Introduction: Simple Rice Balls

Picture of Simple Rice Balls

A relatively easy and mess-free way to make basic filled rice balls (onigiri). I believe that traditional onigiri are made in triangular or ball shapes and are formed in the palms of your hands, then covered with a strip of nori. You can also find cute little molds to make bunny or cat shapes to make these tasty treats even more appealing to children of all ages. This technique uses a sheet of plastic wrap to help you form the rice balls without getting your hands too messy.

Update: I've received a lot of good comments about the traditional method of wetting your hands before working with the rice to keep it from sticking to your hands. The plastic wrap makes it easy for beginners to form the balls; once you're comfortable with that, you should definitely try the wet hands method for a more natural way of forming the rice balls.

Step 1: Lay Out the Ingredients

Picture of Lay Out the Ingredients

First you must make sticky rice. Use short-grained sushi rice and cook according to the directions. I like to add about 1/4 cup more water per cup of rice to make it stickier.

Place a couple tablespoons of the cooked rice in the center of the plastic wrap.

Place your desired fillings on top of the rice. In this example, I used common "Philly" roll ingredients: smoked salmon, cream cheese, and chopped chives (instead of scallions).

Step 2: Top With More Rice

Picture of Top With More Rice

Add about another tablespoon of rice on top of your fillings. Don't worry if it doesn't completely cover the fillings. The rice from the bottom will come up to cover the sides when you form the rice ball.

It doesn't really matter how much rice you use. Experiment and see what works best for you.

Step 3: Form the Rice Ball

Picture of Form the Rice Ball

Gather up the plastic wrap and gently twist the top tight with one hand while shaping the ball in the palm of your other hand.

Step 4: Unwrap the Rice Ball

Picture of Unwrap the Rice Ball

Open up the plastic wrap. Presto! Easy rice ball.

Step 5: Dress the Rice Ball

Picture of Dress the Rice Ball

Add whatever toppings you like. In this example, I added salmon furikake and toasted sesame seeds. Furikake is an all-purpose seasoning blend of salt, sesame seeds, seaweed, and other spices. Most asian food stores will have a variety of furikake available. You could also wrap the ball with a strip of nori.

Pop these into your mouth and enjoy!


DagmarC (author)2017-07-14

Could leftover cooked white rice or fried rice be used? I don't get rice much outside the local Chinese takeout and sushi joint.

susanchen2011 (author)2012-07-05

just like sushi.

momonkey1997 (author)2012-06-29

Could you use brown rice, for nutrition and convenience (I don't want to go guy a new rice)???

kidmissile (author)momonkey19972012-07-03

I'm sure you could. You might need to add a little extra water (start w/ +1 Tbsp) to make the rice sticky, or mix in a bit of rice vinegar to the cooked rice and fan it. I recently made sushi rolls using black rice--that was delicious and I believe it packed more nutrition than white rice.

itsthatsguy (author)2010-05-15

cool instructable, but, rice balls are supposed to be flat, triangles,  not balls, but thats just presentation

Actually rice balls can be any shape. A triangle is traditional, but there's no right or wrong way to shape them.

poipndr (author)itsthatsguy2011-05-12

sorry rice balls are formed to be balls I put one ume in center and form the ball with a sheet of nori seaweed.

kidmissile (author)itsthatsguy2010-05-16

Did you happen to read my intro to this instructable? ;)

itsthatsguy (author)kidmissile2010-05-16

^ feels really stupid, i skip intros and gt to the nitty gritty haha

kidmissile (author)itsthatsguy2010-05-17

hehe, no worries. :)

edAg (author)2006-09-28

I love these little guys too, think the pics are great, but... At the core, aren't we talking here about wasting non-recyclable plastic sheet to avoid washing your hands?

kidmissile (author)edAg2006-10-12

That's a good point. I used the plastic wrap for convenience because my hands get rather messy when working with the rice. I'll have to find out what tricks sushi chefs use when shaping rice for nigiri and use that for these balls.

nancyCpants (author)kidmissile2011-05-13

Wet hands, definitely. I always make my sticky rice with sweetened rice vinegar (you can buy sushi vinegar or you can use rice vinegar and add sugar), so I use cold water with a bit of my sushi vinegar in for flavoring instead of salt, since any toppings I add are likely to be salty anyway.

Ice cold salted water. If you dip your hands in that before each ball it seasons the ball perfectly and makes the rice not stick to your hands at all. I at first thought it was Japanese nonsense but I couldn't do without this technique now.

edAg (author)kidmissile2006-10-18

I want to say my mom used to dampen her hands slightly to prevent the rice from sticking...

Scurl! (author)edAg2007-09-04

it's true. wet hands, and practice. you could salt them too if you like the flavor.

akervin (author)2011-04-04

Looks fun! Do you allow the rice to cool before shaping?

ShadowTrix13 (author)2010-12-15

Super simple, I loved it! I used salmon, green onion, cream cheese, and a spicy bamboo shoot mix I made, turned out wonderfully! Thank you!

Penny (author)2008-07-26

Do you think fine mesh (like a very fine tulle or something like that) might be a suitably green alternative to plastic wrap? That way you can wash and reuse it - maybe even use it as a liner on a sushi rolling mat? Nylon is pretty safe stuff from what I understand and it has worked for reusable produce bags elsewhere on instructables.

One String Bags

kowens (author)Penny2010-05-13

If you are really into making onigiri, you can usually find onigiri forms at your local Asian or International grocery. If you don't have one, these websites offer supplies for making onigiri that is reusable. or Search for J-Box
Amazon and Ebay also sell reusable Obento Supplies
You can also use ice cream molds

kidmissile (author)kowens2010-05-16

Thanks for all those good links!

I Am An Evil Taco (author)2008-05-18

assuming I work with fresh herbs and no real perishables (I'm thinking chives, garlic, basil and rosemary) how long do you think these will keep without refridgeration. Like if I make a few to take to work with me.

kowens (author)I Am An Evil Taco2010-05-13

I was looking for an answer to your question and could not reliably find one. However, I did find a site that may be able to answer your question - try

SeaLion (author)2009-11-27

You can shape it into triangles when it's all wrapped up in the film...the cling film also can be used as packaging such that the onigiri can be put into lunch boxes.

kloklo (author)2009-09-27

I love rice so while watching an anime I though what's all the fuss about rice balls... rice will always be rice... well, I was wrong! Somehow I made this in less than 20 min at 2 am... PS: Being Greek I don't really like fish anywhere near my rice but I'm willing to try it soon... for now I just use salt, feta cheese and sweet paprika. :)

Mr. Brownie (author)2009-08-10

To make sticky rice, I add mirin and salt once the rice is done cooking.

kidmissile (author)Mr. Brownie2009-08-10

That's a good tip, Mr. Brownie!

TeenDreamSequence (author)2009-07-24

I've convinced my mom to let me try making riceballs before the summer's out. She doesn't exactly approve of my 'obsession' as she called it, but if it gets me to learn how to make something other than macaroni and sandwiches...

If you haven't already, show her these instructable pics and she won't be able to resist! ;) Have fun with them!

Charlie1138 (author)2008-04-04

This is kind of a strange question.. but I am trying to figure out how Japanese people eat in common practice.. because I love their food so much. What I mean is, how would you eat these? would you have them with your dinner? Have some for lunch with something else? would you have these as a main course or an appetizer?

kidmissile (author)Charlie11382008-04-04

All of the above? (That's what I do, but I am neither Japanese nor familiar with true Japanese culture.) Good question, maybe someone more familiar this can chime in?

Vicious (author)kidmissile2008-11-15

It's a finger food, not really a lunch per se nor a snack. Instead of eating a full lunch you would have like generally 3 of these packed up. Though I think they make them a little bigger. Anywho they just eat them as is, like finger food. Mostly this is used as a pick me up type food, but they can be used as a lunch, if you eat all three. But the Japanese way is to grab it and take a bite out of it. Nothing really special on how to eat it.

Umeko (author)Charlie11382008-11-12

they are used as a quick lunch or a snack.. they are kinda the Japanese equivilent of grabing a sandwich :D

container_gardener (author)2008-06-20

They look cute and appetizing. I once tried to make my own onigiri after eating it at a restaurant, but I failed. This would be a neat lunch box idea. I have some furikake that needs to be eaten. I can't wait to try this over the weekend. Thanks.

I finally made rice balls tonight! I used salmon, cream cheese, and chives as the filling. I also sprinkled furikake on top of the balls.

I sprinkled just a little bit of water (to prevent sticking) and salt (for some flavor) onto the plastic before adding the ingredients.

Instead of laying the plastic on a flat surface, I put it inside of a small condiment bowl to keep the ingredients in place.

I'll make this again. =)

Hey cool, glad that it worked out for you! =)

Umeko (author)2008-09-22

Awesome Idea! I have just started getting into Bento and have 100 things I want to try but this was one thing I had no idea how to make into a good shape without a plastic mold (have enough rubbish in my kitchen without annother gadget lol) I love these rice balls and now can make my own without lots of mess!

Huray4Insanity (author)2008-07-24

I made these and they were huge, are yours bite sized?

The ones I make aren't too large, about two-bite-sized. Try experimenting with less rice. If it doesn't turn out right, just pop it into your mouth. ;)

Mattrox (author)2008-06-18

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Looks great can't wait to makes some looks delicous ps good idea for using plastic wrap

jackcday (author)2008-06-15

If you splash rice vinegar on your hands when making it it stops the rice sticking to your hands! I learn this from a little sushi book i have.

BreeBree (author)2008-04-07

I used this with cream cheese, avocado, small thin slices of cucumber, and chives for mine and my sons lunch, we both love it!! I didn't know it was so easy to make. I feel like an idiot now for spending so much to get it at my supermarket.

supakillaii (author)2008-03-21

Oh god, these are yummy! I've experimented on Onirigis by myself with worthless results. This is awesome. I love to use Shrimps and Clam as fillings. Off to enjoy ( ( ( ('.)

Zany Crazy Water Monkey (author)2008-02-23

at the moment im trying to do rice balls by hand but your method seems to work pretty good to thank you_

zozzen (author)2007-12-05

that's exactly the way that many housewives in Asia make this. Sticky Rice (available in Chinatown) is sometimes preferable because, as the name suggests, it's sticky and the rice texture is stronger.

X_D_3_M_1 (author)2007-11-03

mmm... im gonna make em once i get the right rice.

gunmanx (author)2007-10-06

mmmmm looks taisty im going to try

Huray4Insanity (author)2007-07-29

i tried it with great success do u have any suggestions for make the bottom thiner mine are huge

Miss World (author)2007-07-29

Thank you! I'll definitely give it a try! :D

red thread (author)2007-07-27

thanks...i find the plastic wrap less intimidating than the hand seems hard to wreck it - just squeeze it till you get it round enough, and it can't fall apart like it could if it was loose... i'm hungry.

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