How to Make Salmon Mayo Onigiri: Easy Recipe & Storage Tips

Imagine biting into a deliciously seasoned rice ball, discovering a creamy, flavorful center of salmon mixed with just the right amount of mayonnaise. That’s the delight of salmon mayo onigiri, a popular Japanese snack that turns simple ingredients into a portable feast. Originating from Japan’s age-old tradition of rice balls, this variant has won hearts with its perfect balance of flavors and convenience.


For the Rice

  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the Salmon Mayo Filling

  • 1 cup cooked salmon, flaked
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha sauce (optional for a spicy kick)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Serving

  • 2 sheets nori (seaweed), cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)
  • Pickled ginger, for serving (optional)

Required Tools and Equipment

To make salmon mayo onigiri successfully, it’s essential to have the right tools and equipment at your disposal. Here’s what you’ll need to gather before you start:

  • Rice Cooker: Ensures your rice is perfectly cooked with the right texture for forming onigiri. 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 salmon with mayonnaise and other seasonings to prepare the filling.
  • Rice Paddle or Spoon: Helps in mixing the rice with seasonings and cooling it down slightly before forming the onigiri.
  • Plastic Wrap: Makes the process of shaping the rice into a ball or triangle much easier and keeps your hands from getting too sticky.
  • Onigiri Mold (Optional): If you’re not confident in your ability to shape the onigiri by hand, these molds can help create perfect shapes with minimal effort.
  • Sharp Knife: Needed for finely chopping the filling ingredients and slicing the nori into strips.
  • Small Bowl with Water: Useful to dip your hands in to prevent the rice from sticking to them as you form the onigiri.
  • Cutting Board: Provides a stable surface for preparing your filling ingredients.

Preparing the Ingredients

Getting your ingredients ready is the first step to making delicious salmon mayo onigiri. Proper preparation ensures a smoother cooking process and a tastier result.

Cooking the Rice

Begin by washing 2 cups of sushi rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This step removes excess starch and prevents your rice from becoming too sticky. After draining, transfer the washed rice to your rice cooker. Add 2 1/4 cups of water, which is slightly less than usual to achieve a firmer texture ideal for onigiri. Start the cooker. Once your rice is cooked, let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool slightly. Then, transfer it to a large bowl, gently fold in 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of sugar mixed together. This seasoning gives your rice a subtle tang and a hint of sweetness that complements the salmon mayo filling.

Preparing the Salmon Mayo Filling

For the filling, you’ll need to use pre-cooked salmon. Flake 8 ounces of cooked salmon into a bowl, ensuring no bones or skin remain. Add 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise and 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to the salmon. Mix these ingredients together until you achieve a creamy, homogenous texture. If you like a bit of spice, you can mix in a pinch of wasabi or a dash of sriracha sauce. This salmon mayo mix should be flavorsome and moist, ready to nestle into the heart of your onigiri.

Assembling the Onigiri

Now that your ingredients are ready and your rice is perfectly seasoned, it’s time to bring everything together to form your salmon mayo onigiri.

Shaping the Rice

Begin by wetting your hands with water to prevent the rice from sticking to them. Then, sprinkle a bit of salt on your palms for an extra layer of flavor. Scoop a generous amount of rice—about a half cup—into one hand. Press the rice gently between your palms to form it into a flat, even layer. Make sure the rice layer is not too thin; it should be sturdy enough to hold the filling without breaking.

Adding the Filling

Place a tablespoon of your salmon mayo mixture in the center of the flattened rice. This step is crucial for achieving the perfect balance of rice and filling in every bite. If you like a bit more zest, feel free to add a pinch of minced pickled ginger right on top of the salmon mayo.

Forming into Onigiri Shapes

To encase the filling, bring the edges of the rice together over the filling, gently pressing to seal it inside. Now, mold the rice into a triangular shape, one of the most traditional forms for onigiri. Use both hands to form sharp corners and ensure the filling stays in the center. Alternatively, you can shape the rice into a ball or a cylinder, depending on your preference. Finally, wrap a strip of nori (seaweed) around the middle of each onigiri for a touch of crunch and a burst of umami flavor, securing it with a gentle press.

Serving Suggestions

After you’ve mastered the art of making salmon mayo onigiri, consider how you can transform these delightful snacks into a complete meal or enhance your serving style for an added touch of elegance.

Pairing with Side Dishes

Include a variety of side dishes to balance the fatty richness of the salmon and the starchiness of the rice. Here are a few perfect pairings:

  • Miso Soup: A warm bowl of miso soup complements the onigiri, providing a soothing umami flavor that enhances the salty notes of your onigiri.
  • Pickled Vegetables: Serve a selection of Japanese pickles, such as cucumber or radish, to add a refreshing crunch and a vibrant zesty taste that cleanses the palate.
  • Seaweed Salad: Its slight sweetness and chewy texture make seaweed salad an irresistible companion to the creamy salmon filling.

Creative Presentation Tips

Visual appeal is crucial, especially if you are hosting guests or simply wish to elevate your dining experience.

  • Bento Box: Arrange your salmon mayo onigiri in a traditional Japanese bento box, accompanied by colorfully arranged side dishes for a feast that pleases the eyes as much as it does the palate.
  • Platter Serving: Display the onigiri on a large platter, alternating between plain rice triangles and those wrapped in nori. Intersperse with garnishes like sesame seeds, scallions, or a sprinkle of furikake for a burst of color and flavor.
  • Individual Plates: Serve each onigiri on a small plate or bowl, accompanied by a tiny dish of soy sauce for dipping and a wasabi paste on the side, if you enjoy a bit of heat.

With these serving suggestions, you can turn your freshly made salmon mayo onigiri into a delightful meal that’s as enjoyable to look at as it is to eat.

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

Preparing Onigiri in Advance

Salmon mayo onigiri is an excellent choice for make-ahead meals. To ensure the best flavor and texture when preparing them in advance, follow these guidelines:

  • Cool the Rice: Before shaping, allow your cooked rice to cool slightly; this makes it easier to handle and helps maintain the perfect texture needed for onigiri.
  • Stuffing: Prepare and cool the salmon mayo filling completely before assembling your onigiri. This prevents the rice from becoming overly soft or mushy.
  • Molding: After shaping the onigiri, place them on a tray with a little space between each to avoid them sticking together. Cover them with cling film gently, ensuring minimal air exposure.

Storing Your Onigiri

Proper storage is crucial to maintain the freshness and quality of your salmon mayo onigiri:

  • Refrigeration: Store onigiri in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will stay fresh for up to two days.
  • Avoid Direct Contact with Nori: If using nori (seaweed), wrap it around the onigiri just before serving. Prematurely wrapped nori can become soggy from the moisture in the rice.
  • Freezing Options: For longer storage, onigiri can be frozen for up to a month. To freeze, wrap each onigiri individually in plastic wrap and put them in a sealed bag. Thaw in the refrigerator or at room temperature before consuming.

Reheating Onigiri

If you prefer to enjoy your onigiri warm, here is how to effectively reheat them:

  • Microwave: Unwrap the onigiri and place them on a microwave-safe plate. Cover them with a damp paper towel and microwave on medium for 1-2 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  • Oven Heating: Preheat your oven to 300°F (150°C). Wrap the onigiri in aluminum foil and heat for about 15-20 minutes.


So there you have it! With the simple steps you’ve learned you’re well on your way to mastering the art of making salmon mayo onigiri. Whether you’re prepping a quick lunch or planning a unique snack for a gathering this delightful dish combines convenience with the delicious flavors of Japan. Don’t forget the versatility of onigiri allows you to experiment with shapes and sizes—make it your own! Enjoy crafting these tasty treats and watch them become a favorite in your culinary repertoire.

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