Onigiri (Rice Balls)

Total Time

Prep: 40 min.


8 appetizers

Updated: Jun. 27, 2023
Because Japanese rice balls are so easy to eat, they're often used in lunch boxes. Our Test Kitchen's onigiri recipe features tuna and a touch of wasabi. —Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Onigiri (Rice Balls) Recipe photo by Taste of Home


  • 2 cups sushi rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can (5 ounces) light water-packed tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon prepared wasabi


  1. In a large saucepan, combine rice and water; let stand for 30 minutes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from the heat. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the tuna, soy sauce and wasabi. With wet hands, shape 1/2 cup rice into a patty. Place 1 tablespoon tuna mixture in the center. Shape rice around tuna to enclose filling, forming a triangle. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

Onigiri Recipe Tips

What do you put inside onigiri?

Traditional fillings for onigiri include salted salmon, Japanese pickled plum, bonito flakes, kombu seaweed, tuna mayo, and salted cod roe. (Before the advent of refrigeration, these salty and sour fillings acted as natural preservatives for the rice.) However, you can fill onigiri with pretty much anything you'd like—even bits of last night’s takeout Japanese food!

What kind of rice is used for onigiri?

Onigiri is typically made with sushi rice. This sticky, short-grain type of rice makes it easy to form compact balls that encase the filling without compressing it too densely. (Here’s how to make sushi rice.)
You can also use other types of rice, such as regular white rice, but it's important that it is short-grain. Short-grain rice tends to have more starch than long-grain rice, which makes it less likely to dry out.

Do you eat onigiri hot or cold?

Much like sandwiches, onigiri is meant to be a hand-held, "on-the-go" type of food, best eaten at room temperature. However, if you prefer it warm, you can heat onigiri in a microwave.

What should I serve with onigiri?

Onigiri is good on its own for a snack or light lunch, but you can also serve it alongside a soup or salad, such as this Miso Soup with Tofu and Enoki or this Hearty Asian Lettuce Salad.

Research contributed by Mark Neufang, Taste of Home Culinary Assistant

Nutrition Facts

1 rice ball: 203 calories, 0 fat (0 saturated fat), 5mg cholesterol, 218mg sodium, 40g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 1g fiber), 8g protein.