Yaki Onigiri – These Japanese grilled rice balls with a miso butter glaze are an easy side dish or addition to any bento box or meal!
Have you ever tried onigiri before? These little Japanese rice balls are a staple in bento boxes and as a snack with many different varieties from pickled plum to fish, usually with a piece of nori at the bottom. I tried my first onigiri on the flight home from Japan the first time. While it wasn’t the best onigiri ever because it was plane food, it was still a fun food to try!
Now don’t be intimidated by the idea of making these rice balls from scratch, it’s actually really easy! This recipe doesn’t have any fillings, there is just a delicious miso glaze on top that creates a crisp outer-coating on the onigiri with a great flavor.
If you love Japanese recipes, make sure to check out my Japanese Recipe Collection!
Common questions about making onigiri
What type of rice to use for rice balls?
The best type of rice to use when you are making onigiri is short-grain. If no short grain rice is avaliable, a medium-grain can work instead. Sometimes, short-grain Japanese rice will be marked as “sushi rice” which is perfectly fine.
What can I put inside rice balls?
Some of the most popular onigiri fillings include:
- umeboshi (pickled plums)
- tuna with mayo
- salted salmon
- pollock roe
Is onigiri sushi?
No, onigiri is not actually sushi. Sushi rice is prepared differently than onigiri as onigiri has plain rice and sushi rice has vinegar, salt, and sugar. They were also concieved of for different puposes with the onigiri being a convenient way to carry rice and sushi was to preserve fish.
Can you keep onigiri in the fridge?
In order to keep onigiri in the fridge, you must make the onigiri first and then place it in the fridge. The rice will not form correctly if it is not fresh, fluffy, and sticky.
Can you eat onigiri cold?
The onigiri will not taste as good cold but it is an option. The rice will harden up and will be less pleasant to eat than it would be at room temperature or warm.
Can you freeze onigiri?
Yes, you can make onigiri ahead of time and freeze them by tightly wrapping each onigiri with plastic wrap and placing in the freezer. Make sure to give them ample time to defrost before consuming.
Other tips and tricks on this yaki onigiri recipe
- It’s up to you whether you would like to use red, white, or awase miso paste. Each will change the flavor a bit but all will be amazing. For more information on the different types of miso paste, check out my miso soup recipe. It give a more in-depth description of each.
- These rice balls are great dipped in a bit of soy sauce and served with a light soup such as miso soup or a heartier main course such as my teriyaki chicken.
Looking for more easy Japanese recipes?
- 2 cups short-grain rice, uncooked
- 2 teaspoons miso paste
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon sake
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- Sesame seeds, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons butter or oil
- Cook rice according to the instructions on your rice cooker.
- While the rice is cooking, combine all ingredients for the miso glaze in a small bowl and stir until well combined.
- Once rice has finished cooking, divide the rice into 6 evenly sized amounts. Take one of these rice piles and tightly place it in plastic wrap. Once it is completely in the plastic wrap, squish the rice into the shape of a triangle that is about 1/2" thick. Once completely shaped, remove from plastic wrap and set aside. Repeat with each of the rice balls.
- Bring a large pan with 1 tablespoon of butter or oil in it up to medium heat.
- Brush both sides of each onigiri with the miso glaze and place on the pan. Cook about 2 minutes or until the bottom of the onigiri is golden. Watch carefully as miso will burn easily. Once the bottom is golden brown, flip and cook until the other side is also golden brown.
- Serve topped with sesame seeds.