Korean rice balls (jumeokbap 주먹밥) are made with sticky short-grain rice that's rolled into balls & covered with seaweed. Add tuna or bulgogi filling for a quick and easy snack or lunch!
Korean rice balls or Jumeokbap (주먹밥) are a quick and easy snack or lunch made with leftover rice and various fillings that are shaped into a ball. This was a delicious snack my mom made for me growing up, and the filling was always a fun surprise to discover!
The best part of Korean rice balls is that it's versatile and ready in just 10 minutes! You can use leftover rice and any filling you'd like for this. It's great for picnics, lunch boxes, or a quick snack you can eat with your hands.
What are Korean rice balls (Jumeokbap 주먹밥)?
Korean rice balls, or Jumeokbap (주먹밥) in Korean, are delicious rice balls seasoned with toasted sesame oil and gim (seaweed). Oftentimes, they're filled with various fillings such as tuna and mayo, bulgogi, kimchi, seasoned anchovies, or leftover banchan (Korean side dishes) from the night before. It's a popular snack, lunch, or street food, and is commonly seen in children's lunchboxes (dosirak).
'Jumeokbap' literally translates to 'fist rice.' 'Jumeok' translates to fist and 'bap' translates to cooked rice. The name came about because the round shape of the rice balls resemble the shape of a fist and it's typically made by squeezing the rice with your hands.
How to Make Korean Rice Balls
- Season the rice: Season the rice with toasted sesame oil and carrots for color. Wear food-safe gloves for easy handling.
- Flatten rice: Scoop about 2 tablespoons of rice and flatten to an even layer.
- Add filling: Next, add 1 tablespoon of filling to the center and top with a bit of rice.
- Shape into a ball: Using your hands, form the rice into a rice ball while keeping the filling encased. Use firm but gentle pressure.
- Roll in seaweed seasoning: To finish, roll the rice ball in seaweed seasoning. Serve and enjoy!
Flattening the rice helps create a thin, even layer that keeps the bulgogi or tuna mayo filling completely covered.
Fillings for Korean rice balls
- Canned tuna or salmon
- Dried anchovies
- Fish cakes
- Vegetables - mushrooms, spinach
- Cream cheese or other soft cheeses
Korean Rice Balls (Jumeokbap 주먹밥)
- 3 cups cooked rice - short or medium-grain rice; warmed
- ⅓ cup seaweed seasoning
- 1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil - or more
- ½ small carrot - finely diced (optional)
Tuna Mayo Filling
- 5 oz canned tuna - drained
- 1½ Tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise
- salt & pepper - to taste
- 1 cup ground beef bulgogi
- Make the filling: For the tuna mayo filling, add the canned tuna and Japanese mayonnaise to a small bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.5 oz canned tuna, 1½ Tablespoons Japanese mayonnaise, salt & pepper, 1 cup ground beef bulgogi
- Season the rice: Saute the finely diced carrots with a bit of oil until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots and toasted sesame oil to the warm rice and mix together.3 cups cooked rice, ½ small carrot, 1½ teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- Add filling and shape rice balls: Take 2 tablespoons of rice and gently flatten it against your hand. Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the center and top it with a bit of rice. Gently but firmly shape the rice into a ball while encasing the filling. Tip: Apply a bit of vegetable oil to food-safe gloves for easy handling.
- Seaweed seasoning: Roll each rice ball in seaweed seasoning. Serve and enjoy!⅓ cup seaweed seasoning
✎ Recipe Notes
- Short or medium-grain rice - Rice balls require sticky rice, such as sushi rice, to hold their shape. Long-grain rice such as Jasmine rice isn't sticky enough to shape into balls.
- Keep a ratio of 2.5 tablespoons of rice per 1 tablespoon of filling.
- Leftover rice: Use warm rice for best results as cold rice doesn't stick together very well. If using leftover cold or frozen rice, reheat until it's soft and sticky.
- Make-ahead: Make ahead up to 2 days in advance and store in the fridge in an airtight container. To reheat, microwave for 20 seconds at a time while covered with a damp paper towel.
*Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using online tools.
Rice balls can fall apart if you use the wrong kind of rice or if they weren't pressed firmly together. Use short to medium grain rice that's sticky to hold its shape. Long grain rice such as Jasmine rice isn't sticky enough. When shaping into balls, use firm pressure to form into tight balls.
Yes you can make this in advance and store in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, microwave for 20 seconds at a time covered.
The main ingredient is short-grain sticky rice and various fillings such as tuna, bulgogi, and seaweed flakes. It's commonly made with leftover rice and side dishes from the night before.
Yes you can use leftover or frozen rice for Korean rice balls. Reheat until soft and sticky and handle when warm to the touch.
Never tried something like this before but sounds delicious. Pinned to make them soon.
These were fantastic - I loved both the tuna mayo filling as well as the bulgogi. Tuna mayo is something I enjoy for lunch often, but it is never filling enough - so these rice balls are just perfect. I used leftover rice and appreciated your tip to reheat the rice to make it sticky and easier to work with!
Yay that makes me so happy to hear! It's such a great way to use up leftover rice. 🙂
Brilliant idea! I normally make sushi for Saturday lunch every week, but this week, we decided to try this recipe and add these balls! I'll tell you what - I think we enjoyed these beauties more than Japanese sushi! Such a nice change from our traditional things! My whole family are sending their thanks for the recipe 🙂
Aww that's fantastic Ieva! This made my day. Thanks for trying these Korean rice balls! 🙂
YUM! This recipe is even better than my local Korean restaurant. I made exactly as directed the first time and they turned out perfect. The second time, I used leftover rice and they turned out great as well. Will definitely make again!
Thanks Karen! That's awesome they turned out so well!
I really want to try more Korean food and these rice balls look amazing.
Do give them a try and let me know how you like them!
Absolutely loved these! I am a fan of Japanese onigiri, so this was something I knew I would enjoy. Especially good with the beef filling. Great for those high-energy snack needs, before or after workout (great for runners or weight lifters).
I'm so glad you enjoyed the bulgogi filling. That's a great idea to have these for a snack before a workout!
These are so delicious, and great to make with the kids! Thanks for the additional filling ideas.
Thanks MJ! So glad to hear that! 🙂
These are delicious! We made them with the bulgogi filling and I was surprised at how easy these were to make. My family is already asking me to make them again.
That's so great to hear! Yes it's such an easy meal or snack!
These look so amazing! I can't wait to try making them with a tuna filling!
These look absolutely delicious! I've been loving Korean food lately will definitely need to try this. There are so many different ways to serve and enjoy rice...cannot wait to make this for my family!
That's great to hear Catherine! I'm so glad you've been enjoying Korean food. There are so many delicious dishes to try!
I have seen these around and have always wanted to try them. I didn't know they were palm sized either. Im sure I'll stuff mine with tuna or salmon filling!