Chicken Rice Balls (Onigiri)

Rice Balls With Chicken on plate
Molly Watson
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Cooling Time: 30 mins
Total: 60 mins
Servings: 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
333 Calories
7g Fat
50g Carbs
15g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 333
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 10%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 32mg 11%
Sodium 948mg 41%
Total Carbohydrate 50g 18%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Protein 15g
Calcium 148mg 11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Chicken rice balls (a.k.a. onigiri) make a delicious snack, a tasty lunch, or a supremely easy dinner—just add a salad or some roasted or grilled vegetables. Chicken is cooked in a simple marinade before being mixed with short-grain rice and pressed into balls. The result is much more flavor-wise than the sum of its parts, and much easier work-wise than people would guess.

Note that if you have culinarily curious kids, this is a particularly fun dish to make together!


  • 1 cup sushi rice or other short-grain or even medium-grain rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 pound​ chicken thigh meat or ground dark chicken meat
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • Optional: 2 sheets roasted seasoned seaweed

Steps to Make It

  1. Rinse the rice in cool water until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a rice cooker or pot with 1 1/2 cups water and salt, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat and let sit, still covered, for five minutes. Uncover, stir, and let cool. To speed up the cooling process, spread the rice on a baking sheet or tray.

  2. While the rice cooks, chop the chicken thighs–if using them instead of ground meat–and really go to town. The smaller the pieces are, the better they integrate with the rice to create a tasty mix. Put the chicken, soy sauce, sake, and mirin in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid is almost completely absorbed after about five minutes. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. As with the rice, you can speed the cooling of the chopped chicken by spreading it in a thin layer on a baking sheet or tray.

  3. Combine the rice and chicken; mix thoroughly. The ingredients must be at room temperature; if they are too warm, the balls will not hold together. If using the seaweed, crumble it into the mixture and mix to combine it evenly with the rice and chicken.

  4. Rinse your hands and shake them off so they are just damp. Grab a small handful of the chicken-rice mixture and press it compactly into a ball or patty. Set the ball or patty on a plate and repeat. You'll need to rinse and re-wet your hands between each one so the mixture doesn't start to stick to your hands. Cover the chicken rice balls and let them sit a bit before eating or chill them for eating later.