Sweet Potato Onigiri

As you have probably noticed from my recent blog posts and my Instagram feed (@cookbooksandcardigans), I have been in the middle of a Japanese food craze. I love the tradition, nutrition, and creativity that comes with Japanese cuisine, so when I found this onigiri recipe, I just had to give it a try.

Onigiri basically translates to rice ball, and Westerners would probably recognize it from the iPhone food emoji 🍙 (if you are not familiar with this delicious snack already). The most recognizable onigiri looks just like the emoji – they are shaped into triangles (or mountains), and have nori seaweed wrapped around the bottom. The rice balls can be stuffed with hundreds of different filling choices, which makes them even more popular and accessible. One website I came across compared onigiri for Japan as hot dogs would be for New York or finger sandwiches would be for England. However, onigiri dates back much longer than hot dogs and finger sandwiches.

I got the idea for this recipe from Eva Chung’s bento box video, who was inspired by the recipe from Jenessa’s Dinners blog post. I decided to take a bit from each of the recipes and make it my own. I did have to change around my own recipe though, since the grocery stores in my city do not carry a lot of Asian products. I had to purchase PC’s shichimi togarashi seasoning as opposed to the furikake seasoning that I would have liked to use, though the spiciness from the togarashi did add a lovely finishing flavour to the dish. Overall, the onigiri turned out more delicious than I could have imagined, and I will definitely be making this recipe again and again!


  • 1 1/2 cups sushi rice
  • 2 1/4 cups cold water (for rice)
  • 3 tbsp sushi rice seasoning (I like the “bento at home” brand that I can buy at my local Zehrs)
  • 1 long, thin sweet potato, peeled and cut into coins
  • teriyaki marinade
    • 1 clove garlic, grated
    • 1 nub ginger (the size of the top of your thumb), peeled and grated
    • 3 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp hoisin
    • 1 tsp honey (I used Nude Bee Honey‘s buckwheat honey for a smokier flavour)
    • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 – 1 avocado, peeled and cut into  chunks
  • water to keep sushi rice from sticking to hands
  • sesame oil for cooking
  • togarashi seasoning
  • tools
    • parchment paper
    • baking sheet
    • plastic wrap
    • 1/4 cup to use for shaping (or any onigiri mold you can find)
    • frying pan
  1. Preheat oven to 375*F
  2. Add sushi rice and water to rice cooker (or cook on stove according to package directions)
  3. While the rice is cooking, peel sweet potatoes and slice into coins. You will want to make sure that you are slicing the sweet potato coins thin enough that they will fit into your mold, but thick enough so that your rice balls are not completely rice!
  4. In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients for the marinade, then toss the sweet potatoes in the sauce until they are all completely coated
  5. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper, then place the marinade covered sweet potato coins in a single layer, then place in the preheated oven for 20 minutes
  6. When the sushi rice has finished cooking, transfer into a large bowl, then add sushi rice seasoning. Mix in seasoning by cutting through the rice with a flat plastic or wooden spoon (this keeps the rice from braking). Allow rice to cool completely
  7. Once sweet potatoes are finished cooking (give one a taste to make sure the texture is to your preference), allow to cool completely before using for assembly
  8. Cut avocado into chunks so that they will fit into the mold along with rice and sweet potato (you can also salt you avocados at this point if you prefer more flavour)
  9. Once everything is cooled and ready for assembly, line you mold with plastic wrap so that it hangs well over the edges
  10. Scoop sushi rice into the mold and push the rice to cover the sides and create a well for your fillings. You will want to dip you fingers in water to keep the rice from sticking to your hands
  11. Place a sweet potato coin in the rice well and place a chunk of avocado on top
  12. Top the fillings with more sushi rice, patting it down to make sure all the filling stays inside the rice ball, then fold up the plastic wrap to squeeze all of the ingredients together into a tight, uniform shape
  13. Repeat steps 9-12 until you have used all of your rice. If you have any fillings left over, you can add these as a side dish with your onigiri
  14. Heat your pan over medium heat. Add sesame oil to the hot pan and then add unwrapped onigiri to the pan to brown both sides. Try to keep the rice balls from touching or they could stick together and ruin all of your progress that you have made
  15. Finish your onigiri by plating them with meat, veggies and a sprinkling of the togarashi seasoning, or rewrap and cool in the fridge to enjoy as a grab and go snack for the next day!

This recipe definitely took some time to assemble, but is super fun to make with friends, and the end product is definitely worth the time put into it. I had a few of the onigiri for dinner with breaded chicken, avocado slices, green beans and the togarashi seasoning. I think this would have been improved if I had a sauce for the breaded chicken, but overall I was pleased and impressed with how well everything turned out! I also had leftovers, which I ate cold on their own the next day at work, and everyone was impressed that I had made them myself!

I love trying new recipes, especially when they turn out as well as these did after all of the effort that I put into them. I hope you try this recipe too, or even make it with your own choices of fillings, such as tuna salad, tempura vegetables, or a ground meat mixture. Let me know what filling you try, enjoy and have fun!


3 thoughts on “Sweet Potato Onigiri

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