How to Make Sushi Rice

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Have you ever had a superb sushi experience? The sushi rice should have a texture that's moist and creamy but firm. This guide is all about how to make that perfect sushi rice!

Close your eyes and imagine the last time you savored sushi at a favorite sushi restaurant: what did the sushi rice taste like? Can you feel and taste the moist and soft but firm texture and sweet, creamy flavor? And what about the rice itself? It should be short, plump and lush. Wouldn’t you agree?

What Is Sushi Rice?

Before going in-depth about how to make sushi rice, let’s first get to know the rice itself.

In Japanese, sushi rice is called su-meshi and implies vinegared seasoned rice. Japanese short-grain rice is rinsed, rested, steamed and infused with rice vinegar seasoning. It is a marriage of premium short-grain rice, rice vinegar and a hint of sugar.

However, product labels can be confusing. It’s noteworthy that “sushi rice” sold in stores is merely a type of rice and does not have vinegar seasoning that makes rice “sushi rice.”

Why Is Using Short-Grain Rice Important?

Using Japanese short-grain rice is essential for making sushi rice because it has the highest starch (called amylopectin) and moisture content. As the rice cooks, the heat and liquid penetrate the grain and break down the starches, making the rice stick together and giving it the sweet flavor and lush plumpness.

Many chefs take pride in blending different short-grain rice brands, usually a trade secret, to reach the best stickiness, flavor and appearance. On a similar note, professional chefs avoid “new crop” because the rice is too fragrant and has an uneven moisture level, and often results in sushi rice that is too wet. Consider using matured rice (six to nine months after harvest) for the best results.

If you live in the United States, the next-best choice for sushi rice is medium-grain rice developed and cultivated in California. Because traditional short-grain rice is expensive and hard to grow in dryer climates, this hybrid rice became an alternative to the Japanese short-grain rice in the United States. This rice has less starch and moisture content than the Japanese short-grain rice does, yet still makes excellent sushi rice.

But steer clear of using long-grain rice for sushi. Its dryness and lack of starch make it impossible to form into any sushi shape, and it doesn’t have the same sweetness or texture.

What You Need to Make Sushi Rice

Because sushi rice requires only four ingredients (short-grain rice, rice vinegar, sugar and salt), the quality of each ingredient is very important. For sushi rice, choose Japanese short-grain rice such as Lundberg Organic Sushi Rice or Tamanishiki. Can’t find short-grain rice? No problem—California Kokuho-Rose makes a wonderful substitution.

To make sushi, you’ll need a rice cooker, a hangiri (a wooden vessel used in mixing and cooling the sushi rice), a spatula and a fan. The wood used in a hangiri absorbs moisture from the steaming rice, creating less wet and lumpy sushi rice. However, if you do not have a traditional hangiri, you can substitute a large bowl when mixing rice with sushi vinegar. Just make sure the bowl is large enough not only to hold the rice but also has additional room for mixing.

How to Make Sushi Rice, Step by Step

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sushi rice (Japanese short-grain rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • Approximately ½ cup of sushi vinegar

To make the sushi vinegar:

  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

Step 1: Make the sushi vinegar

In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup rice vinegar, ¼ cup granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon salt over low heat until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Editor’s Note: You can buy sushi vinegar at the supermarket, but it’s easy to make your own. It keeps well in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Step 2: Rinse the rice

Rinse rice in a bowl with a stream of fresh water until the water runs moderately clear. You want to remove some of the excess starch on the outside of the rice, so it is less sticky. Drain the water completely, then put the rice and two cups of water in a rice cooker. Let rest for at least 15 minutes.

Step 3: Cook the rice

Cook rice according to the rice cooker’s directions. (Here are the best rice cookers.)

Then, wet the hangiri with water and place the cooked rice in the hangiri. (If you are using a bowl, there is no need to wet it.) Depending on the stickiness of the rice, drizzle ¼ -½ cup of sushi vinegar evenly over the rice. Use a spatula to mix the rice with sushi vinegar while at the same time using a fan to cool the rice.

Once the rice reaches room temperature, cover the rice with a damp towel to prevent it from drying. Keep the rice at room temperature until ready to make sushi.

Other Ways to Make Sushi Rice

You may prepare sushi rice in different ways, such as using an Instant Pot or cooking rice over the stovetop. Just make sure to follow instructions on a bag of rice as well as cooking tools when using different types of equipment.

Tips for Making Sushi Rice

Can sushi rice be used as regular rice?

Japanese short-grain rice is perfect for serving on the side with entrees such as Sukiyaki with Beef and Vegetables and Miso Itame, a stir-fry with vegetable pork in miso sauce. When cooking rice for non-sushi use, add 1-1/4 cups of water to 1 cup of rice.

What can I use if I don’t have sushi rice?

When sushi rice is hard to find, use medium-grain rice from California. (Have leftover medium-grain rice on hand? Learn how to cook rice for other recipes, too!)

What happens if you don’t wash sushi rice?

When preparing sushi rice, it’s essential to wash the rice before cooking. Washing rice helps remove excess starch on the outside, preventing the sushi rice from becoming overly sticky or having a chalky taste.

How can I use sushi rice?

Here are some ideas on how to use sushi rice:

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Koshiki Smith
Hi, my name is Koshiki Smith. My husband and I ran a chef-owned Japanese restaurant in MN. After successfully running the restaurant for 17 years, I decided to pursue my dream of taking clients on culinary journeys to Japan. I am a certified Japan specialist, travel advisor, cooking instructor, and food blogger. In private, I live in Minnesota with my husband, two boys, a dog, and three chickens.