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Onigiri (Rice Balls)

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Keyword rice
Servings 4
Author Lucy Seligman


  • 3 cups cooked & warm Japanese short-grain rice
  • Dried nori (seaweed) sheets as needed, lightly toasted, optional

Fillings: Choose one or do a variety: This recipe makes 8-10 rice balls.

  • 2 to 3 small packets of dried bonito flakes, 3 to 4 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds, and soy sauce to taste
  • Umeboshi (pickled plums), pitted
  • Salted grilled salmon, deboned & flaked, homemade or store bought


  • If making the first filling called Okaka: Combine the warm rice and seasonings in a bowl. Mix lightly to blend, and adjust seasonings as desired. Moisten your hands with lightly salted water, or use an onigiri mold (usually made of plastic), also dipped into water, and shape into triangles. Press the rice into shape, but don’t mash or squash the onigiri. You can also use plastic wrap to shape the onigiri and to transport in the wrap until ready to eat.
  • If making any of the other fillings: Make a small hole in the center of the onigiri, and tuck in a little of one of the fillings (about 1-2 teaspoons). Continue shaping onigiri to cover the fillings. If desired, wrap the onigiri in the toasted seaweed, or cut the seaweed into the same shape as the onigiri, and place on top.


You can also mix in any kind of Furikake (flavored dry condiment such as Wakame Furikake, Shiso Furikake, etc) into the rice for an added layer of flavor.
Other popular variations include:
Tarako (salted cod roe), either raw or grilled,  Mentaiko (roe made from Alaskan pollock/cod) for a spicy kick, tempura shrimp, tuna mayo (make sure you use Japanese mayo for added flavor), and on and on.