Yaki Onigiri Recipe

Japanese cuisine offers a wide variety of delicious food, and is known for using savory flavors with wholesome ingredients. Rice is a staple ingredient in the Japanese culture, and it's used in many different ways. Today, we bring you a recipe for yaki onigiri —Japanese grilled rice balls that are crispy on the outside, and soft and sticky on the inside. 

Wellness coach and recipe developer Miriam Hahn brings us this recipe and says "I first tried yaki onigiri at a restaurant years ago, and absolutely loved the taste of the crispy rice balls coated with soy sauce, so I decided to recreate them at home. You can make them stuffed with fillings like kimchi, greens, or fish, but I mostly make them without a filling at all. I [also] like to serve them with nori sheets." Read on to learn how to make these crispy grilled rice balls at home.

Gather the ingredients for yaki onigiri

To make this recipe, you'll need that staple ingredient — rice. We are using short grain rice, also known as sushi rice. Then, you'll need soy sauce, white miso paste, mirin, butter, fresh chives, and nori seaweed sheets. "I really like using miso paste in this recipe because it adds to the umami flavor. Mirin is a rice wine, and is great in this recipe, but if need be, you can substitute it with rice vinegar, or even some dry white wine," Hahn shares.

Cook the rice, and make the sauce

Our first step is to get the rice cooking. It's very important to rinse the rice: add the rice to a colander, and run it under cold water for at least 2 minutes, or until the water runs clear. Then, cook the rice according to the package instructions. "Be sure to note that when cooking sushi rice, the water-to-rice ratio is less than long grain rice," Hahn remarks.

Once you get that going, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, miso paste, and mirin. Stirring this with a small whisk is helpful to break down the miso, which is a thick paste. When the rice is done, transfer it to a large bowl, pour in the sauce, and mix carefully, being careful not to overstir. Let the rice cool for 15 minutes, or until it is cool enough to handle.

Shape the yaki onigiri

Now, we need to shape the yaki onigiri into a thick triangle shape. You can use a specific onigiri mold for this, but if you don't have one, you can use a small, square-shaped Tupperware or dish to help form it. Ideally, you want something about 4 inches wide. Press a scoop of rice into 3 corners of the glass dish to form a triangle. The rice should stick together, allowing you to flip the dish over to pop the triangle out. "I like to work with gloves when handling the sticky rice. This is helpful to keep the rice from sticking to your hands. If you wet them, you will get the same effect," Hahn tells us. If you don't have a square dish, you can shape the triangle using your hands.

Cook the yaki onigiri, and serve

Once formed, we are ready to grill the yaki onigiri. Heat a cast iron skillet or heavy stainless steel frying pan over high, and add 1 ½ tablespoons of butter to the pan, if you are working in 2 batches. Transfer 3 of the yaki onigiri to the hot pan, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until crispy and browned. Then, the yaki onigiri is ready to serve. Top with chopped chives, and serve with nori sheets either on the side, or trim the sheets into strips, dampen, and adhere them to the onigiri. Yaki onigiri makes a great snack or side dish, and pairs well with a simple stir fry

Yaki Onigiri Recipe
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These yaki onigiri, or Japanese rice balls, recipe is the perfect accompaniment to stir fries and other dishes.
Prep Time
Cook Time
rice triangles on wood tray
Total time: 45 minutes
  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • 6 nori sheets, whole or sliced into strips
  1. Rinse the rice thoroughly for at least 2 minutes. Then, cook it according to package instructions.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, miso paste, and mirin. Set this aside.
  3. When the rice is done, pour the sauce over the rice, and stir gently to combine. Let the rice cool for 15 minutes, or until it is cool enough to handle.
  4. Then, shape the rice into 6, 2-inch thick triangles. You can use an onigiri mold for this, or use a square 4-inch Tupperware or glass dish. Press the rice firmly into 3 corners of the dish to create a triangle. Turn upside down to release the triangle, and use your hands to make sure it is held tightly together. Alternatively, you can divide the rice into 6 sections, wet your hands, and shape each section into a triangle.
  5. Heat the butter in a cast iron skillet on medium-high. Work in batches, if necessary. Add the rice triangles, and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Top the yaki onigiri with diced chives, and serve with nori strips.
Calories per Serving 298
Total Fat 6.4 g
Saturated Fat 3.8 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 15.3 mg
Total Carbohydrates 52.9 g
Dietary Fiber 0.2 g
Total Sugars 0.2 g
Sodium 401.3 mg
Protein 5.3 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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