Yaki Onigiri

Onigiri means rice ball, and yaki onigiri means grilled rice ball.  All onigiri are very tasty and are considered a comfort food by most Japanese people.  And, yaki onigiri are even more so because they have the both of the favorite and most important ingredients for the Japanese: rice and soy sauce.  Especially with a little bit of browned and crisped soy sauce, yaki onigiri are just hard not to like. That is why such a simple dish like this can be the most comforting food.  Originally it was made to use up leftover onigiri. Because leftover onigiri get hard and tasteless at the end of a day, we would grill the onigiri with soy sauce to make it tastier.  Such a clever idea not to waste a food!

Yaki onigiri is not hard to make if you take the time to make it.  To make a good one, you have to cook it slowly and apply the sauce a few times, little by little.  If you cook it too quickly, the inside of the rice ball doesn’t get warmed up. If you put too much sauce at once, the rice ball is going to fall apart.  If you cook with too strong heat after applying the sauce, it gets burned easily. So while it can easy to make when done right, some people think making a good onigiri can be difficult.  So try to pay attention to what you are doing. The good news is you can freeze it once it has cooled off. Just defrost naturally or put in a microwave for a few minutes to serve.

Yaki Onigiri


  • 4 cups cooked short grain rice (maybe medium, but long grain won’t be sticky enough)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Canola oil for grilling


  1. Make onigiri (see my blog post “Onigiri?” for details.)
  2. Grilling onigiri: Lightly oil a cast iron skillet and put it on medium low heat. Place onigiri in the skillet and cook until lightly browned on both sides. Try to cook at least 5 minutes on each side, so adjust the heat accordingly.
  3. Mix soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil in a small bowl. Brush the sauce on the onigiri and turn them over to grill the side with sauce. Try to use as little sauce as possible. If you use too much sauce, the onigiri is going to fall apart. Try to give it flavor little by little by repeating this process.
  4. As soon as the sauced side begins crisping brush the other side and turn over. Repeat the process at least three times to give a nice flavor. Since the skillet is hot already and mirin contains sugar, they will cook very quickly. As soon the sauce gets dry, you can turn them over.
  5. Serve immediately.

Variation: Sprinkle sesame seeds, Shichimi, or Sansho pepper on the grilled onigiri.


I am originally from Japan and have been living in the US for about 20 years. Over the past 20 years I have traveled to many different parts of the world, seen different cultures, and tasted all kinds of interesting food. In between I studied anthropology, art and interior design. I currently live outside Boston and I teach cooking in continuing education programs and at home. I also take on freelance interior design projects. I hope you enjoy the blog! Yoko

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *