One of my best and long-time friends is Japanese. When we were little, we’d often share parts of our lunches (doesn’t every grade school kid?). Sometimes, her mom would pack her onigiri, which are seaweed-wrapped balls or triangles of white rice filled with meat or vegetables. I always got so excited when she offered me one of them. Onigiri are so much fun to eat, and so tasty!
For this onigiri recipe, I decided to swap out the white rice and use brown rice instead. Frankly, brown rice is always a better option because it still has it’s bran. When you strip the rice of it’s bran layer, you loose the majority of the rice’s nutritional benefits. Since brown rice only has it’s outer hull removed, it still retains fibre, and nutrients such as niacin, vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and a little bit of vitamin E. Basically, brown rice is the way to go if you do eat rice. White rice is pretty much void of all nutrients, and “instant” rice is best saved for packing.
Now, I’m no onigiri expert, but I don’t think you can have an amazing onigiri without a tasty, flavourful filling. And what could be tastier than a mushroom filling laced with lots of garlic and ginger? Honestly, this filling was so delicious, I kept stealing spoonfuls of it from the pan! Thanks goodness there was enough left to stuff my brown rice onigiri.
On top of being down-right delicious, this mushroom filling is so nutritious. Garlic and ginger are both known for their antioxidant, antimicrobials, antiviral, and immune-boosting properties. I wrote all about the benefits of mushrooms in my cremini stuffed mushroom post, but the gist of it is that mushrooms have incredible healing and immune strengthening properties. The more exotic maitake, shiitake, and reishi mushrooms are especially beneficial, but the more common cremini mushroom is still plenty nutritious. To keep a really distinct Asian flavour, I suggest you use shiitake mushrooms to stuff your brown rice onigiri. Nevertheless, cremini (white) mushrooms will be just as tasty.
Alright, I’m not going to lie. Putting together these brown rice onigiri did take quite a bit of time. It would be a million times faster to just cook up some brown rice and spoon the mushroom filling on top. But let’s face it, it’s so much more fun to eat little balls of something rather than just a plain ol’ bowl of something.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that if you’re pressed for time, rolling and stuffing brown rice onigiri might not be a wise option.
However, don’t let that stop you from making these brown rice onigiri when you do have some time on your hands. They make such a great snack or lunch/dinner addition. I like to make these on the weekend and have them in the fridge for whenever I’m feeling peckish.
And if you’re making this for little kids (or adults too actually), you can even get creative with your seaweed cut-outs. Seriously, how cute is this caterpillar? I’ve even see kitty-cat and panda onigiri! The sky is the limit for what cute little brown rice onigiri creations you could possibly come up with!
Did you try out these brown rice onigiri! I’d love to know how they turned out. Comment below or share a photo on Instagram with #thehappinesskithen and tag @thehappineskitchen_
Brown Rice Onigiri with Mushroom Filling
Onigiri is a Japanese snack made of white rice balls that are filled with meat or vegetables and wrapped in seaweed. This recipe ups the nutrition factor by subbing out white rice for brown rice. The addition of a flavourful filling of mushrooms, garlic, ginger, and green onions makes this fun little snack even healthier.
- 1 cup (190 g) short grain brown rice (about 4 cups or 780g cooked rice)
- 2 cup (470 mL) filtered water
- 1 teaspoon (5.54 g) pink Himalayan salt (optional)
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) Chosen Foods avocado oil or coconut oil
- 277 grams of cremini mushrooms (about one small package) or 100 g of shiitake mushrooms (one small package), enough to equal 1 cup (75 g) of minced mushrooms
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, enough to equal 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 4 green (spring) onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) of soy seasoning or tamari
- 1 small pinch of white pepper (optional)
- 1 sheet of nori (sushi seaweed)
Combine uncooked rice, water, and salt (if desired) into a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil then lower heat to low and simmer, covered, for 40-45 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare your mushroom filling. Heat avocado in a frying pan over low-medium heat. Add it minced mushrooms, minced ginger, minced garlic, sliced green onions, soy seasoning, and white pepper. Cook until mushrooms are soft and dark brown.
Once rice is finished cooking, set it aside until it is cool to the touch.
Fill a small bowl with warm water. Wet your hands, then scoop out about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of rice. Form into a ball. With your finger, form a small well in the rice ball. Carefully spoon in a teaspoon (5 mL) of mushroom mixture and seal the rice ball together.
Cut out a strip of nori about 1 inch wide and 4 inches long. Gently wet the nori strip and wrap it around the rice ball.
Your brown rice balls will keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Quote of the post:
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
– John Wooden