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Easy Onigiri Recipe – Japanese Rice Ball Snack

24/04/2015 (Last Updated: 10/07/2019)
 

This EASY onigiri recipe is flavoured with delicious Japanese seasonings and wrapped in nori, perfect for a quick snack or delicious lunches on the go!

Three onigiri rice balls with a sprinkling of furikake seasoning.

Why We Love This Onigiri Recipe

We love onigiri because they are so easy to customise with your own flavour combinations. They’re perfect as a simple snack or cute and tasty appetiser. 

You can easily whip up a fresh batch by taking up a handful of cooked rice mixed with furikake (aka Japanese rice seasoning) and deftly moulding it into a cute triangular shape. Wrap it in a small decorative sheet of nori seaweed and your onigiri will be ready to eat.

Cooked rice with black sesame seeds and ume plum seasoning - perfect for our onigiri recipe!

 

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Close up view of onigiri with seasoning in a spoon

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What is Onigiri?

Onigiri is a triangle shaped rice snack, which is kind of similar to sushi (combo of rice, seasoning and seaweed), but so much easier to make.

In Japan, they’re usually premade in the morning before being wrapped up and taken to work or school as a snack or quick lunch.

 

 

 

Onigiri - aka Japanese rice ball snacks - on a wooden chopping board.

How to Mould Onigiri:

All you need to make this simple onigiri recipe at home is cooked rice and your favourite seasoning.

  • Pop your cooked rice into a nice mixing bowl. Add the furikake or rice flavouring and mix through evenly. Or if you feel like hiding something tasty inside, you can skip this step.
  • Separate the rice into equal portions, big enough to be a large handful each.
  • Wet your hands with water and rub together with a pinch or two of salt. This’ll stop the rice sticking to your hands.
  • Pick up one handful/portion of rice. If you are putting something inside, here is where you make an indent, place the ingredients inside and fold the rice over, then lightly compress into a ball.
  • Using mainly your fingertips while resting the rice on your palm, start to press and squeeze the rice into a triangular shape, rotating as you go so it’s even. According to our Japanese friends, you ideally want to end up with one face of the onigiri having a small indentation from your fingers.
  • Place a slice of nori on the bottom of the onigiri (the rough side should face the rice) and fold it up towards to the middle of the onigiri.
  • Repeat for the remaining rice portions.

Detailed step-by-step collage of how to make this onigiri recipe.

All you need to make onigiri at home is cooked rice and your favourite seasoning. Oishi!! Click To Tweet

The finished onigiri rice ball being held by hand.

What is Onigiri Filled With?

Traditional onigiri recipe fillings often include delicious hidden ingredients such as chicken and mayonnaise, tuna, pickled plum or seasoned kombu seaweed.

Another popular version is made with furikake – aka rice seasoning – which is mixed through the rice itself. We LOVE goma shio – aka salted black sesame seeds.

You’re only limited by your imagination and your tastebuds. So what will you add to make your own homemade onigiri?

Top down image of three onigiri rice balls on a wooden chopping board.

FAQs

What type of rice for for onigiri?

We recommend using koshihikari sushi rice which is stickier and will hold its shape better. Medium grain rice or short grain rice works best for onigiri as the grains tend to stick to each other better than long grain rice (such as jasmine rice). 

How to keep onigiri fresh overnight?

Onigiri are best enjoyed fresh if possible, but if you need to store them for a few hours, we recommend wrapping in plastic wrap or popping in a small airtight container before storing them in the refrigerator. Doing this will help retain moisture in the rice and stop the surface from drying out. If you plan to eat them with a nori seaweed sheet, we recommend keeping it separate until you’re ready to eat. 

What to do with dried out onigiri?

If your onigiri have dried out a bit but are still good on the inside inside, you can bring them back to life as yaki-onigiri – aka grilled onigiri. Try frying them in a pan with a little sesame oil and basting in soy sauce. The heat will crisp up the outside leaving the inside tender and moist. Yum!

Three onigiri balls viewed close up.

Onigiri Recipe Tips

  • For best results, make your onigiri while the rice is still warm. This will help the rice stick together better and make it easier to form the traditional triangle shape.
  • To make your fresh onigiri look more authentic, add a slice of nori around the base. It looks great and tastes great too!
  • If you’re making onigiri ahead of time, it’s a good idea to store the nori separately from the rice until you’re ready to eat, otherwise it will go soggy.

An image of the finished onigiri recipe.

Variations & Substitutes

  • For simple onigiri fillings, simply use your favourite ingredients or make use of leftovers. How about fried chicken, canned tuna or pickled vegetables?
  • Instead of triangles, try making them into circles, squares, or even animals! If you’re feeling creative, use thin slices of nori to create faces or patterns. 

 

More Easy Japanese Recipes

P.S. Heaps of you lovely readers have been asking about the cute little flowers in the furikake we used to decorate our onigiri!

It’s part of a gorgeous Japanese rice seasoning we became addicted to in Japan, called Ume Goma Shio (ie plum sesame salt), and it’s made by the brand Marumiya.

The good news is you can easily find Marumiya Brand Ume Goma Shio online from Amazon, or occasionally in the seasoning section of Asian import stores.

Just look for the cute little white seal cartoon. 😛

It’s super fun to use and has a lovely salty sesame flavour with a hint of ume (Japanese plum). If you give it a try, let us know what you think!

 

★ Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating below!

Simple Onigiri Rice Ball Snack - This FUN snack is great to make in the morning and take to work for lunch or afternoon snack. Eat by itself or dip it in some soy sauce. Vegetarian. | wandercooks.com

Onigiri Recipe - The Simple Japanese Rice Ball Snack

This EASY onigiri recipe is flavoured with delicious Japanese seasonings and wrapped in nori, perfect for a quick snack or delicious lunches on the go!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 6 onigiri
Calories: 143kcal
Author: Wandercooks
Cost: $5-$10

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked Japanese sticky rice
  • 50 grams packet rice seasoning aka ‘furikake’ in Japanese
  • water
  • salt

Instructions

  • Pop your cooked rice into a nice mixing bowl. Add the furikake or rice flavouring and mix through evenly. Or if you feel like hiding something tasty inside, you can skip this step.
  • Separate the rice into equal portions, big enough to be a large handful each.
  • Wet your hands with water and rub together with a pinch or two of salt. This'll stop the rice sticking to your hands.
  • Pick up one handful/portion of rice. If you are putting something inside, here is where you make an indent, place the ingredients inside and fold the rice over, then lightly compress into a ball.
  • Using mainly your fingertips while resting the rice on your palm, start to press and squeeze the rice into a triangular shape, rotating as you go so it’s even. According to our Japanese friends, you ideally want to end up with one face of the onigiri having a small indentation from your fingers.
  • Place a slice of nori on the bottom of the onigiri (the rough side should face the rice) and fold it up towards to the middle of the onigiri.
  • Repeat for the remaining rice portions.

Video

Notes

FAQs

  • What type of rice for for onigiri? We recommend using koshihikari sushi rice which is stickier and will hold its shape better. Medium grain rice or short grain rice work best for onigiri as the grains tend to stick to each other better than long grain rice (such as jasmine rice).
  • How to keep onigiri fresh overnight? Onigiri are best enjoyed fresh if possible, but if you need to store them for a few hours, we recommend wrapping in plastic wrap or popping in a small airtight container before storing them in the refrigerator. Doing this will help retain moisture in the rice and stop the surface from drying out. If you plan to eat them with a nori seaweed sheet, we recommend keeping it separate until you're ready to eat.
  • What to do with dried out onigiri? If your onigiri have dried out a bit but are still good on the inside inside, you can bring them back to life as yaki-onigiri - aka grilled onigiri. Try frying them in a pan with a little sesame oil and basting in soy sauce. The heat will crisp up the outside leaving the inside tender and moist. Yum!

 

Onigiri Recipe Tips

  • For best results, make your onigiri while the rice is still warm. This will help the rice stick together better and make it easier to form the traditional triangle shape.
  • To make your fresh onigiri look more authentic, add a slice of nori around the base. It looks great and tastes great too!
  • If you're making onigiri ahead of time, it's a good idea to store the nori separately from the rice until you're ready to eat, otherwise it will go soggy.
 

Variations & Substitutes

  • For simple onigiri fillings, simply use your favourite ingredients or make use of leftovers. How about fried chicken, canned tuna or pickled vegetables?
  • Instead of triangles, try making them into circles, squares, or even animals! If you're feeling creative, use thin slices of nori to create faces or patterns. 

Nutrition

Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 129mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 140IU | Vitamin C: 0.2mg | Calcium: 133mg | Iron: 4.4mg
Hey hey – Did you make this recipe?We’d love it if you could give a star rating below ★★★★★ and show us your creations on Instagram! Snap a pic and tag @wandercooks / #Wandercooks

Where We Learned This Recipe

We learnt this handy recipe at a sakura celebration in Miyoshi, Japan.  After spending the morning making udon noodles with our feet (yep), it sounded like the perfect way to escape the cold, blustery weather, and maybe even try some local Japanese food. Funny how nobody mentioned the karaoke.

Plate after plate reached the tiny table in front of us as we sat on the floor, Japanese style – homemade oden stew, these tasty onigiri rice balls, and endless cups of free flowing sake and beer.

We ate and we drank, surrounded by music, friends, laughter and conversation. Blissfully unaware of the microphone inching closer and closer.

Until the spotlight was on me, that is. Eeeeeeeeek.

I blinked. Gulped.

Glared at Sarah who was just barely holding back the giggles.

Stood up, took a deep breath, grasped that microphone and… 

Well, needless to say, blew everyone away with my flawless rendition of The Beatles.

Cough.

To this day I’m immensely grateful to this Simple Japanese Onigiri recipe and the two lovely Japanese ladies who taught it to us that day, saving us from further shenanigans of the karaoke-kind!

Simple Onigiri Rice Ball Snack Recipe - A cute Japanese snack that only needs rice and your perfect filling. Super delicious for lunch! Vegetarian. | wandercooks.com

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32 Comments

  • Reply
    Vickey
    25/03/2019 at 9:53 am

    Turned out great for a first try!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      25/03/2019 at 11:49 am

      Oh fantastic Vickey – which style did you end up making? Did you use a particular furikake flavour? Onigiri are so much fun! ????

  • Reply
    jane @ littlesugarsnaps
    16/03/2017 at 8:06 pm

    Oh my. My idea of hell would be singing in public. I think I would have found a way to hide under than tiny table. However, these onigiri sound and look much more pleasing to my senses.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/03/2017 at 2:16 pm

      If there was a way to hide under that tiny table I certainly would have – but Sarah wasn’t gonna let me out of it that easy! At least it was a good opportunity to brush up on my Beatles lyrics hahaha. And yep, couldn’t agree more about the onigiri… I might have gone back for seconds just to ease those post-karaoke nerves. πŸ˜›

  • Reply
    Just Jo
    16/03/2017 at 6:54 pm

    Ohhh, so this is what the little emoji on my phone is supposed to be! So cute! I hadn’t realised it didn’t necessarily contain raw fish (I’m sorry, I’m not a sushi lover) so I’ve never tried onigiri. You make them sound so tempting though, I would gobble up a batch no problem!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/03/2017 at 2:19 pm

      Hahaha yep that’s the one! We didn’t realise they could be so versatile either, but quickly discovered you can fill them with a whole range of flavours. Umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) was definitely an experience, but you could easily make them with your own favourite fillings or rice seasonings!

  • Reply
    Luci's Morsels
    16/03/2017 at 1:50 pm

    I have been wanting to try onigiri and now I am more motivated than ever. This looks simple enough and delicious! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/03/2017 at 2:20 pm

      Yay, hope you enjoy Luci, so keen to hear how you go with them!

  • Reply
    Valentina
    16/03/2017 at 1:22 pm

    I’m going to try these with my kids. They will love helping and eating! ;-). Thanks for the step-by-step photos! So helpful.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/03/2017 at 2:21 pm

      Oh no doubt they’ll love it Valentina, a chance to play with their food and make their own creations! Glad you enjoyed the step by step.

  • Reply
    Allison
    22/02/2017 at 4:00 am

    I can not wait to make my own Onigiri! My husband and I were watching the animΓ©, Food Wars on Hulu, (great for foodies, but not for kiddos!) and I couldn’t wait to find a recipe. Luckily, Pinterest is omniscient, and led me to Wandercooks! Your recipe looks delicious, your story was adorable, but it’s your positive replies in the comment section that I really love. Thank you for showing such encouragement to other cooks! ❀ It’s the little things for me. Now I’m off to start my rice cooker…

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      23/02/2017 at 8:28 am

      Aww thanks Allison we hope you guys enjoy them! It’s silly, but onigiri always remind me of playing a stealth/ninja game called Tenchu on the Playstation – they were a health item you could pick up haha. I’m glad they are just as munchable in real life as they look in anime and video games haha. Would love to hear what you guys think of them!

  • Reply
    DeeDee Rigell
    16/02/2017 at 4:14 am

    Thank for the push! I have World Thinking Day with 20 girl scouts next week and they chose Japan! One group of girls has to do foods of Japan!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      17/02/2017 at 2:44 pm

      Oh how exciting, we’re totally jealous! Hope you all have fun with the onigiri, and if you need any help or suggestions for other Japanese recipes please just let us know – we’d be happy to help! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    OA
    10/09/2016 at 9:42 am

    These look great, but I’ve never cooked short grain rice before, so I’m kind of lost on what to do. Would anyone mine giving me a few tips on what would be the best way to cook it for this recipe?

  • Reply
    Theresa
    18/06/2016 at 2:09 am

    What are the little flowers on the rice in the photos? What are they made from? They are a cute add to the Onigiri…

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      20/06/2016 at 4:19 pm

      Hey Theresa, not sure what they are *exactly*, but they’re flavoured with ‘ume’ aka Japanese plum. They’re part of the ‘goma shio’ (sesame salt) furikake Japanese seasoning. Just found a link to the actual packed on Amazon. So excited! πŸ™‚ Ume Goma Shio

  • Reply
    Georgina Ingham | Culinary Travels
    13/06/2016 at 1:25 am

    I love sushi but I confess I have never made it, or any other Japanese food, with the exception of Katsu Curry at home. These look lovely and are inspiring me to try cook more Japanese cuisine.

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      14/06/2016 at 11:07 am

      Ooh boy, at least you started with an awesome Japanese recipe! Katsu curry is amazing, I think we’ll have to create our own asap. Hope you enjoy a delicious simple onigiri of your own, would love to know how you go! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    Florentina
    12/06/2016 at 7:24 am

    I have never made these before. They look so cool and sound delicious !

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      14/06/2016 at 11:04 am

      They’re so much fun to make! And so easy to customise too, so you can always mix and match your favourite seasonings or fillings. I can never go past the black sesame & salt seasoning mix, but when it comes to fillings, chicken and mayo can never go wrong!

  • Reply
    Joy @ Joy Love Food
    12/06/2016 at 5:54 am

    We love Japanese food at our house, these little balls look so good and are so cute, I will have to give it a try soon!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      14/06/2016 at 11:02 am

      They’re the cutest food ever haha, and so much fun to eat. I think we’ll have to go make a batch right now! πŸ˜›

  • Reply
    Kate @ VeggieDesserts
    10/06/2016 at 8:55 pm

    You’ve made this look so easy. Thanks for the step by step photos!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      14/06/2016 at 11:01 am

      You’re welcome Kate, hope you enjoy shaping up your onigiri!

  • Reply
    Gloria @ Homemade & Yummy
    09/06/2016 at 9:48 pm

    We love sushi here, so these look perfect. What a great little party dish. Love it!!

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      10/06/2016 at 5:28 pm

      Great to hear! These are just like sushi only way easier to make. Hope you enjoy! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    LG
    05/03/2016 at 4:58 pm

    This is a great base recipe! Very cute. I’d recommend also trying to put some filling inside! Canned tuna or chicken is popular for these..or cooked chicken.. (:

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      09/03/2016 at 8:33 am

      Thanks LG! Yes, chicken or tuna inside is amazing. And so easy to do as well. Just indent the rice with your finger, pop in your filling, and cover over with a bit more rice til it’s nice and hidden. Easy!

  • Reply
    Tina Jui
    04/01/2016 at 5:32 pm

    Yum! I love these, but never thought to make them at home for some reason. Thanks for the little push and inspiration to give it a try at home πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Wandercooks
      04/01/2016 at 8:29 pm

      Anytime Tina. πŸ˜€ It’s crazy, because it’s so simple – especially when you have a rice-cooker you can have them ready to take to work in minutes. Let us know how you go with yours!

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