Yaki onigiri are Japanese grilled rice balls with a tasty savoury coating or filling. These little rice balls are full of flavour with a delightful crispy crust which adds an extra element of flavour and texture to regular onigiri.
This creates a perfect balance and makes yaki onigiri the best portable savoury snack or as a substitute for a plain bowl of white rice at dinner or lunch. That first crunchy crisp bite followed by the warm and fluffy rice make yaki onigiri so irresistible.
What is Yaki Onigiri?
Yaki onigiri is a type of Japanese rice ball that has been grilled. The word “yaki” means grilled in Japanese and I think nowadays many people know what onigiri are. If not, they are basically little triangular-shaped balls of rice. Yaki onigiri is most commonly coated in soy sauce but the name itself just means grilled rice ball.
They are crispy on the outside but still have the same soft and fluffy Japanese rice texture on the inside. This combination of the crispy crust with the warm and soft rice make yaki onigiri such simple but delicious food. It’s lucky that they’re healthy and little since it’s so hard to resist eating just one.
What Do I Need?
Rice: use Japanese short-grain rice Japonica ‘Koshihikari” to make these as close to perfect as you can. Using other types of rice will result in a completely different texture and flavour. If you can not access Japonica rice from Japan, you can get “sushi rice” from supermarkets. When Japanese say sushi rice they are referring to sweet vinegar seasoned rice. However, the rice marked “Sushi Rice” is not seasoned. It means the rice is for making sushi.
You also need Japanese condiments and seasonings and garnishes you like to flavour the grilled rice balls. My favourite is Miso Butter. Let your imagination run wild and find your favourite flavours. Common flavours in Japan are Soy sauce, Soy sauce and butter, sweet miso sauce similar to what is used to make Miso glazed salmon and Miso Eggplant.
Yaki Onigiri Flavour Variations
The most common flavour of yaki onigiri is soy sauce. But there are many different other sauces and filling options to choose from to create delicious flavour varieties. My favourite flavour is miso butter. The miso and butter just pair so perfectly together and have a burst of umami flavour that is easily complimented by simple white rice. Nearly anything can go with fluffy and simple Japanese rice so here are some other options:
- fill or mix the onigiri first with grilled salmon, canned tuna, chicken, sesame seeds, kanikama (imitation crab meat),
- turn takikomi gohan into onigiri and grill them
- coat the onigiri with a spicy gochujang paste instead of soy or miso
- wrap the yaki onigiri in seaweed or shiso leaves
- make yaki onigiri ochazuke (rice in hot tea or water)
Equipment Needed To Grill Rice Balls
You can make yaki onigiri using a frying pan, Cast Iron Skillet, or a bbq. I think making them on a bbq would be really fun and give them even more of a delicious chargrilled flavour. After that, the best option would be a cast iron pan because it creates the crispness better than a regular frying pan can. My recipe is based on using the cast iron pan.
How To Shape Onigiri
Japanese Onigiri rice balls are typically triangular in shape. If you are intimidated by that perfectly shaped triangle Onigiri and think you can’t make it, don’t despair because the shape is not that important. Though how firmly it is squashed is more important. This is because it will affect whether your onigiri falls apart or not while grilling. I explained shaping methods and different shapes in my Onigiri Rice Balls post. If you need further explanations have a look at this post.
Where To Buy Yaki Onigiri?
Sometimes you can find frozen versions of yaki onigiri at Japanese supermarkets around the world. I have heard that Trader Joe’s used to sell them too but I think they have now been discontinued, which is very unfortunate. You may also be able to find them in Japanese restaurants if they have yaki onigiri on the menu. However, they’re easy to make and don’t really require any special tools or ingredients.
What To Serve With?
Onigiri Related Recipes
A: Make sure you squish the rice balls, firmly. If it does not prevent the rice balls falling apart, You can add Katakuriko (potato starch) 1 tbsp after the rice is cooked. Stir it well into the rice, that will keep the rice sticking together.
A: It is best to store the onigiri rice balls when it is shaped. Wrap with cling wrap tightly individually and place them in a zip lock bag to store in the freezer. Reheat and cook the frozen onigiri rice balls the same as in the recipe card and flavour too.
If you can’t find or access any of the Japanese ingredients listed in the recipe card below, find what you can substitute them with in my Japanese Food Substitution post.
- To alter the serving size click on the serving number and move the slider left or right to adjust the quantity.
- As you move the slider the quantities of the ingredients will adjust accordingly in both imperial and metric measurements.
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- 2 cups uncooked short grain rice *1
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp miso
- 2 tsp mirin
- 2 tsp sake
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1.5 tbsp butter
- 1 tsp finely chopped chive to garnish
- 1 tsp sesame seeds to garnish
Soy Sauce Flavour
- 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp everything Bagel seasoning *2
- 1.5 tbsp butter
- Cook the rice by following the instructions as per your rice cooker. *1
- While the rice is being cooked, put all the miso paste ingredients together in a bowl and mix well.
- Divide the cooked rice into 6 equal portions.
- Shape and squish the rice in a piece of cling wrap into a triangle shape. *3
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add butter.
- Grill the Onigiri for about 1 minute on each side and coat with the butter.
- Brush the miso paste over each side of the rice balls and grill each side until crispy. *4
- Serve with the garnishes.
Soy Sauce Flavour
- Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and coat the skillet with vegetable oil.
- Grill the Onigiri for about 1 minute on each side.
- Brush the soy sauce over each side of the rice balls every time it is turned over (turn a few times).
- Grill each side until crispy. Turn the heat off and serve on a plate.
- Top the grilled rice balls with 1/2 tbsp each of butter.
- Garnish with rice seasonings to serve.
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