Best Onigiri Fillings – Onigiri is almost like the lesser known but equally as nice cousin of sushi. It’s a rice ball dish that’s existed for centuries in Japan but has grown in popularity across the world in the recent century.
Onigiri is one of the most versatile Japanese foods. It’s a comfort food, a go-to meal, part of bento boxes and dinner spreads – but most of all, it’s one of the most popular snacks for anyone and everyone across Japan.
Pop into a konbini at any time and you’ll find an array of onigiri, freshly made, just waiting for your purchase and consummation.
For many visitors to Japan, regularly eating onigiri from konbini is part and parcel with the entire experience of being in Japan. Simply put, haven’t really travelled Japan unless you’ve eaten an onigiri!
The 10 Best Onigiri Fillings You Need To Taste
Below we’ve recommended the top 10 best onigiri fillings you need to try whilst in Japan.
- Tuna Mayonnaise
- Salty Red Salmon
- Salmon & Wasabi
- Chicken & Vegetables
- Shrimp Mayonnaise (Ebi Mayo)
- Spicy Cod Roe & Broth
- Pickled Plum (Umeboshi)
- Kelp in Soy Sauce
- Seaweed in Soy Sauce
- Spam & Egg Onigiri
Now, let’s get more details on each onigiri filling!
1. Tuna Mayonnaise
Tuna mayonnaise, fondly referred to as ‘tuna-mayo’, is almost like the flagship flavour of onigiri. All Japanese children grow up eating it, and Japanese adults will sometimes still unconsciously reach for it, craving the creaminess of the tuna fish mixed with mayo to create perfect umami balance.
2. Salty Red Salmon
Salty Red Salmon is another quintessential onigiri flavour that is enjoyed thoroughly amongst the Japanese, children and adults alike. The salmon flakes are a flavour bomb mixed with white rice, providing a perfectly balanced mouthful every time you take a bite.
3. Salmon & Wasabi
This onigiri is basically two of the most popular ingredients in Japan coming together to make the ultimate flavour. The soft flakiness of the salmon combined with the strong punch of the wasabi mixed in with fluffy white rice is almost too perfect to imagine.
4. Chicken & Vegetables Onigiri Filling
This onigiri filling will surely please 99.9% of readers there. As one of the heartier filling selections, chicken and vegetables are small onigiri rice balls packed with pieces of chicken, carrots and onions, cooked in a delicious soy sauce.
You’ll find that most of the time, instead of the usual triangular onigiri that you’re used to looking for, these will be available in a clear packaging with the seaweed already wrapped around the rice ball.
5. Shrimp Mayonnaise (Ebi Mayo)
Ebi mayo is undoubtedly one of our favourites! It is actually quite similar to the aforementioned tuna mayo; however, taste and texture do differ. Instead of a soft and creamy texture, the bounciness of the shrimps provides a bit of a light crunch as you’re biting through.
If you’ve given tuna-mayo a shot and are looking to branch out a little more, ebi mayo would be your next best bet!
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6. Spicy Cod Roe & Broth
Spicy cod roe, also known as mentaiko, is a common flavour that’s known for its overwhelming spiciness. However, it’s not spice as you know it. Mentaiko makes your mouth tingle, rather than burn, unlike wasabi.
The saltiness of the cod roe harmonises with the plain white rice, providing the consumer with an initial spice hit, followed by a mellow flavoursome mouthful of onigiri.
7. Pickled Plum (Umeboshi)
Japanese pickled plum, or umeboshi, is also a common onigiri flavour in Japan, although it’s not quite something that can be enjoyed effortlessly by all foreigners!
You may have heard of umeboshi as a popular type of Japanese candy, so it might come as a surprise and instil some hesitation when you hear that it’s also a onigiri filling! The dried and salty plum packs quite a flavour punch.
It’s somewhat of an acquired taste, similar to that wasabi, but if you’re an adventurous eater, this is definitely right up your alley.
8. Kelp in Soy Sauce
Kelp in soy sauce, or kombu, is actually a hidden gem. Whilst it may not have the most compelling name, it’s actually quite an addictive flavour, especially if oriental flavours are your kryptonite.
The kelp is simmered in a mild soy sauce, creating a flavoursome and rather gelatinous filling. When combined with plain white rice and crispy nori, it’s understatedly inoffensive in taste and texture.
9. Seaweed in Soy Sauce
This is one of the most basic fillings in onigiri. We guarantee that anyone trying this will either like it or love it – but you just can’t hate it. The gelatinous texture of the seaweed and flavour-bomb from the soy sauce make it a perfect accompaniment for a white rice onigiri.
This is the ultimate afternoon snack that will satiate you for a short period and have you gearing up for the next meal.
10. Spam & Egg Onigiri
Many would claim that spam and egg onigiri is the crème de la crème of the 20th century onigiri fillings, and we’d be inclined to agree!
Hailing from the western islands of Okinawa, spam and egg became a staple in the Okinawan diet since the end of World War II. Now, there’s a claim that any decent restaurant in Okinawa will serve good spam and eggs.
Of course, the best thing to come out of all of this is the fact that we now have access to the best spam and egg onigiri in the entire world. The super salty taste and crunchy textured of the cooked spam along with the creaminess of the egg and fluffiness of the accompanying white rice, all wrapped up in a fresh nori sheet – two words, *chefs kiss*.
If you’re heading to Okinawa anytime in the future, make sure you stop in at either one of the ‘Pork Tamago Onigiri’ restaurants – it’s well-worth it.
Reading about all these delicious onigiri filling must be making you hungry! If you’re looking at finally braving it and trying one of the more ‘interesting’ flavours on this list, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
One tip that we’d like to impart on you is that, when purchasing onigiri from a konbini in winter, ask for the attendant to heat it up. We’ve found this tip to be particularly amazing with a tuna mayo onigiri – 10 seconds in the microwave and your filling comes out so soft, almost oozing as you bite into it; it’s magical.