Christmas Lights Onigiri + Easy Chestnut Filling

Fill your bento box with holiday cheer by making these Christmas Lights Onigiri! Filled with a crazy addictive chestnut & brussels sprouts filling, you won’t be able to get enough of these bright and festive little presents of rice!

 

Christmas Lights Onigiri - These bright & festive rice balls are perfect for bento box lunches, holiday parties, and Christmas themed appetizers! Filled with a crazy addictive chestnut & brussels sprouts filling, learn just how fun & easy making and decorating these onigiri are with an easy to follow video tutorial + step-by-step instructions. | loveatfirstbento.com

Christmas Lights Onigiri - These bright & festive rice balls are perfect for bento box lunches, holiday parties, and Christmas themed appetizers! Filled with a crazy addictive chestnut & brussels sprouts filling, learn just how fun & easy making and decorating these onigiri are with an easy to follow video tutorial + step-by-step instructions. | loveatfirstbento.com

Deck the halls with onigiri ~ Okay, maybe not, but why not deck out your bento box with these super colorful, intoxicatingly festive Christmas Lights Onigiri? Theyโ€™re fun to make, easier to decorate than Christmas cookies, and are guaranteed to fill you with copious amounts of holiday cheer. And, wrapped up inside these little bundles of rice is a delectable filling of savory chestnuts & brussels sprouts, a filling so good, youโ€™ll find it near impossible not to shovel it all into your mouth as soon as it leaves the pan. (But, even if you do, I promise I won’t tell.)

Decorating the house with Christmas lights, for me, heralds the official arrival of Christmas. It was always the first “decorating” activity at our house, undertaken solely by my dad. He took his Christmas lights duty very seriously; in fact, we were Christmas lights champions, having won our small town’s annual Christmas lights contest several years in a row (I think the prize was a picture of our house featured in the paper ๐Ÿ˜› ). We’d always go for an elegant all-white, frosted snow sort of look and feel, leaving our two-story house fully decked out in twinkling icicle lights, canopies of hanging, glittering stars, and nets of illuminated mesh cascading up and down pillars and across every visible window. We’d literally get lineups of people driving past our house each night just to have a look! So, in honor of this past tradition, I couldn’t think of a better way to decorate this month’s onigiri than with some “edible” Christmas lights of my own! Thankfully, these Christmas lights are a lot easier to “put up” than real Christmas lights, and don’t require you to work out in the cold ๐Ÿ˜‰

Christmas Lights Onigiri - These bright & festive rice balls are perfect for bento box lunches, holiday parties, and Christmas themed appetizers! Filled with a crazy addictive chestnut & brussels sprouts filling, learn just how fun & easy making and decorating these onigiri are with an easy to follow video tutorial + step-by-step instructions. | loveatfirstbento.com

Aside from adding an adorable Christmas touch to any bento box, these Christmas lights onigiri would also be perfect as:

  • Holiday party appetizers
  • A kid-friendly decorating activity (what kid wouldnโ€™t love coloring in all those little light bulbs?)
  • Post-shopping snack
  • Christmas movie marathoning munchies

 

To make the Christmas light decorations, I used a small teardrop shaped food cutter to cut out a bunch of white cheese โ€œlight bulbsโ€, which were then colored red, green, blue, and yellow using edible food markers. If you donโ€™t mind the extra work, you can definitely use naturally dyed chicken ham instead of the colored cheese; just follow my instructions for dying chicken ham in the Sailor Moon Noodle recipe, and use beet powder, spinach powder, Blue Matcha, and turmeric as your coloring agents. For an alternative vegetarian option, try using multi-colored bell pepper cut-outs. The light bulb โ€œcordโ€ can be made from any leafy green you have on hand, such as spinach, arugula, basil, chives, or shiso, and can easily be cut into thin strips using a (clean) pair of scissors.ย 

Watch how to make Christmas Lights Onigiri (60 sec):

And can we just take a second to talk about this unsuspectingly addictive chestnut & brussels sprouts filling? Brussels sprouts are crisped up in a hot pan until fragrant and toasty, then mixed together with some buttery chestnuts, crispy golden ham, and a hearty splash of lemon juice. You could honestly just eat this filling as is – it would make a fantastic side dish in a bento or for a meal – but thereโ€™s something wonderfully charming about having it all wrapped up inside the rice and nori. Itโ€™s almost like biting into an edible little Christmas present!ย To make life super easy, try shredding your brussels sprouts in a food processor; you’ll end up with perfectly shredded sprouts in about 3 seconds flat, and quite possibly hear angels singing “Hallelujah” as you marvel at your genius.ย ย 

Youโ€™ll want to be quite generous when adding the filling to your onigiri, while on the flip side being careful not to fill it so full that the onigiri falls apart. To avoid this dilemma (although itโ€™d be a tasty dilemma), follow these key steps:

  1. When adding your filling to the mold, make sure you leave a border of uncovered rice on all sides.
  2. After youโ€™ve added the final layer of rice atop the filling, use a chopstick or back end of a spoon to gently push the rice down along the edges of the mold, until the top layer of rice connects with the bottom layer of rice. If your onigiri mold is clear, check and see if you can see any filling poking out along any of the sides; your goal is to see only white rice on all sides of the onigiri. If you see any filling sticking out, add a little more rice and/or press down with your chopstick again in that spot until all you can see is rice.
  3. Be sure to press down firmly with the moldโ€™s removable top piece, to ensure the rice is compact and firmly held together before you remove it from the mold. ย ย 

 

Christmas Lights Onigiri - These bright & festive rice balls are perfect for bento box lunches, holiday parties, and Christmas themed appetizers! Filled with a crazy addictive chestnut & brussels sprouts filling, learn just how fun & easy making and decorating these onigiri are with an easy to follow video tutorial + step-by-step instructions. | loveatfirstbento.com

You can, of course, fill these onigiri with whatever filling youโ€™d like (some spicy tuna salad would also be lovely!), but I really recommend giving this chestnut one a try. I mean, you never know – it may just be an excellent way of sneaking some brussels sprouts into a picky eater’s diet ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, spread some holiday cheer at your next lunch break with these bright and festive Christmas Lights Onigiri! Or, pack them up as a delicious โ€œedible Christmas giftโ€ for a friend or loved one to enjoy for their lunch. They make for the perfect addition to any holiday themed bento box, and are sure to be loved and enjoyed by people of all ages!

 

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Christmas Lights Onigiri - These bright & festive rice balls are perfect for bento box lunches, holiday parties, and Christmas themed appetizers! Filled with a crazy addictive chestnut & brussels sprouts filling, learn just how fun & easy making and decorating these onigiri are with an easy to follow video tutorial + step-by-step instructions. | loveatfirstbento.com

Christmas Lights Onigiri w/ Chestnut & Brussels Sprouts Filling


  • Author:
  • Yield: 4 Onigiri
  • Category: Onigiri

Description

Spread the holiday cheer with these fun & colorful Christmas Lights Onigiri! Includes recipe for a tantalizing chestnut & brussels sprouts filling, plus easy to follow instructions for making your very own edible Christmas light decorations. {Vegetarian options}


Ingredients

Food Items:

  • ~1 cup short-grain Japanese rice, cooked
  • Nori seaweed
  • 1 slice white cheese (such as provolone, swiss, or white Kraft Singles)
  • 3 – 4 baby spinach leaves (can also use basil, shiso, or arugula)

Chestnut & Brussels Sprouts Filling:

  • 5 brussels sprouts, finely shredded
  • 3 – 4 chestnuts (roasted or boiled), roughly chopped
  • 1/2 slice thick-cut smoked ham, cut into 1 cm cubes (leave out to make this vegetarian)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Recommended Tools:


Instructions

Filling:

  1. Heat a pan with olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the smoked ham cubes and pan-fry until they become crispy and golden. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
  2. Using the same pan (no need to rinse), add shredded brussels sprouts and cook over medium heat, until they become fragrant and start to crisp up around the edges (feel free to add a little more oil, if necessary). Season with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  3. Add the chestnuts and ham into the pan, and mix until warmed through. Transfer everything to a bowl to cool before using to fill your onigiri.

Decorations:

  1. Using the teardrop food cutter, cut out a bunch of “light bulbs” from the white cheese. I used approximately 8 cheese light bulbs per onigiri, but feel free to use more or less.
  2. Color one side of each cheese light bulb with the edible food markers; I colored mine red, green, blue, and yellow, but feel free to use whatever colors you’d like.
  3. With a clean pair of scissors, cut the spinach leaves into long, thin strips – these will become the “cords” for the Christmas lights.
  4. Using scissors, cut your nori seaweed into 8 squares (you’ll need 2 squares per onigiri). The squares should be slightly bigger than the onigiri mold you’ll be using. Stack all the squares on top of each other, and cut small slits along all the edges and corners (this will help the nori to conform to the rice better).

Assembly:

  1. With a damp paper towel, wipe the inside of your onigiri mold until itโ€™s completely damp. Also wet the removable top piece.
  2. Using a rice paddle or spoon, fill your mold just below the halfway point withย warmย rice. Press the rice gently but firmly into all the crevices of the mold.
  3. ย With the handle of your rice paddle or spoon, make a small indentation in the center of your rice; this will help to hold some of the filling in place.
  4. Add your filling to the middle of the rice, ensuring your leave a border of untouched rice on all sides. Be generous with the filling, and pile it up a little if necessary!
  5. Fill the rest of your mold with rice, until about the 3/4 point.ย Use a chopstick or back end of a spoon to gently push the rice down along the edges of the mold, until the top layer of rice connects with the bottom layer of rice. If your onigiri mold is clear, check and see if you can see any filling poking out along any of the sides; your goal is to see only white rice on all sides of the onigiri. If you see any filling sticking out, add a little more rice and/or press down with your chopstick again in that spot until all you can see is rice.
  6. Take the removable top piece and insert it into the mold. Push with gentle pressure until the top piece is fully inserted into the mold.
  7. Remove the top piece, and flip the rice mold over, making sure to do this over top of a sheet of plastic wrap. If your rice mold has little push indents on the bottom, push it gently with your thumb, then gently tap the bottom and sides of the mold until the onigiri slides out.
  8. Place one square of nori (shiny side up) atop your onigiri, and press it against all 3 sides until it hugs the onigiri. At this point, don’t worry if the nori doesn’t conform perfectly to the onigiri. Flip the onigiri over and repeat on the other side with a second square of nori, making sure to place this nori square at an angle to the other piece of nori (this ensures all edges will be covered). Wrap the entire rice ball tightly in plastic wrap, and gently smooth down the edges with your hands. This is where you want to make sure all the nori is conformed nicely to your rice ball, as the moisture + plastic wrap will help to mold it to the rice. Allow the onigiri to rest for a while before you remove the plastic wrap.
  9. Repeat Step 8 on remaining onigiri, until all are wrapped up in nori.
  10. Using tweezers, carefully place the strips of spinach across one side of your onigiri in a random zigzag pattern (you can use my pictures as an example, if you’d like). I added 3 “cords” to each onigiri. Don’t fret if your spinach strips aren’t long enough; simply connect 2 shorter strips together to create one long line. If they aren’t sticking, dab a little bit of water onto either the nori or the spinach strips, and/or, once you’ve added all the spinach cords, wrap the onigiri carefully in plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for a little bit, as the moisture will help the spinach to stick better.
  11. Using tweezers, add your colored cheese lights bulbs all along the spinach cords, in whatever pattern you’d like. Again, I used about 7 – 8 cheese light bulbs per onigiri. Use some mayo or honey to help them stick better.

Notes

  • Feel free to substitute the smoked ham with any cured meat product you’d like; I’m thinking bacon, prosciutto, or pancetta would all work equally as well. Of course, omit the ham completely to make this 100% vegetarian!
ยฉ Love At First Bento. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use any image without my prior permission. If youโ€™d like to share this recipe on your own site, you are required to (1) link back to this post and (2) rewrite any instructions in your own words.

 

Tools used to make this onigiri:

 

 

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Comments (12)

  • Hi Shannon! Your Christmas Lights Onigiri looks so cool! I love that they have a chestnut and brussels sprouts filling! Your are so superbly creative! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Alia, you are too kind! I’m so glad you liked these onigiri and their yummy filling ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Adorable!! Perfect for Christmas ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Thanks Kelly! I think so too ๐Ÿ˜€

      Reply
  • love the sound of a chestnut filling!! i just had a curried chicken onigiri the other day, and it was sososo good. i think it’s time for me to play around with onigiri and different fillings (:

    Reply
    • Thanks Heather! And that sounds like an excellent onigiri filling ๐Ÿ˜€

      Reply
  • The onigir is wonderful!! I have 3 children, two of them go to primary school. They eat school lunch there. Sometimes I cook onigiri for their bento, when they have no school lunch. They like tuna onigiri!!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Masako! That’s so awesome that you prepare bento for your kids ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ And who can resist delicious homemade onigiri, right?

      Reply
  • The onigiri looks super adorable and creative! Mouth watering over here.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much Rina! The filling really is irresistibly delicious ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Reply
  • “Deck the halls with onigiri…” – I sung that in my head LOL

    I can’t get over how cute and festive these onigiri are! Loving the Christmas lights, very creative! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Hahaha, I totally sung it in my head as I was typing up this post too! ๐Ÿ˜† Thanks so much for the kind words Marsha! ๐Ÿ˜€

      Reply

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