How to make Onigiri (rice balls)

A popular snack or meal for Japanese is rice balls, or onigiri = おにぎり.  These sometimes contain tuna or some other fish inside, or occasionally they are just plain rice, and can even be fried.

My friend taught me how to make these, and they’re fantastic.  There is no way you HAVE to make these, so feel free to experiment, and let us know what you tried, and if it worked or not.

Ingredients (all ingredients can be found at your grocery store or Asian market)

1. “Sushi” grade rice (Nishiki brand is good)

2. StarKist tuna, Chunk Light, in water (it’s the healthiest tuna anyways)

3. Mayonnaise

4. Chinese chili sauce (optional)

5. Furikake (optional)

6. Seaweed paper (same thing used for wrapping sushi, also optional)


Cooking Instructions

Take a cup of rice and rinse it until the water coming off of the rice is not so murky.  This removes some of the starch and makes it a little easier to get sticky rice.

If you have a rice cooker, you’re in luck, because that’s the easiest way to make rice.  Just follow the instructions for your rice cooker.  If you’re like me however, and you’re not that lucky, you can make rice pretty easily on the stove.

To make rice on the stove, put the rice in a medium or large saucepan.  Then pour some water in until the water is above the rice.  Then take your hand, press it down on top of the rice, and if the water reaches the first knuckle on your fingers, that’s probably enough water.

Bring the rice to a boil, covered, and then simmer until much of the water evaporates.  The rice will look sticky, and pretty compact when it’s ready.

While you let your rice cool a little bit, take the time to drain your can of tuna (or maybe 2 cans of tuna if you’re serving 3 people).  After that, mix your tuna in a bowl with mayonnaise, and use the chili sauce if you like spicy foods, but use it sparingly.

After you mix your tuna, go back to your rice, put water on your hands (so rice doesn’t stick to it) and scoop it out with a rice paddle or big spoon, and spread it along your free hand.

Then spoon out some tuna onto your hand in the middle of the rice, and ball it together.  Add more rice to it if needed or desired.

Pour on the furikake flakes if you want, and enjoy!


How do you make your rice balls?  Leave a a comment below to let us know!

  • Samantha

    HI! My friend sent me a link to this page and I thought it was really cool! I’ve always wanted to know how to make onigiri! ^^ But I was wondering if you HAVE to use mayonnaise.. or could you use like Miracle Whip or something??

    • Andrew Hammond

      Excellent question! Using miracle whip would be fine if you like that flavor over the flavor of mayonnaise. The hot sauce is not a requirement either, just added for some spice (if desired). Feel free to try your own substitutes from this recipe, and let me know how it goes. :)

  • Ani

    I started using an Asian mayo called Kewpie, & it’s awesome! Considerably more expensive than Hellmann’s or Kraft Mayo, but the consistency and flavor is better (smoother, more depth), imho. It can be found in Asian grocery stores, or if you are lucky to live in a large metro area with huge supermarkets, you can find it in the International aisle. Love Japanese food!

  • Andrew Hammond

    Hi Ani!! You’re right, Kewpie is great to use. It’s actually a very popular product from Japan, and it’s great for using with this dish!! Regular mayonnaise will suffice in a pinch, but Kewpie is the way to go! I just didn’t have any on hand at the time.

  • Chris Auckland

    Hey Andrew,

    Fingers crossed I am your first British comment, but the odds are slim I’ll admit.

    Firstly, fantastic website! Have been searching for a way of making Onigiri without using a Rice Steamer and luckily I found you! My Japanese neighbour let me borrow her Rice Steamer last time I made Onigiri but I can’t keep borrowing it off her, so luckily there is another one. One question, how long do they keep once made (with and without the tuna)?

    • Andrew Hammond

      Hi Chris! I believe you ARE the first British comment! Cheers! Thanks for the props on the website, however I am gradually working on a redesign. I’m glad I could help you cook the rice without a fancy rice steamer! It’s not as easy, but not as hard with a good eye. As long as you refrigerate the onigiri, I don’t think there will be a problem in keeping them for a few days, even with the tuna. The only thing I would worry about is the rice losing moisture, so when you store it in the fridge or cooler, seal it up tightly. Also, if you plan to store them, hold off on the furikake seasoning flakes, as they consequently add color (or colour ;D ) to your rice balls, and may make you wonder whether that’s mold or seaweed flakes on it.