Vegan Onigiri Recipe – A Traditional Japanese Cuisine

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Get ready to make some delightful Vegan Onigiri Recipe! These Japanese rice balls are perfect for a quick and satisfying snack. Start by cooking sushi rice and letting it cool slightly.

Shape the rice into triangles or balls, then fill them with your favorite vegan fillings like seasoned tofu, pickled veggies, or avocado. Wrap them in nori seaweed for an extra tasty touch. Enjoy these handheld delights anytime, anywhere!


  • Incorporating a variety of fillings ensures a burst of flavor in every bite.
  • Wrapping in nori adds a crunchy texture and is enriched with minerals.
  • Perfect for meal prep, these Onigiri are both portable and satisfying.
  • A creative, vegan option that brings traditional Japanese cuisine into any kitchen.

Don’t have time to read the full blog post? JUMP TO THE RECIPE HERE!

Finding a quick, nutritious, vegan-friendly snack that satisfies can often feel like a culinary quest. When I transitioned to a plant-based diet, the challenge was not just about eliminating animal products but ensuring my meals were also enjoyable and fulfilling. 

This is where my journey led me to the beauty of vegan Onigiri. Traditionally filled with various flavors, these Japanese rice balls can easily be adapted to fit a vegan lifestyle without compromising taste or texture.

By swapping out the usual fillings for vibrant, plant-based ingredients, I discovered a recipe that nourished my body and delighted my palate. Let’s dive into how to recreate this homemade gem, turning a simple meal into a delightful experience.

Vegan Onigiri Recipe

What Is Vegan Onigiri? 

Vegan Onigiri is a plant-based version of the traditional Japanese rice ball, typically filled with fish or pickled plum. In the vegan adaptation, the fillings are replaced with animal-free options such as sautéed vegetables, avocado, or seasoned tofu.

Wrapped in a nori (seaweed) sheet, these rice balls offer a savory, satisfying snack or meal component. They embody the essence of Japanese simplicity and respect for ingredients, making them popular for those seeking a nutritious, convenient, and cruelty-free eating option.

Fact – Onigiri dates back over a thousand years in Japan. Originally, it was used as portable, easy-to-eat meals for travelers and warriors, showcasing its enduring appeal and versatility.

Vegan Onigiri Recipe

Recipe Directions 

Prepare The Rice

  • Wash the rice thoroughly in a strainer under cold water until the water runs clear.
  • In a pot, combine the washed rice and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes or until the rice fully absorbs the water.
  • Remove from heat and let the rice cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Prepare The Fillings

  • Blend peanut butter, bell pepper, ginger, and your chosen seasoning in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl.
  • In separate bowls, mix miso paste with crushed walnuts, chopped cilantro with scallion, cooked edamame with sesame seeds, and mashed avocado with lime juice and zest.

Mix And Shape

  • Divide the slightly cooled rice among the bowls of prepared fillings. Mix each set of ingredients thoroughly with the rice, keeping each filling in its separate bowl.
  • To prevent sticking, scoop out a portion of the rice mixture with wet hands. Gently shape the rice into a ball or a traditional triangle shape.

Wrap The Onigiri

  • Wrap each Onigiri with a strip of nori or a slice of avocado. Roll them in a plate of toasted sesame seeds for an extra crunch.

Serve And Enjoy

  • Your vegan Onigiri is ready to be enjoyed. They make a perfect snack or part of a meal, offering a delicious and nutritious option that’s both satisfying and easy to make.

Vegan Onigiri Recipe

Variations, Add-Ons, And Toppings 


  • Spicy Kimchi Rice Balls: Mix finely chopped kimchi into the rice for a spicy, flavorful kick.
  • Curried Vegetable Onigiri: Incorporate a curry-spiced vegetable mix into the rice for a fusion of flavors.
  • Sweet Potato and Black Bean Onigiri: Combine mashed sweet potato and seasoned black beans for a hearty filling.
  • Sushi Rice Onigiri: Season the rice with sushi vinegar, sugar, and salt for a tangy taste reminiscent of sushi.


  • Nutritional Yeast: Sprinkle nutritional yeast into the rice mixture for a cheesy flavor and a boost of B vitamins.
  • Vegan Cheese: Add small vegan cheese cubes to the center for a melty surprise.
  • Pickled Vegetables: Incorporate pickled radish, cucumber, or ginger for a tangy crunch.
  • Seaweed Salad: Mix in some seaweed salad for an oceanic flavor and added texture.

Vegan Onigiri Recipe


  • Sesame Seeds: Roll the Onigiri in toasted black or white sesame seeds for a nutty finish.
  • Teriyaki Sauce: Drizzle with vegan teriyaki sauce for a sweet and savory glaze.
  • Furikake: Use vegan furikake (a Japanese seasoning mix) to sprinkle over the Onigiri for extra flavor.
  • Avocado Slices: Top with thin slices of avocado for creaminess and a pop of color.


  • Different Nori Presentations: Experiment with full, half, or cut-out nori sheets for various aesthetic and taste experiences.
  • Lettuce Wraps: Wrap the Onigiri in crisp lettuce leaves for a fresher take.
  • Shiso Leaves: Wrap in shiso leaves for a unique, herbaceous flavor.

Vegan Onigiri Recipe

Vegetable Substitutions

  • Mushrooms – Great for replacing meat due to their umami flavor and meaty texture. Portobello mushrooms can substitute beef in burgers.
  • Jackfruit – Its texture resembles shredded meat, making it perfect for vegan pulled pork.
  • Cauliflower – Can be used instead of chicken, especially in buffalo cauliflower bites.
  • Lentils – Serve as a ground beef substitute in tacos, bolognese, or chili.
  • Eggplant – Its hearty texture makes it a good replacement for lasagna layers or meat in ratatouille.
  • Zucchini – Can be spiraled into noodles as a pasta alternative.
  • Chickpeas – Great in salads, soups, or as a chicken substitute in curries.
  • Sweet Potatoes – Can replace meat in stews or serve as a filling base for vegan bowls.
  • Beets – Their earthy flavor and texture work well in vegan burger patties.
  • Spinach – A versatile green, perfect for adding volume and nutrition to any dish.

Quick Tip – Remember to season your vegetable substitutions generously to enhance flavor and texture in vegan dishes. Spices and herbs are key to transforming simple ingredients into culinary delights.

Vegan Onigiri Recipe

Best Side Dishes

  1. Miso Soup A warm, soothing soup that adds depth and umami to your meal.
  2. Edamame Lightly salted and steamed, edamame beans are a protein-rich snack.
  3. Seaweed Salad Offers a refreshing and tangy contrast to the savory Onigiri.
  4. Pickled Vegetables (Tsukemono) Adds a crunchy, acidic component that cleanses the palate.
  5. Tofu Salad A ginger soy dressing provides a light yet protein-packed side.
  6. Vegetable Tempura Crispy and light, offering a delightful textural contrast.
  7. Kabocha Squash Roasted or steamed, its sweetness complements the savory rice balls.
  8. Cucumber Salad Dressed in vinegar, sugar, and salt for a crisp and refreshing side.
  9. Kimchi The spicy and fermented flavors add a kick to the meal.
  10. Sautéed Greens Like spinach or kale, sautéed with garlic for a simple, nutritious addition.

Best Side Dishes

How To Serve?

  • Platter Presentation: Arrange the Onigiri on a platter with different shapes (balls, triangles) and fillings for visual appeal.
  • Individual Wraps: Wrap each Onigiri in a small piece of nori for easy handling and a touch of elegance.
  • Sauce Accompaniments: For added flavor, offer a variety of dipping sauces, such as soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, or homemade vegan mayo.
  • Garnish: Sprinkle sesame seeds, chopped scallions, or furikake over the Onigiri for extra taste and decoration.
  • Side Dishes: To create a balanced meal, serve complementary sides like miso soup, pickled vegetables, or a simple salad.
  • Tea Pairing: Pair with Japanese green tea for a traditional experience that balances the savory taste of the Onigiri.
  • Bento Box: Pack Onigiri in a bento box with various small sides for a delightful lunch. This portable and varied meal is perfect for lunch.
  • Picnic Style: Onigiri is perfect for picnics. Pack them in eco-friendly containers alongside fresh fruits and vegetables for a light, nourishing outdoor meal.

Quick Tip – Keep a bowl of water nearby to wet your hands for perfectly shaped Onigiri. This prevents rice from sticking, ensuring a smooth, clean shaping process.

How To Serve?

Storage & Make Ahead

  • Refrigeration: Cool Onigiri to room temperature before storing. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to two days for the best freshness.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, freeze Onigiri on a baking sheet, then transfer to a freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator or microwave when ready to eat.
  • Make Ahead: Prepare the rice and fillings a day in advance. Please keep them in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. This allows for quick assembly of fresh Onigiri whenever needed.
  • Revitalize: Refresh refrigerated or thawed Onigiri by lightly toasting them in a pan or warming them in a microwave.
  • Packing for Lunch: To keep Onigiri fresh until mealtime, keep it in a cool place or put an ice pack in your lunch bag.

Fact – Onigiri has been a staple in Japanese cuisine since the 11th century. It was originally used as edible talismans offered at shrines for good luck and protection.

vegan ongiri recipe xard

Time-Saving Tips

  1. Pre-Cook Rice: Prepare your rice in advance and refrigerate it. Cold rice is easier to handle and shapes better into Onigiri.
  2. Use A Rice Cooker: Save time and ensure perfectly cooked rice every time by using a rice cooker.
  3. Prep Fillings In Bulk: Store your fillings in large batches in the refrigerator. This way, you can quickly assemble your Onigiri whenever you want.
  4. Onigiri Molds: Utilize onigiri molds to speed up the shaping process, especially if you’re making a large quantity.
  5. Wrap As You Go: If using nori, wrap the Onigiri just before eating to keep the nori crisp. Pre-cut your nori strips to save time.
  6. Multi-Task: While your rice is cooking, prepare your fillings and set up your wrapping and shaping station. This efficient use of time means you’re ready to assemble as soon as the rice is done.
  7. Batch Assembly: Lay out all your ingredients and assemble multiple Onigiri at once, streamlining the process.
  8. Freeze For Later: Make a large batch of Onigiri and freeze them. They can be a quick meal or snack; just thaw and enjoy.

Vegan Onigiri Recipe - A Traditional Japanese Cuisine

Vegan Onigiri Recipe – A Traditional Japanese Cuisine

Recipe by Julia

Vegan Onigiri transforms the classic Japanese snack into a plant-based delight. This version incorporates a variety of fillings, such as savory vegetables and tangy pickles, all wrapped in a sheet of crispy nori.
It’s a nutritious, convenient option for those seeking a quick bite or a wholesome meal, embodying the simplicity and elegance of traditional Japanese cuisine.

Course: Appetizers, Snacks
0 from 0 votes

8 – 10

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  • 1 cup 1 Sushi Rice

  • To taste Salt

  • 1 Tbsp 1 Peanut Butter

  • 1 1 Roasted Bell Pepper

  • 1/2 Tsp 1/2 Fresh, Grated Ginger

  • To taste Salt, Pepper

  • 1 Tbsp 1 Miso Paste

  • 2 Tbsp 2 Chopped Walnut

  • 2 Tbsp 2 Chopped Cilantro

  • 1 1 Scallion, Chopped

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 Edamame

  • 2 Tbsp 2 Black Sesame Seeds

  • 1 1 Lime, Juice+Zest

  • 1/4 1/4 Avocado, Finely Chopped

  • 1 sheet 1 Nori Sheet

  • 1/4 1/4 Avocado, Thinly Sliced

  • As needed AvoToasted Sesame Seeds


  • Prepare the Rice
  • Wash the rice in a strainer under cold running water until the water runs clear.
  • Combine the washed rice and 1 cup of water in a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the water is fully absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and let the rice cool slightly, about 10 minutes.Vegan Onigiri Recipe
  • Prepare the Fillings
  • Blend peanut butter, bell pepper, ginger, and your chosen seasoning in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl.
  • In separate bowls, mix:
    Miso paste with crushed walnuts
    Chopped cilantro with scallion
    Cooked edamame with sesame seeds
    Mashed avocado with lime juice and zest.Vegan Onigiri Recipe
  • Mix and Shape
  • Divide the slightly cooled rice among the bowls of prepared fillings. Mix thoroughly, keeping each filling separate.
  • With wet hands, scoop out a portion of the rice mixture. Gently shape it into a ball or a traditional triangle.
  • Wrap the Onigiri
  • Wrap each Onigiri with a strip of nori or a slice of avocado. Alternatively, roll them in toasted sesame seeds for an extra crunch.Vegan Onigiri Recipe
  • Serve and Enjoy
  • Your vegan Onigiri are ready to be enjoyed. Perfect as a snack or meal component, they offer a delicious, nutritious, and satisfying option that’s simple and quick to prepare.Vegan Onigiri Recipe
  • Equipments List
  • Rice Cooker
  • Food Processor
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Strainer
  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Non-stick Pan (optional for toasting sesame seeds)
  • Onigiri Mold (optional)


  • Rice Type Matters: Use sushi or short-grain rice for the best stickiness and texture.
  • Seasoning the Rice: Consider lightly seasoning the rice with vinegar, sugar, and salt for added flavor.
  • Handling Rice: Keep a bowl of water handy to wet hands, preventing rice from sticking while shaping.
  • Customize Fillings: Feel free to experiment with vegan fillings based on preferences or seasonal ingredients.
  • Storage: Onigiri can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days or frozen for a month. Thaw before serving or reheating.
  • Serving Temperature: Onigiri tastes best when slightly warm or at room temperature, enhancing flavors and texture.

Nutrition Table 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Brown Rice Instead Of White Sushi Rice For Vegan Onigiri?

Yes, you can use brown rice for vegan Onigiri. While traditional Onigiri is made with white sushi rice because of its sticky texture and sweetness, brown rice is a healthier option that provides more fiber and nutrients.

When using brown rice, ensure it’s a short-grain variety to maintain the needed stickiness. You might need to adjust the water ratio and cooking time slightly, as brown rice typically requires more water and a longer cooking duration.

How Can I Make My Onigiri More Flavorful?

To make your Onigiri more flavorful, consider seasoning the rice with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, similar to sushi rice preparation.

Additionally, the fillings offer a great opportunity to add variety and flavor. Use bold and savory ingredients like marinated tofu, spicy vegetables, or vegan pesto.

Dipping sauces such as soy sauce, tamari, or a homemade vegan mayonnaise can enhance the taste.

vegan ongiri recipe

What’s The Best Way To Store Vegan Onigiri, And How Long Will It Last?

Vegan Onigiri is best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days. If you plan to keep them longer, you can freeze them for up to a month.

To prevent the rice from drying, wrap each Onigiri in plastic wrap before storing it. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or gently reheat in the microwave when ready to eat, adding a damp paper towel to keep them moist.

Are There Any Gluten-Free Options For Vegan Onigiri?

Yes, vegan Onigiri can easily be made gluten-free by ensuring that all ingredients, including fillings and sauces, do not contain gluten.

For a gluten-free alternative, use tamari instead of regular soy sauce. Also, be mindful of cross-contamination if you’re preparing Onigiri in a kitchen where gluten-containing products are made.

Can I Make Vegan Onigiri Without A Rice Cooker?

Absolutely. While a rice cooker simplifies the cooking process and ensures consistent results, you can make sushi or any short-grain rice on the stovetop.

The key is to use the correct rice-to-water ratio and to let the rice simmer covered on low heat until it’s cooked and the water is absorbed. Let it steam for a few extra minutes off the heat before letting it cool slightly for shaping.

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Greetings from the heart of Vie De La Vegan, where each dish we share is a chapter in a larger story of discovery, wellness, and the transformative power of a plant-based diet. My name is Julia, and I am thrilled to be your guide on this delightful culinary adventure.

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