Homemade Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers)

Ahoy Foodies!

  I once worked for a chef who, when faced with a dish that would not sell, would add the word crunchy or crispy to the menu description. “Prawns with Persian Saffron Rice”? Nada. But call the dish “Crispy Prawns with Persian Saffron rice,” and he had a best seller.  

I loved the crisping and crunching of his menu, one, because it’s terribly clever, and two,  I am an avid snack-tooth (as opposed to sweet-tooth). Crunch adds another dimension eating–sure, you taste sweet, salty, savory, la-la-la everything is just okay, and then CRUNCH, and the meal is way more interesting. Crunchy things satisfy our need to chew, and grind, and have some sound above all our masticating and talking. I probably order more items that say “crunchy” than not. I think most of us do.

When it comes to crunchy snacks,  some go for greasy thick-cut “kettle” potato chips glistening with oil and salt crystals. Others dig dessicated pretzels. Others virtuously nibble nuts. I prefer something a bit more exotic…and expensive: Japanese rice crackers, also called senbei


Sold in fancy little bags and boxes, individually wrapped, and lined up in rows like little snack soldiers, senbei vary in size and come seasoned with all sorts of salty goodness, from bits of nori seaweed to sesame seeds, soy nuts, and even dried shrimp. They’re light, lovely, and beyond any other crunchy snack out there.  Sadly, they cost from $4-$7 a package. The way I tear through them, other arrangements had to be made.


After much experimentation, I’ve sorted out a nice, easy recipe that makes highly addictive rice crackers for much, much less than I was paying for those pretty little boxes.  Here’s a little step by step photo essay (many thanks to Mr. Tofu) for making your own senbei; you’re welcome to share my addiction. The recipe is at the end of the page.

Process Sweet Rice Flour+ Cooked Sushi Rice+ Oil+ Water
Add Furikake (Japanese rice seasoning)
Press between 2 sheets plastic…
Until very thin indeed
Bake until crisp, and then brush with honey-soy glaze
Dry in oven 3 minutes with oven off, watching very carefully
Stack o Crack-ers.
Homemade Senbei- Japanese Rice Crackers
Makes 30 crackers
3/4 cup sweet rice flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill Sweet Rice Flour)
1/3 cup cooked white rice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons water
5 teaspoons furikake- Japanese seaweed rice seasoning condiment
1 tablespoon aged soy sauce
1 tablespoon tupelo honey
   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, combine the rice flour, white rice, salt, and oil. Pulse until finely ground. With the machine running, slowly add the water. Transfer to a bowl, add the furikake, and knead to combine. 
 
Press hazelnut-sized balls of the dough between 2 ziplock bags into 2 1/2-inch disks (I use a flat-bottom brulee dish); the dough will be very thin. Bake on rimmed baking sheets for 5 minutes. Flip the crackers with a spatula and continue to cook until they are dry and starting to brown, 4 to 5 more minutes. Remove from oven. Turn off oven..
 
Combine the soy sauce and honey in a small bowl. Microwave for 25 seconds. Brush the tops of each cracker with the soy mixture. Place crackers in turned off oven and allow them to dry for 3 minutes. Allow crackers to cool for 15 minutes; they will crisp up considerably. Store in airtight container.
 
Recipe Ivy Manning, photos Gregor Torrence, 2011. All rights reserved.




21 Responses to “Homemade Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers)”

  1. January 31, 2011 at 4:42 AM #

    LOVE this. Love the idea, first, but that picture of you watching them dry out is priceless. Kinda looks like you’re making them in an Easy-Bake Oven.

  2. January 31, 2011 at 4:13 PM #

    Hi Debbie

    You’re right, it does have that Easy Bake look, doesn’t it? I think those ovens tapped into budding foodies fascination early. I know I had one, did you?

  3. January 31, 2011 at 11:43 PM #

    Nicely done! I made myself a bit sick eating a whole package of senbei at 11 PM last night, so I can really relate to the need to devise your own. I’ve often thought of crunching them up and use them as a breading – your approach would make it possible to do that directly!

  4. February 1, 2011 at 10:00 PM #

    Holy yum! Yes, I am a salty crunchy person, not really a sweet person. I always have crackers/pretzels/chips around for little peoples’ lunch boxes and it is hard for me to resist those things. My favorite is any kind of rice cracker and I really like the idea of making my own.

  5. February 1, 2011 at 10:10 PM #

    Michael,

    I think Jean Georges Vochterichten does crunch up rice crackers and bread fish with them. Of course, you could try tofu…

  6. February 1, 2011 at 10:11 PM #

    Dana,

    Nice to hear from you! Hope you enjoy the recipe. If you come up with anything creative as far as seasonings…let me know!

  7. February 12, 2011 at 4:29 AM #

    Oh wow, that’s an excellent recipe Ivy! Never thought it would be so easy to make those rice crackers or was it u who made them look easy? But I’m bookmarking it and will definitely give it a try! Thanks for sharing!

  8. February 12, 2011 at 5:25 PM #

    Thanks, Prerna, that means a lot coming from you!

  9. May 8, 2011 at 8:39 PM #

    I always love getting Japanese snacks sent from my in-laws in Tokyo but we only get care packages once or twice a year. After eating my last senbei cracker today I thought about making them myself. I’m glad I found your recipe and can’t wait to give it a try. Wonder if my wife will taste a difference.

  10. May 9, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

    Hi Bryan
    So glad you found me, and I hope the recipe will do for now, in between shipments.I don’t know how exactly they will satisfy your wife’s cravings, things not from home never seem to, but they’re close, and they’re cheap! I’m tinkering around with the glaze still, I’m using mirin and soy now…

  11. Anonymous
    July 7, 2011 at 10:21 PM #

    Thanks !!!!!

    Since of Ecuador…..

  12. Anonymous
    October 29, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

    Easy and delicious! Thanks!

  13. December 4, 2011 at 11:15 PM #

    Didn’t have all of the ingredients you listed, so I added cayenne pepper to the flour/rice mixture, and used maple syrup instead of honey. this is the first time I’ve ever tried to bake something, and it was pretty yummy.

  14. March 8, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

    I made these, and they are amazing! Thank you so much for this recipe. It was super easy as well, I think clean up took longer than the whole process!

    Now my addiction to these little crackers will further be encouraged :p

  15. March 8, 2012 at 8:20 PM #

    Hurrah! I’m glad you like the senbei, Jessie Rae! I just finished my manuscript for a whole darned book on crackers, to be published by Chronicle Books spring of 2013. Stay tuned for more cracker recipes!

  16. May 2, 2012 at 7:26 AM #

    I just attended a library program where the speaker (who used to work on the sugar plantation of Kahuku, Hawaii) collects plantation memorabilia. He had in his possession a cast iron sembei tongs that they used in the olden days to make sembei. I just thought I’d share. I’m looking for a book on making Sembei and just so happened to come across your article. Please email me when your book comes out I’d be interested in ordering some copies for my library and my library system might be interested also. okacirc at librarieshawaii.org

  17. July 26, 2012 at 4:29 PM #

    All I can say is WOW! Thanks so much for posting this recipe. Worked great as written (though I used cooked sweet brown rice) now I’m using this as a base for all kinds of crackers. FYI- I pat out pieces of dough with more rice flour and roll it through my pasta machine- Thin and crispy.

    I used to make crackers a lot before my family went gluten free now I’m back to it again. Can’t afford the expensive GF crackers in the store. Thanks!

    Take care-

  18. Anonymous
    August 12, 2012 at 6:24 PM #

    Great recipe. It’s fun to experiment with Ivy’s basics. I found that using Whole Foods’ gluten-free white rice produces a dry “Western” cracker that has a wheat-cracker flavor to it. It’s delicious, but only remotely senbei. However, using glutinous rice flour I produced a cracker closer to the true senbei. It needed five more minutes of baking to achieve needed crispness. Also, the addition of sesame seeds gave the cracker a more Japanese flavor

  19. October 1, 2012 at 8:37 AM #

    Hi,
    I’ve tried the recipe but mine didn’t turn out like anything remotely ‘senbei’.
    It was edible though, and crispy and a bit like honey crackers (maybe I’ve added too much honey? ), but it was not the senbei I was looking for. ;)

    Even so, it is a nice recipe, gave me something to do with my bag of sweet rice flour and was a lovely experiment.

    Thanks!

    Daphne

    • October 1, 2012 at 5:38 PM #

      Heh Daphne

      This was definitely a prototype for senbei. I’ve since tweeked quite a few things to get a better texture, the recipe will be in my upcoming book, Crackers and Dips, which comes out in Spring by Chronicle Books. If you like the puffier texture of Japanese senbei, you can roll the dough into ropes, slice it, steam it for 30 minutes and then bake it, but I figured most folks don’t want to bother with that much work! Thanks for reading my blog, and stay tuned for the book!

  20. October 15, 2012 at 9:38 AM #

    thanks for the tip!
    I will try it :)

    looking forward to your new book.