Onigiri – the Japanese sandwich

I heard about onigiri quite a lot over the past few years but never considered trying it until I did and immediately saw its great potential. I love sushi, but it is not easy to make and quite tedious. If you can get over the rice preparation, all you need for onigiri is to form a ball with your hands, and it is ready. No raw fish is involved; you just need a can of tuna or some leftovers. Of course, onigiri can be much more complicated than this, with traditional Japanese fillings inside. But all I am aiming for is to have this delicious gluten-free cold sandwich easily reproducible on a random weeknight.

My go-to filling is canned tuna! Chicken is great too, but the options are infinite from my perspective.

Cooking time: 16 min for rice
Preparation time: 15-20 min
Difficulty: easy


for the rice – I would say according to the instructions on your package, but here is how I do mine:

  • 1 cup of rice very well washed, in 5-6 water
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of vinegar
  • 1 tsps of soy sauce
  • a pinch more of salt
  • MSG (optional)

Tuna filling:

  • 1 can of tuna in water
  • 2 tbsp of mayo
  • 1 tsp of sriracha or any other spicy sauce (optional)
  • 2 chopped scallions or chives
  • ground black pepper
  • edemame beans (options)

Chicken filling:

  • shredded chicken leftovers
  • 2-3 tbsp of kimchi
  • 1 tbsp of mayo
  • ground black pepper


  • nori
  • black sesame seeds (optional)


  1. Cook the rice according to the instructions on your package. It is best with a rice cooker, but if you do not have one, it is doable in a pan too. The tricks are: have the rice well washed, use a 1.5:1 ratio of water to rice, after the boiling time is over don’t open the lid for 10 min at least, place a towel below the lid after 10 min for at least 15 min to absorb remaining moisture, season the rice only after it has cooled slightly.
  2. While your rice is cooling, prepare your preferred filling: in the pictures below I have my quick tuna filling and my kimchi-chicken filling with leftovers from chicken that I buy roasted:
  3. Tricks for assembling the onigiri: do it while the rice is still warm and have your hands slightly wet. Here is how I do it in pictures:
  4. Last step is to let it rest in the fridge to combine well. When it is ready to serve, cut a thin slice of nori and enjoy with it by itself or with extra soy sauce and wasabi.