Vegan Onigiri 3 ways (Japanese Rice Balls)

Onigiri 3 ways

Have you ever seen the emoji 🍙 on your phone and wondered how it is made?

Onigiri (or Japanese rice ball) is classic Japanese comfort food made from steamed rice with different fillings, shaped into a triangle, ball or cylinder shape and wrapped with a nori sheet.

Traditional Onigiri fillings range from umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum), tuna mayo, sha-ke (salted salmon). Yet there are many innovative ways to fill the rice balls. This blog post makes three vegan onigiri variations, using chickpea mayo (a plant-based alternative to tuna mayo), teriyaki tofu and edamame.

What makes this Vegan Onigiri recipe different?

This is a plant-based version of Onigiri, with three different filling suggestions:

  • Chickpea ‘Tuna’: this is the plant-based version of tuna onigiri. To make this, all you have to do is mash chickpeas with a fork. Then combine them with vegan mayonnaise, soy sauce and shredded nori sheet.
  • Teriyaki Tofu: the tofu is a wonderful meat substitute and it will take on the delicious teriyaki flavors using a few simple marinade ingredients.
  • Edamame: the easier filling ever, just combine edamame with some soy sauce.

Other ingredients of Onigiri

Whereas the fillings may vary, the main ingredients of Onigiri are sushi rice and nori seaweed. You can cook the sushi rice according to the package instructions, or use other types of short-grain rice. The nori seaweed is then cut into sheets to wrap around the rice ball.

How to wrap Onigiri

There are three ways of wrapping Onigiri: by hand, with a plastic wrap and with an Onigiri mold. In this recipe, I show you how to make it by hand in the following steps. Watch the videos below the recipe to see the visual instructions for making these Japanese rice balls.

  • Assemble your rolling station with a bowl of water, some salt, the cooked rice, the fillings and the cut nori sheet.
  • First, wet your hand. This step prevents the rice from sticking to your hand. Then salt your hand, this will season the rice.
  • Add 2 tbsp of rice, then followed by 1 tbsp of the filling in the middle and 1 tbsp of rice. Wrap it to ensure that the filling is covered by the rice.
  • Press firmly to hold the shape that you want, it can be the triangle shape like in this recipe or a round shape.
  • Wrap the nori sheet around the rice balls.

If you have tried my recipe, please let me know what you think by leaving me a review on this page or tagging me on Instagram @veggieanh. I would love to see your creations!

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Onigiri 3 ways

Vegan Onigiri – 3 ways

  • Yield: 16 onigiri 1x


This vegan onigiri recipe recreate the classic Japanese comfort food using plant-based ingredients. Three fillings are suggested in this recipe: chickpea 'tuna', teriyaki tofu and edamame beans.


Units Scale
  • 500 g sushi rice (or short-grained rice)
  • 2 nori sheet
  • water and salt to rub on hand
  • sesame seeds

Chickpea 'Tuna' filling

  • 1 can cooked chickpea (~300g)
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 nori sheet

Teriyaki Tofu

  • 200 g tofu
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sesame oil


  • 50 g frozen edamame
  • soy sauce to taste


  1. Wash and cook the rice.

To make the chickpea 'tuna' filling

  1. Mash the chickpea with a fork, add in the mayo and soy sauce then mix well.
  2. Cut the nori into strips, then mix in together with the chickpea mixture.

To make the Teriyaki tofu

  1. Pat dry the tofu and cut the tofu into small square pieces.
  2. Combine the sauce ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Fry the tofu pieces, then drizzle in the sauce and mix well.

To make the edamame

  1. Pour hot water over the frozen edamame and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. If you have fresh edamame, you can skip this step.
  2. Season with soy sauce to taste, mix and set aside.

To make the onigiri

  1. Prepare a bowl of water and gather all the other ingredients.
  2. Wet both hands by dipping them in water. This will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.
  3. Salt both of your hands and rub together.
  4. Add 2 tbsp rice to your hand, followed by 1 tsp of the filling and 1 tbsp of rice.
  5. Close the rice by wrapping it into a ball.
  6. Press the rice around the filling firmly to create a triangle shape. Use both of your thumbs.
  7. Cut the nori seaweed into a long strip and wrap around the rice ball. Repeat the steps until all ingredients are out.


Wait for the rice to cool down a bit before rolling, as you may burn yourself if it’s too hot.

Alternatively to the hand wrapping method, you can wrap a plastic wrap around the rice balls to shape them or use an onigiri mould.

For leftovers, wrap them in plastic wraps so it doesn’t become too dry overtime.

  • Category: Main Course
  • Cuisine: Japanese

Keywords: comfort food, vegan

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