Kanako's Kitchen

Onigiri: Rice balls

Posted in Recipe, rice by Kanako Noda on November 19, 2009

Everyone knows rice is the cornerstone of the Japanese diet, but the stuff has one fatal flaw: there’s no way to eat it with your hands. Not, that is, unless you learn to make Onigiri, Japan’s original solution to the problem of how to render rice not just delicious, but portable and snackable too.

If you like manga or anime, you’ve certainly seen characters munching on these odd, triangular rice balls. Why manga characters are fixated with Onigiri I have no idea – maybe because within Manga’s conventions, onigiri work as a kind of code for “food” in general. (“Gohan” does, after all, mean both rice and meal!)

If you don’t like animation so much, you may never have seen them. But the next time you need to pack a lunch and want some rice in it, you’ll be glad you know how to make these.



  • Cooked white rice – as much as you want to eat
  • Flavored nori seaweed – one for each rice ball
  • Salt
  • Water (to make your hands wet)


  1. Wet both hands and put salt on your left hand.
  2. Take a clump of rice with your right hand and put it on your left hand.
  3. Make a triangle shape using both hands.
  4. Press the rice lightly – don’t squish it together.
  5. Roll over the rice ball to make the next angle. Repeat until the rice ball makes the traditional onigiri shape – a kind of 3D triangle.
  6. Put Nori seaweed on the bottom of the rice ball and stick it onto the sides to make a kind of edible napkin.

click to enlarge

You can make them without seaweed, too. This is shio-nigiri. (Literally: salty onigiri).

There are many variations on Onigiri: You can wrap them with nori on all side, cover them with furikake, stuff them with pickles or katsuobushi mixed with soy sauce, make them out of takikomi-gohan or put Negimiso inside them, too.

In other words, if you just master the move in this recipe then you’re on your way to making a world of  Onigiri.

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2 Responses

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  1. Valérie said, on February 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Nice! I was exactly looking for ideas on how to make those onigiri (since I’ve recently purchased an onigiri box at his cute online store http://www.bentoandco.com/)… Thanks!

  2. Onigiri recipe said, on April 7, 2012 at 12:03 am

    This is one of the most simple and easy Ongiri recipe that I can find! Thanks for sharing this recipe!

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