Wasabi Tuna Onigiri w/ Perilla Leaves

Wasabi Tuna Onigiri with Perilla Leaves

Have you ever resented the fact that takeout sushi is not as good as in-restaurant sushi? You know, where the sashimi is freshly cut, the maki is freshly rolled, and the rice is so fresh it’s still warm. That level of sushi excellence makes my heart sing. But I do have a few major issues with in-restaurant sushi and I do mean major. I can’t wear my pajamas, I’m expected to wear a bra, my couch is nowhere in sight, AND when I’m at my most vulnerable, i.e. full and sleepy, I have to find my way home. So oppressive! For a long time, I defaulted to takeout sushi because what else was I going to do? Roll it myself every time a craving hit? I would never leave the kitchen. Luckily, these Wasabi Tuna Onigiri offer a quick sushi-like fix, free of takeout disappointments and time-consuming rolling.

Perilla Leaves - Wasabi Tuna Onigiri with Perilla Leaves

Part sushi, part tuna fish sandwich and all the way delicious, these Wasabi Tuna Onigiri couldn’t be simpler to put together. This is especially true if you have a rice cooker. And if you don’t, I have one question for you: Why don’t you have a rice cooker? Seriously, I’m not one to preach the virtues of single-use appliances because infinite kitchen space is still not a thing, but a rice cooker is well worth its counter footprint. You know, that asshole grain brown rice? So good for you, so easy to screw up. When I make it on the stove top, it inevitably winds up kinda chewy. With a rice cooker, brown rice is idiot proof and I know because I am that brown rice idiot. Honestly, if you’re an avid rice-eater you should have a rice cooker.

Sushi rice, wasabi tuna, pickled ginger, wasabi - Wasabi Tuna Onigiri with Perilla Leaves

Another thing I love about this recipe is you don’t have to give a piece of raw fish the side eye. I don’t know about you but I always feel a little iffy about slicing up raw fish at home. I mean, I do it because it’s delicious but there’s always a voice in the back of my head that questions it’s supposed “sashimi grade” status. Just a classic case of fish-related paranoia. Also, fresh tuna is pricey and I like my onigiri tasty AND practical. I can make it more often that way. So, I went with canned flaked tuna and essentially made a celery-free, wasabi-rich tuna salad.

Wasabi Tuna Onigiri with Perilla Leaves

Onigiri is typically wrapped in a small piece of nori, but I was feeling whimsical, so I wrapped them in perilla leaves. Perilla is a relatively new find for me. I had never cooked with it until this year. I’d probably eaten it before considering how many Korean restos I frequent, but I was never formally introduced to it until I had to track it down for a recipe. Since then we’ve been inseparable. It has a very unique, potent umami flavor with hints of green refreshment – sort of a basil meets mint situation.

Wasabi Tuna Onigiri with Perilla Leaves

Adding the perilla leaves seemed like the most delicious way to add visual interest to my Wasabi Tuna Onigiri. And I’m all about adding delicious visual interest because when it comes to food, beauty for beauty’s sake is kinda bullsh*t. That’s how you wind up with stunning wedding cakes that are virtually inedible and an inedible cake is a tragedy in the truest sense of the word. Blech!

Wasabi Tuna Onigiri with Perilla Leaves

While these Wasabi Tuna Onigiri will never come close to the bliss of in-restaurant sushi, they will blow takeout sushi out of the water. And when you’re tired, bra-less and happy to remain so, onigiri is your best low-maintenance sushi-esque fix.



Wasabi Tuna Onigiri w/ Perilla Leaves

Serving Size: Makes 6 Onigiri


  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 1 can flaked water-packed tuna, drained
  • 1/4 cup kewpie mayo or regular mayo
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi paste
  • 1 tablespoon pickled ginger, chiffonade
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 perilla leaves


  1. Place rice in a fine mesh strainer. Rinse until the water runs clear. Leave the rice to drain for 30 minutes.
  2. Place rice in a rice cooker and cover with water up to the 2 cup line. Set the rice cooker to cook.
  3. While the rice is cooking, place tuna, mayo, wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce in a small mixing bowl. Stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. When the rice is done, place rice vinegar, sugar, mirin, and salt in a small microwave-safe bowl. Whisk to combine. Place the vinegar mixture in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds or until the sugar dissolves.
  5. Fold the vinegar mixture and black sesame seeds into the cooked rice. Turn the rice onto a clean dish cloth and spread in an even layer. You want any excess moisture to drain out of the rice.
  6. Take roughly a 1/4 cup of the rice in your dominant hand and form into a ball. Using your other hand create an indent in the center of the rice ball. Place 2 tablespoons-worth of the tuna mixture in the indent. With your free hand, grab another 1/4 cup of rice and form it into a ball. Press the ball into the heel of your dominant hand to form a rough U-shape. Place the U onto the stuffed rice ball and form it into a triangle-like shape. If the rice becomes sticky and hard to handle, coat your hands in additional rice vinegar - you may have to do this several times.
  7. Place a perilla leaf on either side of the formed onigiri. Give the leaves a quick brush of mirin to keep them in place.
  8. Serve immediately with additional soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.
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  1. Love the creative use of wasabi in the filling! And I loooove perilla leaves, so I’m thinking I need to get to trying this onigiri recipe ASAP. I’m also really in love with that shot you have of the perilla leaves in the netting – absolutely gorgeous.

    I totally hear you on the takeout vs restaurant sushi thing – I don’t think I’ve ever had good takeout sushi though, tbh, but it’s just oh so convenient. Onigiri is definitely a good and easy way to fix the sushi craving!

    Love your writing style btw – I love the way you inject humor into your stories 😀

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