Meet your new sushi obsession! Colorful, adorable, and bite size, Temari Sushi is the perfect finger food to serve at your next home gathering. Plus, they are about the most fun you can have in the kitchen! 

When I was little, I was drawn to cute things. Fluffy kittens, Japanese manga and Hello Kitty coin purses were all minor obsessions for me.

So it also stands to reason that the first time I saw temari sushi, I was an immediate fan. And it’s never a bad thing when a creative art project turns out to be edible (and delicious) right!?

I’m so excited to share this blueprint for making colorful, fun and festive temari sushi with you! You’re going to have such a great time crafting it… and an even better time eating it.

sushi rice

What is temari sushi?

Temari sushi – 手まり寿司 – or temarizushi – are round balls of sushi rice topped decoratively with ingredients like sashimi, vegetables, seaweed sheets and fish roe. Typically molded onto the iconic round shape using plastic wrap, they can be garnished as elaborately or as simply as you’d like. 

Now while I tend to regard flavor as king in my kitchen, I did have an absolute blast making these temari sushi on the fun / cute side. Hey – we eat with our eyes first, right!?

Fun fact: temari in Japanese translates to ‘handball’ – and is a reference to the traditional Japanese craft of embroidering decorative ornaments. 

The best part about making temari sushi at home is that, unlike making nigiri and maki, you don’t need any particularly special skill set other than a keen eye for color and patterns. The only limit is your imagination. Since you’ll be using plastic wrap to mold your round sushi balls, it’ll act as a guideline. Minimal fuss.

You’re on your way to becoming a sushi master without the years of training, ha 🙂

Different types of sushi

Most sushi starts with raw fish (called sashimi – 刺身 in Japanese).

Sashimi can be served on it’s own – or incorporated with things like rice, wasabi and seaweed to take on the most commonly seen forms of sushi.

The two most common types of sushi seen in the West are:

  • Sushi – which is sashimi served atop oblong mounds of vinegared rice (called nigiri or nigiri sushi / nigirizushi – 握り寿司 – in Japanese)
  • Cut sushi rolls (called maki or makizushi – 巻き – in Japanese)

From there, it can start to seem a little confusing. For a deep dive on all the different types of sushi, check out my post: Nigiri vs Musubi vs Maki vs Sushi: What’s the Difference? 

And you can even make sushi without the traditional sushi toppings. For example, inari sushi is simply seasoned sushi rice packed inside of bean curd pockets (aburaage). 

Temari sushi is yet another of the myriad sushi recipes – and I think it’s one of the most fun 🙂

how to make temari sushi

Ingredients for Temari sushi

Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Japanese Rice – Gohan: For the best sushi rice, it’s important to start with short grain rice. I typically use Tamanishiki rice because it delivers a perfect fluffy texture and glossy finish. Pick it up at your local Asian grocery store – or grab it on Amazon.
  • Rice Vinegar, Granulated Sugar and Kosher Salt: This trio of ingredients is what we’ll use to flavor our Japanese rice and turn it into perfect sushi rice (more on that in a sec).
  • Sushi Grade Salmon Roe – Ikura: These orangish fish eggs are savory, with a true saline taste of the sea. Aside from their delicious, assertive flavor they make a wonderful decorative element when finishing your temari sushi.
  • Sushi Grade Salmon and Tuna – Sashimi: You can typically buy this fresh at a Japanese grocery store. Sushi grade means that the fish is fit to be consumed raw. Do not use salmon or tuna that is not clearly labeled with this classification.
  • Crab Sticks: Also called kanikama and kani-kamaboko, this is the imitation crab meat we typically associate with California rolls.
  • Dried Seaweed Sheets: This is called nori and is used in a predominantly decorative way in this food project. Great for crafting eyes and facial expressions on your cute temari sushi.
  • Radishes, Cucumber and Carrots: Use these thinly sliced veggies to add color, texture and vibrance.
  • Avocado: Creamy and oh so perfect! 
  • Shiso Leaves: This is my favorite ingredient to use in temari sushi! These ornamental green perilla leaves are super yummy, and can be used to create a base of color.

Now, these are just the ingredients I used for my festive homemade temari sushi. You can follow along here – or just use your own favorites to suit your tastes.

What else can I use?

The sky’s the limit. Use whatever you have handy. You can get pretty imaginative on this one, so go for it!

A few popular options are:

  • Pickled Plum – Umeboshi: While this ingredient is optional, these are the sour pickled plums I love so much, I named my blog after them. YUM!
  • Omelette: You can cook eggs and shred them to use as hair for a face – or even as ribbons or bows.
  • Scallions: These green onions can be cut any number of imaginative ways – and add a pop of color and garden freshness.
  • Lotus Root: These gorgeous rhizomes look amazing as-is and have a wonderful crunch. Great in temari sushi – or in this light salad.
  • Boiled Shrimp and Smoked Salmon: These are great for those of us that don’t love raw fish, but still want to participate in the fun (and eat!).

Pro tip: It’s best to have all the ingredients ready to use to make the cooking process easy. Since temari sushi is best served fresh, plan ahead of time by cutting your ingredients and making the rice first thing in the morning. 

And if you’re looking to make vegan temari sushi, simply using colorful things like cucumber, avocado, nori (seaweed), carrots, shiso leaves and various herbs can also deliver delicious results!

But the most important ingredient is also the most humble: rice.

ingredients for temari sushi

How to make sushi rice

When it comes to making sushi rice, it’s deceptively simple.

  1. Use premium Japanese short grain rice.
  2. Once it’s cooked, add rice vinegar, sugar and salt (check the recipe card below for exact measurements). This delivers a balanced savory, tangy and sweet element that not only compliments the fish – but pairs well with wasabi and soy sauce. This is a must for nailing the nuanced flavors of good sushi.

And cooking rice is a breeze! For detailed instructions on how to get it done in a rice cooker or on the stovetop, check out my post: how to cook rice.

Temari Sushi

How to make temari sushi

  1. Place the cooked rice in a large bowl and add the rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Using a paddle or a spoon, gently fold the rice until it’s coated evenly with the vinegar mixture. 
  2. Grab a piece of plastic wrap and place about 2 tablespoons of rice in the center. Seal, twist and shape the rice into a ball. Squeeze firmly when making the ball – but not so tightly that the rice is being mashed in the process. 
  3. Next, take the rice ball out of the plastic wrap and place it on a plate. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. This will keep it from drying out while you work.
  4. Repeat this step until all the rice is used. 
  5. Now comes the fun part! This is where you get to be create beautiful toppings for your temari sushi. Think colorful and use vegetable cutters to make fun shapes.
  6. When decorating temari sushi, place the flat ingredients (such as shiso leaf, cucumber, tuna, or radishes) in plastic wrap and top with a rice ball. Wrap the plastic wrap around the termari sushi and twist it to close. This helps the toppings adhere to the rice, preventing them from falling off. 
  7. Take the temari sushi out of the plastic wrap, place on a serving plate and finish decorating with your toppings. Use chopsticks or tweezers for more precision.
  8. Repeat this step until all the temari sushi are decorated. Always make sure to cover the plate with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap to prevent the rice from drying. 
  9. Once finished, you can refrigerate if not serving immediately – but for no more than 1 hour as the texture of the rice will not be pleasant once it’s hard. 

Tips for making strikingly cute sushi

  • Use vegetable cutters to easily craft fun shapes. You can do this with a knife – but that’s a laborious task indeed!
  • Layer contrasting colors in interesting patterns. For example, the bright green of shiso leaves looks striking next to bright orange salmon or dark red tuna.
  • Make faces! You can use the seaweed sheets to craft eyes, nose and funny mouth expressions.
  • Garnish the tops with sesame seeds and ikura (salmon roe).
  • Make ribbons and bows out of sliced omelette, cucumber or even crab stick shreds.

Again, use your imagination and have fun! What ideas will you make come to life? I’d love to hear about your temari sushi ideas in the comments section 🙂

Temari Sushi

What to serve with temari sushi

These fun and colorful temari sushi balls would make a great addition to any gathering at your place where finger foods are being passed around. Whether its a Christmas party or your Wednesday book club, people will definitely notice your efforts.

For casual entertaining, you can serve these alongside cucumber tea sandwiches, or homemade baked potato chips – or even the most fun of finger foods: broccoli tots!

Or, if you’re making a full-on Japanese feast at your place, try serving these cute, attention grabbing temari sushi with these easy Japanese recipes: 

Plus:

Did you like this Temari Sushi Recipe? Are there changes you made that you would like to share? Share your tips and recommendations in the comments section below!

Temari Sushi Print

Temari Sushi

You’re going to love making this fun temari sushi recipe – almost as much as you’ll love eating it!

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 16-18 temari sushi 1x
  • Category: Appetizers
  • Cuisine: Japanese
Scale

Ingredients

For sushi rice:

  • 4 cups cooked short grain Japanese rice – room temperature
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons plain rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For temari sushi toppings:

You can use whatever toppings you like for temari sushi, but here are the ones I used for this recipe:

  • Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Avocado, sliced
  • Carrot
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Scallions, finely chopped
  • Shiso leaves
  • Black and white sesame seeds
  • Crab sticks
  • Nori
  • Sushi grade salmon roe
  • Sushi grade suna
  • Boiled shrimp

Instructions

  1. Put the cooked rice in a large bowl and add the rice vinegar, sugar and salt. Using a paddle or a spoon, gently fold the rice to coat it evenly. Set aside.
  2. Grab a piece of saran wrap and place about 1.5 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of rice in the center. Seal and shape the rice into a ball. Squeeze tightly when making the ball but not so tight that the rice is being mashed.
  3. Take the rice ball out of the saran wrap and place it on a plate. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
  4. Repeat this step until all the rice is used.
  5. Now comes the fun part! This is where you get to be creative and create beautiful toppings for your temari sushi. Think colorful and use vegetable cutters to make fun shapes.
  6. When decorating temari sushi, place the flat ingredients such as shiso leaf, sliced cucumber, sliced tuna, radishes, in saran wrap and top with a sushi ball. Wrap the plastic wrap around the termari sushi and twist it to close. This helps the toppings adhere to the rice, preventing them from falling off.
  7. Take the temari sushi out of the plastic wrap, place on a serving plate and finish decorating with toppings. Repeat until all the temari sushi are decorated. Always make sure to cover the plate with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap to prevent the rice from drying.
  8. Refrigerate for no more than 1 hour as the texture of the rice will not be pleasant once it’s hard.

Prepping for this recipe:

It’s best to have all the ingredients ready to use to make the cooking process easy. Since temari sushi is best served fresh, plan ahead of time by cutting your ingredients and making the rice first thing in the morning.

Notes

This is meant to be eaten immediately. Leftovers won’t fare well in the fridge – as the rice will quickly harden.

Keywords: Hors d'oeuvres, snack, Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year's

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