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
Yield: 12 rice balls
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
125 Calories
3g Fat
11g Carbs
11g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 125
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Cholesterol 46mg 15%
Sodium 794mg 35%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 11g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 7mg 1%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 129mg 3%
*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 (aka 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 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

  • 2 sheets seaweed, roasted seasoned, optional

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.