Chicken Onigiri – Delectable Japanese Rice Ball

I hurried to catch my flight to Vietnam from Japan with a grumbling stomach. I dashed into a nearby convenience store and chose one of Japan’s iconic dishes that I hadn’t tasted during my entire trip – onigiri.

Chicken onigiri recipe

Onigiri, nigirimeshi, or omusubi is a traditional Japanese food that consists of a ball or triangle of rice, often seasoned with a mixture of salt and vinegar, and typically containing a filling.

I grabbed a couple of onigiri packs, each offering a different filling, ranging from traditional options like pickled veggies, tuna mayo, salted salmon, spicy tuna, mushroom, or other ingredients like grilled beef, shrimp, eggs, tofu imitation crab, spicy cod roe, even kimchi or curry. The onigiri is wrapped with a strip of nori (seaweed). It’s such a convenient way to hold the Japanese rice ball.

Chicken onigiri recipe

I fell in love with all kinds of onigiri from Japanese convenience stores, except the pickled veggie one. But my absolute favorite? Chicken Onigiri. It was so good that I decided to recreate it at home.

While making triangle rice balls, you need to do it by hand. I struggled a little bit when striking a balance with hand pressure. It needs to be enough to keep the onigiri intact but not to clench too firmly. It’s all about maintaining that airy density in the Japanese rice ball for the perfect texture.

Here is how to make Chicken Onigiri without molds:

Chicken Onigiri

A pocket-sized pleasure, packs a punch of flavor in every bite.
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine Asian, Japanese
Servings 8
Calories 200 kcal


  • 2 cups short-grain rice
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs diced
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sake
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 Nori sheets cut into strips
  • Sesame seeds for garnish


  • Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear.
  • Cook the rice according to package instructions or using a rice cooker for best results.
  • In a bowl, mix soy sauce, mirin, sake, sesame oil, sugar, and salt to create a marinade.
  • Toss the diced chicken in the marinade, ensuring each piece is well-coated. Let it marinate for at least 15 minutes.
  • Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add the marinated chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Wet your hands with water to prevent the rice from sticking. You can moisten your hands with a mixture of water and a little salt. It adds flavor to the outside of the onigiri and can also help with shaping.
  • Take a small handful of warm cooked rice and place it in the palm of your hand.
  • Make an indentation in the center and place a spoonful of the cooked chicken.
  • Encase the filling with rice and shape it into a triangle or ball. Press gently but firmly to ensure it holds together.
  • Wrap the onigiri with a strip of nori. This adds a nice flavor and helps hold the rice together.
  • Repeat the process until all the chiken mixture is used.
  • Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of each Onigiri for an extra layer of flavor and crunch. Serve the onigiri warm or at room temperature.


Shaping onigiri can be a bit tricky at first, here are some tips for forming perfect onigiri:
– Use Warm Rice slightly cooled rice. Cold rice tends to be firmer and can be more challenging to shape.
– Ensure an even distribution of the filling within the rice ball. This helps in creating a balanced flavor in each bite.
– Use enough grip when holding rice because if you hold it too tightly the rice will become hard and inedible.
– If you’re finding it challenging to shape the onigiri by hand, you can use plastic wrap to help mold the rice. Place a small amount of rice and filling in the center of the plastic wrap, then use it to shape the onigiri.
– If you’re making triangular onigiri, start by forming a ball and then shape it into a triangle. This can be easier than trying to form a perfect triangle from the beginning.
– Don’t get discouraged if your first few onigiri aren’t perfect. Like any skill, shaping onigiri improves with practice.
Keyword healthy, homemade, japanese, rice

Onigiri are best enjoyed on the day they are made. If you plan to consume them within a few hours, you can store them at room temperature by placing them in an airtight container.

If you need to store the rice balls for a longer period, you can place them in an airtight container and refrigerate them. This can help them last for 2 days. To maintain the texture of the rice, you can lightly moisten a paper towel and place it in the container. This helps prevent the rice from becoming too hard.

Japanese rice balls can also be frozen for longer storage. Wrap each onigiri individually in plastic wrap and then place them in a freezer-safe bag or container.

You can reheat them in a microwave, oven, or steam them.

Onigiri Varieties

Onigiri is a popular grab-and-go option in Japan, enjoyed for its simplicity, versatility, and convenience. You can easily find it in convenience stores, where different types of onigiri with various flavors are available.

  • Yaki Onigiri (Grilled Onigiri) is grilled until it develops a crispy, golden-brown exterior. This technique adds a delightful crunch to the texture while imparting a subtle smokiness. Popular fillings for yaki rice balls include soy sauce, miso, or a simple sprinkle of salt.
  • Temusu Onigiri elevates the classic rice ball with the addition of tempura, adding a satisfying crunch to the onigiri.
  • Onigirazu (Sushi Sandwich) is a modern twist that combines the convenience of a sandwich with the flavors of onigiri. Instead of the traditional triangular shape, onigirazu features a square or rectangular form, with layers of rice, filling, and nori. Common fillings include vegetables, cooked meat, and omelette, providing a fusion of textures and tastes.
Best onigiri recipe
Easy Yaki Onigiri recipe
  • Age-onigiri (Fried Onigiri): Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, age-onigiri is created by frying the rice ball until it develops a golden-brown crust.
  • Gomoku Onigiri (Mixed Ingredient Rice Ball) is a medley of various ingredients mixed into the rice. It often includes a combination of vegetables, pickles, and sometimes even small bits of meat or seafood.
  • Shio Onigiri (Salted Rice Ball) is a minimalist delight, featuring rice seasoned simply with salt.
  • Roe Rice Balls like Mentaiko Onigiri (spicy cod roe) or Ikura Origini (salmon roe).
  • Kombu Onigiri is made by infusing the rice with a broth made from simmered kombu (edible kelp). The onigiri is then wrapped in a sheet of kombu.
Onigiri fillings ideas
Pork Tamago Origini
  • Okaka Onigiri (Bonito Flakes) has bonito flakes mixed with soy sauce into the rice. The umami-packed bonito flakes add a savory kick to the onigiri.
  • Ume-Shiso Onigiri features a combination of pickled plum (umeboshi) and shiso leaves.
  • Umeboshi Onigiri (Pickled Plum) imparts a distinctive tartness to the rice ball.
  • Pork Egg Onigiri introduces a savory twist by incorporating pork and egg into the rice filling.
  • Sekihan Onigiri features rice mixed with azuki beans, giving it a distinctive reddish color.
  • Furikake Onigiri: The rice is mixed with furikake (a Japanese seasoning blend), which can include ingredients like dried fish, sesame seeds, seaweed, and bonito flakes. The outer layer can also be coated with furikake for an extra layer of flavor and texture.
Furikake rice balls
Johanna Cleveland
About the author

Hi, I'm Kate, the creator of Happy Baking Days. I'm a food lover, recipe creator, and kitchen explorer. I have amateur baking knowledge gained from years spent in the kitchen with my grandma and mum, where I graduated slowly from dusting work surfaces with flour and licking the spatula to the finer arts of pastry and meringue. Now in my own kitchen, I put all those years of training into practice, experimenting with recipes and ingredients from around the world. Join me as I share my culinary journey and favorite recipes that make cooking a delightful experience.

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