A Spicy Perspective

Easy Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls)

Japanese Rice Balls – The whole family will love this easy Onigiri recipe to make sticky, tasty rice snacks in fun shapes using your favorite seasonings and extra goodies!

overhead top view of Japanese Onigiri in panda face shapes and topped with sushi ginger

Easy and Fun Onigiri

Feeling like your lunch routine could use a refresh?

Onigiri to the rescue!

Friends of ours introduced us to fun Japanese Rice Balls, Onigiri, years ago, and we’ve loved them ever since. Sticky and tender sushi rice is shaped into balls or fun shapes and can be filled or coated with all kinds of yummy goodies. They’re perfect to make with the family and include in lunch boxes (for kids of all ages!)

Here we’re sharing with you a classic Onigiri recipe that’s terrific to customize with your preferred ingredients. Depending on tastes and diet, Japanese rice balls are easy to prepare with different flavors, sodium levels, shapes, and garnishes.

Roll up a batch to keep in the fridge so you’ve got some ready whenever you need to quickly pack a lunch or are craving a light, tasty snack!

side view of plate with panda rice balls and rolled balls wrapped in nori and topped with sushi ginger

4 Ingredients You Need

The authentic gluten-free Onigiri recipe only includes 4 simple ingredients:

  • sushi riceis the best rice for the right sticky texture
  • waterfor preparing the rice
  • furikake seasoningtraditional, but optional
  • saltgives the rice balls a base of flavor

Plus, add any extra goodies you choose, like classic sushi toppings. Keep reading for suggestions of add-ins and toppings!

Wondering what’s up with the super cute molds and shapes below? You can find all sorts of Onigiri molds at local Asian markets and on Amazon. But you can totally just roll the Onigiri into spherical rice balls, too!

various panda molds, triangle mold, furikake seasoning

How to Make Japanese Rice Balls (Classic Onigiri Recipe)

The first step is to make the tender and sticky sushi rice.

Add the rice to a medium saucepot. Rinse the rice several times, repeatedly pouring off the water and excess starches. It’s best to do this in a bowl or pot, not a colander, so the rice grains don’t break.

Place the saucepot with the clean drained rice over high heat. Add 2 ½ cups water, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Then remove the pot from heat and let sit and steam, covered, for another 10 minutes. 

Fluff the rice with a fork, and add the furikake mix and salt to the warm rice.

adding furikake mix to the cooked rice

Gently stir together. You don’t want the rice to get mushy, so don’t over mix!

rice with seasonings in a large pot

Use your hands, or Onigiri molds, to press the rice into balls or various shapes.

If using your hands, make sure they are clean and slightly damp. You might need to rinse them with more water as you work.

stuffing seasoned rice into a triangle shaped mold

Pro Tip: If using molds, I recommend that you spray them with nonstick cooking spray first.

Get the Complete (Printable) Easy Onigiri Recipe + VIDEO Below. Enjoy!

sushi rice stuffed into a triangle shaped mold

Have a baking sheet or plate with parchment ready. Then place the pressed or rolled Onigiri on parchment or wax paper.

hand holding triangle shaped onigiri with nori

Onigiri Toppings and Fillings Suggestions

For a simple and clean (and cute!) Onigiri, cut nori sheets – sheets of dry seaweed – and press the pieces against the Onigiri for decoration.

We also make traditional triangles with a nori strip garnish on the bottom, and balls with nori rings and ginger garnish. To make the pandas, we skipped the furikake and added extra salt to taste, to keep the color clean and white.

You can also cut and decorate with sushi ginger or smoked salmon.

side view of panda japanese rice balls and triangle onigiri on parchment paper

If you’d like to include fillings in the rice balls, press half of the cooked rice into a mold and add a healthy pinch of the filling. Place another portion of rice over the filling and press the mold. Some classic Onigiri fillings you can try are crab salad, smoked salmon, umeboshi (pickled Japanese plums), and dried bonito flakes.

Or fill them with less-traditional but still tasty fillings like shredded tuna, chicken, or beef – mixed with a bit of Japanese mayo for a great creamy texture.

black plate with three japanese rice balls wrapped in dry seaweed and topped with ginger

Frequently Asked Questions

What other seasonings can you use to make this Onigiri recipe?

Furikake mix is the traditional seasoning in Japanese rice balls, but you can certainly change things up! Instead, use white or black sesame seeds, bonito flakes, aonori (dry seaweed flakes), or spicy togarashi.

How do you pack Japanese rice balls for lunch or snacks?

You don’t want the rice balls to stick together or dry out. Therefore we suggest wrapping them in individual pieces of lettuce or wax paper before snuggling them together in an airtight container. The Onigiri will last for several hours at room temperature.

How long does homemade Onigiri last?

These will keep well for at least a week. To store Japanese rice balls in the fridge, first let them cool completely before covering them with a layer of plastic cling wrap. You can have all of the Onigiri on a plate covered with a single piece of plastic, or wrap each individual ball for longer storage.

panda and triangle japanese rice balls with lettuce in a metal lunch tin

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Easy Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
This easy Onigiri recipe makes sticky, tasty Japanese rice ball snacks in fun shapes, using your favorite seasonings and extra sushi goodies!
Servings: 20 balls

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Place the rice in a medium saucepot. Rinse the rice several times, pouring off the water and excess starches. (It’s best to do this is a bowl or pot, not a colander, so the rice grains don’t break.)
  • Place the sauce pot with the clean drained rice over high heat. Add 2 ½ cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Then remove from heat and let the pot sit and steam another 10 minutes.
  • Fluff the rice with a fork. Then gently mix in the furikake and salt.
  • Use your hands, or Onigiri molds, to press the rice into balls or various shapes. If using molds, you might need to spray them with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Place the pressed Onigiri on parchment or wax paper.
  • If desired, cut nori sheets and press the seaweed sheets against the Onigiri for decoration. You can also cut and decorate with sushi ginger or smoked salmon. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Video

Notes

We made traditional triangles with a nori strip garnish on the bottom, and balls with nori rings and a ginger garnish. To make the pandas, we skipped the furikake and added extra salt to taste, to keep the color clean and white. You can find all sorts of Onigiri molds at local Asian markets and on Amazon.
These will keep well for at least a week. To store Japanese rice balls in the fridge, first, let them cool completely before covering them with a layer of plastic cling wrap. You can have all of the Onigiri on a plate covered with a single piece of plastic, or wrap each individual ball for longer storage.

Nutrition

Serving: 1pc, Calories: 70kcal, Carbohydrates: 15g, Protein: 1g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 119mg, Potassium: 17mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 11IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 7mg, Iron: 1mg
Course: Gluten free, Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Sommer Collier

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2 comments on “Easy Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls)”

  1. There are numerous food bloggers like this, Yet the best food blog “Japanese Rice Balls” Recipe is yours. I will attempt to make it like you. Much thanks for giving me a smart thought.

  2. These are super cute and they make my lunches look so much cuter than usual!