Yuzu Salmon Onigiri

By Jeri Mobley-Arias
January 24, 2023 | Updated on November 3, 2023

Salmon onigiri are fluffy Japanese rice balls filled with creamy yuzu mayo seasoned salmon, dipped in furikake for a crispy, salty, savory finish. This pocket-sized delicacy is packed with rich umami flavor. Serve it as an appetizer, snack, or lunch on the go!

For more salmon and rice recipes try Honey-Soy Sheet Pan Salmon, Gochujang Salmon with Pandan Rice, Miso Glazed Salmon, and Coconut Curry Salmon next.

plated yuzu salmon onigiri

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Homemade salmon onigiri is a popular flavor for this Japanese dish. There are so many ways to present and flavor salmon onigiri but I absolutely love pairing it with the tart, sour, yuzu fruit. I whip up a creamy citrusy yuzu mayonnaise and mix it with tender, flaky broiled salty salmon.

Why This Salmon Onigiri Recipe Works

  • Perfect On-the-Go Meal – This convenient handheld lunch can be packed up and brought with you. It’s a cute, tasty, departure from your standard sandwich. Pack it for lunch at work, picnics, or travel.
  • Great Way to Use Leftover Salmon – This recipe is made using fresh salmon but if you’ve ever had leftovers that weren’t quite enough for a second meal, this is a great way to use them.
  • A Versatile Snack – This onigiri is filled with salmon but you can stuff these with anything you like. It’s a fun activity to do with the kids when you let them pick their own onigiri fillings.
plated yuzu salmon onigiri

What is Onigiri?

Onigiri (sometimes referenced as omusubi or nigirimeshi) is a Japanese rice ball. Cooked rice is formed into the shape of a ball or triangle. Then it’s stuffed with a protein, vegetable or pickled ingredient. Finally, it’s wrapped in nori, a dried, edible seaweed.

Onigiri is a staple in Japanese cuisine that dates back centuries. In modern-day Japan, it’s a popular lunch box (bento box) item.

How to Shape Onigiri

The quickest and easiest way to shape onigiri is by using a mold.

In a pinch, you can use your hands to shape onigiri but I prefer a more uniform look and it keeps my hands clean and dry. If you shape them by hand, keep your hands wet so the rice doesn’t stick to you.

Whichever method you choose, remember to press down firmly so the onigiri keeps its shape

Tools You’ll Need

overhead view of onigari mold and furikake seasoning

Ingredients You Will Need for Salmon Onigiri

Rice

  • Short grain – This rice (often referred to as sushi rice) is ideal for onigiri because it’s sticky. Sticky rice holds its shape better due to it being high in starch compared to long grain rice.
  • Water – To cook the rice in.
  • Rice vinegar – Adds a little zing of flavor and traditionally used when making sushi rice.
  • Sugar – Used to balance the saltiness and zing from the vinegar.
  • Kosher salt – Used to flavor the rice. I use Diamond Crystal brand.

Salmon

  • Salmon – Cut into ½-inch thick long slices.
  • Kosher salt – Season to taste.
  • Avocado oil – To spray.

Yuzu Mayo

  • Kewpie mayonnaise – Don’t mistake this for regular American mayo. Kewpie mayo contains rich egg yolks, creating a rich flavor and mouthfeel, while regular mayo incorporates the whole egg.
  • Yuzu kosho – A fermented green chili paste with yuzu peel, chili peppers, and salt.
  • Yuzu juice – This is a great substitute for fresh yuzu. Find it bottled at your local Asian market.
  • Sesame oil – This adds a nutty flavor.
  • Soy sauce – For a little saltiness to balance everything out.

Nori

  • 1 sheet nori or dried seaweed – Use these as wrappers to keep the sticky rice off of your hands. Whichever you choose, fold the sheet in half, then cut them into 1¼ x 4-inch strips.

Salt Water

  • Water
  • Kosher salt

Furikake

How To Make Salmon Onigiri

Make salmon onigiri once, and I guarantee you’ll want to make them all the time!

yuzu mayo ingredients in a bowl with salmon

Prepare Sushi Rice

  1. Add rinsed rice and 2 cups water to a rice pot. Cook as you normally would in a rice cooker.
  2. Once cooked, add rice vinegar, sugar, and kosher salt to a small bowl and whisk until sugar and salt dissolve. You can also microwave the mixture for 25 seconds, which will help dissolve the salt and sugar.
  3. Break up the cooked rice with a rice spatula. Pour the sushi rice mixture over the rice and gently fold rice on itself until evenly mixed. Leave seasoned rice in the rice cooker on ‘warm’ setting.

Cook Salmon

  1. Preheat oven to ‘BROIL’ setting. Season all sides (including skin) of salmon and place on a baking sheet. Lightly spray both sides with avocado oil spray. Broil fillet for four minutes or until cooked through.
  2. Remove from the oven and break up the salmon into small pieces using a fork. Discard skin (I usually just eat it).

Add Yuzu Mayo to Salmon

  1. Add all yuzu mayo ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine. Then add salmon and mix well. Set aside.
yuzu-salmon-mixed

Assemble Salmon Onigiri

  1. Mix water and kosher salt in a bowl, then stir until salt dissolves. Pour furikake into a separate bowl wide enough for you to rotate the onigiri. Set aside.
  2. Place some rice into the onigiri mold, then layer with yuzu salmon, and one final layer of rice. Form using the second piece of the rice ball mold. Lightly wet your fingertips and remove the formed rice with your wet fingertips.
  3. Roll the sides into the furikake, then place a strip of nori (seaweed) in the middle and wrap it to the other side (the strip on nori serves as a barrier between your finger and the rice, keeping it clean). Repeat until you make 8-10 onigiri. Enjoy immediately.
how to make onigiri
how to make salmon onigiri
onigiri mold
salmon furikake onigiri

Tips and Tricks

  • Use fresh, hot rice. Old rice will be too dry to stick together or mold. Keeping the rice warm will make molding easier.
  • Don’t make your filling too wet. Too much moisture inside the rice balls will prevent them from sticking together.
  • If you are assembling by hand, keep a small bowl of salt water nearby so you can keep your hands wet. This ensures the rice doesn’t adhere to your fingers.
  • Eat salmon onigiri immediately. When refrigerated, the rice dries out. However, leaving it at room temperature for a few hours is fine because the salt mixture not only seasons the rice but preserves it.

Variations

How about another sauce? Salmon with soy sauce is another great option.

Save time. Use salmon flakes or canned salmon instead of broiling the salmon.

Try different onigiri fillings. Other popular options in Japan are umeboshi, tuna, and kombu seaweed. You could also try chicken, salmon roe, smoked salmon, shrimp tempura, or spam.

Make yaki onigiri (fried or grilled onigiri). This option is great for next-day onigiri! If you want to have a nice toasty, crunch, fry them in a skillet with some sesame oil and a bit of soy. Cook on all sides until a light crust forms.

japanese-rice-balls

Frequently Asked Questions

Is salmon onigiri eaten cold or warm?

Enjoy salmon onigiri warm, room temperature, or cold. It’s just based on preference.

Can you eat onigiri the next day?

Yes! While it is best eaten warm or the same day, you wrap leftover onigiri in plastic wrap, then wrap it in a kitchen towel. The toweled layer will keep the rice from getting too cold and hard. Simply reheat in the microwave just until warm before consuming.

Can salmon onigiri be frozen?

Yes. To freeze salmon onigiri, wrap them individually (without the nori because it would get soggy) with plastic wrap and place them in the freezer for up to one month. When you want to reheat them, microwave them until they’re warm.

Why is onigiri not sushi?

Sushi is either prepared nigiri style or rolled into a cylinder shape and filled with fish but onigiri is shaped into a ball or triangle and can be filled with a variety of foods.

plated onigiri with dipping sauce

Looking for More Japanese-Inspired Recipes?

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yuzu-salmon-onigiri

Salmon Onigiri

5 from 1 vote
Salmon onigiri are fluffy Japanese rice balls filled with creamy yuzu mayo seasoned salmon, dipped in furikake for a crispy, salty, savory finish. This pocket-sized delicacy is packed with rich umami flavor. Serve it as an appetizer, snack, or lunch on the go!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 8 onigiri
Author Jeri Mobley-Arias
Course Lunch, Snack
Cuisine Japanese

Equipment

  • Rice Cooker
  • Small Bowl
  • Spatula
  • Baking Sheet
  • Onigiri Mold

Ingredients

Rice

  • 2 cups rice, short grain, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • teaspoons kosher salt

Salmon

  • 4 ounces salmon, cut into ½-inch thick long slices
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • avocado oil spray

Yuzu Mayo

  • 1 tablespoon kewpie mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon yuzu kosho
  • 2 teaspoons yuzu juice
  • ¾ teaspoon sesame oil
  • teaspoon soy sauce

Nori

  • 1 sheet nori or dried seaweed, cut into 1¼ x 4 inch strips

Salt Water

  • ¼ cup water
  • pinch kosher salt

Furikake

  • 2 packages furikake of choice

Instructions

Rice

  • Add rinsed rice and 2 cups water to a rice pot. Cook as you normally would in a rice cooker.
  • Once cooked, add rice vinegar, sugar, and kosher salt to a small bowl and whisk until sugar and salt dissolve. You can also microwave the mixture for 25 seconds, which will help dissolve the salt and sugar.
  • Break up the cooked rice with a rice spatula. Pour the sushi rice mixture over the rice and gently fold rice on itself until evenly mixed. Leave seasoned rice in the rice cooker on 'warm' setting.

Salmon

  • Preheat oven to 'BROIL' setting. Season all sides (including skin) of salmon and place on a baking sheet. Lightly spray both sides with avocado oil spray. Broil fillet for four minutes or until cooked through.
  • Remove from the oven and break up the salmon into small pieces using a fork. Discard skin (I usually just eat it).

Yuzu Mayo and Salmon

  • Add all yuzu mayo ingredients to a bowl and mix to combine. Add salmon and mix well. Set aside.

Onigiri Assembly

  • Mix water and kosher salt in a bowl, then stir until salt dissolves. Pour furikake into a separate bowl wide enough for you to rotate the onigiri. Set aside.
  • Place some rice into the onigiri mold, then layer with yuzu salmon, and one final layer of rice. Form using the second piece of the rice ball mold. Lightly wet your fingertips and remove the formed rice with your wet fingertips.
  • Roll the sides into the furikake, then place a strip of nori (seaweed) in the middle and wrap it to the other side (the strip on nori serves as a barrier between your finger and the rice, keeping it clean). Repeat until you make 8-10 onigiri. Enjoy immediately.
Keywords how to make Salmon Onigiri, salmon filled onigiri, Salmon Onigiri, salmon onigiri filling, salted salmon onigiri, what is onigiri
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yuzu-salmon-onigiri

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4 Comments

  1. Anthony D says...

    5 stars
    I highly recommend giving this lady a follow on instagram, she’s always sharing conforting and delicious recipes.

    I followed this recipe to the letter (apart from the furikake, I just made my own). But boy was it worth it! Pretty easy and absolutely delicious, the yuzu mayo will remain very close to my heart from now on…

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jeri-mobley

Hey, I'm Jeri!

At Whisper of Yum, we explore ALL cuisines - comfort foods, classics, elevated originals. If you love food like me, I invite you to settle in to this place, where swoon-worthy food is attainable + inspo for your next meal awaits.

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