Japanese Rice Balls


The Spruce

  • Total: 35 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Yield: 8 Balls (8 Servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
386 Calories
1g Fat
87g Carbs
7g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 Balls (8 Servings)
Amount per serving
Calories 386
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 35mg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 87g 32%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Protein 7g
Calcium 93mg 7%
*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.)

Japanese rice balls are called onigiri or omusubi. They are usually shaped into rounds or triangles by hand. They're fun to make and are a staple of Japanese lunchboxes (bento). Much like sandwiches in the West, onigiri is readily available in convenience stores across Japan and is great for a quick and easy snack. Recently, they have enjoyed a surge of popularity among food trucks, where they are made fresh and grilled lightly to order. However, making onigiri at home is irresistibly economical and easy.

The rice can also be mixed with a flavorful add-in like furikake. Furikake is like the salt and pepper of Japan and consists of toasted sesame seeds, sea salt, nori, bonito flakes, and an optional pinch of sugar. 

Usually wrapped in nori (dried seaweed) or rolled in sesame seeds, consider shichimi togarashi as a topping. This is a Japanese spice blend made up of ground sesame seeds, orange peel, and chili pepper. Or, If you want to be fancy, you can use your kitchen shears to cut little shapes out of the seaweed. Two semicircles, two ovals, a little triangle of a nose, and a pointy little sliver of a mouth gives you a panda.


Click Play to See This Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls) Recipe Come Together


  • 4 cups steamed Japanese rice (aka sushi rice)
  • Dash salt (or to taste)
  • Optional: black sesame seeds
  • Optional: 1 to 2 sheets of dried nori seaweed
  • For the Fillings:
  • Optional: ume (pickled plum)
  • Optional: grilled salted salmon (small chunks)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Cut each nori sheet into 8 to 9 strips and put about a half cup of steamed rice in a rice bowl.

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  3. Wet your hands with water so that the rice won't stick.

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  4. Then rub some salt on your hands.

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  5. Place the steamed rice on your hand, making sure it is dense and thick.

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  6. Put your favorite filling, such as umeboshi or grilled salmon on the rice and push the filling into the rice lightly.

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  7. Hold the rice between your palms. 

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  8. Form the rice into a round, a triangle, or a cylinder by pressing lightly with your both palms. Roll the rice ball in your hands a few times, pressing lightly.

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  9. Wrap the rice ball with a strip or two of nori, or sprinkle some sesame seeds on them.

    Japanese Rice Balls Recipe
     The Spruce
  10. Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Variations

  • Fillings can vary, so it's good to use your favorites. You can put almost anything in an onigiri; try grilled salmon, pickled plums, beef, pork, turkey, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) seasoned with soy sauce, or tuna with mayonnaise. 
  • If you're in the mood for a warm meal, just toast your onigiri lightly for 2 to 3 minutes per side on a pan brushed with sesame oil. The outer layer of rice will get toasty and golden-brown and a little bit crackly.

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