My Favorite Sandwich – Onigiri

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I can’t tell you how excited I am to be sharing my favorite sandwich recipe with you today. I came across these “on the go snacks” called onigiri in Japan last year when we climbed Mt Fuji. Our guide and translator, Luke, bought a few of these triangle shaped rice filled sandwiches at the 7 Eleven before our climb (yes they have 7 Eleven in Japan!). He stuffed about 5 of them into his bag to eat at various times during the hike. I was so curious to know what these little triangles of nori contained, so I had him translate the 10 different versions on the shelf. While some of them were certainly appetizing and delicious, like umeboshi (pickled plum), some were not and down right scary! Chopped up hot dogs? I guess it was 7 Eleven after all…

Sushi Sandwiches

I’ve taken the mystery out of these little creations. If filled with the right contents, they are so nutritious (yeah for sea vegetables and brown rice!) and are perfect to take to work or pack in your children’s lunch box. I think kids would love these, especially if they already love sushi.

Onigiri has become a staple in my house and I have a feeling they might become a staple in yours too. I really hope these go mainstream here in the US. It’s about time we had a quick sandwich that wasn’t filled with processed meat. What if Subway started carrying these? Could you even imagine?

To make these little beauties it doesn’t take much skill, but does require a triangle mold. I used a kit available online here …it comes with a triangle mold, detailed instructions and special nori wrappers that are made so the rice doesn’t touch the nori until you unwrap it. It’s brilliant how the wrappers keep the nori from getting soggy and also keeps them fresh.

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When you run out of wrappers (because you’ll want to make these every week like me!) you can get more nori refills online here.

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The type of rice you use is so important – you must choose a short grain japanese rice that will hold together nicely. I like Tru Roots Haiga Rice because it has the texture and taste of japanese white rice but is actually whole grain…it cooks in 15 mins! Amazing, right?

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I can’t wait to hear back from everyone who tries the recipe!

3.5 from 4 reviews
Food Babe’s Sushi Triangles (Onigiri)
Prep time
Total time
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup Haiga or Japanese short grain brown rice uncooked
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp japanese cooking wine or mirin
  • 1 tbsp coconut palm sugar or evaporated cane juice
  • 2 tbsp black toasted sesame seeds
  • Onigiri wrappers (+ mold for forming triangles)
  • Filling Option 1:
  • ½ cup cooked red kidney beans
  • 2 carrots diced small
  • ½ red pepper diced small
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 large pickle diced small
  • Filling Option 2:
  • 1 sweet potato cooked and diced with skin removed
  • 3 scallions diced
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • Filling Option 3:
  • 1 cucumber diced
  • 1 avocado diced
  • hot sauce to taste or garlic mayo
  • Filling Option 4:
  • 1 cup cole slaw
  • Filling Option 5:
  • 1 cup kimchi
  • Filling Option 6:
  • ⅓ cup fig jam
  • ½ cup goat cheese
  • 1 cup diced arugula
  1. Rinse rice with filtered water, and cook to package instructions – note: Haiga rice only takes 15 mins to cook
  2. While rice is cooking, combine vinegar, mirin, sugar
  3. Stir vinegar mixture in cooked rice
  4. Add sesame seeds and fluff
  5. Once rice has cooled, place ¼ cup rice in mold on top of seaweed wrap, press, add fillings of your choice, and then another ¼ cup rice and press again tightly making a compact triangle
  6. Wrap according to Onigri wrap directions, following the numbers and seal with two stickers
***Please buy all organic ingredients if possible*** Lasts up to 3 days in fridge


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Thank you Luke for taking us up the mountain and for inspiring me to make onigiri back home….I can’t wait to do the “udon noddle” yoga pose with you on top of Mt. Fuji again one day :)


Food Babe

P.S. If you know friends or family who could use a delicious and nutritious pre-packaged lunch to take to school or work, please share this post with them.

Yoga Udon Noddle Pose with Luke

P.S. If you’ve got other good combination ideas – please share with me and others!

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65 Responses to “Sushi Secrets”

  1. Rachel

    This is excellent Vani. Can’t wait to try out my new sushi tips. What about the ginger? Its almost my favorite part but I don’t know if its real at some places. the miso soup worth getting at the restaurants or is it packed with sodium?

    • Food Babe (to Rachel)

      Great questions! Wow – More sushi secrets to unveil! The ginger is pickled so it naturally turns that pinkish color, so don’t be scared of added dyes. However, if the sushi restaurant doesn’t make it in house and supplies it from a big food manufacturer, watch out. There is probably some preservatives and potentially fake sugars like aspartame.

      As far as the miso soup – I’d be careful. If you are concerned about the sodium for any reason, I’d suggest starting with the salad I mention in my post to be safe. I think it would be ok to have miso soup, if you didn’t have any additional sodium for the rest of your meal, but I find that to be an unlikely scenario for most people. Also always ask if it contains MSG before consuming!

      • Rubena (to Food Babe)

        Truely awesome have researched well and explained everything that needs to be known. Vani, you should have been a journalist!!!


      • Rachel (to Food Babe)

        Whew. I was scared I’d have to give up the ginger. I eat it straight with my chopsticks! I’ve gotta tell you… I’ve been craving sushi ever since I read this article.

      • Laura (to Food Babe)

        all of the pickled ginger I’ve ever seen includes food dyes :(

      • Clint (to Food Babe)

        I have to interject here….

        The ginger is that color because they pickle it with the leaves (sometimes Shiso leaves) that impart a pinkish color…. other ginger is a light brown color, and that is a more natural coloring for ginger.

      • Ross (to Food Babe)

        Actually sushi ginger is dyed but naturally with adding a purple shiso leaf to the vinegar. Non dyed ginger is flesh colored.

  2. Rubena

    Sharing with all my friends here!

    • Food Babe (to Rubena)

      Thanks Rubena! What’s your favorite sushi spot in Hot-lanta?

  3. mary from the dowd

    girl! you are way too cute…love your well-documented eating tour of nyc! so many healthy, natural, interesting places and dishes. sounds like you lived it up. :-)

    • Food Babe (to mary from the dowd)

      Thanks Mary! I have such a great time every time I go to NYC. I get so many ideas that we need to implement here in the south! I am hoping we get more options for raw and vegan restaurants.

      • Inga (to Food Babe)

        Have you tried raw food restaurant “Pure Food & Wine” in NYC. Amazing

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  5. Charlie Cho

    Thank you for all of this wonderful information! Especially the Onigiri sandwiches!

  6. Katie

    So..I just recently learned of your blog and am loving it! It is right up my alley with the way I live my life and what I believe in regarding health in mind, body and soul and how we can achieve balance and happiness by making good decisions about what we do to and put in our bodies. I consider myself “vegish” because I eat a lot of raw and vegan food, but also eat fish. After reading your blog on “Sushi Secrets”, I asked my favorite fish market (Clean Catch off Selwyn) how they prepare their seaweed salad. And guess their response…First, they don’t make it themselves–it comes from a distributor in Hawaii (which I was okay with) until I asked more specifically if they could tell me the ingredients that the distributor uses, particularly asking about Yellow 5 and Blue 1 explaining your research found on these chemicals in food. Quite concerned, they openly showed me the ingredient list they had on hand and sure enough the last 2 listed were Yellow 5 and Blue 1! As did I from your blog, they admittedly said they learned something new and immediately vowed to make changes to their seaweed salad! So my very Vani influenced moment at the fish market may have possibly lead to a good change! Especially important for a market that is so committed and prides themselves on the freshest fish in Charlotte! I was so glad for the positive reaction and thanks to your research and inspirational blog, we all may get to enjoy some “real” seaweed salad!

    • Food Babe (to Katie)

      Just posted this on my Facebook Page – thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. I really hope Clean Catch “cleans” up the seaweed. I haven’t seen seaweed available that doesn’t have crappy ingredients in quite sometime… wonder where they will source it from.

      Good Luck Katie!

  7. Jenn

    What sushi dishes do you recommend for someone squeamish to the raw fish?

    • Food Babe (to Jenn)

      Honestly – I don’t eat much raw fish these days. There is a lot of quality and safety issues I am concerned about. Try the veggie rolls – I just love them…but if you really wanted to try the fish – try a something with avocado and cucumber. Good Luck!

      • Inga (to Food Babe)

        I am surprised that in your article you didn’t mentioned about high mercury level in tuna fish.

  8. Manali

    So glad I found your blog! Fabulous and informative posts – I’m sharing with everyone! I especially love the “Food Babe Investigates” posts, they are awesome and we really appreciate your hard work that goes into all the research! Off to find wild salmon now in Boston :)

  9. Molly McGuire

    I find your website interesting, however you need to improve your writing skills and proofread your work. Don’t depend on spellcheck, and practice using better grammar to make your writing appear more professional, as well as more readable. At present, it is quite amateurish.

    • Melissa (to Molly McGuire)

      @Molly – I am almost positive I remember hearing her say that English isn’t her first language. She communicates an incredible wealth of wisdom and very critical information; the last thing I am going to do is pick on grammar (and I have been known to play the roll of “Grammar Police” in my various Communications/Creative Director positions).

    • Sabina (to Molly McGuire)

      Wow Molly, way to totally miss the point lol. This is a blog, not a publication.

    • Kristin (to Molly McGuire)

      Isn’t it funny that Pretentious Molly’s first sentence is riddled with entirely incorrect punctuation? Google the use of “however”. You’re missing a semicolon and a comma.

      …which is exactly why we all need to get off our respective high horses. No one is an absolute expert; no one is perfect.

  10. Harpreet Prajapati

    I love Sushi.. however in US its really difficult to find a place where you get good REAL sushi.. I miss my HongKong days. Also, I am pregnant right now and advised against eating Sushi.. eagerly waiting for the curfew to end :-P

    • Kristin (to Harpreet Prajapati)

      Make sure you also avoid anything that contains high fructose corn syrup (if you don’t already). HFCS isn’t FDA-regulated, and independent tests have revealed dangerously large amounts of mercury in it, far more than the amount found in a few servings of, say, salmon. Mercury has been linked to fetal damage, including retardation and missing limbs. Isn’t it funny, though, that most doctors villianize fish (which can be very helpful during pregnancy, in moderation), but never tell women to avoid the typical American diet that is inundated with HFCS?

    • Katherine (to Harpreet Prajapati)

      I am also pregnant but I have eaten a lot of sushi with this pregnancy and had it when pregnant with my daughter as well. I researched and avoided tuna due to the mercury, but felt the benefits of the omegas outweighed the small risks of eating raw fish. I stick to places I know and trust. I try to eat wild salmon, but after reading this I will be far more vigilant! I also didn’t know HFCS had mercury, although I try to avoid it anyway.

      Thanks for a great article, I learned some new things to watch out for!

      • Kristin (to Katherine)

        A HFCS study found that 48% of the drums tested had Hg levels significantly higher than what is considered to be “non-detrimental” by the FDA (p<.01). Essentially theres a 50-50 chance of consuming pathologically high levels of Hg when eating products with HFCS. I'd say you have the right idea. Wild, organic, non-GMO fish over HFCS-filled bread all the way! (Note: I mentioned GMO fish, because scientists in Japan have developed a transgenic line of salmon that grow larger in a shorter amount of time. It hasn't been approved for sale yet, but with the political power of various food companies, it may only be a matter of time.)

  11. Kelly Robinson

    Thank you for writing this. I NEVER thought about sushi because I just assumed it was “healthy”. I am learning so much from your site. What about Thai food?

  12. Christina Rousseau-Mellen

    My local supermarket has a delish sushi stand in their food court. My 7-year-old daughter and I always sit down and eat some edamame and seaweed salad (in addition to the rolls) before shopping. I pride myself on raising her on the best foods and educating her on how to make healthy choices for herself. I will now be reconsidering our selection. But I have to admit, it is so discouraging and even overwhelming that even the best health foods have gone to ….

    On a lighter note, I just got introduced to your blog a few days ago through Food, Inc.’s Facebook post and have been obessed ever since! You really are an inspiration! :) Thank you

  13. revo

    What about the mercury content of the fish, especially the tuna?

    Also do not eat white tuna it is also called escolar and will give you the runs…….

    Salmon is not a traditional sushi fish…. the typically use salt water fish versus freshwater due to the chance of worms…….

    • Deb (to revo)

      Curious about your comment about Tuna not being a traditional sushi?!? In Fish markets in Japan, the Blue Fin tuna is one of the most prized and most expensive fish (up to and over a million dollars) and is currently close to being completely wiped out as a species (although the Japanese are experimenting with trying to “farm raise” these).

      They also eat dolphin and whale sushi. The Hump in Los Angeles (now closed due to undercover sting) served Sei (endangered whale).

  14. Louann chapman

    Excellent info, thanks so much!

  15. Heidi

    Love, love, love your posts, thank you SO much!

  16. Cindy

    Love Nikko.

    I thought brown rice has higher levels of arsenic?

  17. Sandra Pena-Vielma

    I am wondering what your thoughts are about Whole Foods Farmed Salmon? I always purchase our salmon from there. Is it safe?

    • Kristin (to Sandra Pena-Vielma)

      I’m not an aquaculture expert, but based on some (minimal) research my understanding is that your best bet is wild Alaskan salmon. Aside from various ecological issues, farm raised fish tends to be less “clean”. Like chickens confined to crowded cages, the fish are treated with antibiotics to prevent the spread of disease, and therefore the decrease of the “farmer’s” profit margin. There is some evidence that suggests that any sort of cage-raised animal can be 30% or more less nutritious than its free range or wild counterpart. A really nice option is to get Alaskan salmon directly from the source. If you know any anglers, you can go to Alaska and rent a boat to take you out fishing. My dad does this at least once a year, and brings back about 100lbs of wild Alaskan salmon and halibut each time. It’s the freshest and most delicious fish I’ve ever eaten.

      • Assistant to Food Babe (Krista) (to Kristin)

        Kristin – you are so lucky! That sounds amazing… My husband brings home Elk from his trips which is great too but I would rather have salmon and halibut!
        Sandra & Kristin – wild is always a better choice because it contains more nutrients and like Kristin said the conditions in salmon farms are usually poor. Whole Foods has very strict standards on their sources so their farmed comes from clean farms. Still, I always choose wild if possible – I think it tastes so much better anyway. Hope that helps!

  18. Erica Schwab

    i love the nigiri from whole foods made with brown rice and salmon. i love that they will make it fresh for me so i know it’s fresh

  19. Daniel Lee

    I used to LOVE sushi. I mean, once I tried 10 different sushi restaurants in one week to find out the best sushi. However, I don’t eat sushi any more. According to a Japanese nuclear scientist, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was much more serious than what is reported. It is 1000 times stronger than Hiroshima Nuclear bomb in the second world war, and even 100 times worse than the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster. Japanese government is trying to cover it up and trying to make it illegal to measure and report radioactivity in Tokyo area.

    So the fishes caught near Japan are practically all contaminated. That is why I stopped eating fish caught in Pacific Ocean especially fish from Japan. There are many reports that there are unusually large cabbages and eggplants are grown and an ear-less bunny was born near Tokyo.

    So be careful with Japanese food.

  20. mmeow


  21. howdy

    hey great article… just wanted to let you know mayo is not a dairy… while it is not vegan, the only ingredients in mayo are egg yolk, oil, and, vinegar (also lemon juice and salt to taste). Just thought I’d let ya know!!!

  22. CBrom

    One correction –
    Sushi is not as special as one would think. Although sashimi is considered a delicacy and special meal, sushi was Japanese’s original fast food. Many Japanese enjoy sushi being served on a conveyor belt and will handle it with their hands. It is a very informal experience and allows the Japanese “salary man [and woman]” a quick bite during a lunch break. :)

  23. Alex

    Hey there,

    I love the large majority of what you put out there. You’re great at raising awareness on little known but pervasive nutritional topics and you’re truly making a difference. The above article is excellent as well but, one point you make early on was a bit inaccurate…

    You mention that “The typical Japanese diet contains little to no land animal products.” – this is untrue. In most parts of Japan the diet is quite varied by region – things like yakitori and ramen are very meat focused and much of the food you’ll find at izakayas in Japan includes meat. Dairy, however, is not common so you’re right on that front.

    Another thing to consider, however, is that food quality standards are so high in Japan that it’s not uncommon to see something like chicken skewers served so lightly seared it’s almost raw and for people to be totally alright with that.(It’s very rare someone becomes ill) I would imagine these food quality standards extend to animal feed, restriction on the use of hormones, etc… as well – making consumption of animal products/meats that much safer.

    Regardless, this was an informative article for those of us who love sushi – me included – but it’s definitely not the staple diet of most Japanese.

    Thanks for really knockin’ out of the park with post after post… still love ya – keep ‘em comin’ ;)


  24. ANdrea Zizzo

    Is that true that we should avoid all kinds of atlantic salmons, even wild?

  25. Marysya

    Food Babe, Thanks for the article. Very hard to digest the truth because I love sushi (like the americanized one). I was wondering, what about liquid aminos as a substitute for soy sauce? Thanks!

  26. Sarah

    Thanks so much for this! Would you consider doing a post on Vietnamese Pho in the future?


  27. Sharon Ann Dror

    Thanks for this wake-up call on sushi as we eat it all the time. I started having the chef make special handrolls with assorted fish 3 years ago when I found out I was allergic to wheat, corn and soy. No more soy sauce and ginger. Its been great. I do have a question – you brought up about tobiko (masago) – what about salmon roe? Is it a natural color or is it also dye? What about eel? Thanks again for an informative article…

  28. Amran

    Good comments. But unfortunately that sushi restaurant in the picture looks extremely expensive, which isn’t practical for a lot of sushi eaters.

    But keep up the good work.

  29. Christine McClain

    I was just noticing (while eating sushi from my local grocery store) that the 2nd ingredient in the Tobiko is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Another surprise (although I don’t eat the stuff) is that there is Aspartame in the Picked Ginger. I immediately remembered your post on Sushi and re-read it. I love how much you care for others and want us all to be educated in the ingredients in our food. It is my passion as well. Needless to say, this sushi I have before me (with the exception of the Nigiri) is going to waste.

  30. Amy

    Where do I get good seaweed salad then? I eat that even if I don’t eat sushi. Ohhh…. everything I love is bad for me :'(

  31. juanita

    “The typical “American” Japanese restaurant is destroying the basic Japanese ancient health tenants… ”

    tenant – a person who rents a space to live or work in

    tenet – main principles of a religion or philosophy

    informative post, but always proofread.

  32. ricky s

    we are still importing food and fish from japan by hillory clintons approval,rubber and bromine in our bread is one thing but RADIATION is unacceptable!! utube video just came out by a profesional about this babe please watch this video and warn the world about this cotastrophy.its in the water on the west coast and its been blowing this way in the air for a couple of years now.your onna roll now please dont stop!! link to video

  33. ilda Loarca

    is RA sushi good?

  34. Sylvie

    My son is sensitive to Yellow #5 food coloring. We recently had sushi and he had a one of his typical Yellow #5 reactions. He ate only Cucumber Maki rolls. I stumbled upon your blog because I searched for food coloring in seaweed. Everything I’ve found indicates that seaweed SALAD often contains food coloring. Do you have any idea if just the actual seaweed used to make the Maki might also contain food coloring? I’m trying to figure out where his reaction came from. Thanks for any info you can provide.

  35. rebecca

    I had the same question as Sylvie!

  36. Pascual Alamillo

    I Miss Food Babe, I’m a sushi lover and wanted to know if you can recommend me a healthy Sushi in or near Eagle Rock, Ca.?

  37. Amrik

    Hey Food Babe, wow so many secrets concerning sushi. this article blew my mind. I had to have a hazmat team clean it up.This was very informational. although i really hate sushi, i still found this to be interesting. The part about the salmon really peaked my interest. I love salmon. I had some previous knowledge about farm fed being bad, but i didn’t know it in detail. but i am still concerned about the mercury content in the natural salmon. so i guess companies should just make healthier (white/clear) salmon.

    Amrik, the Brave

  38. Evanna

    Try Bragg’s liquid amino as an alternative to soy sauce. Zero sodium, tastes the same (if not better!), and it has natural amino acids -which are actually GOOD for you!

    • Frasier Linde (to Evanna)

      Evanna, Bragg’s product has a similar amount of sodium to reduced-sodium soy sauce (far from zero), and amino acids are found naturally in almost all foods, including soy sauce.

  39. Frasier Linde

    Sesame oil is not a safe alternative for deep-frying, as it is still high in omega-6 and oxidizes quickly with high heat.

  40. vivek

    I just got some sushi from harris teeter for lunch and after eating it I saw the ingredients FD&C Yellow 5 in the wasabi! I was like WTH. So I googled “Foodbabe wasabi” and came upon this article :). I love the HT sushi, but I’m gonna have to ask them if they have the real deal wasabi.
    Thanks for all your work and research.
    Also, I would love to know where in Charlotte you get your no rice sushi that you’ve shown in your picture. Looks YUMMM!!


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