Surimi Onigiri Recipe: The Cheap Fishy Snack

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If you’re a fan of sushi, you’ll love onigiri – rice balls filled with delicious ingredients like salmon or tuna.

But if you find that to be too expensive, there’s always surimi.

It’s a favorite for sushi, and it’s great for onigiri as well!

And the best part is that they’re really easy to make at home. All you need is some cooked rice, surimi ( imitation crab meat), and a few simple seasonings.

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How to make surimi onigiri

Surimi onigiri recipe

Surimi Onigiri Recipe

Joost Nusselder
Surimi is cheap, crabby, and delicious and it goes great with your favorite rice balls: onigiri!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Course Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 4 people


  • 2 cups Japanese short-grain rice uncooked
  • cups water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 sheets nori
  • 4 sticks surimi (these are actually called kanikama)
  • 2 tbsp kewpie Japanese mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp toasted black sesame seeds


Preparing the steamed rice

  • Put your rice in a large rice bowl, gently wash it in a circular motion, and dispose of the water. Repeat this process around 3 – 4 times.
  • Allow the rice to soak in water for around 30 minutes. Move the rice into a rice sieve and allow it to drain completely. This should take around 15 minutes.
  • Now mix the rice and water in a pot with a heavy bottom, and cover it with a lid. Bring the rice to boil over medium heat.
  • Once the water boils, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and then continue to cook while covered for around 12 – 13 minutes, or until the water is fully absorbed. After 12 minutes, open the pot to see if there's any water present, close the lid, and then continue cooking for an additional minute.
  • Remove the pot from the stove with the lid is on, and then allow the rice to sit for an additional 10 minutes. Next, move the rice to a large plate and fluff it with a rice scooper. Allow it to cool for some time, or until you can comfortably hold it in your hands without burning them. However, you shouldn’t allow the rice to cool down completely.

Preparing the surimi filling

  • Shred the surimi sticks until you have very small pieces. You need to be able to take a bite and not have a long string of surimi pull out of your onigiri as you pull away.
  • Mix the surimi thoroughly with the kewpie mayo so it becomes a thick blob of sauce and crab meat.

Preparing the onigiri

  • Cut the nori sheets into thirds.
  • Wet your hands with water to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.
  • Put some salt in your hands and then rub to spread around your palms. If you're using table salt, make sure that you use half since it's much salter compared to kosher salt.
  • Now scoop the warm rice (around 1/3rd of a cup) into one hand, and scoop in some of the filling mixture with the other. Then, add some more rice on top and use your hands to mold the rice in a triangle. You can use 3 fingers (thumb, index, and middle fingers) to create a triangle corner. Ensure that your hands are firm to prevent the onigiri from falling apart. Also, make sure that you don’t squeeze your rice very tightly.
  • Use the nori to cover the onigiri on each side. I like it best when the nori is a small package, but there is still rice showing on the top.
  • Sprinkle some of the sesame seeds on top of each of the rice balls.


Keyword onigiri, surimi
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Cooking tips

  1. Make sure the rice is cooked properly – it should be sticky and moist, but not mushy. If it’s too dry, the onigiri will be crumbly.
  2. Use a light touch when shaping the onigiri. Too much pressure will make them tough.
  3. If you’re using plastic wrap to shape the onigiri, make sure to wet it first so the rice doesn’t stick.

Also read: okaka is also a delicious onigiri filling you can make quite easily

Favorite ingredients

Onigiri is easiest to make if you have rice with the right stickiness that’s easy to mold into shapes. That’s why I use this Nozomi short grain rice to make them:

Nozomi short grain sushi rice

(view more images)

Kewpie mayo is the Japanese mayo of choice of course, so you have to have it to make the perfect tuna mayo onigiri recipe:

kewpie Japanese mayonnaise

(view more images)

You can always use regular mayo for the recipe. Normally I would say to add a little sugar and vinegar to the mayo to make it more like Japanese mayo, but the surimi are sweet enough as is I think.

How to store leftovers

If you have some leftover, just wrap them in a little cling foil and put them in the fridge. You can keep them for three day if you do that.

The surimi is already cooked thoroughly so that shouldn’t be a problem at all, unlike with some uncooked fish fillings.


There you have it, an easy onigiri recipe that’s both fishy, delicious, and affordable!

Also read: this is the most popular onigiri filling, and 6 more recipes

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

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.