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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!

Food Babe’s Sushi Triangles (Onigiri)
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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
Notes
***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 🙂

Sayonara!

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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144 responses to “My Favorite Sandwich – Onigiri

  1. I LOVE this concept but I am grain-free. Any suggestions for us folks who cannot have rice? Would a cauliflower “rice” substitute work? Thank you Food Babe! Much love!

    1. It would have to be something sticky to hold it all together. I’ve never tried to make cauliflower sticky rice… but it might work!

      1. I don’t eat grains either, but I’m totally going to try this. Carol, have you tried it yet? It’s gong on my to-try-this-summer list! I’ll post another comment with my results!

      2. You could make the cauliflower rice and hold it all together with egg or gelatin (if chilled). Mashed avocado or banana? Just a thought.

    2. If the ingredients are not too dry then the nori will stick to them, holding everything together. The rice is just a traditional staple, but is not necessary to make these. Sort of like putting chicken salad into a nori wrapper.

      1. Jeremy – For the kit I used, the wrappers are wrapped with plastic so the nori doesn’t touch the rice until the sandwich is unwrapped (keeping it fresh and not soggy). The rice ball/triangle has to be super sticky to stay together.

    1. I concur, this is the most fun, cool sami I have seen. It looks so fresh, yum. I want to dip it in sesame oil & rice vinegar. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I’ve been looking for alternatives to my usual lunch of various salad beasts. This is a great idea. I just ordered my kit! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Jessica – Yeah! I’m so excited for you… you are going to love making them, it’s so much fun!

  3. A good filling for onigiri is umeboshi (Japanese pickled plum) and natto (fermented soy beans). Both are very healthy for you and keep well in a lunch box.

    1. Thanks for sharing Holly! I tried umeboshi in Japan, but haven’t tried to make or find it here. Is it pretty easy to find or do I need to go to an asian speciality store?

      1. Most Asian markets carry umeboshi near the other pickled items like daikon. I never knew how healthy it was until I googled it.

      2. I’ve seen umeboshi paste at Whole Foods in their Asian section as well, but I haven’t looked through the ingredients to see if there’s anything funky in it yet. Asian/Japanse food stores are SURE to have them though. 🙂

    1. Hi Jason… They are so much fun to make! I can imagine your girls wanting to make these for you. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. These look incredible! I can’t wait to try them! How long does the seaweed paper last (when it’s not in sandwich form, just in those packages)?

    1. Yes 2 is perfect! Sometimes I’ll only have one with me + a salad, but then I find myself still wanting another because they are so darn tasty!

  5. I was spoiled as a kid! My mom put these in my lunch box since she’s Japanese. Now I just introduced them to my children and they love them! Have to get the mold… thanks so much and happy eating!

    1. yes! I bought this kit from my local Korean market yesterday (was only around $3- way cheaper than Amazon) so I can start packing these in my kids’ lunches! total inspiration here- love it!

  6. I love the idea of these but am not a fan of nori. Is there anything non-nori that would work?

    1. I wonder if you could use those thin rice wrappers (not sure what they are called but are used for spring rolls I think). These look amazing but I’m not a fan of nori either. They would look pretty in see-through wrapper if it worked though.

      1. Also my question–I can handle a bit of Nori in sushi, but not an entire “sandwich”. Thanks for rice wrapper recommendation!

  7. I am so excited to try to make this. My mother-in-law makes Spam Musubi, which I absolutely love, but need to find a healthier version – this might be it (and more filling). Thank you for posting!

    1. These remind me of spam musabi too! Used to have them when I lived in Hawaii..what a great way to eat a healthier version!

  8. What a fantastic idea! I love sushi but had never heard of these before. Thank you so much for posting. Can’t wait to try them!

    1. Nah, a lot of people have never had these before! Yes, you eat the nori wrapper.

    1. I hate to debate Wikipedia, but I lived in Japan for three years and often had onigiri made with the vinegared sushi rice.

      1. All of the ones I tried had vinegar in them. Also – without vinegar and sugar, how do you make the rice sticky? It has to be sticky for the sandwich to hold together..

      2. You can always cook it just a little longer with a bit more water. Try not to rinse the rice too much as leaving some of the starch will keep it on the stickier side.

      3. Hmm, not sure what you had in Japan but I am Japanse and I know onigiri. If it’s made with Sushi rice, then it’s not onigiri! To keep it from spoiling, you make it with a bit of salt on you palm so it’s coated with salt.

      4. I’m also Japanese and grew up with Onigiri. The authentic way of making Onigiri is using the plain white Short Grain rice, which is already sticky to start with if you cook it correctly, foam the rice into triangle or round shape, and pat some salt on to the foamed rice and wrap with Nori. You can add some Japanese pickle vegetable and such…

      5. I like to use brown rice whenever possible vs. the white rice they use in Japan. I find it hard to keep brown rice sticky without the combo of vinegar and sugar… have you had success with using brown rice in Onigiri before without this method?

  9. I am SOOOO excited about trying this!! I get so bored with the same old, same old. My husband has the bright idea that he’s going to put a little chopped ahi in his (since he’s not much of an all veggie kind of guy).

  10. A bit of a note: You state that umeboshi is plum. It’s actually pickled plum. There is a big flavor difference in flavor between ume and umeboshi. Just something that might want to be cleared up as umeboshi won’t taste like people would expect plum to taste like.

    1. Good point Phoenix! …I will update so no one gets confused. I love the pickled plum version I had in Japan!

  11. I love, love onigiri too, but didn’t know of a good place to order the cool wrappers from, thanks for the info! My husband will be thrilled to be able to pack him in his lunch now!

  12. Thank you- can’t wait to try this! My 7 year old LOVES Japanese food (especially sushi) and I think she’ll really enjoy this for lunch.

  13. I use to eat these all of the time! They sold them at my local Korean grocery store and I was obsessed – I also bought the little triangle shaper but never got around to making them at home. I love how perfectly you package yours!!

  14. I was thinking something simple like apple or pear pieces, almonds and some roasted, “unadulterated” chicken as an idea. Possibly some sweet bell peppers too.

    1. I was also thinking fruit, like strawberries. I think it would be good with the rice. Sweet and savory is all the rage these days! Or you could imitate salads you like, like Waldorf with chicken, apples, and grapes, etc.

  15. This looks amazing! First time reading about ‘food babe’ and I feel I have a new friend. I am constantly looking for new ways to eat better, especially on the go. I wonder if there is any other way to obtain this Haiga Rice? As a single gal, I just can’t commit to $50 worth of rice.

    1. Hello new friend! Yes – you can find it at Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Healthy Home Market (if you live in Charlotte)…Good Luck! I hope you find it… Also try looking on TruRoots website and see if they carry it somewhere near you!

      1. hope I can find this in the UK sounds like a great alternative to my microwave steamed ‘stir fries’ for breakfast- and faster if they can be made in advance

  16. My husband found your page and shared this article with me. I’m very excited to get the kit and try making these for our trips. You mentioned that your friend put them in his pack to eat at various times on your journey.
    My question is how long do these usually fair without being refrigerated?

  17. I read that all of the seaweed beds used for food were also contaminated with radiation from Japan.

    1. Not with the specific kit and the cute wrappers I know of. You could use brown rice paper? But I really think it wouldn’t be the same. Also – as mentioned above, you can just form the rice and eat that way without the wrap, but it would be as portable. Good Luck Krystal!

  18. I went to the site to order the kit and it isn’t available anymore. Is there another place to order it?

    1. I found mine at one of the local Korean markets were I live for a fraction of the cost it’s being sold for on Amazon. If you have any local markets like that you could check there- I went in with a picture on my iphone : )

  19. I have the wrappers but not the right mold. Would you PLEASE give me the dimensions of the mold so that I can fashion my own. I can’t wait to try these!

  20. My husband and I made these! So fun and yummy. We made the onigiri with filling option #1. We only had bread and butter pickles, which gave it a sweet flavor. I am looking forward to making these with dill pickles though. We even wrapped it wrong and it still held together ( for the most part ;)) Love your site and recipes.

    1. Awesome! Thank you so much for coming back to share. I can’t wait to try a Kimchi filling again this week!

  21. I’d LOVE to make these, but amazon isn’t carrying this product anymore. There’s a similar item, but it’s just the nori wrappers, not the mold. Do you have any other suggestions about where to purchase this? Or could you provide the dimensions of your rice mold? Thanks!

  22. Thank you so much!!! We lived in Japan for four years, and I have missed these so much! I had no idea I could find these tools here in the states to make them, right down my street in fact! We made them today and it brought back so many memories. I will be making these now all the time.

    Your efforts were a great gift to me, thanks!

  23. I was super excited to try these. I bought all the wrappers and rice that you recommended, but when I attempted to pull apart the wrappers to eat these, they completely fell apart 🙁 Is there some trick to use when wrapping? The #1 tab comes off easily, but when 2 and 3 are pulled, it pulls apart the nori and the whole sandwich falls apart. I want to eat these so badly! Help!

  24. Wow. Neat. I would suggest you have folks use Lundberg organic rice; they are co-chair and great supporters of Prop 37 (GMO Labeling) here in California!

  25. You really don’t need to buy a mold to make onigiri, if you know how to make a snowball; it’s the same technique. The only difference is, after shaping it into a ball, you start flattening it and making into a triangle.

    As for its filling, grilled salmon is very popular.

  26. OMG. I adore this sandwich. It satisfies my sushi cravings! Thanks for sharing, it’s made my lunch something to look forward to!

  27. This is great. But if you care about the health and food, I am sure you care about the health of the earth. Then please do not promote the use of plastic wrappers or films. This is absolutely unnecessary and not a tradition in Japan. We used to make the triangle by hand by lightly squeezing the rice and the ingredient inside (the name, onigiri, comes from this process. Nigiru is a verb meaning hold or squeeze. So a triangle or a ball of rice made by squeezing by hands is o-nigiri). People used to wrap onigiri with a bamboo skin not a plastic wrap or film as they are now sold in stores in Japan or you did. If you dont like nori to be wet when you make onigiri for lunch and eat it later, you can make the triangle without nori and bring nori in a separate container and wrap it when you eat it.

    1. Hi Briony! I live in Japan too, and actually made an onigiri chart for this exact reason! I can email it to you if you’d like.

  28. My husband has been eating Trader Joe’s burritos for lunch for about 5 years! I struggle to find things to make for him since he is a picky eater. I just ordered the mold kit and am so excited because he will love this as a lunch item and it allows for so much creativity since he is not a sandwich for lunch guy.

  29. That final pose on top of the mountain is indicative of the #2 happening with all this super-grain seafood-overload ‘paleo’ nonsense. Paleolithic humans died at age 20. If you are not overweight, you risk of diabetes does not go up “50%” from a veggie delight. Eat a balanced diet, don’t exceed the calories you need too often, and have an active lifestyle (this doesn’t mean killing yourself at the gym).

    Not a secret. Not a fad. Not rocket science. But hey, feel free to flush your money (and a lot more) eating at Ichibansan-whatever whole food trendaurants. Just go to the grocery store. Cheaper, and you’ll need less toilet paper.

  30. Thanks for the burrito recipe. My 3 year old and I just finished making a few of the sushi triangles and it was so fun! We filled ours with cucumbers, avocado and japanese yams (diced them and steamed them for 5 minutes). We ate one and now have my husbands lunch is made for tomorrow. Hoping the avocado won’t turn brown by tomorrow. Maybe the vinegar in the rice will help keep it green ( :

  31. I miss buying these in Korea, I never could remember the name though. Thank you for this, me and my girlfriend are trying to change our eating lifestyle and live healthier. I ordered this kit and an extra set of wrappers.

  32. I love this idea, but I HATE the idea of packing lunches with disposable plastic on a daily basis. Any way to do this with something biodegradable?

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