Daily Vegan Lunch for 3 August, 2013: Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)


vegan onigiri


Onigiri OBSESSION!! They are the best food in the world.


4 cups cooked sushi rice

5 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar or 2 teaspoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon salt


Shiitake mushrooms marinated in mirin and drained
Pre-cooked veggie meat such as Gardein faux beef tips
Pickled plums a.k.a. umeboshi
Smoked tofu strips
Chopped black olives
Avocado chunks
Any yummy food you can think of that isn’t super-greasy or super wet

A bowl with 2 cups of water in it
2 teaspoons salt

Nori sheets

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

4 cups rice makes about 6 – 8 onigiri, depending on their size



1.Rinse sushi rice in cool water in a mesh stainer until water runs clear. I use my rice cooker to cook the rice, however, if you don’t have a rice cooker:

2.Boil 4 cups of water in a large pot. Hint: adding a pinch of salt makes water boil faster (it excites the H20 molecules) and covering the pot with a lid also makes it boil faster for obvious reasons.

3.Once water boils, turn the heat down to medium and add the rinsed rice.

4.Cover the pot with a lid and let it do its thing for 22 minutes — walk away!

5.When 22 minutes have elapsed, turn off heat and fluff rice with a fork. Cover it again and let it sit on the stove burner for about 5 more minutes.

Or just buy a rice cooker and you don’t have to bother with steps 2 – 5, just saying.


In a small pot on the stove on medium heat or in a microwave-proof container, combine vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. On the stove, stir vinegar on medium heat until the sugar and salt melt, about 5 minutes. In the microwave, cook vinegar, sugar, and salt mixture for 1 minute. Stir. If sugar and salt are not yet melted, cook 30 seconds more and stir again.

Alternately, you can use prepared sushi vinegar that comes in a bottle (I do this all the time) or omit the vinegar all together.

Prepare a bowl of salt water by microwaving 1 cup water with 2 teaspoons salt for 1 minute. Once salt is melted, stir in 1 cup cool water. This is the water you will dip your hands so the rice doesn’t stick to them when you are forming the onigiri.

Prepare triangles and strips of nori by cutting nori apart with a scissor, set them aside.

Toast sesame seeds by spreading 3/4 cup sesame seeds in a heavy skillet on the stove. Turn heat to medium and watch the seeds closely, about 3 minutes. When they begin to emit a pleasant fragrance, stir them so they brown evenly. Wait about 30 more seconds and then dump them into a small bowl.  This recipe only requires 1/4 cup sesame seeds so save the rest for tomorrow’s sushi recipe!

Prepare fillings. For instance, I used umeboshi that were pickled in brine and not yet pitted, so I drained and pitted the umeboshi I was using.

Now it’s time to make the rice balls. To form onigiri, wet your hands with salt water. Grab a generous handful of cooled rice and form into a ball shape. Poke your finger down the middle of the ball but not all the way through. Stuff the middle with about 2 teaspoons of filling of choice. Cover the hole with a pinch of rice and then form the rice into either a triangle or snowball shape. Dress up the finished onigiri by wrapping it in a triangular seaweed jacket or by adorning it with a small strip of seaweed. Finish by sprinkling the top with toasted sesame seeds.

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