How to Cook Japanese Rice in a Rice Cooker: Follow my rice-to-water ratio tips, and you’d get the perfect steamed rice every time! No more mushy or dry rice!
The Japanese eat rice almost every day, sometimes 3 meals a day! Cultivated for thousands of years in Japan, rice occupies a highly important place in the culture and is the quintessential staple of the Japanese diet.
When comes to the quality of the rice down to the cooking technique, we take every aspect seriously.
Today I will share how the Japanese cook rice in a rice cooker. Most importantly, how we measure rice and water to achieve a perfect result.
The Rice-to-Water Ratio for Short-Grain Rice
Over the years, I’ve received a lot of questions from my readers asking why their rice comes out dry.
And I think I know the reason.
Most online resources (in English) will tell you the rice-to-water ratio for Japanese short-grain white rice is 1 to 1.
But what you probably didn’t know is this:
The Japanese golden rule for rice-to-water ratio is 1 to 1.1 (or 1.2).
That is 10-20% more water (that you didn’t add)! For 1 rice cooker cup (180 ml or ¾ US cup) of rice, you will need 200 ml of water, not 180 ml.
That means, if you still want to use a 1-to-1 ratio, the rice must be soaked in separate water for 20-30 minutes (for that extra 10-20%) and drained well before you add the measured water at a 1-to-1 ratio. This way, you made sure your rice got the moisture it needs.
Most recipes online do not include that step, which means the rice is missing the additional 10-20% of water that it needs.
So… Exactly How Much Water Do You Need for Each Cup?
The plastic rice cooker cup that comes with the rice cooker is 180 ml or ¾ US cup. In Japan, this amount is called ichi go (一合). Here’s how much room-temperature water you need for each rice cooker cup of Japanese short-grain white rice when you follow the 1-to-1.1 (or 1.2) ratio:
1 rice cooker cup (180 ml) = add 200 ml of water
2 rice cooker cups (360 ml) = 400 ml
3 rice cooker cups (540 ml) = 600 ml
4 rice cooker cups (720 ml) = 800 ml
5 rice cooker cups (900 ml) = 1000 ml
Calculation: 180 ml x 1.1 (or 1.2) = 198 ml (or 216 ml)
Or, just pour water until the marked water line. My family and I actually prefer to add a bit more water than the water line in the rice cooker bowl (see below). Whenever we cook the rice according to the specified water line, the rice comes out a bit too dry. So I highly encourage you to test and adjust the water amount whenever you switch the rice brand or the region where the rice is harvested.
Important Tip: Never Skip Soaking!
Short-grain rice always requires soaking (20-30 minutes) unlike other kinds of rice.
The rice grains are rounder and fatter so they need a head start to absorb moisture to the core of the rice kernel.
For newer rice cookers, about 10-minutes of “soaking” time is already programmed into the rice cooking menu. However, in my opinion, 10 minutes is not sufficient. I would suggest soaking the rice for at least 20-30 minutes so it has enough time to absorb more moisture.
- When you use a new crop (新米) – reduce the water slightly.
- Different brands of rice – require a slightly different amount of water.
- No measuring cup? – Use a mug to measure rice and water (exact same volume). Soak the rice for 20-30 minutes and drain well. Then add the measured water (a 1-to-1 ratio approach).
How Much Rice Do We Need to Cook?
You can divide the number of servings you need in half to figure out how many rice cooker cups of Japanese short-grain white rice to cook:
1 rice cooker cup (180 ml, ¾ US cup, 150 g) of uncooked rice yields roughly 2 servings (1¾ US cups, 330 g) of cooked rice. This is enough for 2 Japanese rice bowls (typically 150 g each) or 3 onigiri rice balls (typically 110 g each). 1 US cup of cooked rice weighs 6.3 oz (180 g).
1½ rice cooker cups (270 ml, 1⅛ US cups, 225 g) yield roughly 3 servings (2¾ US cups, 495 g) of cooked rice.
2 rice cooker cups (360 ml, 1½ US cups, 300 g) yield roughly 4 servings (3⅔ US cups, 660 g) of cooked rice.
3 rice cooker cups (540 ml, 2¼ US cups, 450 g) yield roughly 6 servings (5½ US cups, 990 g) of cooked rice.
4 rice cooker cups (720 ml, 3 US cups, 600 g) yield roughly 8 servings (7⅓ US cups, 1320 g) of cooked rice.
5 rice cooker cups (900 ml, 3¾ US cups, 750 g) yield roughly 10 servings (9⅙ US cups, 1650 g) of cooked rice.
The Best Way to Store Cooked Rice
What’s the best method to store cooked rice? Simply freeze the rice in airtight containers and reheat to enjoy later on! This is by far the best approach to keeping your rice fresh and moist.
My Favorite Rice Cooker
The rice cookers in Japan are more high-tech and have a very futuristic look, but they are also very expensive. The rice cookers, which many of my friends in Japan have, would have cost $1,000!
Those of us who live outside of Japan don’t have too many (fancy) choices. Since I came to the US, I’ve been using only Zojirushi brand rice cookers (3 of them).
This is my current rice cooker by Zojirushi. It is a 5.5 cups Zojirushi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer (Amazon).
As we eat rice at home almost every single day, I depend highly on a superior quality rice cooker to cook the perfect rice for my family.
Zojirushi rice cooker uses pressurized cooking and AI (Artificial Intelligence) to cook rice. It also has a platinum-infused nonstick inner cooking pan that brings out the natural sweetness of the rice.
The other features include:
- Automatically selects from three pressure levels according to the menu selected
- Healthy cooking options: brown rice and GABA brown rice settings
- Menu settings include: white (regular, softer or harder), umami, mixed, sushi/sweet, porridge, brown, GABA brown, steam-reduce, scorch, rinse-free and quick cooking
- Made in Japan
With this rice cooker, I’ve never once needed to worry about dry or mushy rice. It is absolutely one of the must-have kitchen gadgets I can’t live without!
If you’re interested, you can purchase the rice cooker on Amazon.
Other Methods of Cooking Japanese Rice
- How to Cook Rice in a Pot over Stovetop
- How to Cook Rice in an Instant Pot
- How to Cook Rice in a Donabe (Japanese Earhtenware Pot)
Making Delicious Sushi Rice
In order to make all types of sushi (sushi rolls, nigiri sushi, hand rolls, etc), you will need Sushi Rice seasoned with sushi vinegar.
Delicious Rice Recipes
- Takikomi Gohan (Mixed Rice)
- 12 Donburi (Rice Bowl) Recipes
- Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
- Shrimp Fried Rice
I hope you’ve found the above tips helpful. I’ve also included more topics on rice after the recipe below. If you have more questions, leave me a comment below!
How To Make Rice in a Rice Cooker
★ For 1 rice cooker cup (180 ml, ¾ US cup, 150 g) of uncooked Japanese short-grain rice, use:
- 200 ml water (for white rice; ⅞ US cup minus 1½ tsp)
- 300 ml water (for brown rice; 1¼ US cups plus ¾ tsp)
★ For 2 rice cooker cups (360 ml, 1½ US cups, 300 g), use:
- 400 ml water (for white rice; 1¾ US cups minus 1 Tbsp)
- 600 ml water (for brown rice; 2½ US cups plus 1½ tsp)
★ For 3 rice cooker cups (540 ml, 2¼ US cups, 450 g), use:
- 600 ml water (for white rice; 2½ US cups plus 1½ tsp)
- 900 ml water (for brown rice; 3¾ US cups plus 2¼ tsp)
★ For 4 rice cooker cups (720 ml, 3 US cups, 600 g), use:
- 800 ml water (for white rice; 3⅜ US cups)
- 1200 ml water (for brown rice; 5 US cups plus 1¼ Tbsp)
★ For 5 rice cooker cups (900 ml, 3¾ US cups, 750 g), use:
- 1000 ml water (for white rice; 4¼ US cups minus ¾ tsp)
- 1500 ml water (for brown rice; 6⅜ US cups minus 1½ tsp)
- Before You Start: The rice-to-water ratio is 1 to 1.1 (or 1.2) for Japanese short-grain white rice. Please read the blog post for a detailed explanation. 1 rice cooker cup (180 ml, ¾ US cup, 150 g) of uncooked rice yields roughly 2 servings or 1¾ US cups (330 g) of cooked rice, which is enough for 2 Japanese rice bowls (typically 150 g each) or 3 onigiri rice balls (typically 110 g each). 1 US cup of cooked rice weighs 6.3 oz (180 g).
To Wash the Rice
- Measure: Overfill a plastic rice cooker cup (180 ml) with uncooked short-grain rice and level it off. If you don't have a rice cooker cup, you can use a ¾ US cup measure instead. Put the rice in a large bowl. Repeat until you have the measured amount of rice needed. In this recipe, I'm using 3 rice cooker cups (540 ml).
- Quick Rinse: Add just enough water to the bowl to submerge all the rice. Then, discard the water immediately. Repeat one more time. Tip: Rice absorbs water very quickly when you start rinsing, so this step helps remove impurities from the rice and prevent it from absorbing the first few rounds of milky water.
- Wash: Next, use your fingers to gently agitate the wet rice grains in a circular motion for 10-15 seconds. Using very little water allows the grains to rub against each other. It also reduces the absorption of impurities from the milky water.
- Rinse: Add water and immediately discard the cloudy water. Repeat one more time.
- Repeat Wash and Rinse (steps 3 and 4) two more times.
- Drain: When the water is almost clear, drain the rice very well. Tip: Use a fine-mesh sieve to drain and shake off any excess water.
To Soak and Cook the Rice
- Transfer the well-drained rice to the inner pot of a rice cooker (I use the Zojirushi IH). Add the measured amount of room-temperature water (600 ml for my 3 rice cooker cups) to the pot. The water must not be warm or hot. Level the rice with your fingers so that it's evenly submerged in the water. To cook brown rice, add a pinch of salt and distribute evenly.
- Soak the rice for 20-30 minutes for white rice and 6-12 hours for brown rice (especially if you're using an older rice cooker). Select your menu and press Start. Tip: Even though my rice cooker includes soaking time, I still soak my rice for 20-30 minutes before I start the cooker. Note: This Zojirushi rice cooker takes 55 minutes to cook 3 cups of Japanese short-grain white rice; the program includes 10 minutes of soaking time and 10 minutes of steaming time.
- When the rice is done cooking, let it steam for 10 minutes (if your rice cooker program does not include steaming time.) Open the lid and fluff the rice with a rice paddle.
To Store the Cooked Rice
- Transfer the rice to airtight containers and close the lid to keep the moisture in. Let it cool completely before storing the containers in the freezer (read my tutorial post).