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Yaki Onigiri

Yaki Onigiri are Japanese grilled rice balls covered in savory soy sauce. With a crispy crust on the outside and soft sticky rice on the inside, these rice balls are simply irresistible and easy to make at home!

Traditionally, Yaki Onigiri is grilled over charcoal, which lends the rice balls a hint of woodsy, smoky flavor that is truly hard to resist. To make Yaki Onigiri at home, I use a cast iron pan to grill the rice balls to a crispy perfection. 

We like our grilled rice balls made with all kinds of fillings (for example: mushroom, pickles, smoked salmon, cucumber), but they are traditionally prepared with plain rice. Rather than veering from tradition on this one, I like to use a high quality sushi rice.


Sushi Rice

1 and 1/2 cups sushi rice

1 and 1/2 cups water

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 nori sheets chopped into small flakes


1 avocado diced

3 tablespoons walnuts finely chopped

3 tablespoons sesame oil for frying

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Dipping Sauce

3 tablespoons tamari

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 – 2 teaspoon sambal olek 


Sushi Rice

Put the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cool running water until the water runs clear. Then drain well and transfer to a saucepan. Pour in the water, cover, and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid has been completely absorbed by the rice. If it looks too dry, add a few more tablespoons of water. Then remove from the heat and leave covered to steam for another 5-10 minutes.

In the meantime, heat the rice vinegar, salt, and sugar in a small saucepan and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved.

Once the rice is tender, transfer it into a bowl (preferably a wooden hangiri) and stir gently to loosen it. Rice should be nice and sticky!

Drizzle the rice vinegar mixture over it, add the nori flakes, and mix gently to combine. Cover with a damp kitchen towel which will help prevent the rice from drying out. Allow the rice mixture to cool completely. The rice can be made ahead and kept in the fridge up to 3 days.

Dipping Sauce

Using a fork, whisk all the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.


Place 1 heaped tablespoon of the rice mixture on a piece of cling foil, flattening it gently into a round shape. Add 2-3 pieces of avocado and 1 teaspoon of chopped walnuts in the middle. Cover with another tablespoon of rice, seal the foil, and form into a firm ball. Flatten it slightly with your hands, then carefully remove the cling foil. Continue this process with the rest of the rice and filling until everything is used up.

Lightly brush the rice balls with the dipping sauce and sprinkle with a little sesame. Spray lightly with cooking oil.

Heat the sesame oil in a large non-stick pan or skillet or grill. Pan-fry or grill the rice balls on each side for 3-5 minutes, or until the rice forms a crisp skin.

Serve warm or cold with the remaining dipping sauce. You can also wrap a small nori sheet around the onigiri so it’s easier to eat warm.



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