Do you get tired when you serve your Onigiri, and they fall apart or look sloppy? It’s so depressing when it takes you hours! So, are you asking how to make onigiri? 

Look no further! In this post, we will unveil seven expert given steps towards scrumptious Onigiri that will be perfect each time.  

For Onigiri masters or kitchen beginners, these tips and tricks will help bring your rice ball game to a new level.  

It’s time to impress your friends and family with professionally made and perfectly tasting Japanese recipees. With mouthwatering seasonal spices that will be the highlight of any celebration. Let’s get rolling!  


What Is Japanese Onigiri?  

Onigiri is traditionally called Japanese rice balls and is considered the staple food in Japan. The rice crackers are another delicious and convenient snack the Japanese have had for centuries. Tracing their history back to the 11th century. 

The word “Onigiri” stands for “rice ball” or “gripped rice.” If we take the English translation with the character “one,” that means the power to scare spirits with the shape of a triangle. This is why Onigiris are usually shaped in triangles.  

How to make onigiri? The essential ingredients for making Onigiri  

Nevertheless, it takes some trial and error to master Onigiri making, even for first timers. That is the reason I always emphasize the kept ingredients which determine whether my Onigiri turns out to be finger–licking every time.  

1. Rice  

The main rice is the most important ingredient in making Onigiri. Sushi short-grain rice is ideal for this dish due to its sheer sticky texture, which aids in forming it in a particular shape. Properly washing and rinsing rice is important to achieve its stickiness and fluffiness when cooked.  

2. Filling  

However, in the same way, the onigiris might be stuffed with salted salmon (umeboshi), tuna patties, salted fish, or your favorite spreads like cheese or peanut butter.  

3. Salt  

Don’t forget that seasoning is one of its key components. A little bit of salt mixed in with the rice minutes before it is cooked brings out the distinctive flavor of Onigiri and makes it more delicious.  

4. Soy Sauce(optional)  

If you prefer to give your Onigiri an additional flavor, you can stir some soy sauce with the filling or add it directly into the rice ball.  

5. Nori (seaweed sheets)  

Wrap your Onigiri with nori paper to add flavor to the top and a touch of a traditional look, too. One option is to envelop the whole rice ball in nori, and another choice is to make some adorable patterns on top by using the nori sheet and cutting them out in different shapes.  

6. Flavored vinegar  

Other main elements frequently used in making perfect Onigiri are vegetables seasoned with sushi-su. This combination of sugar and salt makes rice tastier and helps to keep it fresh longer.  

7. Water  

It is desirable to add some water to the rice before cooking to generate steam and obtain the sticky rice.  

8. Onigiri molds (optional)  

Though it is not compulsory, you may use a mold for Onigiri as this can make shaping the rice simpler and give uniformity in terms of size and shape.  

9. Toppings (optional)  

The Onigiri may also be topped with toppings such as sesame seeds, bonito flakes, or spicy powder such as shichimi to make the Onigiri more attractive.  

Making scrumptious and perfectly shaped Onigiri takes time and patience, but these items must be at hand.

You have come a long way, and soon, you will be whipping up yummy Japanese snacks that will not leave people with a choice but to have a second helping.  

Step-by-step guide on how to make Onigiri  

To understand how to make onigiri, you must first understand the step-by-step process. 

The process may look too daunting; however, with the right ingredients and doing the right thing, you can always make authentic Onigiri.

In this next part of our tutorial, we’ll show you everything from A to Z on how to make mouthwatering Onigiri that will surely satisfy your appetite.  

Step 1: Collect the necessities 

To start with actual cooking, keep your necessary ingredients within reach. Here’s what you’ll need:   

Short-grain rice, water, salt, and vinegar (optional) – if you prefer, your choice of filler (such as pickled plums or smoked salmon), sheets of dried seaweed (nori), and a bowl of water to dip your hands in.  

Step 2: Let’s Cook the Rice  

What makes Onigiri shine is its use of the right kind of rice – Japanese short-range rice.   

  • Wash 2 cups of sushi rice twice till the water becomes clear and drain well.   
  • Put the rinsed rice into a pot with 3 cups of water, wait for 30 minutes, and cook it.   
  • Then, bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.  
  • Then reduce it to low heat, cover it with a lid, and leave it for about 15 minutes.  
  • Remove from heat and let it sit for another 5 minutes before stirring it with a spoon.  

Step 3: Winter the Rice  

Therefore, seasoning is important for the tastiness of Onigiri and its ability to hold its shape.  

Sushi-zu is the term that is used by the Japanese and denotes a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and salt specifically meant for sushi.  

On the other hand, if sushi vinegar is not available to you, the combination of regular white vinegar, sugar, and salt, based on your taste, will suffice.  

Step 4: Making the onigiri or rice balls  

  • Wet your fingers in water a little to keep the rice separated in your palms.   
  • Take a small amount of rice (½ cup) and press it with the fist in the bright to make an oval shape.   
  • Make a ditch in the center of the bread, and then pop your selected filling.   
  • Next, cover it with rice until it is stuffed.  

Step 5: Wrap with Nori.  

Using nori strips or squares, if so, wrap them around the Onigiri. It provides for a good appearance and maintains ease of eating too.  

Step 6: Enjoy!  

Perfect Onigiri will come if you practice enough and are patient; remember that these are the essential ingredients you need.  

You are doing great! 

Thus, you will be creating tasty Japanese snacks that will make everyone long for more.   

Using authentic ingredients will make it even easier.  

How to make onigiri? Seven mouthwatering variations of Onigiri recipes  

Now that you know how to make onigiri, it is time to get a little deeper with your knowledge of the item! 

Originally, this meal was predominantly fish or meat fillings, but there are so many delicious varieties of onigiri recipes, including vegetarian and vegan versions. 

For followers of a plant-based diet, experiencing the goodness of Onigiri can be quite a challenge. 

However, there is no need for vegetarians and vegans to stay away from fish since, with the help of simple substitutions and some inspiration, they can enjoy this traditional Japanese dish as well.  

1. Create More Texture & Taste  

A palatable option for a vegetarian onigiri is to have umeboshi and green shiso as the classic combination. The marriage of the sour umeboshi and the green shiso creates an interesting feature that is both savory and light.   

To ease the work more, you can use the pre-made pickled plums that can be found in the local Asian grocery store.  

2. A Mushroom Route  

Shiitake mushrooms that have been grilled with soy sauce are another common choice for filling among vegetarians. To say that this juicy and flavorful type of mushroom is a great, hearty, but light alternative for onigiri filling is a sheer understatement.   

You can then create a round onigiri rice fall (it doesn’t always have to be triangular in nature). Then you toast some sesame seeds and sprinkle them on the top. This will add extra flavor to your Onigiri.  

3. The Tofu Formula  

For vegan foodies, it’s all about trying to find innovative formulas to substitute common ingredients like eggs and fish stock in rice.  

Another yummy idea is to make a filling by either dicing tofu into small pieces or mashing the tofu and then mixing it up with seasonings like soy sauce, garlic powder, and green onions.  

4. Wrap it up with Vegetables  

  • If you want to switch things up from the traditional stuffings of Onigiri and yet go friendly on the vegan path, give it a try of different vegetable combinations.  
  • Like avocado with sweet corn kernels or roasted sweet potato with caramelized onions.   
  • Also, these options will not only give a bomb of flavors in each bite but also provide beautiful colors to your rice balls.  

Perfect to cook up when you want your kids to finish something healthy with veggies.  

5. Try Adding Tamari Sauce  

For a real flavor boost to your beef-, pork-or fish-free Onigiri, you may want to try a dollop of tamari sauce prior to shaping the rice balls.   

This shall be your gluten-free substitute for soy sauce, and it will give your meal a salty and mildly sweet taste.  

Whether you support vegetarianism or veganism, there are a lot of wonderful tastes for you to roll your Onigiri with various textures. Try out different stuffings and be bold with the substitutions to finally get into the perfect blend that you like.  

6. Add the Seaweed  

for those who like the taste of seaweed, this technique is for you. In this way, we cut the small nori strips lengthwise in half and then wrap only one side of the Onigiri that looks like a triangle.  

7. How about A Change of Toppings  

Honestly, rice balls (Onigiri) are normally wrapped in nori, a traditional method of wrapping.   

However, there are numerous other toppings that can be used as a substitute. Or just throw others in depending on one’s own preference or availability, such as grilled salmon, pickled plum (umeboshi), shredded nori, and furikake (bonito flakes).  

How to make onigiri? Pro tips for shaping and storing Onigiri  

Ok, so you take all the other steps, but you are failing to keep the Onigiri intact? Making Onigiri is not an easy thing to do since one needs to be familiar with the proper techniques. Here are some tricks that even experts use to wrap them perfectly.  

1. Use short-grain rice  

Whether the variety of rice is long-grain or short-grain decides the shape of the Onigiri. Quick-cooking short-grain rice is sticky and has a nice shape, which makes it a perfect fit for making sushi.  

2. Make sure the rice is cooked just right  

Cooking rice beyond the time under recommendation or undercooking causes problems in shaping the rice into Onigiri.   

The way you cook it is what determines your onigiris and its shape, but it also shouldn’t look too smooth.   

3. Wet your hands before shaping  

Before you go into making a perfect onigiri, experts advise you to wet your hands with water or vinegar.   

The coating stops the rice from sticking to your fingers and thus makes it a better choice when forming the right shapes.  

4. Do not overstuff  

The truth is that it is rather tempting to cram your Onigiri with as many fillings as possible. Afterall, why not get the whole blast of flavor in one bite?  

However, overstuffing them makes them liable to disintegrate while eating or in storage. So, if you want to keep the shape as proper as possible, fill them out just in the right amount.  

5. Use plastic wrap for easy molding  

As for shaping the Onigiri, place a piece of saran wrap over your palm.   

It makes it easier for you to process the rice without sticking your hand, and you can better manipulate it while you are shaping it.  

Why not bring in a fun and inventive spirit? This could be a fun activity with your kids.  

Cookie cutters in various shapes, like hearts, stars, or animals, can be used instead of round shapes.  

7. Store properly  

After forming them, wrap each in a plastic wrap or put in a bento (bentos) box in order for the shape to be kept until use.   

Let them not sit at room temperature for too long because they are dry and hard; they can get hard.  

8. Keep them fresh  

Onigiri is better when eaten soon. Right after preparing them (within 4-6 hours of cooking).   

Keep the rice in the rice cooker only if you plan to consume it later. Otherwise, put a piece of lettuce or paper towel on top, between the rice and the lid, to prevent the rice from drying out.  

9. Freeze for later consumption  

To keep onigiri cases good for later, wrap them in plastic wrap first and place them in an airtight box.  

Then, put them in the freezer.   

Then, whenever you want to eat, heat the microwave oven for 1-2 minutes or put it in the refrigerator overnight before using. 

Hopefully, we were able to tell you how to make onigiri. If you have more details to add, please do so in the comment section below. 

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sibashree bhattacharya
Sibashree has been into SEO and eCommerce content writing for more than 9 years. She loves reading books and is a huge fan of those over-the-top period dramas. Her favorite niches are fashion, lifestyle, beauty, traveling, relationships, women's interests, and movies. The strength of her writing lies in thorough research backing and an understanding of readers’ pain points.

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