Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)

I love these Japanese rice balls (known as “Onigiri” /お握り in Japan) which are short-grain rice formed into triangular or oval shapes and usually wrapped in nori.

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They are great as a quick and fuss-free meal, and for using up any leftover sushi rice. Try bringing onigiri to a picnic for a change over sandwiches! Here, I made three popular and easiest flavours of onigiri – namely (from front to back) salmon, umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) and okaka (dried bonito flakes).

Step-by-Step Photos
(click picture to see full view)

sushi rice
Cook 2 cups Japanese rice.

Onigiri fillings
Prepare the fillings.

  • Salmon. Pan-fry a small piece of salmon fillet and shred the salmon to flakes when cooled.
  • Bonito. In a small bowl, mix bonito flakes with light soy sauce (pictured left above).
  • Umeboshi. Finely chop a pitted umeboshi (pictured right above).

Making onigiri
Mould the onigiri by hand Wet hands, flatten one serving of rice, make an indentation in the center and place filling in the middle (pictured). Mould the rice ball with both palms to close up the filling and mould to desired shape.

Onigiri Mould
Mould the onigiri using a mould Salmon Onigiri: Wet inside of onigiri mould, fill mould halfway with rice, add filling in middle, then fill the mould with more rice. Push flap to release the onigiri from the mould. I use the onigiri mould (from Daiso) all the time, as I am not so good with shaping them by hand.

umeboshi onigiri
Umeboshi onigiri: mix diced umeboshi with rice before moulding the rice ball.

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
Wrap a piece of nori strip at the base of each onigiri. Decorate with toppings.

Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) Recipe

You may mould the onigiri using your palms or an onigiri mould. Wet your hands or the inside of the mould before shaping the rice balls to prevent the rice sticking to the surface. If not consuming immediately, wrap onigiri with cling wrap or special onigiri plastic sheets.


  • 2 cups Japanese short-grain rice (sushi rice)
  • water
  • a small piece pan-fried or grilled salmon fillet follow grilled salmon recipe here; shred the salmon to flakes
  • furikake (dried salmon flakes) to taste
  • 3 grams bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp diced umeboshi flesh
  • nori strips


  1. Cook rice. Rinse rice in a few changes of water until water runs quite clear (skip this step if you are using pre-washed rice). Drain the rice in a colander for roughly 30 minutes (optional) before cooking in rice cooker/stove top (ratio of rice: water is roughly 1:1). When ready to make onigiri, transfer the rice to cool on a wide flat-bottom bowl or a Japanese hangiri.
  2. Salmon Rice Balls
    Mix one serving of rice (roughly one palm size or 60 grams) with 1 tbsp furikake. Flatten seasoned rice, make an indentation in the center and place shredded salmon in the middle, then mould the rice to close up the filling to a triangular shape. Alternatively, use an onigiri mould. Wrap onigiri base with a strip of nori and top with shredded salmon.
  3. Umeboshi Rice Balls
    Mix one serving of rice with 1 tsp diced umeboshi. Shape the seasoned rice to a triangular shape by hand or mould. Wrap base of onigiri with a strip of nori. Top onigiri with some chopped spring onions.
  4. Okaka (Katsuobushi) Rice Balls
    In a small bowl, season bonito flakes with light soy sauce. Shape onigiri with 1 tsp bonito flakes filling in the center either by hand or mould. Wrap onigiri with a strip of nori and top it with more seasoned bonito.