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Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls), Delicious & Easy to Make

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Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls), Delicious & Easy to Make

Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls) were originally served with Makunouchi Bento (Between-Act Bento). Patrons were served bite-sized rice balls with exotic fillings to keep them occupied between act intermissions, Today they are a healthy and delicious option for serving with bento lunch boxes. Onigiri, also known as omusubi consists of white rice shaped into triangular or cylindrical balls and covered in nori (seaweed). Several rice options are used including plain steamed rice, onigiri rice ball shapes, fried rice, Takikomigohan or Omurice and a variety of fillings are available. This recipe covers onigiri rice balls ingredients and preparation.

Types of Rice & Fillings

Onigiri rice balls are a trendy food item in Japan, and the rice most suited for its preparation is ‘Koshihikari’. Short-grained rice can be found in most Asian or Japanese grocery stores and supermarkets. There are many brands, the most popular in Australia is ‘Sun rice’. When cooked as per the instructions, Koshihikari rice is cohesive, it sticking together, which is perfect for preparing Onigiri balls. Fillings can include pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, katsuobushi, kombu, tarako, mentaiko, takanazuke (pickled takana), or any other salty or sour ingredient is traditionally used as a natural preservative in an onigiri.

To make Onigiri rice balls, ingredients include the following. Don’t forget that you can serve them along side or in a lovely wooden bento or bamboo bento box.


  • 2-3 sheets of dried nori seaweed
  • 4 cups of steamed Japanese sushi rice
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt & 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • Black sesame seeds
  • Umeboshi (Pickled Plum)
  • Grilled salted salmon

Kitchen Utensils

  • Frying Pan for Salmon
  • Rice Cooker
Onigiri Recipe
Onigiri Recipe

Onigiri Recipe Cooking instructions

The following instructions presume that you are using a rice cooker for this Onigiri Recipe. Note that water ratios and cook times can vary so follow the instructions provided on the rice packaging’s back.

  1. Place rice in a strainer and rinse under tap water until it becomes clear.
  2. Add rice and water as per rice packaging instructions into your rice cooker and stir.
  3. For best texture let the rice sit in the rice cooker for 20 minutes before cooking.
  4. Close the rice cooker lid and start the cooking timer.
  5. While waiting for the rice to cook, sprinkle some salt on your salmon and pan fry for 5 minutes on either side or until cooked well, put aside, and rest.
  6. When rice cooker has finished switch to warm settings.
  7. Let it sit covered for 15 minutes and go onto the next steps.

Making Onigiri Rice Balls

  1. Place half a cup of your steamed rice into a bowl and cut your nori sheets into 5-6 strips.
  2. Wet your hands with water so that the rice won’t stick and rub a little salt on your hands.
  3. Place the steamed rice into your hand and massage it into a triangle making sure it is dense.
  4. Put your Grilled Salmon in your other hand and stuff the filling into the middle of the rice.
  5. Form the rice into a round ball by pressing lightly with your palms while securing the filling in the middle.
  6. Roll the rice ball in your hands a few times, pressing lightly until you get an even texture.
  7. Wrap the rice ball with a strip or two of nori and sprinkle sesame seeds to finish.

Shaping Onigiri Rice Balls: might take a little practice and not that hard as long as your rice has been cooked well.

Shape Variations: Onigiri Rice Balls are traditionally prepared into three shapes: round, triangular or cylindrical.

Shape Molds: If you do not like using hands molds available in all three shapes. These can be obtained from most Asian or Japanese grocery stores. It will help if you wet the mold before filling it with the cooked rice mixture. Sometimes the cooked rice is loosened and kept in specific wooden containers termed the ‘ohitsu’. The extra moisture is absorbed, and the rice is prevented from remaining soggy.

Seasonings & Filling Variations: There are several seasonings available in the market that enhance the Onigiri Bento Box taste. Sometimes, though the mere sprinkling of salt and wrapping the rice balls with nori seaweed is good enough for the eaters, the varied seasonings can be mixed into the rice while still hot after being cooked. The rice’s residual warmth is sufficient to steam the seasoning’s dry ingredients, adding to its taste and flavour. The ‘Furikake’ form of seasoning is just sprinkled on the top though. Some of the popular flavours include Daikon leaves, Tuna Mayo, Pickled plum and more.

One more way to heighten the rice balls’ flavour and the taste is to fill them with Umbeshi pickled plum, Salmon Soboro, Bonito flakes, salted and grilled fish like salmon etc. You can find varied and one of a kind fillings at any convenience store.

There are several Onigiri Recipe which are popular variations of the Onigiri like YakiOnigiri. You can use Miso butter for this recipe. The rice balls need to be applied some amount of sweetened miso while being grilled or fried.


Onigiri Rice Balls should be consumed within the same day of making them. However, you can extend the shelf life by wrapping in cling wrap and storing in the fridge to be eaten the next day.

Filling Variations

Onigiri rice balls are also wildly customisable. Some are made in a circular shape instead of triangular, some don’t have seaweed while others have tasty flavors such as Korean BBQ beef (kalbi), minced port and ginger or egg and yukari origini. Following are a few of the most common classics. Prepared in the same way though using different ingredients.

  • Tuna Mayo (Sea Chicken)
  • Grilled Salmon Flakes
  • Pickled Plum
  • Salted Cod Roe
  • Seasoned Cod Roe
  • Dried Bonito Flakes
  • Kelp Simmered in Soy Sauce
  • Grilled Salmon Cream Cheese

Rice Cooking Tip

When cooking rice, normal drinking water is used but using mineral water instead will make the cooked rice more fluffy and have a beautiful gleam.

We hope that you enjoyed this Onigiri recipe, find more mouthwatering bento recipes, or learn more about the Onigiri history here: Wikipedia. Liked this recipe? Try our tasty Tsukune Recipe (Traditional Japanese Meatballs).

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