Three Onigiri Rice Balls

Rice balls filled with the three most popular fillings. Which one to try first?

Three Onigiri Rice Balls
Photographed by Takeshi Noguchi

Recipe by
Eiko Oba



Rice & Noodles




Calorie count is per serving

Ingredients (Pieces 6)

  • 500 g cooked rice (hot)
  • 2 umeboshi
  • 1 shiozake (fillet/small)
  • 1/2 sac tarako (small)
  • 2 sheets toasted nori (full sheet)
  • Salt



Place the gridiron over high heat and sear both sides of the tarako. Remove and reduce the heat to medium. Grill both sides of the shiozake. Once the tarako is cool enough to handle, cut off two 1 cm pieces. These will be used for decoration. Cut the remaining tarako in half. Remove the bones from the shiozake. Break into small pieces. Set aside a little for decoration and divide the rest into two equal portions. Remove the pits from the umeboshi. Cut off a little piece from each to use as decoration. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the long side of the nori into three equal strips.


[How to grill the shiozake] If you're using a built-in grill with heating elements on both the top and bottom, cook for five minutes at medium heat. If you're using a gridiron on top of your stove, grill one side over medium heat for three minutes. Then turn it over and cook for two more minutes.


Place 1/6 (about 80 g) of the rice in a small rice serving bowl and empty onto a tray. Repeat the process to make a total of six mounds.


Fill a bowl with 200-300 ml of water. Place a small amount of salt in a small dish.


Wet both hands and lightly wipe them. Dip two fingers into the salt and rub it between your palms.


When the rice is cool enough to handle, take one mound and make a well in the center. Press half the amount of one filling (excluding the portion set aside for decoration) into the well and bring the rice around it to cover it up. Use both hands to form a ball.


Adjust the thickness with the lower hand, and with the upper hand form an L-shape. Rotate the rice towards you and pack the rice into a triangular shape. Repeat the process to make five more onigiri.


Dry your hands and wrap a piece of nori around the sides of one triangle. Repeat the process for the remaining onigiri. Top with a portion of the filling set aside for decoration so that you can tell what's inside.


[Apply firm but light pressure when forming onigiri]
If you pack the rice too tight, the onigiri will harden when cooled, and that's not very appetizing. After putting in your choice of filling, press and mold the rice with both hands. If you press too lightly, the onigiri will crumble, but too much pressure and the grains will become squashed and you'll end up with a hard ball. Also, when moistening your hands to keep the rice from sticking, use a damp towel to wipe off excess moisture so that you don't end up with soggy onigiri.