Onigiri Recipe: Delicious Japanese Rice Balls


This easy onigiri recipe is packed with flavor and uses some of the most common ingredients used when making rice balls in Japan. You can stuff it with absolutely anything, and you will surely have a delicious and healthy afternoon snack or meal.

What Is Onigiri?

Onigiri, Japanese rice balls, or rice triangles, are savory Japanese comfort food primarily made of steamed rice and salt. Its basic form is a triangular or cylindrical ball of compressed steamed rice flavored with salt. However, onigiri often includes flavor enhancers like nori, Furikake, or meat or vegetable fillings.

In some ways, onigiri can be seen as the Japanese equivalent of a sandwich. They’re typically used as a grab-and-go snack or portable meal. Onigiri is a popular picnic item and a staple in bento lunchboxes. They are also readily available in most supermarkets and convenience stores.

What Ingredients Do I Need To Make Onigiri?

Onigiri is one of those dishes where anything goes. You have your base ingredients which in the case of the onigiri is steamed and cooled rice and salt, but then you can add all kinds of different flavorings and fillings to make it your own.

Although it’s unnecessary, it’s a good idea to always include nori when making a basic onigiri. Not only does wrapping your onigiri with a small sheet of nori add vibrant sea flavors, but it also makes the onigiri easier to hold.

Another fantastic addition to onigiri is the addition of Furikake flavoring the rice. Furikake is a Japanese rice seasoning that typically includes sugar, salt, toasted sesame seeds, and nori.

Furikake blends can differ from region to region and may consist of additional chili flakes, miso powder, shiitake mushroom powder, or bonito flakes. Regardless of the regional combination, Furikake will always pack a delicious punch of flavor into rice.

If you’d like to enjoy a traditional onigiri style, you must get your hands on umeboshi or Japanese pickled plum.

Umeboshi is a popular Japanese condiment made out of the ume fruit, which can be thought of as a cross between an apricot and a plum. They have a sweet-sour and salty flavor and are commonly found in Asian markets and gourmet grocery stores.

In short, The main ingredients you will need to make a traditional onigiri are:

  • Rice
  • Salt
  • Nori
  • Umeboshi
  • Furikake (optional but highly recommended)


What Fillings Are Added to Onigiri?

Traditional onigiri is delicious as it is. However, adding fun fillings of meat, fish, vegetables, or processed foods can elevate the flavors and the onigiri to a new level.

The thing about onigiri is that absolutely anything can be an onigiri filling as long as it doesn’t contain too much liquid. So it’s a great way to use up your leftovers from the night before. However, some popular onigiri fillings in Japan are definitely worth a try.

Let’s take a look at some popular fillings:

  • Tuna-mayo is the most popular, oh Nigeria filling in Japan. It was first introduced by 7-Eleven in 1983 and has been particularly loved by women and the elderly in Japan. It’s made with cooked tuna and kewpie mayo.
  • Okaka is a filling made of finely chopped bonito flakes and soy sauce.
  • Tempus is a crowd-pleasing onigiri filling made with tempura shrimp and a sweet sauce.
  • Takana, or pickled mustard leaves, are often used in onigiri. Rather than using it as a filling, Takana is often chopped up and mixed in with the rice as a flavor enhancer. Takana is often paired with a mentaiko, or spicy cod roe, as a filling.
  • Kombu onigiri is a fantastic filling for vegans and vegetarians. This filling is made by cooking dried kelp in soy sauce and Mirin until the combo becomes tender and caramelized, after which the combo can be thinly sliced or cut into strips.
  • Nikumaki is an onigiri that has meat wrapped around the rice instead of as a filling. It was introduced by a company from Miyazaki Prefecture and has grown in popularity since 2000.
  • Negimiso is another great vegetarian onigiri filling made of Japanese green onion cooked in a miso-based sauce.

japanese rice balls

How Is Onigiri Made?

Making onigiri may seem daunting, but once you break down the steps, it’s actually quite simple. Take a look at the step-by-step guide below to better understand how to make onigiri.

Step 1: Place your steamed rice in a mixing bowl and let it cool down enough so you can use your hands to form it into your desired shape.

Step 2: Once your steamed rice has cooled enough, add Furikake or other rice seasonings and mix it evenly throughout the rice.

Step 3: Divide the rice into equal portions roughly the size of a handful.

Step 4: What are your hands? Rub salt between your hands to stop the rice from sticking to your hands while forming it.

Step 5: Take one portion of the rice in your hands. If you are adding a filling, make an indent in the rice and place the filling inside the indentation. Then cover the filling by folding it over and lightly pressing the race into a ball.

Step 6: Shape the ball in whatever shape you would like. If you’d like to shape the onigiri into a triangle, Lightly but gently squeeze the edges until the corners form, Well packing the sides to keep the onigiri sturdy.

Step 7: Take a small slip of nori and place the rough side of the sheets against the bottom of the onigiri. Then fold the excess sheets onto the front and back of the onigiri.


Onigiri Recipe: Delicious Japanese Rice Balls

Onigiri, Japanese rice balls, or rice triangles, are savory Japanese comfort food primarily made of steamed rice and salt. Its basic form is a triangular or cylindrical ball of compressed steamed rice flavored with salt. However, onigiri often includes flavor enhancers like nori, Furikake, or meat or vegetable fillings.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 15 mins
Course Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 6
Calories 143 kcal


  • 2 cups short-grain Japanese rice
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 sheet nori (cut into eight small rectangles) 
  • 1⁄4 cup Furikake
  • 2⁄3 cup of filling (this could be divided up into any number of fillings) 
  • Salt (to taste)


  • Rinse the rice in cold water roughly 5-6 times or until there’s no more cloudy water when rinsing. Then let the rice soak in clean water for 30 minutes.
  • After soaking, drain the rice and place it in a pot with a lid. Add Cold water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer; cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.
  • Transfer the rice to a large mixing bowl and let it cool until it can be handled.
  • Add the Furikake and mix to distribute it evenly. Then divide the rice into eight even portions.
  • With wet salted hands, pick up one portion of the rice and intent the middle. Add a small spoonful of your filling, then cover the hole with more rice. Gently add light pressure to the rice as; a ball and form it to the desired shape.
  • Take a nori strip and place it perpendicular to one side of your rice ball and flat in it so it lies smooth against the rice.
  • Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the remaining seven portions of rice.

Join the Conversation

  1. Lucky in Bayview says:

    Tried this recipe. We though it was awesome. I have it stored in my recipe box. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Cooked this last night. Was impressed with how good this tasted given the ingredients, but it was delicious.

  3. sunshine_4_jt_10000 says:

    We thought this was excellent! Thanks for posting.

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