Ultimate Guide to Making Okaka Onigiri: Tips & Serving Ideas

Imagine biting into a savory bundle of joy that takes you straight to the heart of Japan—welcome to the world of Okaka Onigiri. These delightful rice balls, seasoned with a mix of bonito flakes and a hint of soy sauce, offer a perfect quick snack or a charming addition to your meal. Originating from the Japanese tradition of portable, easy-to-eat meals, Okaka Onigiri has been a favorite for generations, cherished for its simplicity and depth of flavor.


Gather the simple yet flavorful components needed to create your own Okaka Onigiri, each bringing a touch of traditional Japanese taste right into your kitchen.

Okaka Filling

  • 1 cup dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional, for a slightly sweeter flavor)

Sushi Rice

  • 2 cups short-grain Japanese rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar (optional, for seasoned sushi rice)

Equipment Needed

To make Okaka Onigiri, you’ll need a few essential tools that will help streamline the process and ensure your rice balls are perfectly shaped and flavorful. Here’s what you should have ready before you start:

  • Rice Cooker: This is essential for cooking your short-grain rice perfectly every time. If you don’t have a rice cooker, a pot with a tight-fitting lid will work as well.
  • Mixing Bowl: Needed for combining the rice with bonito flakes and seasonings.
  • Rice Paddle or Spoon: A rice paddle is traditionally used to fluff and mix the rice without mashing it. If you don’t have one, a large spoon can work.
  • Plastic Wrap: This helps shape the rice into balls without sticking to your hands.
  • Measuring Cup: To measure out the rice and water accurately.
  • Small Bowl: Used for mixing the soy sauce and optional sugar if you’re using it in your filling.
  • Cutting Board and Knife: These are useful if you’re chopping additives like pickled plums or seaweed, should you decide to enhance your onigiri.


Now that you have all your ingredients and equipment ready, let’s make some delicious Okaka Onigiri.

Preparing the Rice

  1. Rinse your short-grain Japanese rice under cold water until the water runs clear to remove any excess starch, which helps in getting the right texture for the onigiri.
  2. Using a rice cooker, add the clean rice and water. The standard ratio is about 1 cup of rice to 1.2 cups of water. If you prefer a softer consistency, you can adjust the water slightly.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of rice vinegar if using, then mix it gently using a rice paddle or spoon.
  4. Cook the rice according to the rice cooker’s instructions. Once done, let it sit for about 10 minutes to steam further and become fluffy.

Making the Okaka Filling

  1. In a small bowl, combine your bonito flakes with soy sauce. If you’ve chosen to include sugar, add it now. The amount of soy sauce should be enough to moisten the bonito flakes but not make them soggy.
  2. Mix the ingredients thoroughly until the bonito flakes are evenly seasoned. Taste your mixture and adjust the seasoning if necessary. This filling should be savory with a slight sweetness.

Assembling the Onigiri

  1. Moisten your hands with water to prevent the rice from sticking, and then rub a pinch of salt on your palms.
  2. Take about a half cup of the warm cooked rice and form it into a flat, round shape on your palm.
  3. Place a spoonful of the okaka filling in the center of the rice. Be careful not to overfill to avoid the onigiri breaking.
  4. Mold the rice around the filling, gently pressing and shaping it into a triangle or a round shape, according to your preference.
  5. Wrap the shaped onigiri in plastic wrap and set aside to cool slightly. This helps maintain its shape better.
  6. Repeat the process until all the rice and filling are used.

Serving Suggestions

After mastering the preparation of Okaka Onigiri, the next delightful task is serving these delectable rice balls in the best way possible. Here are some suggestions to turn your snack into a memorable meal or a special part of your gathering.

Pair with Japanese Pickles

Enhance the flavor of your Onigiri by pairing it with a side of Japanese pickles, known as Tsukemono. The crispness and tang of pickles like Umeboshi (pickled plum) or Takuan (pickled daikon radish) complement the savory taste of Okaka Onigiri, offering a pleasant contrast in textures and flavors.

Serve with Miso Soup

For a comforting and filling meal, serve your Okaka Onigiri with a warm bowl of Miso soup. This pairing is not only traditional but also provides a soothing, umami-rich complement to the salty and smoky hints of the bonito flakes in your Onigiri.

Arrange on a Platter with Soy Sauce

When serving Okaka Onigiri at a party or as part of a meal, arrange the rice balls on a beautiful platter. Provide a small dish of soy sauce mixed with a dash of wasabi or a sprinkle of sesame seeds for dipping. This not only enhances the flavor but also adds an interactive element to your meal.

Include in a Bento Box

Okaka Onigiri makes a fantastic component of a Bento box. Combine the rice balls with small portions of other Japanese favorites, such as Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet), sautéed vegetables, or grilled fish. This approach not only creates a visually appealing meal but also offers a balanced selection of flavors and nutrients.

These serving suggestions should help you enjoy your Okaka Onigiri to its fullest, making every bite as delightful as the last. Whether you’re enjoying a solo meal or entertaining guests, these ideas will enhance your experience with this traditional Japanese snack.

Make-Ahead Tips

Preparing your Okaka Onigiri in advance can save you significant time, especially if you’re planning to entertain guests or incorporate them into hearty bento boxes. Follow these make-ahead tips to ensure your rice balls retain their best texture and flavor.

Prepare Rice Properly and Cool Down

Start by cooking the rice as you would normally, ensuring it’s not too wet or dry. Spread the cooked rice thinly on a tray to cool it down quickly. This step is crucial as it stops the cooking process, maintaining the sticky texture perfect for molding.

Season and Store Bonito Flakes Separately

Mix the bonito flakes with soy sauce ahead of time, but store this mixture in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator. This preserves the freshness and prevents the flakes from becoming too soggy if mixed with the rice too early.

Mold and Wrap Each Onigiri

Once the rice has cooled, you can proceed to mold the onigiri into your desired shapes. If using a mold, lightly grease it with a bit of water or rice vinegar to prevent sticking. After shaping, immediately wrap each onigiri in plastic wrap; this helps to keep the rice from drying out.

Keep in the Refrigerator

Store the wrapped onigiri in the refrigerator if not serving immediately. They can be made a day ahead, making your meal prep seamless. Do remember, however, that the fresher they are, the better they taste.

Re-heat Before Serving

If you’ve stored your onigiri in the refrigerator, you might find that the rice hardens slightly. To restore its appealing texture, briefly microwave each onigiri for 20-30 seconds before serving or pack them in a way that they can naturally come to room temperature before eating.


Exploring the art of making Okaka Onigiri opens up a delightful avenue to enjoy traditional Japanese flavors right at home. Whether you’re packing them for a picnic or adding a savory touch to your meal the steps outlined ensure your onigiri turns out perfect every time. Remember the joy of cooking lies not just in the taste but also in the process. So next time you’re in the mood for something uniquely satisfying give these tips a try and relish the flavors of Japan from your own kitchen.

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