How to Make Onigiri at Home + 5 Filling Ideas

How to Make Onigiri at Home + 5 Filling Ideas

by Ayumi Matsuo

Main Dish Side Dish On the go Lunch Box Item

Onigiri is made of freshly cooked rice and is either filled or topped with various different ingredients. Onigiri has such a long history in Japan, where rice is a staple food. In fact, onigiri is said to have been created in the Yayoi period (710-794) and has been loved as a soul food since ancient times.

Though onigiri is translated as rice ball, it comes in a variety of shapes including triangular and round shapes. There are many different fillings and toppings used for onigiri, but the most popular types are umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), Kombu (kelp), Salmon flakes, Okaka (flavored bonito flakes), and Tuna Mayonnaise.

The beauty of onigiri is its portability factor. Onigiri have been tightly hand-rolled to not lose their shape and even taste good when served cold. Also, because they are wrapped in a layer of nori (seaweed), you won't dirty your hands when eating them. Since you can eat both the nutritious filling and rice at the same time, onigiri are quite well-balanced and will fill you up. For this reason, they are often included in lunch boxes, picnics or sports events at school, or served as snacks for children. Since many varieties of onigiri are readily available at convenience stores, working people in Japan often buy them along with other easy to eat side dishes for lunch and have them during their lunch break. There are also an increasing number of rice ball specialty stores that offer their own special varieties throughout Japan.

Japanese rice balls have become so well known and accepted overseas that the word "onigiri" is now commonly recognized all over the world.

Today, we will demonstrate how to make onigiri as well as introduce the five most popular onigiri fillings commonly eaten in Japan. Let’s get to shaping! 

Overview

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 15 mins

Total time: 30 mins

Total servings: 5

Difficulty: Easy

Ingredients
  • 425g Freshly Cooked Warm Rice (divided into 5 portions of 85g)
  • 1 Tbsp Salt
  • 2 Sheets of Nori Seaweed
  • 1 Small Bowl of Ice Water
  • 7-10g Umeboshi (Japanese Pickled Plums)
  • 7-10g Salmon Flakes
  • 7-10g Kombu (Kelp)
  • Okaka (1g Bonito Flakes, 1 pinch of Sugar, 1/4 Tsp Soy Sauce)
  • Tuna Mayonnaise (1/4 can of Tuna, 1 Tsp Mayonnaise, 1/4 Tsp Mentsuyu)

Expert's Tip

Umeboshi is made by pickling green ume fruit (plum) in salt and drying it in the sun. It is a traditional Japanese food that every Japanese person has eaten at least once. There are many varieties, including ume pickled with red shiso and dyed red, as well as ume flavored and slightly sweetened with honey. Umeboshi is often included in bento boxes, ochazuke (rice soup with tea) or mixed into salad dressing. It is said that the citric acid in pickled plums helps to relieve fatigue. Also, because of its antiseptic properties, umeboshi is often used as a filling for rice balls and added to bento boxes to prevent the rice from spoiling.

Instructions

Preparing the Fillings
1) Preparing the Fillings

Prepare the fillings that you want to use. Mix the ingredients for the Okaka and Tuna mayonnaise. Clockwise from top left: salmon flakes, tuna mayonnaise, umeboshi, kombu, and okaka.

Cutting the Seaweed Prepared Seaweed
2) Cutting the Seaweed

Cut the seaweed sheets into thirds.

Wettings Hands in Ice Water Adding Salt Rubbing Salt onto Palms
3) Preparing Your Hands to Shape the Onigiri

Prepare the warm cooked rice, salt and ice water all in separate bowls. Wet your hands with ice water, take a pinch of salt and spread it over your entire palm.

Adding Portion of Warmed Rice to Hand Shaping Onigiri with Hands 1 Shaping Onigiri with Hands 2
4) Shaping the Onigiri part 1

Take one portion of rice (85g) and place it in the palm of your hand. Lightly squeeze it while beginning to shape it into a triangle with both of your hands. See pictures for shaping reference.

Creating the Triangle Shape 1 Creating the Triangle Shape 2
5) Shaping the Onigiri part 2

Wrap the rice with one hand to press the sides of the rice ball and shape it with the other hand to make the triangular shape. See pictures for shaping reference.

Wrapping the Onigiri in Seaweed 1 Wrapping the Onigiri in Seaweed 2 Wrapping the Onigiri in Seaweed 3
6) Wrapping the Onigiri

Place the onigiri on top of the seaweed and wrap the left and right sides in order.

Adding Toppings Finished and Arranged Onigiri
7) Adding Your Desired Toppings

Place the ingredients in the pocket at the top, and done!

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