Cookout Japanese Style 2: Yaki-Onigiri (Grilled Rice Balls)

September 2, 2022

Ah…  This one is true crowd pleaser.  Every year, we have our oyster BBQ birthday party around this time of the year. (My husband Keith’s birthday is tomorrow, Sept 3, and mine is 7th, which this year, it happens to be the Labor Day.)  Last few years we served these, OMG, boy they go fast!  Kids love them, adults love them. We probably had about 20 giant rice balls and they were gone in 5 min!  Everyone asks me how to make it, so here it is!

Yaki-onigiri (Grilled rice balls) 焼きおにぎり


  • Cooked sushi rice 1c per person. (Note: Long grain rice such as jasmine rice, basmati rice etc. is not sticky enough to make onigiri.  Brown sushi rice is not the easiest either. )
  • 1/4 C Soy sauce
  • 1/4 C mirin (Sweet Rice Wine)


  1. Make the teriyaki sauce. Combine Soy sauce and mirin, and cook at medium heat until it’s reduced to about half. If you are in a rush or don’t have patience, you can just mix soy sauce and mirin, 1:1.  It’s not the same, but still tasty. You can use this sauce for Grilled corn we’ll discuss on the next post, as well as yakitori.  So if there’s left over, keep in a small jar.
  2. Make onigiri (rice balls)
    • Traditional (hot and painful) method: Prepare a bowl of cold water and fine salt in a shaker.  First soak your palms, and sprinkle some salt on your palm.  Then…  are you ready? you put about a 3/4 cup of hot rice (yes, fresh from the steamer) on your palm and press it into the familiar triangular shape.  Now, as you can imagine, it’s very hot and painful.  After one, you probably will not want to make any more.
  3. So here’s an easier version:
    • Add about 1/2-1c of cooked rice (ideally warm to hot) into a plastic bag (the kind you put your vegetables at a super market or Ziploc bag).  Sprinkle some salt if needed.
    • Push the rice into one corner and press into a ball by holding it together tightly as if you are making a ball with hand.  Take it out and make the second one in the same bag.
    • Note 1: You can also do the same with plastic wrap (Since the material is thinner, you need to make sure the plastic doesn’t get between the rice). When you want to bring them to a picnic, or freeze them (to later microwave and eat), they are already individually wrapped and ready to go.

    Grill onigiri until both sides are crispy but not colored much yet. Brush the soy sauce/mirin reduction evenly on all sides.  (or just 1:1 soy sauce and mirin mixture or soy sauce only, if you are in a rush).

    Put the rice balls back on the grill until the grill marks are on both sides and the sauce gets crispy.

    We don’t  add anything inside of yaki-onigiri, but if you are just making onigiri, you can do the following to make it fun and tasty.(Photos below.)

    • If you want to add something tasty in the middle, put a rather deep hole (not all the way through, though) with your finger, place about 1/2 - 1 tbs of things you like to eat such as a piece of grilled salmon (left over kama is a good idea), pickled plum, bonito flakes mixed with soy sauce, grilled cod roe, or tuna and green onion mixed with mayo or soy sauce, etc.  and press rice back into the space to close the hole.  Ideally, the contents should be completely covered with rice.

    When you eat onigiri as it is, put a 2-inch square piece of nori on both sides (seaweed, the same kind they use for sushi) on top.  Do not use seaweed if you are making yaki-onigiri — it will burn!

When I make this, I really feel like I’m home.  The smell of soy sauce and mirin is typical in Japanese kitchen, and makes me really hungry.

Make some of these next time, and see how popular this will be with your own eyes!  I’m  looking forward to your report in the comment section.

Technorati Tags: Japanese,rice ball,onigiri,musubi,seaweed,grill,soy sauce,mirin,reduction

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 kissmyspatula September 5, 2022 at 12:30 pm

i’ve always wanted to try these - thank you! this looks amazing!

2 mari September 5, 2022 at 9:18 pm

Thank you for the comment! Yes.. they are great. You can even make it in toaster oven or in a pinch, in a skillet. Let me know how you liked it!

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