Yaki Onigiri are the grilled version of the classic Japanese rice balls. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, they’re the ultimate comfort food, perfect as a snack or as a lunchbox addition. They’re super easy to make at home with our step-by-step recipe – so let us show you how!
The word Yaki (焼き) means “to grill” or “to fry” in Japanese. Onigiri (おにぎり) stands for “pressed rice”.
While plain onigiri are triangular balls of cooked rice, yaki onigiri go through a second cooking step: grilling or frying.
Traditionally, yaki onigiri are prepared on a charcoal grill, which makes the rice balls smoky and crispy. They’re beautifully charred on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. A real treat!
But for an easier recipe, you can simply fry the yaki balls in a pan until the rice is browned and crispy. Cast iron pans will give you the best results, but a good old non-stick pan will do just fine, so don’t worry!
While classic onigiri are often filled with savory fillings, yaki onigiri tend to be plain. This means they are made with no fillings, just plain cooked rice pressed into a ball.
This way you can focus on the wonderfully caramelized flavor of fried rice.
But because we love stuffing our Japanese rice balls, we made these yaki onigiri with a delicious mushroom teriyaki filling. It’s quick and easy and your rice balls will be even tastier!
Another thing that sets yaki balls apart from traditional onigiri is the coating sauce. During grilling, yaki onigiri are usually brushed with soy sauce for added flavor.
Besides soy sauce, other yaki onigiri sauces include miso paste, sweet miso sauce, or a combination of miso/soy sauce and melted butter. You can try them if you want!
In this recipe, we used gluten-free sauce and no butter to keep the yaki onigiri both vegan and gluten-free. While some recipes fry the onigiri in butter, we opted for vegetable oil.
In the following steps, we’ll show you how to prepare the sushi rice from scratch, shape it into onigiri balls, and cook them until perfectly crispy.
We’ll also give you additional tips and tricks on how to prevent the yaki balls from falling apart while frying.
These crispy rice balls taste best when they’re hot, but you can enjoy them cold too. They are perfect as a hearty snack at home or on the go.
Yaki onigiri are also a great alternative to a bowl of rice for lunch or dinner paired with this Vegan Homemade Miso Soup or Silky Japanese Corn Soup.
And you can also use them as a base for Japanese ochazukefollow our tips below!