Learn how to make Vegan Onigiri in a cute bear shape. Fill with sweet red bean paste or vegan "Tuna" mayo. Japanese rice balls with short-grain rice and a variety of fillings. Wrap in nori seaweed and pack it into your lunch boxes (obento), eat as a snack, or breakfast.
💡 The recipe in a nutshell
- Vegan (eggless and dairy-free)
- Perfect for meal prep
- Versatile: Switch up fillings, seasonings, and toppings
- Form into balls, triangles, or cute little bears!
🍙 What is Onigiri?
Onigiri (おにぎり), also called Omusubi (お結び) or Nigirimeshi (握り飯) is a Japanese rice ball with salted rice and stuffed with all sorts of deliciousness. Traditionally, an onigiri is filled with pickled ume (umeboshi), salted salmon, or another salty or sour ingredient. However, nowadays you can get a huge variety in Japanese stores. One of the most popular ones: "Tuna Mayo", which you'll find a vegan version for below in the recipe.
Onigiri can be triangles, balls, or other cute shapes like bears. If you don't want to shape them by hand you can get all sorts of onigiri molds in your local Asian store or online too!
Once seasoned or filled, keep plain. Or wrap in nori shortly before eating. In Japan both homemade and store-bought versions are popular. I used to eat them for breakfast and/or for lunch when I lived in Japan every day. Enjoy Onigiri as a hearty breakfast, snack, or quick lunch, or as part of a Bento Box.
🇯🇵 Difference between Sushi and Onigiri
Some people do mistake Onigiri for Sushi. However, they are not the same! The main difference between Onigiri and Sushi is the rice seasoning. Both of them are typically made with Japanese short-grain white rice. For Onigiri the rice is only salted, while for sushi it is seasoned with vinegar and sugar as well. Another big difference is that Onigiri is a lot easier to prepare than sushi.
👩🏽🍳 How to
- Prepare your desired fillings (find some filling ideas below in the recipe section.)
- Cook Japanese short-grain rice. Once the rice is cooked let it cool down a bit (fan the rice with a rice fan to make it shiny and cool down quicker). It should be cool enough for you to handle it with your hands.
- Wet your hands with cold water, optional with a pinch of salt. This stops the rice from sticking to your hands and helps keep it fresher for longer.
- Get a spoonful of rice with a wooden spoon, or rice spatula. If you are adding fillings inside, make an indent, place the ingredients inside and fold the rice over, top with another spoonful if needed, then lightly press into an oval. Gently set aside.
- Form three small balls for ears and nose and attach to ovals by slightly pressing them onto it.
- Dip in your favorite furikake, decorate with pea sprouts and use a nori sheet to cut out eyes and nose, either with a nori punch cutter or by hand with scissors.
To keep onigiri from getting soggy, wrap individually in vegan wax paper or plastic. Store separately from nori and wrap it around the onigiri shortly before eating. Do not keep more than two days in the fridge. They are best eaten the day they are made. Never keep rice balls at room temperature for longer than one to two hours! It's best to refrigerate rice balls right after filling and forming them. Take in an insulated cooler lunch box to work, or school.
❄️ How to freeze
Wrap with plastic, or vegan way paper. Store separately from nori sheet in a freezer-friendly bag, or container, and squeeze all the air out. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
🍱 More vegan Asian styled food
How To Make Vegan Onigiri + Cute Bear Shape
- 2 cups of cooked japanese short grain rice (400g)
Vegan "Tuna" mayo filling
- 100 g chickpeas, canned (3.5 oz)
- 50 g vegan mayo (1.7 oz)
- 2 teaspoon capers with water
- salt & pepper to taste
Sweet red bean filling
- 100 g red bean paste (3.5 oz)
Toppings and decoration
- Furikake Mix
- Nori sheets, dried roasted seaweed
- Sprouts, such as pea sprouts
- Roasted Sesame Seeds
- Wet your hands with cold water, optional with a pinch of salt. This stops the rice from sticking to your hands and helps keep it fresher for longer. If your rice is still hot let it cool down a bit (fan the rice with a rice fan to make it shiny and cool down quicker). It should be cool enough for you to handle it with your hands.
- Get a spoonful of rice with a wooden spoon, or rice spatula. If you are adding fillings inside, make an indent, place 1-2 teaspoon filling into the mold and fold the rice slightly over. Top with another spoonful to close off. Then lightly press into the desired shape (triangle, ball, etc) rotating as you go so it’s even. An alternative to forming them with your hands is using an onigiri mold.Shape into ovals for bear-shaped onigiri. Form also three small balls for ears and nose and attach to ovals by slightly pressing them onto it.
- Set aside, or dip in furikake. Wet hands again if rice begins to stick and repeat for the remaining rice portions.
- Shortly before serving* place a slice of nori on the bottom of the onigiri, rough side in towards the rice. Then fold it up towards the middle of the onigiri. For bear-shaped onigiri use a nori sheet to cut out eyes and nose, either with a nori stamp or by hand with scissors.
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