Did you know that April 19th is National Rice Ball Day?  If you’ve never had any kind of rice ball before, here’s a quick run-down of how we can make them.

There are four different kinds of rice balls out there. In Italy, they’re called arancini and made by mixing risotto with ragu, peas, and cheese, forming it into a ball with your hands, rolling it in breadcrumbs, and then deep-frying it until it’s crispy and golden. If you live in an area with a lot of independently owned and operated Italian restaurants or pizzeria, you’ll likely find arancini on the menu.


The next type of rice ball is called onigiri. Onigiri is a Japanese rice ball that’s made by forming plain rice into a triangular shape either with your hands or with the help of an onigiri mould. It’s typically stuffed with umeboshi (pickled plums), or any other salty, umami stuffing, then wrapped up with a piece of nori. Onigiri are such a staple in Japan that they can be found in almost any convenience store. Onigiri also differ from arancini in how you eat them. While eating arancini is a sit-down affair, onigiri is something easy to make that can be taken to-go.

There are two types of rice balls that come from China. Zongzi, sticky rice dumplings, are made from sweet rice wrapped in a bamboo leaf and then steamed. The filling depends on what region you’re in. In the North, popular fillings include red bean paste, tapioca, or taro, making them more like a sweet dessert. In the South, zongzi are savory and typically filled with meat. Tangyuan also come from China and they’re a little different. Instead of using whole grain rice, they’re made from glutinous rice flour mixed with water and then boiled. They have sweet fillings like red bean paste, chocolate, sesame paste, or fruit preserves and they’re served at festivals and special occasions.

Last but not least are pinda, Indian rice balls that are made from rice and barley flour mixed with ghee and black sesame seeds. Many of these rice balls are made with dairy ingredients, but we can easily veganize them. The cheese in arancini is easily replaced with vegan cheese that melts and coconut oil can stand in as a substitute for ghee in recipes.

Now that you know all about the different kinds of rice balls, try your hand at making your own! Here are five kinds of rice balls for you to try!


1. Onigiri Rice Dumplings With Sweet Potato and Shiitake Filling
Onigiri Rice Dumplings With Sweet Potato and Shiitake Filling

You won’t find the typical onigiri center in these Onigiri Rice Dumplings With Sweet Potato and Shiitake Filling. Lightly seasoned with soy sauce, the creamy avocado and roasted sweet potato filling has just a touch of umami flavor that doesn’t overpower your palate that these dumplings. You can serve with a side of miso soup for a light lunch or take one on the go with you as a snack to tide you over until lunchtime.

2. Pumpkin Sage Rice Balls
Pumpkin Sage Rice Balls

Savory and cheesy, these Pumpkin Sage Rice Balls are the epitome of indulgence. They’re like arancini, only plain rice stands in for risotto. Flour, vegan Parmesan, sage, and nutritional yeast (which makes it taste even cheesier) are mixed with white rice, stuffed with vegan mozzarella, rolled in breadcrumbs, and then fried. They’re everything you never knew you wanted.

3. Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini
Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini

Can’t get enough arancini? Look no further than these Zucchini Brown Rice Arancini! The first step is making a brown rice risotto with garlic, dry herbs, and zucchini. They’re also mixed with vegan Parmesan and stretchy vegan mozzarella. These arancini are a work of art.

4. Yaki Onigiri With Sweet Potato and Avocado Filling
Yaki Onigiri With Sweet Potato and Avocado Filling

Onigiri (stuffed rice balls) are a popular snack in Japan. Typically, onigiri is eaten cold but these Yaki Onigiri With Sweet Potato and Avocado Filling are fried. Quick frying on a hot pan makes yaki onigiri nicely crispy. They’re even yummier when dipped in a homemade teriyaki sauce. The sweet and savory sauce added some extra deliciousness to this little snack.


5. Rosemary Arancini: Deep-Fried Risotto
Rosemary Arancini Italian Deep Fried Risotto

Rosemary Arancini: Deep-Fried Risotto. Need we say more? These little treats are flavored with rosemary and best enjoyed with a generous dollop of vegan creme fraiche.

Do you love these delicious little balls of carbs as much as we do? We hope so!


Lead image source: Pumpkin Sage Rice Balls