How to Make Salmon and Tuna Onigiri at Home (It’s So Easy!)
On a recent trip throughout Southeast Asia, I fell hard for salmon onigiri triangles. These little seaweed-covered treats are sold in every 7-11 and convenience store — and at about $1 each, they’re the perfect little snack. (I ate so, so many of them.)
Now that I’m back in the States, I find myself craving these little snacks all. The. Time. One day, after looking longingly at onigiri photos on my phone (wish I was kidding), it occurred to me that maybe I could make them.
If you just thought, “Well, obviously you can make them. It’s three ingredients,” I wouldn’t blame you. But here’s the thing: I have a history of kitchen disasters. It never occurs to me that I might be able to recreate the delicious things I eat in other countries.
But! I’m happy to tell you that these little salmon onigiri are so easy, even I can make them. And you can, too! If you are a fancy chef type, let me offer a warning: this is not a fancy DIY. It’s a craving-satisfying, last-minute, arts-and-craftsy DIY.
First of All: What is Salmon Onigiri?
Onigiri are little Japanese rice balls. Sometimes they have fillings inside — salmon, for example. Onigiri also come in fun shapes. Once it’s molded, the rice may be wrapped or accented with nori (those seafood sheets that are often used in sushi rolls).
When I was traveling in Southeast Asia, I mostly saw triangle-shaped nori. The fillings all appeared to be fully cooked…a good thing, because I often saw cases of them just sitting out in the heat, waiting to be put back on the shelf.
Onigiri come with a variety of fillings. My favorite? Onigiri triangles with salted salmon. They’re delicious alone, but also excellent dipped in a little soy sauce and wasabi.
To Start: Making a DIY Onigiri Mold
When I started looking for onigiri triangle recipes, I realized that I was missing one key thing: an onigiri mold!
Before that Google search, I didn’t know such a product existed.
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Basically an onigiri mold is a little triangle cookie cutter with a piece of plastic that fits inside. You put your ingredients in and push down on the little plastic piece to squash them together. That way, your onigiri doesn’t fall apart, and you can wrap it in nori.
Now, I’m from a tiny Midwestern town, where there is zero chance of finding an onigiri mold. I certainly didn’t want to wait for Amazon to deliver one — I wanted onigiri triangles right away. So, I made my own.
Full disclosure: It’s about to get crafty. And a little ridiculous.
Update: since I originally wrote this post, I’ve graduated to a mold. This onigiri mold is super affordable, and I’ve been super happy with it!
DIY Onigiri Mold
1. Cut a rectangle of cardboard to about 11 inches long x 3 inches wide
2. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise (to strengthen it)
3. Cover the cardboard in aluminum foil
4. Fold the strip into a triangle, leaving a half-inch flap
5. Tape the triangle shut to form the onigiri mold
To make the lid, set your triangle on a piece of cardboard and trace the interior. Then, cut it out and wrap it in foil. Et voila, you have a DIY salmon onigiri mold!
How to Make Salmon Onigiri at Home
Now comes the fun part: making the salmon onigiri triangles! First, assemble your ingredients:
- Sushi rice
- Cooked salmon (I used a packet because I am lazy and mixed it with salt and cayenne pepper) You can also use tuna, chicken, grilled veggies — whatever sounds good!
- Nori sheets, cut in half
- Other fillings: I used smashed avocado and lemon slices, and both were amazing
Assembling and Wrapping the Salmon Onigiri
1. Coat your triangle press and the inside of your mold with a thin layer of olive oil; this helps prevent the rice from sticking. Set the mold on a plate with the flattest side down.
2. Scoop a layer of rice into the mold and flatten it a little with a spoon. This doesn’t take much rice!
3. Make a little depression in your rice (or don’t; it doesn’t really matter) and add in a little bit of the salmon filling. Less is better; if you overfill it, the onigiri has a hard time staying together.
4. Add other fillings on top of the salmon
5. Scoop more rice into the onigiri mold, making sure to fill the edges around your salmon. Stop when the rice completely covers the fillings.
6. Insert your little triangle press into the top of the onigiri mold. Press gently, compressing the rice as you go. It helps to press each corner of the triangle as well as the center.
7. Hold your triangle press with one hand, and push down gently while you slide the mold up and off of the rice with the other hand.
8. Slowly lift (or peel) the triangle press to reveal your beautiful rice triangle!
9. Set the onigiri triangle on top of a nori sheet, about 4 inches from one end. Fold that end up and over. Then, wet the loose corners with water and fold them up and over the triangle.
That’s it! You have delicious salmon onigiri, ready to go. I dipped mine in soy sauce and wasabi (because obviously) but they’re also delicious alone.
Since sushi rice is a pain to make, and these triangles don’t really refrigerate well (the nori gets soft and weird), I like to keep the ingredients in little containers so I can make salmon onigiri triangles any time, with less prep.