Easy Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls)
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!
4 Ingredients You Need
The authentic gluten-free Onigiri recipe only includes 4 simple ingredients:
- sushi rice – is the best rice for the right sticky texture
- water – for preparing the rice
- furikake seasoning – traditional, but optional
- salt – gives 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!
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.
Gently stir together. You don’t want the rice to get mushy, so don’t over mix!
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.
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!
Have a baking sheet or plate with parchment ready. Then place the pressed or rolled Onigiri on parchment or wax paper.
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
Looking for More Easy Lunchbox Recipes?
- Cheesy Lunchbox Poppers
- Sausage Rolls (Mini Pigs in a Blanket)
- No-Bake Oatmeal Energy Balls
- Mini Cheese Balls
- Baked Cheesy Pretzel Poppers
Easy Onigiri Recipe (Japanese Rice Balls)
- 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.