These Vegan Tuna Mayonnaise Onigiri are just perfect for this time of year, especially if you’re looking to expand your picnic/packed lunch experience beyond the not-so-exciting scope of the humble sandwich.
Onigiri are balls of rice stuffed with a savoury filling, shaped into a triangular shape and covered in nori seaweed. They are sold widely in supermarkets, convenience stores and even vending machines in Japan, as well as often being made at home for packed lunches.
Popular fillings include umeboshi (sour plum), miso paste, fish eggs, seaweed and salted salmon. My personal favourite, however, is tuna mayonnaise! It reminds me of summers spent in Japan buying tuna mayonnaise onigiri from convenience stores as well as tucking into the handmade ones that my grandmother used to make for me.
There is, however, unfortunately very little vegan about tuna mayonnaise. BUT, this vegan tuna mayonnaise alternative (or even superlative?!), which I discovered thanks to the amazing Minimalist Baker’s Chickpea Sunflower Sandwich recipe, has literally blown my mind! I still don’t quite completely understand how chickpeas, tahini and a little Dijon mustard manage to come together to create a gastronomical experience akin to devouring mouthful after mouthful of rich, creamy, dreamy tuna mayonnaise. But, it just works! Hurrah! You’ll see exactly what I mean if you try this for yourself.
Anyway, back to the onigiri. The rice is often mixed with tiny flakes of seaweed or red shiso (a Japanese herb, also known as perilla). I opted for the latter, both because I love the taste as well as the pretty reddish-purplish colour! You can buy shiso seasoning from Asian/Japanese supermarkets, and if you’re UK-based you can buy it online from the Japan Centre.
Finally, onigiri are usually wrapped in nori seaweed – for aesthetic purposes as well as to give the eater something to hold onto, and to add an extra yummy flavour – pretty AND practical!
And now to address the elephant in the room – these onigiri may look beautiful and delicate (i.e. difficult to make) but TRUST ME they’re really not that hard – if I can do it so can you! AND if you still find yourself confused by my instructions in the recipe below, there are loads of videos online that will definitely give you the confidence to make these at home yourself! Here’s one such video I’d recommend you watch if you’re feeling a little nervous about making these for the first time.
And before I leave you guys to it, I do have to add that the rice you use for these MUST MUST MUST be white Japanese sushi rice – this is no time for a wild rice/brown rice/Basmati rice situation. The stickiness of the white sushi rice is the only thing that will allow these onigiri to form and keep their shape!
If you like these Onigiri, you might like my Onigirazu – a cross between onigiri and a sandwich!
If you try out this recipe or anything else from my blog, I’d love for you to take a photo and tag it #rhiansrecipes on Instagram! It would really make my day to see what you come up with!
- 2 portions Japanese sushi rice (it must be this type of rice otherwise it won't stick together)
- Optional: 1 tablespoon shiso seasoning/seaweed flakes
- Optional: 4 strips nori seaweed
- 100g chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- Optional: few tablespoons tinned sweetcorn
- Cook the rice according to instructions on packet and cool down until the rice is cool enough to handle easily without burning your hands!
- Make the filling: use a fork to gently smash the chickpeas in a bowl, then add all other ingredients and mix well. Season according to taste
- Mix the shiso seasoning into the rice (if using)
- Make sure your hands are wet (to make sure the rice won't stick to your hands) and take 1/4 of the rice and shape into a spherical shape in your hands, making a little well in the middle. Add a small amount of the filling into the well and carefully wrap the rice around the filling and shape into a ball/triangular shape using your hands
- Repeat with the remaining ingredients. You should be able to make 4 onigiri
- Wrap the nori seaweed around the bottom of the onigiri as shown in the photo
- Either enjoy immediately or keep in the fridge for up to a couple of days (best eaten cold)
- If you're pressed for time, you could just mix the smashed chickpeas with store-bought mayonnaise (vegan or otherwise)
- Use any leftover filling for salads, pasta, sandwiches, wraps etc!