How to Make Rice Balls with Leftover Rice

Rice balls, known as onigiri in Japanese, are a versatile and delectable snack or meal option enjoyed for centuries. These compact, hand-held delights are delicious and incredibly easy to make, especially when you have leftover rice on hand. Whether you’re a fan of traditional fillings like salmon or prefer something more unconventional, onigiri can be customized to suit your taste. This guide will walk you through crafting these delightful rice balls using your leftover rice.


Before we dive into the process, let’s gather the essential ingredients you’ll need to make delicious rice balls:

Leftover Cooked Rice: The star of the show! You can use any cooked rice, be it white, brown, or even sushi rice.

Nori Sheets (Seaweed, optional): Nori sheets traditionally wrap around the rice balls. They add a subtle umami flavor and a satisfying crunch. You can find nori sheets in most Asian grocery stores.

Filling of Your Choice: This is where you can get creative! Popular fillings include salmon, tuna, pickled plum (umeboshi), grilled chicken, and vegetables. Make sure your filling is well-cooked and seasoned to your liking.

Salt: A pinch of salt will enhance the flavors of your rice and filling.

Water: You’ll need water to wet your hands and prevent the rice from sticking.

Now that we’ve gathered our ingredients let’s make delicious rice balls from your leftover rice.


Prepare the Filling

Begin by preparing your chosen filling. If you’re using ingredients like salmon or tuna, ensure they are well-cooked and seasoned. You can grill or pan-fry them for added flavor. Vegetables should also be cooked and seasoned to your preference.

Season the Rice

Take your leftover cooked rice and place it in a large bowl. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the rice. This will help enhance the flavor of the rice itself.

Wet Your Hands

Before handling the rice, wet your hands with water. This step is crucial to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands as you shape the rice balls.

Portion the Rice

Take a small handful of rice, about the size of your palm, and place it in the palm of your hand. The amount of rice you use will depend on how large you want your rice ball to be.

Flatten the Rice

Gently press the rice in your hand to flatten it into a disc shape. Ensure that the rice is evenly spread out.

Add the Filling

Place a small amount of your chosen filling in the center of the flattened rice. Be mindful not to overfill, as it may make it difficult to shape the rice ball.

Shape the Rice Ball

This is where the artistry comes in. Cup your hand slightly and fold the rice around the filling, shaping it into a ball or triangle. Use your fingers to gently press the rice together, ensuring no gaps or cracks.

Optional Nori Wrap

If you’d like to use nori sheets, you can wrap a strip around the rice ball. This adds both flavor and a visually appealing touch. Moisten the edge of the nori strip to help it adhere to the rice.

Repeat the Process

Continue shaping rice balls with your chosen filling until you’ve used all your ingredients.

Enjoy Your Onigiri

Your homemade rice balls are now ready to eat! They can be enjoyed immediately or wrapped in plastic wrap for later consumption.


Making rice balls with leftover rice is a simple yet satisfying culinary endeavor. These delightful treats offer endless possibilities for customization, allowing you to tailor them to your taste preferences. Whether enjoyed as a snack, a side dish, or a portable meal, rice balls are a delightful way to transform leftover rice into a delicious culinary creation. So, roll up your sleeves, get creative with your fillings, and savor the joy of making and savoring homemade onigiri!

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