Japanese Rice Balls (aka Onigiri) are super easy to make and super delicious. I can’t believe it took me this long to learn about them! This recipe is the perfect portable snack or lunch for kids (and adults too!)

Japanese Rice Balls with soy sauce on the side.Pin
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One weekend we found ourselves (grabbing a much-needed bite) at the cafeteria at the incredible Kidspace Museum and munching away at sub-par food. Looking around the tables, all I saw were parents desperately trying to feed their little ones while they simultaneously attempted to shovel food into their own mouths. 

Out of the corner of my eye I saw this lovely Japanese woman quietly feeding her baby. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what she was giving him, but it looked like some sort of white ball in Saran wrap. I shyly walked up to her and asked what she was feeding him. 

She said, “Oh, it’s Onigiri“. I was still confused. She told me she takes steamed white rice and adds tiny pieces of vegetables and fish for calcium and protein. What a genius idea. All she had to do after making them was wrap them up and it was the perfect meal to travel with for an outing. 

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Why I Love Japanese Rice Balls

  • Convenient and Portable: Onigiri are easy to make and super portable making them a perfect choice for a lunch or snack on the go. Plus, they can be prepared ahead of time and are great for parents with busy schedules needing to pack lunches.
  • Versatile: Japanese Rice Balls can be made with a variety of ingredients like different vegetables or fish so they can cater to many taste preferences and allow for endless customizations.
  • Nutritious: This recipe mainly consists of rice, which is a good source of carbohydrates. Depending on the other ingredients you include, onigiri can be a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Kid-Friendly: I think Japanese Rice Balls are maybe the most kid-friendly lunch or snack ever. They’re small, so little hands can easily hold them. Plus, kids love eating with their hands, so this recipe should be right up their alley!
Japanese Rice Balls on small plates with chopsticks on the side.Pin

The Ingredients

  • Short grain white rice or sushi rice
  • Water
  • Baby carrots
  • Broccoli florets
  • Sole, or any mild white fish

How to Make Japanese Rice Balls (Onigiri)

  1. Wash the Rice: Wash 1 cup of rice in a bowl and throw the water out. “Washing” rice consists of filling a bowl with rice, covering it with water, rubbing the rice and then immediately dumping the water out. Repeat washing the rice 4 or 5 times throwing the water out between each rinse.
  2. Soak the Rice: Put the washed rice in a heavy bottomed pot, add 1 1/5 cups of water. Let rice soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Cook the Rice: Put the lid on the pot and bring the rice to a boil for 5 minutes. Change the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit covered for 15 minutes so it can steam.
  4. Stir Rice: Stir the rice with a flat spoon so that the rice does not completely stick together.
  5. Steam Veggies and Fish: While the rice is cooking, put the carrots in a steamer pot over boiling water for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and steam for 2 more minutes. Add the fish and steam for another 3 minutes or until everything is cooked through and fork tender.
  6. Pulse in Food Processor: Place the fish and vegetables in a food processor and pulse. Do not puree the mixture, though. You want it to have a little texture, but still be dry. No not add extra liquid.
  7. Form Rice Balls: Take 1-2 tablespoons of rice and 1 teaspoon of the vegetable/fish mixture and combine. With moistened hands, roll into a ball, about the size of a golf ball. Alternatively, you can add all of the vegetable/fish mixture to the rice and then form balls, but make sure that the mixture isn’t too wet or the balls will fall apart.
  8. Serve as is or with nori sheets.
Japanese Rice Balls on small plates.Pin

Tips for Perfect Japanese Rice Balls

Use Freshly Cooked Rice: For the best results, it’s generally recommended to use freshly cooked rice when making onigiri. Freshly cooked rice is warm, moist, and sticky, which makes it easier to shape into the desired form and ensures that the onigiri holds together well.

Wet Your Hands: Keep a bowl of water next to you when shaping the rice balls and wet your hands when the mixture gets too sticky.

Use a Filling: This recipe called for pulsed vegetables and white fish, but feel free to use whatever filling your want. Add a filling to the center of the onigiri for extra flavor and variety. Common fillings include umeboshi (pickled plum), grilled salmon, tuna salad, or seasoned seaweed.

Shape Firmly: When shaping the onigiri, firmly press the rice together to ensure it holds its shape and doesn’t fall apart. Use a plastic wrap or onigiri mold for uniform shapes if desired.

Japanese Rice Balls with side of edamame and soy sauce.Pin

More Bite-Sized Snacks

This Japanese Rice Balls recipe is perfect for when you want a simple, on-the-go lunch that kids and adults will both love. Add these to a bento box for school lunch or have them ready to go for an after school snack. They’re healthy, convenient and absolutely delicious. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. And tag me on social media if you make these!

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Japanese Rice Balls

Also known as Onigiri, these delicious rice balls are made from steamed rice rolled with small pieces of veggies and fish. The perfect bite size food for toddlers, and adults love them too!
5 from 1 vote
Course: Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 15
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes

Equipment

  • heavy bottomed pot
  • Food Processor
  • onigiri mold optional

Ingredients  

  • 1 cup short grain white rice or sushi rice
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 8 baby carrots
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 piece sole, or any mild white fish

Instructions 

  • Wash 1 cup of rice in a bowl and throw the water out (“washing” rice consists of filling a bowl with rice, covering it with water, rubbing the rice and then immediately dumping the water out).
  • Repeat washing the rice 4 or 5 times throwing the water out until water is clear.
  • Put the washed rice in a heavy bottomed pot, add 1 1/5 cups of water. Let rice soak for 30 minutes.
  • Put the lid on the pot and bring the rice to a boil for 5 minutes. Change the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice sit covered for 15 minutes so it can steam.
  • Stir the rice with a flat spoon so that the rice does not completely stick together.
  • While the rice is cooking, put the carrots in a steamer pot over boiling water for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli and steam for 2 more minutes. Add the fish and steam for another 3 minutes or until everything is cooked through and fork tender.
  • Place the fish and vegetables in a food processor and pulse. Do not puree the mixture, though. You want it to have a little texture, but still be dry. No not add extra liquid.
  • Take 1-2 tablespoons of rice and 1 teaspoon of the vegetable/fish mixture and combine.
  • With moistened hands, roll into a ball, about the size of a golf ball. Alternatively, you can add all of the vegetable/fish mixture to the rice, but make sure that the mixture isn’t too wet or the balls will fall apart.
  • Serve.

Notes

Use Freshly Cooked Rice: For the best results, it’s generally recommended to use freshly cooked rice when making onigiri. Freshly cooked rice is warm, moist, and sticky, which makes it easier to shape into the desired form and ensures that the onigiri holds together well.
Wet Your Hands: Keep a bowl of water next to you when shaping the rice balls and wet your hands when the mixture gets too sticky.
Use a Filling: This recipe called for pulsed vegetables and white fish, but feel free to use whatever filling your want. Add a filling to the center of the onigiri for extra flavor and variety. Common fillings include umeboshi (pickled plum), grilled salmon, tuna salad, or seasoned seaweed.
Shape Firmly: When shaping the onigiri, firmly press the rice together to ensure it holds its shape and doesn’t fall apart. Use a plastic wrap or onigiri mold for uniform shapes if desired.
Tools for This Recipe (affiliate links): Heavy Bottomed Pot | Food Processor | Onigiri Mold (optional)

Nutrition

Calories: 60kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 40mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @Weelicious or tag #weelicious!

About the Author

Catherine is a mama of three. A Kentucky girl living in California. Here’s what I know: all kids can be great eaters and mealtime must be easy. I create simple, healthy recipes the whole family will love.

Comments

  1. These look lovely cant wait to try them. Im also thinking of trying a more sushi type version with cucumber nori and crab. maybe a little cream cheese in the center and serve cold with wasabi soy or spicy may ?? what do you think

  2. This recipe is definitely a keeper. My 13 month loves this onigiri! I also grated some cheese and mix with the veggies. Other times I added shredded beef/pork and he loves all the variation.

  3. Just tried these today with sushi rice and they turned out perfect. Also, I used smoked salmon instead of sole and when they were done I rolled them in a bowl of sesame seeds so it would stick on the outside. Delicious!!!

  4. I was wondering the same thing 3 years later. Did you ever try it with brown rice? Did it work? That’s all we have in the house right now, so I’m really curious.

  5. Yes, it is very sticky. You need to slightly moisten your hands and that should solve the problem. Either that or place them on a small square of plastic wrap and then form it.

  6. Total FAIL! I didn’t listen to your directions for making sticky rice, as I have what I thought was sticky rice already. Well it is sticky, but it sticks to everything, including my hands, so I wasn’t able to roll these into balls. I ended up freezing them in ice cube trays. I hope it works!

  7. I would keep these frozen in a ziploc bag for up to 3 months. make sure you label it! 🙂 When i’m ready to serve, I would just let them thaw in the fridge over night or just keep it at room temperature for one hour then heat in a preheated oven,you can put them in a microwave, or steamer pot over boiling water.

  8. I was thinking of making these tonight, but curious if you can freeze them or how long they stay in the fridge? If so, how would you reheat them? My daughter is a tiny eater, so I wouldn’t go through all 15 balls at once!=) Thanks!

  9. i LOVE LOVE LOVE your website!
    your pictures are beautiful and your food looks absolutely delicious.
    i am toying around with the idea of making baby food for my little one
    who is almost 6 months and your website makes me think i can do it!
    great job!!!!

    btw, have you ever used the magic bullet? i haven’t but my sister swears by it.
    she says clean up is a snap with the bullet. i’m deciding what tools to get
    and i’m probably going to get that cuisinart you recommended but i was just
    wondering if you had tried the bullet. =)

5 from 1 vote

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