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Posted on Jul 2, 2007 in Equipment, Onigiri or Sushi, Tips, Tutorial or How-to | 31 comments

Tip: Use cookie cutters as onigiri molds

Tip: Use cookie cutters as onigiri molds


Shaped rice balls (onigiri) add an element of fun to a child’s bento lunch, but it’s limiting to feel that I need to buy a special onigiri mold to make them. You can shape them by hand, but looking through the kitchen drawers my eye settled on cookie cutters to provide a variety of shapes. The twist is lining them with plastic wrap to ensure that the rice ball will unmold neatly without sticking to the cookie cutter. Actual onigiri molds often have textured interiors that help keep the rice from sticking, so using plastic wrap is a low-tech approximation that also helps keep the food sanitary. You can also make onigiri in advance, wrap and freeze them, and microwave to refresh (see my tutorial on freezing onigiri here).

Using cookie cutter as onigiri mold #3

You can mold much more than white rice; Flickr user One More Bento Fan has been really innovative in molding alternative foods. Check out her molded couscous “cheat-a-giri”, steel-cut oatmeal, mixed brown rice, scrambled eggs or black rice. Wow!

Using cookie cutters as onigiri molds

Step-by-step instructions follow…

Also, I’d like to give a big thanks to reader Corgi for the brand new, snazzy banner for this website. You rock!

Using cookie cutter as onigiri mold #1

Place the cookie cutter sharp side down on a cutting board, and line with a good-sized piece of plastic wrap. Spoon in warm rice (not long grain) or anything else you’d like to mold (see above).

Using cookie cutter as onigiri mold #2

Fold the plastic wrap over the rice, and push the rice down into the crevices of the mold with your fingers. Pay special attention to the edges so that the design will be clear when unmolded. Add more rice as necessary to fill the cookie cutter.

Using cookie cutter as onigiri mold #3

Turn it all over and carefully remove the cookie cutter.

Using cookie cutter as onigiri mold #4

Unwrap the onigiri, place it in your lunch container, and decorate if you like (with nori, sliced vegetables, meat, cheese, etc.).

Using plastic wrap to form rice ball

You can also use plastic wrap to quickly form little round rice balls similar to the scrambled egg purses here.



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  1. Ingenious. Any Japanese okusan would be so happy to get this tip!

  2. Wow, your banner looks GREAT! I love it!

    The tip for the cookie cutter molds is, of course, much appreciated. I love the stuff I read on your site, even if I never take the time to do them in our bentos.

  3. Hey, thanks for the shout-out :) Do I see long-grain rice in today’s onigiri?

  4. @1 from mamichan:
    Hey, thanks mamichan! Big compliment.

  5. @2 from Katie:
    I’m thrilled with the banner too — Corgi rocks! And as for the tips, as long as you’re making your lunches in a way that you like (and that give you delicious results), then keep doing what you’re doing!

  6. @3 from One More Bento Fan:
    Of course you get a shout-out — you’re doing really interesting things with your bentos!

    No long-grain rice today — I find it doesn’t stick together well. I’m using the regular Kokuho Rose rice (medium grain, I think — maybe short grain) that I’ve used forever. Costco sells it in huge bags here, so it’s convenient to pick one up on a regular Costco run.

  7. Thank you! I was wondering why it didn’t work very well last time… plastic wrap 0-0

  8. I mix black sticky rice with white sticky rice. Creates a dramatic effect plus I really like black rice.
    You can use black rice for many asian puddings and desserts as well. It is not common in Japanese cooking as far as I know. I’ve encountered it more in Chinese and other asian cuisines. Nonetheless it is pretty cool.
    Otherwise I like to keep white rice as “clean” as possible (yes, you can call me environmentally damaged from my Japan years when WHITE rice is gohan and symbolises purity and whatever else is raisu). Gohan also means food or meal for anyone not familiar with Japanese. before it was that no rice = no meal.

    There are also interesting types of rice available such as purple rice. For onigiri though, as Biggie and others pointed out, it has to be sticky or modified with something to hold it together but it is really cool to use, say for a pilaff.

    Did I mention, Biggie, that your sandwich tip of storing frozen sandwiches in the freezer is working magnificently :D?! But then you already knew that ;). And oh, I love the banner too.

  9. I tried to use my sandwich cutters too to mold rice, but got frustrated for they got stuck. Good idea on the plastic wrap!!! Speaking of which, i think you can also form mini rice balls using a plastic wrap - the same way they make round sushi (with a square piece of salmon or avocado on top).

  10. oops, sorry! I didn’t know that you already mentioned the use of plastic to make rice balls. I didn’t see the rest of the tutorials, you see ;-)

  11. That is a great tutorial! You are always so innovative.

  12. @8 from MysticEden:
    The plastic wrap does make it a snap — very versatile (and common, and cheap!). Good luck to you!

  13. @9 from Jessica:
    Hey, I think Japanese Flickr user 21MA also does the same thing — adding 10% black or purple rice to her white rice. She says it gives her white rice a kind of pink blush, and her family hasn’t complained yet, so… Anway, good to hear the freezing sandwich tip is working for you! It’s mighty handy to have a stash of those in the freezer — I should make some more and freeze them myself…

  14. @11 from Jenny:
    Hey, we were thinking the same thing on the plastic wrap! :-)

    As an aside, I often use the “Read more” cut in my blog entries to neaten things up, but do you then often miss content if it’s not displayed in full on the top page?

  15. @12 from The Foodie:
    Hey, thanks Foodie!

  16. wow, great idea! I have onigiri molds but will definitely try using cookie cutters for some change : ) I love black rice but have never cooked at home. I will run to store tomorrow - oops, maybe Thursday! (everywhere will be closed tomorrow, ne?)

  17. @18 from yumimb:
    You know, I haven’t worked much with black rice either — time for a trip to the store for me too. Have a great 4th of July holiday, BTW!

  18. @ 14, 18 & 19 biggie and Yumi. Black rice is real easy to use, as is the purple rice. If you find purple rice, do try it, it is really neat. The only thing that you might find tricky is that most labels on the packaging says to soak it for 24 hrs prior to cooking. Some I know don’t see the need of soaking it, but I do. My ex-husband was very particular with the rice. Be damned if I did anything to it other than keep it white and sticky.
    I have a great thai-inspired dessert which uses black rice, coconut cream and muscovado sugar. You need only a small amount to have it be a perfect end to a meal.

  19. This is a great idea-I have a lot of cookie cutters. I am new to bento. Is there a recipe for making shaped rice that can be made ahead and re-heated in the school microwave and not come out hard? It would be most appreciated.

  20. @22 from e-beth:
    Welcome! I actually did a tutorial about making shaped onigiri ahead of time, freezing it, and microwaving it for good results: it’s here.

  21. Great tutorial! Now I can make onigiri without freaking out about how bad they look… ^_^ First batch I did, didn’t turn out so well, and I burned the rice in the rice cooker so I wasn’t alowed to use it till I scrubbed it out! Now, I can use all the neglected cookie cutters that are lying around in the pantry! Sankyu!

  22. I read this post a while ago and took the advice and it really works i frequently mould my sons rice with cookie cutters- and because i have so many we get so many different lunches and themes for his bento. :)

  23. @26 from katherine: Glad to hear this worked for you — it does give a lot of variety for shaping onigiri if you’re already got cookie cutters lying around. Nice new blog too, BTW! I look forward to adding you to my Lunch Links page once you’ve got some more of your bento lunches up. Feel free to add any descriptive info you’d like included in a comment on this post:

  24. Biggie, great idea using the cookie cutters! I have onigiri shapers though that I bought at the Asian grocery store and I’m not sure how to use them.

    When do you add the filling? You only demonstrate shaping the rice. Do you spoon the rice in the mold, then add the filling, then spoon more rice on top to cover?

    And I presume you can use cooked frozen rice for this, right?

  25. @28 from Cherie: You use the onigiri molds just as you’ve described: spoon some warm rice into the mold, make a little hole in the rice for the filling and add the filling, then spoon rice on top to cover. Press with the mold (beware of adding too much filling as it can spill out and make it hard for the onigiri to hold together). When you’re using cooked frozen rice, first be sure to warm in the microwave until it’s warm and soft again before shaping in the onigiri mold. Hope this helps!

  26. Hi Biggie :) I wanted to ask if we could print and use a few of your tips (such as this one) in our presentation on bentos next weekend. We of course will absolutely credit you on it. Thanks in advance for your consideration :)

    Tammy :)

  27. Thanks so much for this idea! I went to Dollar Tree and found the cute sets of cookie cutters for a dollar…hm, so far I have the Christmas cutters and Spring cutters. Hopefully they will come out with the other seasons soon so I can stay in the correct theme.

  28. Is there any particular reason your nto supposed to use long grain rice wehn making the rice balls? Does it make them turn out badly?

  29. I used this tip tonight to make my first onigiri!!! AWESOME!! My cookie cutters have a rim around the edge so I flipped them and put the sharp end up and it worked GREAT! I was making them ahead so I just left them wrapped tight in the plastic and they went right into the fridge! Easy as pie for a newbie!

  30. I have tried this and it is great! Another thing I have, and I got them at Target, are boys & girls themed cookie pans that make 3D cookies. They work GREAT for making little scrambled eggs or rice, or even making mini-muffins that are shaped. They do a dozen at a time, so if you’re doing eggs it makes it fast and easy to freeze and store.

  31. ^^ This is such a cute website!!!