Homemade Onigiri Recipe- Japanese Rice Balls

I like packing a lunch every day for my husband; its my way of connecting with him while he's at work, by sending him something yummy and nutritious to eat while at work, something I'm happy to do.
My husband is willing to eat a container of leftovers as lunch, even though it's cold since he has no way of heating them up at work. Mike has mentioned though that since he has no official lunch break where he can sit down to a full meal, he prefers meals that don't need a fork, and that can be eaten on the go. But sandwiches are hard to make gluten free, and I don't bring gluten into my house.

Someone recommended onigiri to me as an on-the-go meal for me to make for for my husband. Onigiri are rice balls, usually stuffed with different ingredients, that are easy to transport. What is cool about onirigiri is that you can fill them with leftovers, making a cool repurposed meal. Onigiri, traditionally, is stuffed with sour or salty Asian dishes, but really you can fill them with anything that isn't liquidy or too oily, and whose flavor complements the flavor of the rice.
It doesn't hurt that the onigiri is pretty photogenic, in my opinion.

I recently made a few batches of onigiri, all with the same filling- some leftover terriyaki style lentils (though I cooked them on the stovetop, not in the oven)- and they were unbelievably good!

So, how do you make onigiri?

1. First off, you make sushi rice. But you don't need to use expensive sushi rice for this- I make mine with plain old risotto rice- half the cost of official sushi rice. But when making the sushi rice, make sure to follow the instructions I've shared, and not the instructions on the package. Include the sauce whose recipe I shared. Let the rice cool down to room temperature.

Now the method to make the onigiri is the non traditional way- I got it from JustHungry.com- it's very easy!

2. Take a low, shallow small bowl, and line it with plastic wrap.

3. Pour some water into the plastic wrap, swish it around, and pour it off.

4. If you want to, sprinkle in some sesame seeds.

5. Wet your hands, then place the rice in the bowl in a thin layer, but completely covering the bottom and going up the sides, but leaving it shallow in the middle.

6. In the shallow, put your filling. Make sure not to overfill.

7. Pick up the sides of the plastic wrap, pulling the corners towards the center, being careful to ensure that the rice completely envelopes the filling.

8. Squeeze the plastic wrap tightly so that no air remains and the whole thing becomes compacted. Twist it to tighten it even more.

9. Either keep as is, wrapped in plastic wrap, for transport. Or, if eating immediately, unwrap and eat as is, and then use the same plastic wrap to make more onigiri.

10. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and scallions, if desired, once unwrapped. Serve with soy sauce.

 Here's a lunch box of onigiri balls and vegetables that I sent with my husband for lunch.

Have you ever heard of onigiri before? Eaten them? Made them? What fillings do you use? What is your favorite filling?
Does this seem like a recipe you'd try?

Linking up to Allergy Free Wednesday 

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Just made onigiri using your recipe for sushi rice and following your instructions - they are yummie!

  2. That's so lovely (;

  3. I see you kept the onigiri in the plastic, which is why the risotto rice probably worked. The onigiri keep shape and do not crumble much better if you use Japonica rice.

    1. I dont keep mine in plastic. They hold nicely even not wrapped in plastic.

  4. I love onigiri. I mix mayo and siracha, then add chicken that's been fork shredded, or NC smoked pulled pork. I also really like to fry it after it's made - the best part of cooked rice is the browned stuff at the bottom of the cooker!

    I have also managed to get it to work with long grain rice, but that must be wrapped as you did, and doesn't hold well to frying.

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