Learn how to make sushi rice perfectly every time with step-by-step pictures and a video tutorial. All you need is simple ingredients such as sushi vinegar, sugar, salt, and kombu. Once you master the secret of making the rice, you will be ready to dish up all kinds of mouth-watering sushi recipes!
Perfectly cooked Sushi Rice (酢飯) is fundamental in making authentic sushi and exploring Japanese cooking. Once you’ve mastered perfectly seasoned and fluffy sushi rice, your sushi tastes much better. This authentic sushi rice recipe is easy to make at home. Follow my basic tutorial for perfect sushi rice.
What is Sushi Rice?
In Japan, sushi rice means the steamed rice that’s flavored with vinegar-based seasonings and we only use this vinegared rice when we make all kinds of sushi. If you are here looking for a recipe to make plain steamed rice, see my post on How to Make Rice post.
However, it gets a little tricky because some rice companies outside of Japan call their short-grain Japanese rice “sushi rice”. It definitely calls for attention especially if you are planning to make Japanese food, like sushi.
So when your sushi recipe says sushi rice, make sure to make “vinegared rice” with short-grain Japanese rice.
In Japanese, we call sushi rice Sushi-meshi 鮨飯, Su-meshi (酢飯), or shari (シャリ). It’s made of white, short-grain Japanese rice seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Brown rice is sometimes used outside of Japan, but it’s not common in sushi restaurants in Japan.
Why do we season rice with vinegar to make sushi?
You might wonder why the Japanese season rice with vinegar. It actually goes back to the origin of sushi. The literal meaning of sushi means “sour flavor”. Historically, the way people stored fish was by wrapping it in fermented rice. When they were ready to enjoy the fish, the fermented rice was actually tossed away. Sometime between the 1300s and 1500s, the Japanese slowly stopped using fermented rice and instead added vinegar to the rice to further increase the shelf life. The vinegar made the rice taste good as well so they started to eat the fish and the rice together, which evolved to today’s sushi.
These days with refrigeration there is no longer the issue of fish being spoiled, but the centuries of sushi rice’s umami flavor with the vinegar being added stayed.
How to Make Perfect Sushi Rice
1. Type of Rice
To achieve an authentic Japanese standard, you want to use only short-grain Japanese rice to make sushi rice. This is because the consistency and flavor of Japanese rice are very different from long-grain rice, jasmine rice, or other types of rice. With a higher content of moisture, Japanese rice is characterized by its unique stickiness and texture, which attributes to the toothsome bite of authentic sushi.
There are various Japanese rice brands out there available in the market. Some of my favorite ‘first grade’ brands for Japanese rice include Koshihikari from Toyama Prefecture, Japan, or Koshihikari from California (see my Pantry page).
2. Preparing the Rice
To produce properly cooked Japanese rice, you want to make sure the rice is washed and rinsed for a few times until no more starch comes out from the water. Then let the rice soaked for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This allows the rice grains to yield a better texture.
3. Cooking Tools
You can cook the rice using a pot over the stove, but the most convenient way is to cook sushi rice using an electric rice cooker. In my Japanese home kitchen, my trusted rice cooker brand is Zojirushi Rice Cooker. Because I cook sushi rice often, this rice cooker has a ‘sushi’ option which makes it really easy to ensure perfectly cooked rice.
The basic seasonings needed for sushi rice include sushi vinegar, salt, and sugar to achieve the balance of sweet, salty, and sour taste. If you can find kombu, I highly recommend adding it to cook with the rice for a more umami flavor.
You can use pre-made sushi vinegar or simply make it yourself by combining rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.
Is My Sushi Rice Perfectly Cooked?
After the rice is steamed, the texture should be fluffy with a firm bite. And each rice grain should be sticky yet retain its shape. Mushy rice means it has too much water or it’s overcooked. If the rice is fresh, you will see a nice shiny gloss on the surface of each grain.
There you have it – the basics of making sushi rice perfectly! Once you get the rice right, you’ll be ready to make some delicious sushi recipes.
- California Roll
- Dragon Roll
- Spicy Tuna Roll
- Yellowtail Tuna Roll (Negihama Maki)
- Hosomaki (Thin Sushi Roll)
- Futomaki (Thick Sushi Roll)
- Chirashi Sushi
- Saba Oshizushi (Mackerel Pressed Sushi)
- Inari Sushi
- Temaki Sushi (Hand Roll)
- Temari Sushi
How to Make Sushi Rice (for Sushi Recipes)
★ Sushi Rice for 5-6 Servings (Makes 7-11 Sushi Rolls)
- 3 rice cooker cups uncooked Japanese short-grain rice (180 ml x 3 = 540 ml; 3 rice cooker cups yield roughly 5-6 servings (5 ¼ US cups or 990 g); you MUST use short-grain Japanese rice to make sushi; otherwise, rice will fall apart.)
- 2 ¼ cup water
- 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (5 g; 2" x 2", 5 x 5 cm; optional – but it will give nice aroma!)
- ⅓ cup sushi vinegar (seasoned rice vinegar) (available at a Japanese/Asian grocery store or make the homemade recipe below)
Optional Homemade Sushi Vinegar (for 3 Rice Cooker Cups)
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 ½ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
★ Sushi Rice for 3-4 Servings (Makes 5-7 Sushi Rolls)
- 2 rice cooker cups uncooked Japanese short-grain rice (180 ml x 2 = 360 ml; 2 rice cooker cups yield roughly 3-4 servings (3 ½ US cups or 660 g))
- 1 ½ cup water
- 1 piece kombu (dried kelp) (5 g; 2" x 2", 5 x 5 cm; optional – but it will give nice aroma!)
- 2 Tbsp sushi vinegar (seasoned rice vinegar) (available at a Japanese/Asian grocery store or make the homemade recipe below)
Optional Homemade Sushi Vinegar (for 2 Rice Cooker Cups)
- 4 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Before we start: Please note that 1 rice cooker cup is 180 ml, NOT 240 ml. 1 rice cooker cup of uncooked rice is 150 g (5.3 oz) and yields roughly 330 g (11. 6 oz) of cooked rice, which is roughly 1 ¾ US cups. One sushi roll requires 90-135 g or ½ – ¾ cup of sushi rice.
To Cook Rice
- Add water just enough until it submerges all the rice. Then discard the water immediately (so the rice doesn't absorb the cloudy water). Tip: Rice absorbs water very quickly when you start rinsing, so don't let the rice absorb the first few rounds of water.
- Use your fingers to gently wash the rice in a circular motion for 15-20 seconds.
- Add water and discard the water. Repeat this process a couple of times until the water is clear.
- When the water is almost clear, drain well. Tip: Use a fine-mesh sieve to drain and shake off excess water.
- Quickly check the kombu to see if there is any dirt or dirty spot. If any, gently wipe it off with a damp cloth (it's a traditional method but these days kombu is pretty clean). Do not wipe off the white powdery substances, which contribute to the umami flavor. NEVER wash the kombu!
- Put the well-drained rice in the rice cooker bowl and add measured water, or just under the 3-cup line. If your rice cooker has a "Sushi Rice" mode, add water to that line. Place the kombu on top of the rice, let the rice soak in water for 20-30 minutes, and start cooking. If you don't have a rice cooker, cook rice in a pot over the stove, an instant pot, or a donabe with the amount of water I specified in this recipe. Tip: Since you add sushi vinegar to the cooked rice, the rice should be cooked a little bit on the firm side; therefore, the rice to water ratio for sushi rice should be 1 to 1 (instead of 1 to 1.1 or 1 to 1.2 for regular steamed rice).
[Optional] To Make Sushi Vinegar
- If you are not using a store-bought bottle of sushi vinegar (seasoned vinegar), follow this step. Combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. You can also put the ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute, or till sugar is dissolved. Set aside to let it cool.
To Make Sushi Rice
- When the rice is cooked, moisten a wooden sushi oke (also called hangiri) or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Discard the used kombu (or repurpose it to make simmered kombu) and transfer the cooked rice into the sushi oke. Spread out the rice evenly so it will cool faster. While it’s hot, pour sushi vinegar over the rice. Tip: If you're making more or less sushi rice, it's good. remember that the required sushi vinegar for rice should be roughly 8-10% of the cooked rice weight.
- With a rice paddle, slice the rice at a 45 degree to separate the chunks of rice instead of mixing. At the same time, you need to use a fan to cool rice so the rice will shine and doesn't get mushy.
- Then gently flip the rice in between slices. Repeat this process until the rice is cooled to the temperature of human skin.
- Keep the sushi rice covered with a damp towel (or paper towel) for a few hours at room temperature. To keep for a longer time, see below.
- Rice gets hard and dry in the refrigerator. Therefore, my recommendation (even you plan to use it soon) is to put sushi rice in an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to a month. You can defrost overnight in the fridge, and then microwave to room temperature (not hot). If you really want to refrigerate, cover the container with a thick kitchen towel, so the rice will stay cool and safe, but not become cold.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Aug 18, 2011. Photos updated in November 2013, video added in November 2014, content updated in May 2017.
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