Making Onigiri

Onigiri rice balls are one of Japan's most fundamental foods. They are simple to make, eminently portable and easy to eat. The glutinous quality of japonica rice provides the perfect consistency for making onigiri, which can be shaped into a variety of forms. To make triangle-shaped onigiri, see below.

Three shapes of onigiri

Three shapes of onigiri

Onigiri (makes 6 triangular shapes) each side 6-7cm (2.5 in.)

  • 360ml (1 1/2C) japonica rice
  • 400ml (1 2/3C) water
  • Salt, water

  1. Divide hot, freshly cooked rice into 6 portions. Place one portion at a time into a small bowl. Dampen hands with water to prevent rice from sticking; rub a pinch of salt on both palms. (photo1)
  2. Place one portion of rice in left hand.* (photo2)
  3. Use the palm of left hand to form the base of the rice triangle. Use palm and fingers of the right hand to form the two sides of the triangle. (photo3)
  4. Gently rotate the onigiri, so that the side that was against the left hand is now against the right hand. Repeat a few times. (photo4)
photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4
* Follow instructions using opposite hands if left-handed.

Depending on personal taste, onigiri may be eaten plain or wrapped with a sheet of nori (dried seaweed) and filled with umeboshi (pickled plum), a typical accompaniment to this hand-held treat. Umeboshi are not only delicious, they are known to help reduce fatigue. Their natural bactericidal quality helps keep onigiri fresh longer.