exquisite side: miso yaki onigiri

miso yaki onigiri with asatsuki

miso yaki onigiri flavored with asatsuki
sprinkled with furikake of blended seaweeds & sesame seeds

miso yaki onigiri stuffed with tuna

miso yaki onigiri stuffed with wasabi tuna
sprinkled with furikake of red pepper flake, sesame seed,
shaved bonito, nori, powdered plum

I substituted this popular portable Japanese snack dating back over a thousand years for a rice side-dish at a recent dinner party. The vegan style is flavored with asatsuki, spicy garlicky Japanese chive. The other style is the stuffed with tuna mixed with wasabi mayonnaise. These onigiri, Japanese rice balls, have been crisped on the outside, dressed with caramelized red miso paste, and dusted with flavorful furikake, a dry mixed-flavor condiment. The interior rice remains soft, warm and almost creamy while the exterior has a delightful contrasting savory crust. Two per guest is the perfect portion size, serve either one of each style per person, or two of the mixed-rice asatsuki for vegetarian guests.

miso yaki onigiri recipe

japanese rice and asatsuki

Premium short-grain white rice is cooked to perfection, then while still hot, it is made into onigiri. For the mixed-rice vegan version add finely chopped asatsuki.

onigiri molds

I use the non-traditional method to make these triangular onigiri by pressing the rice into a plastic mold. Traditionally the rice is shaped by hand. The triangle is the most common, but spherical, cylindrical, cube, even animal shapes are popular too.

tuna wasabi mayonnaise

Mix wasabi powder with mayonnaise then using a fork, blend it with canned tuna. I like Gourmet Coastal Albacore Tuna from Bristol Farms. It uses sashimi grade troll caught albacore that is bled and blast frozen at sea immediately upon catch. The loins are filleted and packed directly into the can and cooked once in its own juices. It’s dolphin and turtle safe too.

onigiri mold filling

I dab a tiny bit of peanut oil on the inside of the mold to keep the rice from sticking. And since the rice truly is sticky – wetting one’s hands before handling it is also helpful. Fill the mold with rice, taking care not to over-fill. Use the top to press down on the rice then un-mold the rice into the hot pan.

tuna stuffed onigiri

For the stuffed version, fill the mold halfway with rice. Make a slight indentation in the center of the rice using your thumb. Place about a 2 teaspoon portion of tuna in the middle and cover with more rice. Use the lid to compact the rice into its perfect triangular shape.

yaki onigiri

Yaki onigiri is typically cooked over a flame on a wire grate. If that method is not available, cooking it in a non-stick pan with a small amount of peanut oil works very well too. Heat the pan over medium heat, add the oil, then onigiri. Cook each side until the rice gets a bit crispy.

yaki onigiri soy sauce

Brush each side with soy sauce and continue to cook until both sides get a nice crust.

miso yaki onigiri

Blend 2 T. akamiso (red miso) with 3 T. water and 1 t. super-fine sugar to form a paste. Spoon the miso paste on one side of the onigiri. Place the oven-proof pan under the broiler and cook until the paste is bubbling and starts to caramelize. This sweet salty crust with rich umami flavors adds another dimension to the onigiri.

onigiri furikake

Sprinkle the warm onigiri with furikake. The chive version gets a seaweed-centric vegetarian sprinkling. The tuna’s furikake includes spicy red pepper and dried bonito flakes which accent the filling.

tuna onigiri

The rice is compacted just enough to make it stick together. There is still room between the grains so the onigiri is not too heavy or dense.

tuna filled onigiri

The wasabi tuna made a terrific filling. Guests did not expect to taste creamy tuna inside the rice, let alone the kick that came from the wasabi.

fancy onigiri
Amazing how a simple chive strand can take a common convenience-store snack and transform it into a fancy side dish…Onigiri, it’s not just for snacking!

41 thoughts on “exquisite side: miso yaki onigiri”

  1. Those molds are just too cute! And I like how you have turned a traditional Japanese dish into up to date, haute cuisine-worthy and sort of fusion food. Caramelized miso paste is just so intriguing!

    Thank you for the inspiration,


  2. This is what I love about blogging, since this is the first time I have come across this dish. As always happens I will probably now see it everywhere.

  3. I don’t know everything you used – there I confessed it. I am ignorant of so much. But I love what I see – using the molds is inspired and the presentation make it almost too pretty to eat (but I’d eat it).

  4. Hi Lori,
    What a wonderful recipe…love that tuna. Your blog caught my eye with the copper river salmon post from June. I noticed the trees lining Dodson Ave. Right then, I thought, could this be another blogger from San Pedro? I was born and raised there but now live in Northern Nevada. It’s a pleasure to read about your stories. Thanks for sharing!

  5. These are absolutely stunning. I am coveting those tuna ones right now, and am feeling a bit lazy so I’m wishing someone (you?) could make me …oh, would 3 dozen be piggish of me??

  6. LL,

    Fantastic. Perfectly executed. Plating is exquisite. Then again it always is. Another winner for certain.

    I think our styles, together, would make one hell of a dinner party.


  7. Your yaki onigiri looks really delicious! I haven’t seen asatsuki since I came here and it was really nice to see those thin green onions – perfect look for sprinkling. Your onigiri made me crave some right now… Thanks for sharing!

  8. I’m so glad I stopped by today because this post is about my kind of food!! This onigiri looks soooo delicious! I can’t make this for my kids – they won’t eat the regular nigiri I make for them after trying this version.

  9. Double Wow!! I am intrigued … I believe I will make these with grilled Wild Alaska salmon instead of the tuna. I typically grill this salmon 5 times a week for myself on my stove top grill in my motorhome. this would be a wonderful side and I could probably grill next to the salmon. I don’t have a triangle, yet I have a rectangle….so that will work. don’t do miso – so I am going to use ume plum paste instead. may wrap nori seaweed around the sides and tie on with a chive stem. Will be in Hawaii for two weeks at end of month…will also make with local seared ahi. Thank you so much for the template of so many wonderful menu ideas and gorgeous food for the eyes. so many ideas….I could also smoke these with a Smoking gun after grilling and just before serving…maybe on a bed of micro greens. maybe a bit of home made greek yogurt with wasabi in it for a dipping opportunity. possibilities are endless. You have certainly sparked my imagination. Blessings, Anne

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