Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls)

Onigiri are a fluffy rice balls that are wrapped with nori, and packed with a wide range of delicious fillings, including creamy salmon, umami flavored bonito, soy sauce, soft tuna and furikake.

Onigiri, sometimes referred to O-musubi, or rice ball is an iconic Japanese food item which can be found in Japanese eateries or in grocery stores. It’s a simple method to carry rice around and this makes it a great for a snack on the go!

The rice

To clarify, onigiri does is not prepared using sushi rice similar to the inari sushi. Onigiri is prepared by lightly spicing the rice with salt. In contrast, sushi rice is prepared with sugar, vinegar and salt.

How to make Onigiri Japanese Rice Balls
How to make Onigiri Japanese Rice Balls

To begin your onigiri the first step is prepare short-grain Japanese rice, and then add salt by putting it into the bowl. Traditionally, salt is added in the hand-forming process but I prefer using molds and make sure every grain is properly salted. I usually start with around two cups of rice to create eight onigiri. Each one weighs about half one portion of rice.

Fillings for Onigiri

Tuna mixed with Kewpie Japanese Mayo

Prepare your tuna-based filling using together a can of tuna with some Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise in a small bowl. Include some soy sauce in the mix to add flavor, as well. I prefer to mix approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of tuna filling in one onigiri.

Flaky salmon

For the flaky salmon, must dry the filet of salmon after which sprinkle a large amount of salt on the filet. Allow the marinade to sit for around an hour prior to baking at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes and the broiling process continues for 5 minutes. After the broiling process is completed using a fork, lightly flake, but do don’t smash the fish. I mix around 1 1/2 tsp filling from salmon into one onigiri.

Okaka (bonito flakes and soy sauce)

bonito flake
bonito flake

One of the most simple fillings you can make is okaka. It is bonito flakes, soy sauce and. I purchased bonito flake at a local Japanese supermarket. Mix one box of bonito flakes with soy sauce in a thorough manner. The flakes should be moist but not saturated with soy sauce. For one onigiri I mix half a teaspoon of the Okaka filling and 1/2 cup of rice straight and then add black sesame seeds to create one onigiri.

Other ideas for filling onigiris

There are many other fillings which are simple to make!

  • Ume (pickled plum) I make use of up to two plums picked for each of my onigiris.
  • Kombu Tsukudani (simmered in seasoned and simmered seaweed) I mix 2 teaspoons of Kombu Tsukudani along with 1 cup of cooked rice to make one onigiri.
  • Furikake Mix: I like to mix two to three teaspoons furikake mix to 1 cup of cooked rice for each onigiri.
  • Shrimp tempura
  • Vegetable tempura
  • Salted cod roe
  • Salted pollock roe

How to make onigiri using a mold or hand

Once you’ve gathered your rice and the fillings, you’re ready to create onigiri! Traditionally, onigiri is prepared by dipping your hands into salt water before forming rice balls by hand. But I prefer making them using Onigiri molds as it ensures that the rice balls are identical in size and shape and also much less messy!

Onigiri – Japanese Rice Balls Recipe

There are a variety of ways to put the filling in rice balls. You may mix it right into the rice, and then form balls, or you can mix the fillings to the middle. For traditional onigiri recipe I like to place approximately 1/4 cup of rice to the mould, and then fill it with the filling and then finish with an additional 1/4 cup of rice. If fillings are mixed with rice, I prefer to mix them up into a bowl using the help of a spoon.

When you have added the rice into the molds, the rice must be level with the edge in the mold. Make use of to place the onigiri in the middle of the mold and press it down to form the onigiri. Then press the opposite end of the mold to release the onigiri onto an uncooked plate.

Wrapping Onigiri

Once you’ve created your onigiri you are able to decide for wrapping nori over the rice ball. Onigiri was invented in Japan around the 11th century, however the introduction of nori wasn’t until the 17th century. I like adding nori to aid in carrying the onigiri and prevent onigiri from becoming too sticky.

There are a variety of ways to wrap nori over the rice ball. For instance, you could wrap the whole ball in long strips of nori, roll the onigiri with sesame seeds or shiso leaves for an extra taste.

How do you serve?

It is possible to take this onigiri out for lunch or enjoy it as a snack in a hurry I prefer to eat it with chicken Karaage and Takoyaki (Japanese Octopus ball), too. It is recommended to be consumed on the day you prepare it. Although you can store it in the refrigerator and then cook it using the microwave oven, I don’t recommend it due to the fact that the rice may dry out.

If you want to make an Americanized version of the onigiri you could also make Spam Musubi similarly.

Spam Musubi

Oft-asked questions regarding onigiri*:

What kind of rice do you use to make onigiri?

Onigiri is prepared using shorter grain Japanese rice (but you can also make it with medium grain) which is lightly spiced with salt.

How can you get rice balls to stay together?

Onigiri balls are created by the sticky nature of small grain of rice. To further create shape of a triangle or a round you can wrap nori wraps to cover the onigiri.

How long will rice balls keep in the refrigerator?

Onigiri recipe

I would recommend eating these rice ball as fast as possible, however you could save them to eat the next day, too. The longer you put off eating them, the rice will get dry while the nori begins to become less crisp.

What is the reason why my rice balls break in pieces?

If you are experiencing problems with the rice balls do not keep its shape, it is important be sure you’re using the correct rice. Ongiri is made of shorter grain Japanese rice balls that has an adequate amount of sticky to help keep its shape.

Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls)

Japanese Onigiri rice balls are an excellent option to make rice more portable for those who travel. This recipe shows you how simple it can be to cook onigiri in your kitchen using many different fillings.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 39 minutes
Course lunch, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine asian, Japanese
Calories 415 kcal



  • 5 1 oz (141.7 grams) canned tuna
  • 2 Tbsp Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce


  • 7 Oz filet of salmon
  • 2 teaspoon salt


  • 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 5 g bonito flakes


  • 6 oz ume (pickled plum)


  • 6 TSP furikake


  • nori optional
  • Shiso leaves can be used as an option



  • When you have cooked the rice for short grains, sprinkle a half a teaspoon of salt and blend. Test the rice and adjust it if you need more spice. Be aware that you'll adding filling to the rice, so do not want to salt too much the rice.
  • Filling for tuna:In the bowl of a smaller size add canned tuna, Kewpie Japanese mayo, and soy sauce, and mix together. I mix approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons of tuna filling in my onigiri.
  • Filling with salmon: Preheat the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry your filet, then sprinkle plenty of salt over the fish. The salmon is marinated for 1 hour. Cook the fish for about 15 minutes and then broil it for another five minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the fish to ensure it doesn't get blackened. When the fish is cooked with a fork, flake the fish into tiny pieces. I put about 1 1/2 teaspoons of salmon filling to one onigiri.
  • Ume plum pickled: Use your fingers to gently squeeze the seeds inside a plum that has been picked. I will use between one and two plums in each onigiri.
  • Okaka filling You may use store purchased bonito flakes, and mix a five-gram packet with half a spoon of sauce made from soy in an empty bowl. This will leave bonito flakes wet but not so wet. I prefer mixing half a tablespoon of Okaka filling with 1 cup of rice and then add some black sesame seeds to create one onigiri.
  • Furikake FillingAdd up to two or three tablespoons furikake mix to 1 cup of cooked rice. mix it in a bowl using the help of a spoon. This will make one onigiri.
  • Combu Tsukudani FillingAdd two tablespoons of kombu to a 1/2 cup rice and mix with an utensil. This will make one onigiri.


  • For onigiri that have fillings inside using the onigiri molds make sure to add approximately one cup of rice into the mold for onigiri, then add the filling that you like and finish with a quarter cups of rice. Be sure to fill the rice towards the edges in the mould. Use the top to press it down to create the shape. Then, turn the mold around then press release to allow the onigiri to be released.
  • To make onigiri using rice and fillings mingled together: Pour the rice mixture to the mold for onigiri and make sure that it is filled to the edges inside the mould. Then, take the top and press it down to create the shape. Flip the mold upside down then press release to allow the onigiri to be released.
  • Then wrap your onigiri in nori. I like cutting rectangles from nori, and then place them on top in the middle of an onigiri. It is also possible to use shiso leaves to embellish the onigiri using the leaf to the top side, then folding it over the lower part of the onigiri. The rice should adhere to the leaf quickly.
  • In addition, you can make additional toppings and sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice balls.
  • Eat them as fast as you can since they're intended to be eaten on immediately after you prepare them.
Keyword Japanese Rice Balls, Onigiri Recipe

One Response

  1. Koreana August 22, 2023

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