All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Onigiri / rice balls

Also called omusubi, onigiri is a portable meal like sandwiches, and there is an endless variety of fillings, sizes, shapes, and wrapper choices (nori or other types of seaweed, cooked/pickled leafy vegetables), as well as coverage of wrappers. Here is an example with soramage gohan [steamed rice with fava beans], umeboshi pickled plum and nori seaweed.


(4-6 onigiri)

Hot steamed rice (soramage gohan cooked with 2 cups rice in photo)
1-2 sheets nori seaweed
1 umeboshi picked plum
1-2 tsp salt


Chop umeboshi flesh.

Hold nori over stove burner until crispy and aromatic.
Flip and do the same on the other side.


Have a medium bowl of cold water (to wet, rinse, and cool your hands) and salt on the working surface.

In a rice bowl, put rice with center indented, add some umeboshi in the indentation, and top with more rice.

Wet your hands, dip fingers in salt, and quickly rub on both palms.

Empty rice on one hand, and gently squeeze to form a ball.

To make a round shape, simply gently squeeze rice with both hands a few times, as if clapping.

To make a triangle shape, your hands meet the same way as when making round onigiri, but bend both palms at a 120-degree angle (a little wider than a right angle).
Four fingers of the lower hand are bent at 90 degrees so that that they hold onigiri while squeezing. 
The photo here shows rice after squeezing once or twice.

Continue to turn and squeeze several more times to form a neat triangle.


Cut or split (by folding) nori to desired width, depending on desired nori coverage of onigiri.

Place nori on onigiri.

  • Use freshly cooked (not reheated) rice.
  • The rice bowl is used above to prevent hands from burning. Many people who can handle the heat directly put rice on their palm. 
  • Cutting umeboshi flesh is optional. If using small umeboshi, you can put the entire pickle inside.
  • Salt put on palms is to help preserve steamed rice. Umeboshi put inside onigiri also helps to preserve steamed rice. Plain rice and umeboshi are the classic combination.
  • I usually cover onigiri entirely with nori.  Besides giving my preferred nori taste and aroma, this prevents your fingers from becoming messy with rice while eating.
  • When wrapping onigiri or putting in a container, first let them cool to prevent nori from becoming wet.
  • Other typical fillings include grilled shiozake salted salmon, grilled tarako salted pollock roe, mentaiko salted pollock roe with chili peppers, and pickles -- all are high sodium items for the purpose of preservation.
  • Rice can be plain or flavored (mixed with other ingredients or cooked with other ingredients). 
  • Okowa [steamed sweet rice with other ingredients] works, too.
  • As for name variations, onigiri is said to be more commonly used in the western half of Japan, while omusubi is more common in the eastern half of the country. It is also sometimes referred to as nigirimeshi.

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