Japanese Rice Balls with Salmon

These are hands down, one of my most favorite on the go snacks. I discovered them while living in Japan, and we used to get them at convenience stores. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’d eat fish from a convenience store, but they are a little different from convenience stores here in America. There were lots of items for lunches, like steamed edamame and bento boxes, and it was fresh and delicious. We also paid our electricity bill there, which took a little getting used to, but really made perfect sense. It was a convenience store, so why not do convenient things there, like pay bills and buy lunch?

There were several varieties of these rice balls or, onigiri, available. They can be plain with seaweed, filled with bonito flakes or even pickled vegetables. It was a dear friend and fellow photographer that handed me my first onigiri. It was the salmon and I was partial to it from that moment on. We used to grab them on the way to photo shoots or to snack on while at the beach and they always tasted incredible. Of course, I’m not there anymore to get them from my favorite store, but I was very excited to learn how to make them so I can have a little taste of Japan, on the go, anytime I want. Itadakimasu!

Japanese Rice Balls with Salmon (Onigiri)

1 cup Rice, rinsed

1 1/2 cups Water

1/4 teaspoon Salt

3 ounces cooked Salmon, flaked

2 teaspoons Soy Sauce

1 cup warm Water

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 teaspoon Sugar

2 teaspoons Rice Vinegar

Toasted Sesame Seeds for topping

Place rice, 1 1/2 cups water, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low, cover, and let cook for 15 minutes more. Turn off heat and let steam to finish cooking for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Sprinkle the soy sauce over the flaked salmon and toss gently to combine. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine warm water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and rice vinegar. Set aside.


Tear off a square of plastic wrap and place it on a large plate. Wet your hands in the warm water mixture. This helps prevent the rice from sticking to your hands while shaping and it also gives the rice a little flavor. In the center of the plastic wrap, place about 1/4 cup of rice. Make a small well in the center and place about a Tablespoon of the salmon in the well. Cover the salmon with a Tablespoon or two of rice, and using dampened fingers, completely enclose the salmon within the rice. Anytime the rice seems too sticky, just dampen your fingers in the warm water.

Bring the sides of the plastic wrap to the center and wrap the rice tightly into a ball. The plastic wrap helps you shape the rice into the desired shape. Pat into a circle or triangle and gently unwrap. Place the finished onigiri on a platter and return the plastic wrap to the plate to shape the remaining rice balls. Sprinkle the top of the finished onigiri with toasted sesame seeds.

These keep very well wrapped in the refrigerator for a couple days and they’re easy to grab for lunch or a quick afternoon snack. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as we do, and they’ll become a favorite in your house as well.



33 thoughts on “Japanese Rice Balls with Salmon

  1. This is such a healthy recipe, and it is quick.  Sounds like it is eaten cold from the refrigerator.  If you warm it in the microwave or the oven, will it fall apart?  Having salmon for dinner tonight, and wish I had seen this recipe earlier.  Trying it soon, though.  Thank you!

  2. I’m excited by this recipe. I love Japanese food but have never made these. I know my little guy would love it as well. I’m making asap.

  3. I’m excited by this recipe. I love Japanesse food but have never made these. I know my little guy would love them as well. I’m making them asap.

  4. Wow! These look gorgeous and I love the idea of stuffing rice with salmon. I’m going to attempt this, although I’m sure mine won’t look as neat.

  5. Thank you! I have a container of sushi rice that I had no clue what to do with, these will be perfect…do you happen to have a recipe for spicy mayo to go along with them?

  6. I enjoy onigiri, but for some reason I never think to make it. And as you say, they’re a great grab and go food… something to round out a lunch, something to carry…

    I’m going to have to try these!

  7. A simple and delicious snack. 😀 Love the presentation you have going on in your photos. I remember growing up, my mom would pay either the electric or gas bill (maybe both) at one of the grocery stores we shopped at and it’s not something I see anymore, but maybe it’s because I do everything online. It always made sense to me to be able to take care of your utilities there, though!

  8. I loved these in Japan. My favorite rice balls were Omeboshi Onigiri, fermented plum. At first I thought it was gross but the more I ate it the more I loved it.

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