How to make triangle onigiri + info for this Japanese snack

                by Joost Nusselder | Updated:  May 20, 2022

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Onigiri, also called omusubi (おむすび) or nigirimeshi (握り飯), is a type of Japanese sticky rice ball that comes in a triangular or cylindrical shape. It’s often covered with nori seaweed.

Some onigiri is also filled with ingredients such as salted salmon, umeboshi (pickled plum), or bonito flakes, just to name a few.

It’s one of the most popular snacks and lunchbox items, especially as part of bento boxes. So you might’ve seen them in kids’ lunchboxes before!

How to make triangle onigiri | Recipe + info for this traditional Japanese snack

Since the 1980s, triangle-shaped onigiri is one of the most popular types of onigiri. Considered one of the most popular comfort foods, Japanese onigiri is a great steamed rice dish.

Many people mistake onigiri for sushi, but it’s not. To make sushi, you have to use vinegared rice, but to make onigiri you use steamed rice without any vinegar.

In this post, I’ll give you a recipe for smoked salmon-filled triangle onigiri and explain more about this delicious Japanese snack. Keep reading for tips on how to best shape your triangles!

Triangle Onigiri filled with smoked salmon Recipe

Smoked salmon triangle onigiri recipe

Joost Nusselder
I really like onigiri because you can eat them cold, warm, or fried in a bit of oil until they develop a crispy crust. This recipe will teach you how to make triangle-shaped onigiri wrapped in nori seaweed with a delicious smoked salmon filling.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 5


  • 1 ½ cups short-grain white rice
  • 1 ⅔ cups of water
  • 1 sheet nori seaweed
  • 4 oz smoked salmon
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp sliced dried seaweed
  • ½ tsp salt


  • Wash, rinse, and drain the rice about 2 or 3 times. Place in a pot and cover with water. Let the rice soak for 40-60 minutes until it becomes opaque. Drain completely.
  • In a medium saucepan, add the rice, water, and salt. Bring it to a boil on high heat. Reduce to medium heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Remove the pot from the heat. Make sure the pot is covered and let the rice steam for an extra 10 minutes.
  • Add in the sesame seeds and dried seaweed pieces.
  • Wait until the rice is cool enough to handle safely.
  • Wet both hands with a small amount of water until they're moist.
  • Take out ½ cup of rice and spread it out into your palm. Then place a piece of salmon (about 1 tsp) into the middle. Mold it into a ball first, then shape it into a triangle and press it flat on both sides. The corners should be rounded.
  • Now it’s time to add the nori sheet. Cut the nori sheet into strips of 1 x 2 inches. Take each strip and wrap it around one of the edges of the onigiri. Alternatively, you can use more nori and wrap the whole rice triangle in nori.
  • Cover the rice triangle with saran wrap tightly until you're ready to serve. This ensures the nori strip doesn’t fall off.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Triangle onigiri: nutritional information

plate of triangle onigiri with bowl of rice, ginger, and soy sauce

1 serving of onigiri with salted salmon contains approximately:

Onigiri is a snack, and therefore, nutritionists don’t consider them to be the healthiest, especially if you want to lose weight.

However, salmon onigiri is a low-fat, high-protein option, and it’s one of the healthiest stuffed onigiris out there.

Rice is full of carbohydrates and not very nutritious. But adding the salmon and nutrient-rich nori seaweed makes the rice triangles a bit healthier.

Tips for making triangle onigiri

When you prep your ingredients for onigiri, make sure you have the right type of rice on hand. You should only use white short-grain rice, sushi rice, or short-grain brown rice for onigiri.

Never use basmati or jasmine rice because the rice triangles won’t keep their shape. Sushi and short-grain rice are sticky, and that’s the texture you need for onigiri.

Always soak the rice before cooking it.

You add nori strips on the edge of the triangle because it keeps your fingers from sticking to the rice. Thus, the placement of the nori is strategic and makes it easier to hold the rice triangle.

Here’s a short video showing the process:

You use the same nori sheets that you’d use to make sushi rolls too.

If you don’t want to shape the Japanese rice balls with your hands, you can always use plastic wrap as a layer between your hands and the rice. With the plastic wrap, you can easily mold the rice balls into triangles.

Triangle onigiri recipe variations

Brown rice

If you want to make onigiri a bit healthier, you can substitute white rice with short brown grain rice.

You’ll need 1 ½ cups of brown rice and 2 ¼ cups of water to cook it. Also, it takes longer to cook brown rice, so make sure to simmer it for approximately 50 minutes.

Also read: How to make brown rice sushi: Try this great & healthy recipe


person placing triangle onigiri in glass Tupperware with another triangle onigiri and butternut squash in the background

Salmon is one of the most common onigiri fillings. You can use smoked or cooked salmon, but make sure to shred the salmon first and then place it into the onigiri.

You can also use other fish like canned tuna, canned sardines, trout, herring, and even mussels. Seafood is an excellent pairing for rice, and the taste is similar to sushi.

Here’s a list of the most popular onigiri fillings:

Vegetarian and vegan

If you don’t want to use meat or seafood, you can stuff onigiri with pickled vegetables like umeboshi plums.

Other options include carrots, cooked sweet potato, pickled ginger, or kombu seaweed.


Marumiya Furikake Rice Seasoning for triangle onigiri

(view more images)

You can buy onigiri seasoning at Asian supermarkets or from Amazon, and it’s called furikake seasoning.

But simple seasonings are great also, so you can just use salt with a bit of onion and garlic powder to add saltiness to your Japanese rice balls.

Why is onigiri a triangle?

plate of triangle onigiri with smiley face nori

Actually, onigiri comes in 4 different shapes, but the triangle is probably Japan’s most famous.

But are you curious to know why exactly these rice balls aren’t actually ball-shaped, but rather, triangular?

The reason why onigiri is a triangle has to do with an old legend.

Apparently, travelers crossing through Japan were afraid of spirits called kami. Shintoists believed that kami lived in all of nature’s elements. So to protect themselves from the spirits, the travelers molded their rice snacks into triangles that resembled mountains.

But some people also believe the triangle shape was a result of people looking for practical and space-efficient foods and snacks. Since onigiri is often taken to work, it should be easy to carry around, and triangles fit into lunch boxes perfectly.

Did you know you can also fry triangle onigiri? Yaki onigiri makes the perfect Japanese rice ball snack for drinks & friends

How to eat onigiri triangles

mom and son eating triangle onigiri together

Onigiri triangles are eaten the same way as all other types of onigiri. The fun part is that onigiri is “finger food”, which means you can eat it with your hands!

Simply pick up the rice triangle and take small bites. The key thing to remember is that it’s okay to use your hands, and you don’t need to use chopsticks.

Usually, there’s no dipping sauce for onigiri if you’re eating the dish on the go. But you can dip the rice triangles into soy sauce or a delicious miso sauce made with miso paste, mirin, sake, sugar, and water.

It’s the perfect combination of sweet and savory flavor or an umami delight, as the Japanese would say.

Read also about tare sauce and all the wonderful things you can do with it

Origin of triangle onigiri

closeup of someone sprinkling black sesame on triangle onigiri with 3 in the background

Triangle onigiri isn’t a new dish. In fact, Japanese people ate rice balls as early as the 11th century AD.

However, back then, onigiri was called tonjiki.

It was still eaten as a lunchtime meal or snack by workers on their lunch break. Warriors would also eat onigiri during their break from fighting because the rice balls were easy to transport, but they were filling and relatively nutritious.

Onigiri only took on the now-famous triangle shape in the 1980s when onigiri was made with machines. These machines shaped the rice patties into these tasty triangles.

Now you can find pre-packaged onigiri at all Japanese food shops or fresh ones at most restaurants and pubs.

Have these yummy triangular Japanese rice balls

Did you know that every year on June 18th, the Japanese celebrate Onigiri Day? It’s a fun nod to one of the country’s most beloved dishes.

So why not try some yummy triangle onigiri today and see what the hype is all about?

The savory nori exterior and the sticky rice is filling and tasty, so you can have it as part of your next meal or in between meals when you feel a bit hungry. Plus, with so many fillings, you can try them all!

Next, read about omusubi and how it compares to onigiri!

Ever had trouble finding Japanese recipes that were easy to make?

We now have "cooking Japanese with ease", our full recipe book and video course with step-by-step tutorials on your favorite recipes.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.