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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogHow to Make Onigiri (Cute Edition)!

How to Make Onigiri (Cute Edition)!

By Devon Lord-Moncrief
August 08, 2023
An example of how to make onigiri cute.

Many people enjoy different kinds of yummy Japanese snacks worldwide, but there’s a good chance nothing beats a good onigiri. One of the most classic and traditional Japanese snacks, onigiri (sometimes called omusubi and nigirimeshi), are simple rice balls with light seasoning.

The origins of onigiri are simple: back before chopsticks became popular, rice was cooked and shaped into small handheld balls during the Nara period. Later, during the Heian period, people cooked rice and shaped them into small rectangles called tonjiki. Today, now referred to as onigiri, rice is cooked and can be shaped into any shape imaginable. They’re also an excellent addition to bento boxes!

A person learning how to make onigiri.
Learning how to make onigir can be very easy! Image via Shutterstock

How to Make Basic Onigiri

Making traditional onigiri is a straightforward process. The ingredients include short-grain rice, water, salt, and nori (dried seaweed.) The cooked rice use pieces of nori for both taste and decoration. As simple as this process is, the beauty lies in the endless customization in making your favorite rice ball. Small triangles, circular balls, or rectangles are the most common shapes. 

Two rice balls with seaweed.
Most onigiri use nori and other seasonings. Image via Shutterstock

Explore various fillings for your rice balls, like salmon with salt, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) with soy sauce, and tuna with Kewpie mayonnaise. These combinations showcase the incredible versatility of onigiri. Popular condiments include soy sauce, plum sauce, and sesame seeds.

Basic Onigiri Tips

While making onigiri is easy, there are still some important tips to remember so you don’t goof up your recipe.

  • Make sure to wrap your nori on your onigiri right before you eat to ensure it doesn’t become wet and soggy (nori likes to suck up moisture from the rice!)
  • You can make rice balls the day before you want to eat them and keep them fresh by wrapping them in plastic wrap and then with a thick kitchen towel. The kitchen towel helps keep the rice from getting too cold in the refrigerator.
  • Also, you can enjoy them warm or at room temperature, so they’re perfect whenever you feel like snacking.
  • Whether you make your rice via stove top or with a rice cooker, ensure your hands are wet when handling the rice so it doesn’t get sticky.
A bunch of multi-colored onigiri.
Onigiri can be very creative! Image via Shutterstock

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Making Cute Rice Balls

Now that we have the essential recipes and tips for making rice balls, it’s time to look to the best part: making super cute onigiri! How can they be cute? By shaping them into whatever animal or character you can think of!

Octopi, panda bears, penguins, and even ghosts (if you’re feeling spooky) are the most common shapes for rice balls! You can even make them smile, wink, or look asleep. As long as you’re careful and patient with a pair of scissors, the sky’s the limit!

A picture showing how to make onigiri and add it to a cute onigiri.
You can even make them look like animals! Image via Shutterstock

Making unique shapes with your onigiri is relatively simple. Shape your onigiri into the general shape of your animal or character (sometimes an oblong oval, sometimes a cylinder, etc). Next, cut out small pieces of nori and use them as decorations to make eyes, mouths, noses, and the like. If you’re feeling wildly creative, you can use other foods such as carrots, sesame seeds, and even bits of sushi to decorate your onigiri characters further.

The quality of any snack hinges on its ingredients. No matter how cute your onigiri looks, prioritize using top-notch rice (short or medium grain). Ensure well-seasoned rice and add your preferred condiments for that extra flavor boost.

Asian grocery stores, big and small, typically carry all the ingredients you need for onigiri. The best part about making onigiri is the limitless amount of customization that can go into it, so have fun making up your favorite kind of snack!

A bunch of cute onigiri with seaweed smiles.
Onigiri are typical additions in cute bento! Image via Shutterstock

And that’s it! Creating these adorable onigiri treasures requires time and dedication. The sheer delight that lights up someone’s face when they unveil their lovingly prepared lunch makes all the effort truly rewarding. Handmade lunches carry a special magic, and the sincere thoughtfulness poured into them brings forth a genuinely heartwarming smile. Have you ever made cute onigiri before? Let us know in the comments below!

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