Making Miso Onigiri (Riceballs)

Onigiri are the original Japanese fast food.  An onigiri is simply a rice ball.  Like bread to westerners, onigiri is the go to food on the move.  Its portable, easy to make, and contains plenty of calories.  Today there are a lot of different types of onigiri in different shapes and sizes.  Here’s a deliciously easy version that will take you a step or two past plain rice.  Its also something you can make with the left over miso after making some miso soup.  DON’T try making these with straight miso from the tub.  You’ll be sorry (I was).


  • Boiled Rice (follow rice cooker or stove top instructions or check out this post on curry rice.)
  • 3/5 packet dashi ie 3grams (a traditional Japanese seasoning made of seaweed and dried bonito.  It comes in packets.  You’ll probably want the 5g size.)
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp finely diced onion (optional)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 small can tuna in oil
  • 4 tbsp light miso (a fermented soy bean paste)
  • 1 strip nori (optional seaweed)
  • salt


Cook rice as directed by your rice cooker or following the instructions on the bag.  Generally 1 cup of rice makes 2 onigiri.  For the video I used 2 cups of rice (slightly less rice, two full cups water), but had left over miso mix.

While the rice is boiling, add tuna to a small fry pan on medium to low heat.  add onions and mix of dashi, pepper, and garlic.  Stir together until combined.  Add miso. Lower heat to low and add soy sauce.  Mix occasionally, ensuring it doesn’t burn.  After about 7 minutes of cooking (when parts of the miso mix start to stick) remove from heat and place in a bowl to cool.

When the rice is finished, place it into a container to cool until you can touch it without burning yourself.  Prepare a bowl of salt water.  If you haven’t already, ensure your hands are clean.  “Wash” them again in the salt water.  This keeps the rice from sticking to your hands and seasons the onigiri at the same time.  Place a small portion of rice in your hand, then flatten it and place a teaspoon of miso mix in the center.  Cover with another portion of rice.  If the rice sticks to your hands, add a little water to your palms, but don’t over wet it or it will fall apart.  Use light pressure and rotate the rice ball to form the traditional triangle.  cup one hand to form the point, while the other manages the width.  Don’t squeeze to hard, but exert enough pressure to form the rice together.

Optionally, you can add a bit of dried seaweed, nori, to the outside of the onigiri.  Nori adds flavor and is a convenient wrapper to help keep sticky rice off the consumer’s hands.  Generally you should only add nori if the rice ball will be eaten soon or it will become soggy.  You can wrap the onigiri in plastic wrap for later use.

Note: The limiting factor in the recipe is the can of tuna. You can probably make quite a few (at least a dozen) onigiri from just one batch of miso mix, but I didn’t test it.

  • Japan Australia

    Onigiri is a great fast food and the Japanese equivalent to a sandwich 
    to westerners. They are one of the most popular items for a picnic, school lunch or as a fast food item in convenience stores.  Popular Onigiri fillings are tuna with mayonnaise, salted salmon, umeboshi (pickled plum), bonito flakes with soy sauce and cooked vegetables or pickles.

  • Wcsdancer94

    Can i substitute the tuna for salmon or pork?

    • Benjamin Martin

      I’m sure you can. Though pork might overpower the rice

      • Jake Mckearin

        Sweet, also i got some miso paste today. thought it was white miso but its darker than what you use…will it still work? i dunno what kind it read..dont read japanease lol.

      • Jake Mckearin

        Sunchang doenjang is the only part thats not in japenease

      • Benjamin Martin

        Yep, it will still work. It will likely have a slightly different flavor, but if you’re not used to miso, you might not be able to tell the difference. Like wines, it will be hard for someone who hasn’t sampled varieties to distinguish them.

      • Jake Mckearin

        Gotcha. Sweet man. Thanks.

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