Yaki onigiri (焼きおにぎり) or Japanese grilled rice balls are an easy and popular snack or lunch in Japan. Unlike onigiri, they’re grilled, pan-fried, or roasted until the outside crust has a crispy texture while the rice inside is soft and fluffy. Yaki onigiri can be flavored with various seasonings including soy sauce, miso butter, or teriyaki sauce!
Yaki onigiri (焼きおにぎり) or Japanese grilled rice balls, are a delicious, convenient, and portable snack or lunch that’s quick and easy to make! They taste savory, smokey from the grill, and salty with lots of umami flavor from soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce.
Traditionally, Yaki Onigiri is grilled over charcoal, which lends the rice balls a hint of woodsy, smoky flavor that is truly hard to resist. To make Yaki Onigiri at home, I use a cast iron pan to grill the rice balls instead. This helps to create similar crispiness to how it would taste when cooked over the BBQ grill. But if you don’t mind setting up a charcoal grill, go ahead!
These grilled rice balls can be made with or without fillings, but it is more often prepared with plain rice. Because it’s all about simplicity, you want to start with quality Japanese short-grain rice. Forming the onigiri is not something too challenging. I’ve shared step-by-step pictures and tips on how to form the rice balls in the recipe section below, so you will master it in no time. Once your onigiri is formed and placed on the grill, brushed with the sauce and left to crisp up.
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Grilled Rice Ball
2 rice cooker cups uncooked Japanese short-grain rice (2 rice-cooker-cups (180 ml x 2 = 360 ml) yields roughly 4 serving
400 ml water
- For Cooking Yaki Ongiri
1 Tbsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt) (you do not need to use all of it)
1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, rice bran, canola, etc.)
soy sauce (I love using my homemade unagi sauce)
- Gather all the ingredients. Cook the rice with a rice cooker, a pot over the stove, an instant pot, or a donabe. Let the cooked rice cool a little bit until you can hold rice without burning your hands. Do not let the rice completely cool down.
- Lightly oil a cast-iron skillet and put it on medium heat.
- Grill onigiri until all sides are crispy and lightly browned. Rice will release itself when it forms a nice crust. Don’t flip it quickly. Just work on one side at a time and avoid turning over frequently, which may end up breaking into pieces.
- Once all nicely toasted and lightly brown, lower heat to medium-low heat. Brush all sides with soy sauce (or unagi sauce). Rotate to make sure all sides become crispy. Be careful not to burn onigiri after you brush it with the sauce.
- Rice gets hard when you refrigerate. You can individually wrap the Yaki Onigiri in plastic wrap and cover them with a thick kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. The towel will prevent the rice from getting too cold and keep the food stay cool but not cold. When you’re ready to eat, bring it back to room temperature and reheat in a microwave or frying pan.