How long can you keep onigiri?
You should consume onigiri made with raw meat or fish as soon as prepared, or after no more than 6 hours if stored in the fridge. Cooked meat and fish would last for up to three days instead once refrigerated.
Our onigiri are made solely with plant-based ingredients, which keep longer in the fridge compared to animal products. As such, you can store these vegan tuna onigiri in the refrigerator for up to 5 days before eating.
If you plan on batch cooking these Japanese rice balls, you should keep the nori and rice separated. To preserve the nori crispiness, keep it in its sachet and only wrap around the rice before eating.
What rice to use for onigiri?
To make the perfect onigiri rice balls, we need sticky rice. The best rice for this occasion is sushi rice.
Sushi rice, also known as Japonica rice, is a type of short-grain cultivated extensively in Japan, China and Korea. This rice is ideal for dishes consumed with chopsticks, like sushi and chirashi bowls, as the higher content of amylopectin makes it stickier than the long-grain siblings . This stickiness is essential to hold the onigiri together.
If your local store is out of Japonica rice, medium-grain California rice is an excellent substitute to make onigiri.
A viable sushi rice alternative for our European friends is risotto (Arborio rice). The short-grained Italian rice makes decent onigiri as it's quite sticky. If you have an urgent need for onigiri (who doesn't) but are out of sushi rice, Arborio rice will not disappoint.
Do you consider yourself a bit of a rebel? Then how about using some forbidden rice to make black onigiri? Black sushi rice - called forbidden since no one but the Chinese emperor was important enough to eat it - is not just beautiful, but also rich in potent antioxidants.
If you like the idea of eating black sushi rice balls but can't find the rice, why not make your own? Mix a few drops of squid ink with plain sushi rice for a luscious black tint and extra sea flavour.
Are onigiri a healthy snack?
If we ignore the filling for a moment, an onigiri is just a ball of steamed rice and a sheet of dry seaweed.
Steamed rice is an excellent source of energy capable of making us feel full without overeating. Although brown rice is the clear winner in terms of nutrients, sushi rice is still a good source of vitamin B and essential minerals .
Nori is a crispy little marvel, rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. But the most impressive trait of this dry seaweed is the high amount of iodine, essential to a healthy thyroid. Research shows that iodine-rich foods are among the key elements that make the Japanese diet so healthy .
So the onigiri is healthy, but whether it stays that way or not will depend on the ingredients we use inside.
We made our vegan "tuna" and avocado Japanese rice balls using nourishing ingredients like avocado and chickpeas.
Avocado is rich in unsaturated fats that are good for your heart, similar to those of extra virgin olive oil. Moreover, its creamy flesh packs loads of fibres for that promote a healthy digestive system. On top of this, this fruit gives us almost all the vitamins out there. We could think of nothing better for our healthy onigiri recipe.
Chickpeas don't play around either. They are an excellent source of plant-based proteins, which we would lose when swapping out tuna. They also have few calories compared to the nutrients they provide , which makes them ideal additions to weight-loss meal plans.
Overall, we are happy about the health profile of our vegan onigiri, especially since they are so cute and delicious!
Are onigiri gluten-free?
Our vegan onigiri are gluten-free, like most others. But if you suffer from gluten allergies, you should pay extra care as there are some subtle exceptions. Let's take a look at some of them.
Soy sauce is a common ingredient in onigiri fillings. But did you know the traditional soy sauce is not gluten-free? Not many do. Pay particular attention to this ingredient next time you order onigiri, especially at street food stalls. You should ask the person serving you if the soy sauce they used is gluten-free. If they give you a vague answer, and you are allergic to gluten, you better walk away.
You should also be wary of Mayonnaise. Although the majority of mayo brands are gluten-free, there are some exceptions. If your onigiri filling comes with this sauce, be safe and ask whether it's suitable for people with gluten intolerance.
Finally, take a good look at the ingredients used in vegan onigiri. Many vegan substitutes, especially mass-produced ones, use a variety of ingredients to emulate the original food successfully. Among these you may have flours and starches, often used to bind the other ingredients together. So next time you are buying "vegan chorizo" onigiri, or whatever, give that label a good read.