed that we use for various dishes in Japanese cooking and sold as sheets like the picture above.
The size is 8.3”x 7.5” (21 x 19 cm) then you can cut it into different sizes according to the dishes you are cooking.
Here are some examples:
- Whole size
- ⅓ size
- ¼ size
- ⅕ size
- 1/10 size
You can buy pre-cut nori sheets like half size, ⅓ size, and 1/10 size at a store, but the full size is all you need to cut it into whatever size you want.
We use ⅓ size in this recipe, but I also like to use ⅕ for smaller onigiri.
By the way, Onigiri at a Japanese convenience store uses half size, which is fully covered by nori.
Now you know all the ingredients we will use for onigiri, so it's time for cooking! Let me show you how to make it step by step, or you can also watch this recipe video.
First of all, you will need to prepare your filling. Each one (except kombu tsukudani) requires one more step before putting in onigiri.
- Mentaiko: Remove from the thin membrane
- Salmon: Grill salmon fillet and break it into flakes
- Tuna: Drain canned tuna and combine with mayonnaise
- Umeboshi: Remove the seed and chop to make the paste
- Katsuobushi: Combine with soy sauce
- Kombu tsukudani: Use it as it is
Once you've prepared your fillings, it's time to shape them into balls!
- Cut Nori sheet into three equal pieces
- Prepare salt, a bowl of water, cooked rice, a nori sheet, and a filling of your choice.
- In a small bowl, put rice and add filling in the center of the rice
- Wet hands, put some salt on your palm, and form a triangular shape
- Form like this by pressing gently with your both palms
- Wrap it with a nori sheet
Please watch the recipe video for forming movement.
Here you go!
There are many ways to wrap with nori, but this is fundamental.
Shaping rice might require a little practice, so if you have a hard time making a triangular shape, you can use an onigiri mold! It's easy to shape onigiri!
The triangle is the most common shape, but you can also form different shapes like round and cylinder shapes.
Let's take a look inside!
- Mentaiko Onigiri
- Salmon Onigiri
- Tuna Mayo Onigiri
- Umeboshi Onigiri
- Okaka Onigiri (Katsuobushi)
- Kombu tsukudani Onigiri
Which one would you like to try? If you can't pick one, then try them all!!
The filling amount is up to you, so feel free to add as much or little for your personal preference.
I added two teaspoons of each filling, so it's full!
More Onigiri Fillings
Let’s talk about a variety of fillings!
I've already shared six classic fillings, but there are so many more onigiri options.
I picked these popular fillings among Japanese people randomly from the Onigiri ranking! Let's dive in!
Variety of onigiri fillings
- Shrimp Tempura
- Ikura (Salmon Roe)
- Shirasu (Small immature fish)
- Karaage (Deep fried chicken)
- Teriyaki chicken
If you are vegetarian, here are great fillings for you:
You can put anything you want in them, like fish, meat, or vegetables, if that sounds good for your taste buds, so feel free to experiment with your favorite ingredients!
Onigiri is not only with plain white rice, and there are more ways to make it!
For example, you can make it with seasoned rice, make it without nori, or grill it.
- Brown rice onigiri
- Takikomi gohan gonigiri
- Onigiri without nori
- Corn rice onigiri
- Yaki onigiri
- Sekihan onigiri
Pick your favorite rice, and let's make balls of rice!
If you don't eat them right away, please wrap each onigiri with plastic wrap like the picture above before they get dry.
You can store them for a couple of days in the fridge and one month in the freezer.
When freezing, do not wrap the nori sheet.
And heat it in a microwave oven right before you eat it (do not thaw it at room temperature as it will get dry).
What to serve with
Do you like Japanese-style meals? Then it's a good idea to serve with miso soup and vegetable stir-fry and tsukemono (pickled vegetable)!
Onigiri is best for Obento (Lunch box)
Onigiri is the perfect food for on the go because it's easy to grab and bite!
I make obento (lunch box) often recently (see my Instagram story :)) as we go to the circuit on the weekend for our six-year-old boy's kart practice.
Let me share our kid's obento from the other day:
- Okaka onigiri and Salmon Onigiri
- Salmon yakisoba (Stir fry ramen noodles)
- Nitamago (Flavored egg)
- Steamed broccoli
- Cherry tomato
- Umeboshi (Pickled Plum)
- Miso soup in a food jar
Our three years old girl enjoys her katsuobushi onigiri!!
Japanese convenience stores are called "Konbini," and you can find them everywhere.
We have three convenience stores in our area, Lowson, Seven-Eleven, and Family Mart, within 10 minutes on foot.
Their onigiri variations are endless. I'm often overwhelmed because they always have a new recipe, and hard to pick one.
I highly recommend stopping at Konbini and checking out their onigiri aisle if you visit Japan. It would be a fun experience!
Thanks For Stopping By
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog♡ If you’ve tried this recipe (or any other recipe on the blog), please give it a star rating below!
Also, feel free to leave comments if you have any questions. I love hearing from you!
Chef JA Cooks is a Japanese food blog that shares healthy and straightforward Japanese home cooking recipes, including vegan and vegetarian. From traditional Japanese recipes to modern recipes with step-by-step instructions.
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Onigiri with 6 Classic FillingsPrint Pin Rate
Fillings of your choice (choose your favorite one *see note)
- 4 Umeboshi, Remove the seed and chop to make the paste
- 1 Salmon fillet, Grill and break it into flakes
- 2 tablespoon Kombu tsukudani
- 1 tablespoon Mentaiko, Remove from the thin membrane
- 6 tablespoon Katsuobushi, 10g and 1 tablespoon Soy sauce (Combine together)
- 5 oz Canned tuna, 140g and 2 tablespoon Mayonnaise (Drain tuna and combine together)
- Nori sheet: Cut it into 3 equal pieces.
- Prepare the filling of your choice (see ingredients)
- Collect ingredients: Put salt, a bowl of water, cooked rice, nori sheets, and filling aside.
- Add filling: Put rice in a small bowl, make a small dent in the center, then add 1 or 2 teaspoons of your filling.
- Water and salt on your hands: Wet both hands with water, put some salt (2 fingertips of salt) on your palm and rub between your hands.
- Shape rice: Place the rice on your hand, hold with both hands, form a triangle shape (or round shape) by pressing gently with your both palms and fingers while rolling it several times.
- Wrap: Wrap it with nori sheet.
- Equipment: Small bowl (This oxo tot small bowl is perfect for small onigiri)
- Storage: Wrap each one with plastic wrap, put it in a container, and keep them in the fridge for a couple of days and one month in the freezer.
- Variations: See the "Variations" section for filling and onigiri variations.
- Japanese short-grain rice (starchy and sticky) is ideal for making onigiri. If you are new to rice, see "How to cook Japanese rice on the stove."
- The filling amount is up to you, so feel free to tweak it for your preference.
- The nutrition label is for salmon onigiri.