Sesame Almond Brown Rice Balls Recipe

Perfectly portable sesame almond brown rice balls. I packed these for a road trip from SF to Portland last week. They're flecked with green onion, and you can tuck edible surprises (i.e. avocado) in the centers if you like.

Sesame Almond Brown Rice Balls

The last time I was stranded on the side of a road was in Sri Lanka. The sun was intent on breaking us, the location remote. I can tell you this, a shredded tire on the side of an Oregon highway, storm or no storm, is preferable than one outside a game park near Wellawaya. Remedying that situation involved hitching rides in unfamiliar minivans. Then a visit to a Sri Lankan safari don's living room where we commissioned a ride south (you can imagine who had the upper hand in that negotiation). This one? A phone call, a flat bed truck, and a short stint in the waiting room of the repair shop. I'm home now, and aside from a couple hurdles (wind, rain, snow, icy roads, flat tires) driving along the coast from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon is beautiful. Although...I might make it a summer trip the next time around.

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I'm realizing that a good number of the shots I took over the past week were from where I was sitting IN the car. The wind was blowing so hard at some points that it was hard to open the door.

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As far as provisions go...aside from the cake, I packed the car with all sorts of things to make into snacks (or meals) in a pinch. With a bit of soy sauce and some tofu we grilled on the balcony of the hotel, these brown rice balls worked out nicely as a quick dinner one night. I should clarify the hotel was more like a condo with a sizable balcony and I'm guessing not all properties allow this.You can tuck little cubes of avocado,or whatever else, into the centers to make them as substantial as you like.

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You can make the rice balls as large or small. I like them on the small side - more golf ball than baseball. As long as you use the right kind of rice, shaping them just takes a bit of patience and practice. I line a tiny, steep-sided bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap, fill the bowl, twist, shape, peel. The cup I use is about 1/2 cup capacity, and I fill it 2/3 full. You want to use short grain brown rice - I use short grain brown Japanese rice, sometimes labeled sushi rice. Long grain rice doesn't work as well. Arborio rice works well too, but I never see that sold as whole grain. Have a look at the photo (up above) so you can see the size of the rice grains in my hand.

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I seasoned this batch of rice balls with sesame seeds and green onions, studded them with chopped almond slices. As you can imagine, you can go in a million different directions here. They are super portable - picnic, cubicle, car, plane, school lunch - as long as you have a structured container, they should survive intact. I put mine in a parchment lined cake pan.

Brown Rice BallsBrown Rice BallsBrown Rice Balls

Before I sign off I wanted to thank all of you who sent such nice notes about the James Beard nomination of Super Natural Every Day (here's a PDF of the nominees). They made my day. It's a fantastic feeling to be nominated, even better to know so many of you are excited as well. I keep saying it, the support and enthusiasm you've directed toward my book over the past year continues to blow me away. And it certainly keeps me thinking about how I can raise the bar the next time around. xoxo -h

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Sesame Almond Brown Rice Balls

Because brown rice has all the stuff that can go rancid still intact - bran/germ, if you can find organic rice labeled "new crop", go with that. And, in case you want to make a larger pot of rice, use ~1 1/2 cups / 360 ml water for each cup of rice - perhaps a splash more.

2 cups / 14 oz / 400 g brown sushi rice (stubby, short grains)
3 cups / 710 ml water
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/4 cup / 1.5 oz / 45 g sesame seeds (white/black mix)
3 tablespoons toasted almond slices/slivers, chopped
1/4 cup / 4 tablespoons minced green onions

Optional: things to tuck in the middle: avocado cubes (toss in lemon juice first), tofu, etc.

In a colander or fine-mesh strainer, rinse the rice briefly and drain. If you have time to soak the rice for an hour or two, do it. If not, just proceed. Bring the rice to a boil over medium-high heat in your thickest-bottomed pot. Dial the heat back so the water is just simmering actively - low-med. Cover with tight fitting lid, and try not to peek too often.

Cook the rice until the water has been absorbed and the grains are cooked through, usually about an hour, less if you've soaked the rice.If the grains have cooked but there's still water to be absorbed, dial the heat up to medium-high until the pan dries out, being careful not to scorch the rice at the bottom. Remove the rice from heat and let rest, covered, for at least 15 minutes, preferably a bit longer. Fluff with a fork, then gradually add and incorporate the sesame seeds, almonds, and green onions. At this point, taste, and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt if needed. I let the rice cool quite a bit before shaping.

To form the rice balls, line a small cup with plastic wrap, sprinkle the plastic wrap with a dab of water, then fill the cup 2/3 full with rice mixture. No need to pack it down. You can tuck something in the center at this point if you like. Gather the plastic wrap like you would a ponytail, and twist at the base of the rice. Make sure there is no air trapped, and use your opposite palm to shape into a ball (see photo up above). Carefully remove plastic wrap and set the rice ball in a parchment lined container or on a plate. Repeat with the remaining rice.

A couple tips: If your fingers get sticky, dab with water. And if you run out of steam making rice balls, just cook up a couple eggs into a thin omelette, cut into shreds, and toss with the rice - makes for one of my favorite quick lunches.

Makes about 2 dozen small rice balls.

Prep time: 20 minutes - Cook time: 60 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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I am making these for when I go hiking (Yosemite Valley again, starting tomorrow). With a nut embedded in the middle, these would be awesome for longish hikes. Also, I wondered...would you mind if your pictures were pinned on Pinterest?

HS: I don't mind at all Molly. I just prefer that people don't cut/paste recipes from the site elsewhere.


Heidi, do you have any recipes for savory power bars? Thanks!


These look tremendous! I love the little avocado nugget inside. these would make the perfect picnic snack with avocado in some and baby shrimp in others.


Heidi, if you ever run out of recipe ideas, I have a suggestion: savory power bars. The ones I make are all on the sweet side, and I'd love your input! Thanks! Deb


Mmmm... I'll be making these this weekend. Thx for the tip on 'new crop' rice. If you hit the OR coast in the summer, don't miss Manzanita. It has a great little downtown and a huge sandy beach.

HS: Manzanita was great even thought the weather was flat out bad.


Wow, Heidi! I don't know how you manage to have your creative juices flowing 24/7!!!! Always such yummy and great ideas! And congrats on the nomination: we'll deserved!!!


The Oregon Coast winter into spring season can be brutal, but you are right - it's absolutely beautiful at times. Have lived here for almost 2 years now and still getting used to the frigid wind! Your photos depict the surroundings and environment wonderfully. Going on another trip myself - will be sure to pack your Sesame Almond treats for the road. Thank you, Heidi!

Jill @ 42potatoes

Oh, wow. I am going to make these and add some toasted sesame oil. Thanks for the recipe!


Heidi--I'm a big fan of yours. I have all three of your cookbooks. I tend to lurk on your site quietly. Congratulations on your nomination! And thanks for all the wonderful, healthy food ideas.

HS: Thanks Molly! :)

Molly in Mpls

WOW! I can't wait for lunch! I think I will make a variety of these, some stuffed with avocado, some with tofu and I may even try some smoked salmon. The post is beautiful and an enjoyable read as always.


I can't wait to try this recipe! Thank you and congratulations on the nomination!


I unsuccessfully tried to make these last week using another recipe but the instructions weren't laid out as nicely there. Your step by step instructions will make a big difference, I am sure! can't wait to take these on my plane trip to India next week!


I really enjoy your posts on travel- the pictures and your perspective. I've had plenty of "disasters" on the road, but when you're in the U.S., it's probably going to work out ok. Also, love the rice balls. I'm a snacker and these look like the perfect mini-meal. :)

la domestique

Those look delicious! How well do they hold together when you are eating them? I could imagine feeding them to my kids on road trips but I could imagine them not holding their shape and coating the car with rice.


Oh perfect! I'm going on a plane trip tomorrow & was just wondering what to bring for lunch! These will be delish.


These look so yummy.. p.s. you take the most beautiful images, it really inspires me to break out the cameras a little more often.


Did you come through Humboldt county? That's where I live- I'm sure you would have loved it.


My daughter and I often make her wildly creative versions of onigiri (she's five, so they get pretty wild), but we've never made them with sesame seeds mixed in. So beautiful! Perhaps I'll make this version for her father and I when we go out hiking. Thank you for the lovely recipe, as always. ~Monika

Monika {wcv}

Can't wait to try these...I have some nigella seeds hanging out in my pantry, do you think that flavor would work alongside the white sesame seeds?

HS: I suspect they'd be nice Steph


Oh my goodness. Might have to make these asap. As always, beautiful pictures.


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