Mini Onigiri


The last time I posted anything food-related that didn’t feature cookbooks was October of 2014 (this delicious cashew milk that promptly made me break out in hives after overdosing on it for two days — I can eat the nuts by the bucketful without any issues, so that incident was a mystery).

I give you mini onigiri — which translates to rice ball, though the literal meaning is more along the lines of “squeezed” or “clasped”. They are also known as omusubi. I felt that my diminutive snack deserved a post of its own, just because it’s so darn adorable. Standing a smidgen higher than an inch, these tiny seaweed-adorned rice morsels were a runaway hit at K’s birthday party. It’s been two days since the festivities, yet I can’t stop making them. On a slightly more practical level, they would be a fabulous school lunchbox addition. Have the kiddos in your life resumed school yet? We have three more weeks to go till K starts fourth grade, and my mind is full of fall clothes and cute lunches.


You’d think that these would be incredibly labor intensive, but they’re super fun and fast to make. The secret weapon is this handy dandy mold:

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I can’t remember where I got it since I’ve had it forever, but I did find online the other cube-shaped mold that I don’t use as much because I prefer the classic rounded triangular shape. This one seems to come close, though I’m not sure if it’s as awesome as mine. As I was searching for onigiri molds, I encountered a dazzling array of options — this penguin set sort of blows me away.

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First, I cooked some rice; for the ones in the photos, I blended in a mixture of sesame seeds and nori flakes after the rice was done, but I normally just add a little salt. Then I snipped several strips of nori or seaweed (roughly 3/4″ x 2″). Next, I scooped a few tablespoons of rice into the mold and packed the rice in. Push the mold out of the clear casing, slap on a strip of nori and voila! Yum, yum, yum. So far, I haven’t come across a soul who hasn’t delighted in these bite-sized onigiri — highly recommended!


11 thoughts on “Mini Onigiri

  1. I have wanted to know how to make those adorable rice cakes that I ate all over Japan–such a great post!

  2. Thanks for this. My older daughter will be starting grade 4 in 3 weeks too, and for the first time she will have to bring a lunch! I need ideas. I don’t think I could buy a mold ,but I can make some less aesthtically pleasing balls by hand. What would you serve with it though? It would be so odd to open your lunch box and have onigiri and a turkey sandwich wouldn’t it?

    Congratulations on the successful party!

    1. Thanks, Max! They’re actually quite easy to make by hand too – that’s the only way my mom does it. She likes to use plastic wrap when shaping the rice balls so her hands won’t get sticky :-).

      As for what to include with the onigiri — anything goes! I’ve included fruit/veggie salad, cut up cheese stick, pretty much whatever I have on hand ;-). You should have seen some of the combos my mom included in my lunch when I was growing up. Pasta + onigiri + potato chips comes to mind…

  3. Because our family is from Hawaii, we also love SPAM musubi. There’s a cute shop in SF called Onigilly that makes several varieties that are delicious.

    I don’t know if your site allows pictures in the comments, but I made some little plush onigiri that I thought were cute 🙂


  4. my Katie would love these! She takes seaweed and cooked rice to school for lunches occasionally, and these would definitely up the “cute” factor!

    1. I bet Katie would totally love the minis, Lucinda. Miniaturizing food is always a hit, but it’s especially appreciated by teen girls, I find :-).

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