Assorted Stuffed Rice Balls


Onigiri are portable Japanese rice balls stuffed with a myriad of fillings like salmon, chicken, or pickled vegetables. Knowing me, however, I’m going outside the box, using flavors inspired by Penzey’s 6 Spices. They’re a great on-the-go lunch or snack and fairly simple to make. The hardest part is the rice. For best results, use a rice cooker. But since I don’t have one, this recipe uses the stovetop method which works just as well. For a bit more oomph, I suggest pan-frying the balls in oil to get a crunchy, golden brown exterior. If you’re short on time, any of the fillings can be used in sandwiches or wraps.






2 cups sushi rice

2.5 cups water

  • Prepare: Place rice in a pot and cover with water, stirring the rice in a circular motion with your hand. Strain through a sieve and repeat this process until the water is clear, about 3-4 times. Let the rice soak in water for 30 minutes unless box instructions say not to. Strain the rice through a sieve and let drain completely for 15 minutes.
  • Cook: Combine the rice and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook covered for 15 minutes or until the water has been completely absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a wooden spoon, place a clean kitchen towel over the pot, top with the lid again, and let stand covered for 10 minutes. While the rice cools slightly, prepare the filling (see options below).
  • Mold: Moisten both hands or line plastic wrap on work surface. Spread about 1/4 or 1/2 cup of the rice out on the palm of your hand or on the plastic wrap. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center, and form the rice mixture into a ball around it. Press firmly to stick the rice together. Form it into a ball.




1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 small onion, finely chopped 

1 tablespoon minced jalapeño (seeds removed if desired) 

1 (15-ounce) can black beans 

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried epazote 

1/4 cup frozen corn

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced 

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 

In a skillet, heat garlic in 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the onion and jalapeño, cook until soft. Add black beans and its liquid, cumin, and epazote. Stir until combined. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the corn. In a separate bowl, combine black bean mixture, cilantro, and lime juice. Season with salt to taste.




1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, minced 

1/2 celery stalk, minced

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno (seeds removed if desired) 

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon gumbo filé

5 ounces cooked shrimp, finely chopped

1/4 cup or more mayo

2 tablespoons ketchup

Place butter in a medium pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onion, celery, and jalapeño, cook until soft. Add the garlic and gumbo filé and cook for 1 more minute. Finally, add the shrimp and toss for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Once cooled, mix in mayo and ketchup. Season with salt to taste.




1 pound skinless chicken, thighs or breast 

5 large garlic cloves, minced

1-inch piece ginger, minced 

1.5 tablespoons vindaloo seasoning (or curry powder) 

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar 

1/2 red pepper, finely chopped  

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped 

1/4 cup or more mayo

2 tablespoons ketchup

In a bowl combine garlic, ginger, vindaloo seasoning, apple cider vinegar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Rub all over the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Preheat oven to 350F. Arrange chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes until 165F, or until no longer pink in the middle. Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Shred the chicken with 2 forks or your hands. In a bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, red pepper, red onion, mayo, and ketchup. Season with salt to taste.



Short grain brown rice can be used instead of white sushi rice. Use 1½ cups brown rice, 2¼ cups water, and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook the rice for 50 minutes, remove from the heat, and steam for 10 more minutes.


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Food for Thought

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