Ultimate Guide to Making Delicious Red Bean Onigiri at Home

Imagine tucking into a delightful snack that’s as satisfying to your taste buds as it is to your soul. Red bean onigiri, a beloved Japanese comfort food, combines the subtle sweetness of azuki beans with the savory goodness of seasoned rice, all wrapped up in a seaweed embrace. This traditional dish isn’t just a treat; it’s a cultural experience, one that you can easily recreate at home.

Equipment and Tools Required

Before you start crafting your own delectable red bean onigiri, make sure you have the right equipment and tools at hand. This ensures a smooth preparation process and helps you achieve the perfect onigiri shape and texture.

Rice Cooker

A good quality rice cooker is essential for cooking the sushi rice to the optimal sticky texture ideal for onigiri. This appliance also offers the advantage of consistent cooking without the need to monitor it constantly.

Onigiri Mold

If you’re aiming for neatly shaped onigiri, an onigiri mold can be very helpful. These molds come in various shapes such as triangle, round, and cylinder, allowing you to create onigiri with uniform sizes and shapes effortlessly.

Rice Paddle

A rice paddle or a shamoji is crucial for mixing and handling rice. Its flat surface helps in evenly distributing seasonings and cooling the rice without mashing the grains.

Bamboo Mat

Though not essential, a bamboo mat (sushi mat) can assist in shaping and rolling your onigiri, especially if you’re wrapping them in nori seaweed. It helps in achieving a compact form and an evenly distributed filling.

Mixing Bowl

You’ll need a mixing bowl to combine the cooked rice with seasonings before forming it into onigiri. Choose a bowl that gives you enough space to mix thoroughly without spilling.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

Accurate measurements are key to the perfect balance of flavors in your onigiri. Use measuring cups and spoons for the rice, water, and seasonings to ensure each batch of onigiri is as delicious as the last.

Sharp Knife

A sharp knife will be necessary if you’re chopping ingredients for your filling or slicing the onigiri into smaller pieces. Ensure it’s sharp enough to make clean cuts without crushing the rice.

Gather these tools and you’ll have everything you need to start making your own authentic red bean onigiri at home, bringing a taste of Japanese culture into your kitchen.


Now that you’ve gathered your essential tools for making onigiri, let’s dive into the specific ingredients you’ll need to bring this delightful snack to life.

Red Bean Paste

  • 1 cup of dried azuki beans
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • Water for soaking and cooking

Rice and Seasoning

  • 2 cups of sushi rice or short-grain rice
  • 2 1/2 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt


  • 1 sheet of nori (seaweed), cut into strips
  • Toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • Pickled vegetables, finely chopped (optional for extra flavor and crunch)

Prep Work

To start your red bean onigiri, preparing each component separately is essential for assembly. Here’s how you can prep the rice, red bean paste, and additional fillings effectively.

Cooking the Rice

  1. Measure two cups of sushi rice and rinse it thoroughly under cold water until the water runs clear, removing excess starch.
  2. Drain the rice and add it to your rice cooker. Follow by pouring in 2.5 cups of water. This ratio ensures the rice will be sticky and hold its shape.
  3. Set your rice cooker to the “sushi rice” setting if available, or cook it on the normal setting. Once cooked, allow the rice to sit for about 10 minutes with the lid closed to steam further.
  4. Transfer the cooked rice into a mixing bowl. While it is still warm, gently fold in 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar mixed with a teaspoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt to season the rice.
  5. Use your rice paddle to mix the seasoning evenly throughout the rice. Set the seasoned rice aside, covered with a damp cloth to prevent drying out.

Preparing Red Bean Paste

  1. Soak one cup of dried azuki beans in water overnight to soften.
  2. Drain the beans and place them in a saucepan. Cover the beans with fresh water so that the water level is about an inch above the beans.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for about an hour or until the beans are tender. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface.
  4. Once the beans are cooked, drain them and return them to the pan. Add half a cup of sugar, stirring continuously over low heat until the beans form a thick, smooth paste.
  5. Remove the bean paste from heat and allow it to cool before using it as a filling in your onigiri.

Preparing the Garnishes

  1. Julienne any pickled vegetables you have, such as carrots or daikon radish, to add a crunchy texture and tangy flavor to the onigiri.
  2. Lightly toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until they start to pop and turn golden brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. If using, slice nori seaweed into strips that can be easily wrapped around the finished onigiri for a crisp, salty accent.

Assembling the Onigiri

Now that you’ve prepared all the necessary components, it’s time to assemble your delicious red bean onigiri. This section will guide you through the process of shaping, filling, and sealing your rice balls.

Shaping Rice Balls

Begin by wetting your hands with water to prevent the rice from sticking. Sprinkle a bit of salt on your palms to enhance the rice’s flavor. Take about a half cup of the seasoned rice and form it into a flat, oval shape in one hand. Make a dent in the center of the rice with your other hand. This dent is where you’ll place the red bean paste.

Filling with Red Bean Paste

Place a tablespoon of the sweet red bean paste into the dent you just made in the rice. If you like, you can also add a pinch of your prepared pickled vegetables or sesame seeds alongside the bean paste for an extra burst of flavor and texture.

Serving Suggestions

When you’ve mastered the art of making red bean onigiri, serving them in the most appetizing way is the next step to enhance your culinary experience. Here are some recommended ways to present and enjoy your red bean onigiri, ensuring every bite is as delightful as it is picturesque.

Pair With Japanese Side Dishes

Consider serving your red bean onigiri with a variety of traditional Japanese side dishes. A common pairing is with miso soup, which provides a warm, savory broth that complements the sweetness of the red bean paste. Additionally, you might want to include sides like:

  • Tsukemono (Japanese pickles): The crispness and tang of pickled vegetables cut through the richness of the onigiri.
  • Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet): This sweet and savory rolled egg offers a soft texture that contrasts nicely with the dense rice ball.

Add a Green Touch

Incorporating a fresh element to your plate not only adds color but also balances the flavors. A simple salad of mixed greens dressed with a light sesame oil and rice vinegar dressing works beautifully. The freshness of the greens will refresh the palate between bites of onigiri.

Beverage Pairings

The choice of beverages can enhance your red bean onigiri meal. Opt for:

  • Green tea: Its slight bitterness and astringency make it a classic choice, perfect for cleansing the palate.
  • Sake: For an authentic experience, a light sake can complement the subtle flavors of the rice and red bean.

Offer Dipping Sauces

While red bean onigiri is flavorful on its own, offering a small bowl of soy sauce or a spicy mayo can elevate the experience. Diners can dip their onigiri to add either a salty umami kick or a creamy spice, depending on their preference.

Make-Ahead Tips

Preparing red bean onigiri in advance can save you time, ensuring you have a delicious and convenient meal or snack ready whenever you need it. Here are some tips for making and storing red bean onigiri ahead of time.

Cooking and Cooling the Rice

Start by cooking your rice as you normally would, remembering to add sushi vinegar for flavor. Once cooked, spread the rice out on a tray to cool it down quickly and evenly. Cooling the rice to room temperature before shaping your onigiri ensures that it doesn’t become overly sticky or hard when refrigerated.

Preparing Red Bean Paste

You can prepare the red bean paste a day or two in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator to maintain its freshness and flavor. This not only speeds up the onigiri-making process but also allows the flavors in the paste to meld beautifully.

Shaping Onigiri

Shape your onigiri once the rice has cooled. If you’re not planning to serve them immediately, wrap each onigiri tightly with cling film. This prevents the rice from drying out and maintains its texture and shape. Store the wrapped onigiri in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours.

Packing with Seaweed

If you prefer your onigiri wrapped in seaweed, add the seaweed just before serving rather than in advance. Seaweed can become soggy if left in contact with the moist rice for too long. Keeping them separate until serving helps retain the seaweed’s crisp texture which contrasts delightfully with the soft, vinegary rice.


While onigiri can be enjoyed cold, they can also be lightly grilled or pan-fried to warm through. This adds a delightful crunch and slightly toasty flavor to the rice. If pan-frying, brush lightly with soy sauce for an added umami kick.

Using Pickled Vegetables and Sesame Seeds

If including pickled vegetables or sesame seeds in your onigiri, prepare these components in advance and store them separately. This allows you to quickly assemble fresh-tasting onigiri even if they’re made ahead.


Ready to dive into the delightful world of red bean onigiri? You’ve got all the tips and tricks to make these tasty treats right at your fingertips. Whether you’re planning a cozy meal at home or prepping for a week’s worth of snacks remember that the joy of onigiri lies in its simplicity and the personal touch you bring to each step. Don’t forget to enjoy each bite with your favorite sides and perhaps a cup of green tea to round out the experience. Happy cooking and even happier eating!

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