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, fish eggs, seaweed, salted salmon and tuna mayonnaise!
Tuna mayonnaise in particular 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.
Tuna mayo is, however, not very vegan at all. BUT, this vegan tuna mayonnaise alternative (or even superlative?!) that I've been coming across for ages now 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! You'll see exactly what I mean if you try this for yourself.
If you don't like the sound of this chickpea tuna mayonnaise, you could alternatively make this vegan egg mayonnaise or this vegan chicken mayonnaise (also made using chickpeas!) or this edamame paste.
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.
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!
You can buy nori seaweed in most supermarkets, local health stores and Asian supermarkets.
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!
And before I leave you guys to it, I do have to add that the rice you use for these MUST be sticky Japanese sushi rice - this is no time for a wild rice or 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! You can use brown rice as long as it's sticky brown rice and not the long grain kind.
If you like these Vegan Tuna Mayonnaise Onigiri, you might like my Onigirazu (a cross between onigiri and a sandwich), or these Muffin Tin Sushi Cups.
For more fun sushi recipes, check out my:
If you try out this recipe or anything else from my blog, I’d really love to hear any feedback! Please give it a rating, leave a comment, or tag a photo #rhiansrecipes on Instagram! Thank you.
Vegan Tuna Mayonnaise Onigiri (GF)
For the filling:
- 100 g (½ cup) chickpeas
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- ¼ teaspoon (Dijon) mustard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (ensure gluten-free if necessary)
- Salt + pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons tinned sweetcorn, drained and rinsed (optional)
For the rice:
- 180 g (1 cup) Japanese sushi rice (it must be sticky Japanese sushi rice otherwise it won't stick together)
- Optional: 1 tablespoon shiso seasoning/seaweed flakes
- Optional: 4 strips of nori seaweed
For the filling:
- Use a fork (or potato masher) to gently smash the chickpeas, then add all other ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary
For the rice:
- Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet and leave it to cool down until the rice is cool enough to handle easily without burning your hands!
- Mix the shiso seasoning into the rice (if using)
- Make sure your hands are wet (this is crucial to make sure the rice doesn't stick to your hands) and take ¼ of the rice and shape into a spherical shape in your hands
- Make a little well in the middle and 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)
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