Jack O'Lantern Onigiri

These cute Japanese-inspired rice balls (onigiri) were a hit at a Halloween-themed potluck. Using turmeric and gochujang gives them a natural orange color with no food coloring. You can also decorate them in a different way for different holidays!

Prep Time:
30 mins
Cook Time:
15 mins
Additional Time:
40 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 25 mins
30 onigiri


  • 3 cups Japanese short-grain white rice

  • ½ large cucumber with peel, cut into 1/2-inch rounds

  • 1 sheet nori (dried seaweed), cut into strips

  • 3 ½ cups water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste), or more to taste

  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 cup warm water

  • 2 teaspoons salt


  1. Pour rice into a large colander. Rinse under cold running water, stirring with your fingers, until water runs clear, about 5 minutes.

  2. Set colander over a large bowl. Leave rice to drain, about 20 minutes.

  3. Cut sides away from each cucumber round; discard seeded center. Cut sides into thin strips for the pumpkin 'stems'. Place cucumber strips in a bowl.

  4. Cut 1/2 the nori strips into triangles to make the 'eyes.' Cut remaining nori strips into jagged 'mouths.' Place eyes and mouths in separate bowls.

  5. Combine rice, 3 1/2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and cover; cook until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat but keep pot on the burner. Let rice stand, covered, until tender, about 10 minutes.

  6. Remove rice from heat; stir in gochujang and turmeric until rice is uniformly orange. Cool rice until easily handled, about 10 minutes.

  7. Stir 1 cup warm water and salt together in a shallow bowl. Line a platter with plastic wrap.

  8. Scoop warm rice with a 1 1/2-tablespoon cookie scoop and drop onto the plastic wrap. Dip your hands in the warm salted water and roll rice into balls. Stick on 2 eyes and 1 mouth. Press 1 cucumber strip into the top. Transfer finished onigiri to another serving platter.

Cook's Note:

For a more substantial snack, fill rice balls with a cube of salmon, tuna, cucumber, or avocado if desired.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

74 Calories
0g Fat
16g Carbs
1g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 30
Calories 74
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0g 0%
Sodium 238mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 16g 6%
Dietary Fiber 1g 2%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 3mg 0%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 24mg 1%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.