Vegan Yaki Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls 焼きおにぎり)

by Victoria
Published: Last Updated on 2320 views

The difference between Yaki Onigiri Rice Balls and Sushi

I am a big sushi fan, I love different kinds of vegan sushi with vegetables! These Japanese Rice Balls are slightly bigger in size than sushi and very easy to make! The fun part is that they can be toasted on a pan, which gives them special toasty flavor and unforgettable crispness! You can make these Japanese Rice Balls just with rice, but also you can stuff inside any filling of your choice! I prefer tofu and seasonable vegetables. As it is springtime now, asparagus, mushrooms, and avocado are what I used along with tofu for an extra protein! To make them healthy, I made these Yaki Onigiri not just out of white rice, but also black sticky rice, which has worked great in this recipe and I will leave all the instructions below!

Sushi Rice Yaki Onigiri

Traditionally Japanese rice balls made out of white sushi rice. This type of rice is polished. That means that the bran and the germ, which have a lot of healthy nutrients are removed. Because of that process there is a lot of starch and flour left on it. It is essential to rinse white rice as many times as needed until the water comes out transparent. The advantage of using this rice is that we can cook it fairly quickly and has an amazing flavor. Especially I enjoy how these rice balls made out of the sushi rice become so crispy after toasting them on a pan! The typical ratio of sushi rice to water is 1:1 for cooking on the stove or in a rice cooker. When the rice is ready, it is better to place it in a wooden or a glass bowl. Then add rice or apple cider vinegar and sesame seeds, combine everything and let it cool at least to some degree, so that you can easily make these rice balls without burning your hands.

Black Sticky Rice Yaki Onigiri

Black glutenous (sticky) rice is whole grain rice. That means that the bran and the germ in the grain are preserved, therefore this rice has a lot of nutrients, keeps us full longer, and keeps the energy levels up! I like black sticky rice because it is universal for sweet or sour recipes. It takes a little bit longer to cook this rice, that is why I recommend starting by cooking the black rice first and then proceed with the further recipe steps. That way both types of rice will be ready at the same time and you can start making the actual rice balls. I making these Japanese rice balls with this black rice to balance out the nutrients level, add some contrast to the dish. The flavor of this rice is a little bit different from the white one, it is nuttier and sweeter.


Japanese rice balls traditionally have a slightly triangular shape. To make them look triangular, make a simple ball with or without a filling. Then place the ball on a stretched hand and cover with your second hand slightly arched and press, turn them a press again. However, the round shape is perfectly fine too, and the taste is what matters most!

How to serve these Yaki Onigiri Japanese Rice Balls?

There are two main ways you can serve them: you can make them out of the rice with or without a filling and wrap around some nori (like sushi). That way you typically eat them cold as a snack or a meal with some tamari or soy sauce. The second way, is not to wrap around any nori, but slightly brush the sides of the rice balls with some tamari sauce and toast them on a pan with or without oil. Toast them from 2-3 sides until they become golden and crispy. In that case, it is better to eat them hot right away! prefer this method.

I like sprinkling freshly toasted Yaki Onigiri with some sesame seeds and dulce flakes for an extra crunch and sea salt flavor.

I served these Japanese rice balls on this beautiful Shibukusa porcelain plate, which is unique and incredibly beautiful. It was hand made in Hida-Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Shibukusa yaki porcelain originated in the late 19th century and uses local pottery stones.  If you are wondering, where to get this Beautiful hand-made Japanese plate, I recommend checking out SpringBeautiful. This online shop belongs to a friend of mine, who travels and gets the plates herself (high quality and authenticity guaranteed).

Vegan Yaki Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)

Traditionally Japanese stuffed rice balls.
5 from 1 vote
Course Main Course
Cuisine Japanese


  • 300 g White Sushi Rice
  • 150 g Black Glutinous Rice
  • 3 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
  • Oil for frying
  • 4 tbsp Sesame seeds
  • 4 tbsp Tamari sauce
  • 1 tbsp Miso paste
  • 1-2 Garlic cloves
  • min. 2 Green Asparagus
  • min. 3 Firm tofu block
  • 2-3 or Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 1/2 Avocado


Cook Black Glutinous Rice

  • Rinse the rice under cold water.
  • Add 150 g. rice to a pot or a rice cooker and add 275 g. of water and cook for 30-35 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is soft.

Cook Sushi Rice

  • Rinse the rice under cold water well, until the water comes out transparent to remove the access starch and flour from the polishing process
  • Add 300 g. of the well-rinsed rice to a pot or a rice cooker with 400 ml. of water or to make it easy – just see that the water level is 1 cm. above the rice level. Or follow the instructions on the sushi rice package.
  • Cook the rice until all the water is absorbed and it is soft.

Prepare the Fillings

  • Preheat the oven for 180 C(356F) with circulating air or 200C (292F) without
  • In a small bowl mix pressed or minced garlic with tamari and miso paste; This is the marinade for vegetables and tofu
  • Trim the asparagus ends about 2 cm., chop the mushrooms into quarters or small pieces, and cut tofu into small cubes
  • Lay the parchment paper into the baking tray and brush the asparagus generously with the marinade
  • Place mushrooms and tofu into the rest of the marinade and mix gently to coat well and let them absorb the marinade
  • Roast the vegetables and tofu in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

Prepare the Rice for the Balls

  • Once your rice is ready transfer it to the wooden or glass bowl to let it cool, add 1 tbsp. of apple cider or rice vinegar, 1 tbsp. of a sesame seed, 1/2 tsp. of salt to the black rice
  • Do the same with the white rice, but add 2 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp. of sesame seeds, and 1 tsp. of salt to the white rice and mix well.

Make the Rice Balls

  • Prepare a bowl with water to keep hands wet while dealing with rice
  • Take around 2 tbsp. of rice into a palm of your hand and form a firm ball
  • To stuff, the filling inside the ball, create a hole with your finger, stuff the small piece of mushroom, asparagus, avocado or tofu inside and close the ball firmly with a little more rice
  • To create classic Japanese triangular shapes – place the rice onto one palm of your hand straightened up, while the second one is banned in an arch and form the balls in a triangular shape (see photos).

Toast The Rice Balls On a Pan

  • Once all the rice balls are ready, preheat a pan on medium-high heat, brush a little bit of oil of choice on the pan
  • Brush the sides of the rice balls with some tamari or soy sauce and toast them until the sides are crispy! (around 3 minutes on each side). It is not necessary to toast them on all the sides, 2-3 sides would be enough for optimal crispiness.
  • Eat them hot and enjoy it!
Keyword dinner, gluten-free, quick lunch, snacks, sugar-free, vegan

If you are interested in the other vegan, healthy, and easy vegan gluten-free Asian recipes, check out this Black Sticky Rice Vegan Sushi Rolls recipe. 

Please share, like, and leave your comments down below! I would be happy to hear your feedback and how my recipe turned out for you!

Thank you,


Top Tips


I prefer simple, but flavorful fillings. That is why my go-to simple fillings for these Japanese rice balls are seasonal vegetables, roasted in the oven for 10 minutes in a tamari-miso-garlic marinade. I used green asparagus, champignons, avocado (raw), and tofu. This marinade gives it a truly Japanese vibe and brings up the flavor to the next level!


These yaki onigiri are quite small. To help them be able to hold their shape together it is better to make the fillings pretty small, around 1×1 cm each piece. To be able to enjoy more vegetables with your meal, I recommend roasting more vegetables and just serve them on the side, as I did with the green asparagus on the side of the plate.

More Fillings

Other fillings, which would go well in this recipe are sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, any types of mushrooms (steamed or roasted in the oven in the same marinade) or any kind of bread spreads and bean pastes.

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1 comment

Claire 25. November 2020 - 12:54

5 stars
Nice recipe.


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