This simple yet fragrant Japanese Sweet Potato Rice is a staple fall dish to usher in the changing seasons. Here, fluffy and slightly sticky short-grain rice paired with tender, golden chunks of sweet potatoes – every bite is perfectly cozy! Serve this rice dish as your healthy main carb for dinner.
The start of fall also feels like the official start to sweet potato season. During this time of year, I start craving sweet potatoes – more particularly the Japanese variety known as Satsumaimo. Known for its deep magenta skin, Satsumaino is the epitome of Japanese fall flavors.
I have many beloved recipes – ranging from sweet to savory, but this Japanese Sweet Potato Rice or Satsumaimo Gohan (さつまいもご飯) is probably the best one to demonstrate the beauty and simplicity of Japanese home cooking.
What is Japanese Sweet Potato Rice?
In Japan, we welcome each season with mixed rice dishes that feature fresh seasonal ingredients, like Bamboo Rice and Green Pea Rice in the spring, and Corn Rice in the summertime. In the fall, we celebrate the season by making Chestnut Rice, Matsutake Rice, and of course, Japanese Sweet Potato Rice that I share today.
These mixed rice dishes are essentially a combination of steamed rice cooked with 1-2 seasonal vegetables, sometimes with added greens, mushrooms, and protein like tofu, seafood, and poultry.
What can you expect from Japanese Sweet Potato Rice?
- Flavor – A mild flavored rice, yet I’d never call it bland. The focus is on the natural sweetness of the sweet potato and the aroma of fresh cooked rice.
- Texture – Warm, soft and tender sweet potato chunks mixed with fluffy rice.
- Ease – Super easy to prepare, and takes exactly the same time as cooking plain rice.
- Packed with nutrients – With the added sweet potatoes, the rice dish is packed with fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. It is also warm and extra filling. An excellent carb choice for vegans or vegetarians!
How to Make Japanese Sweet Potato Rice
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Japanese short-grain rice
- Japanese sweet potatoes (Satsumaimo) – See below about this variety and where to find it
- Seasoning: Mirin and salt
- Toppings: Gomashio (black sesame seeds and salt mixture)
So simple isn’t it? The key is to use high-quality Japanese rice and sweet potatoes that are in season!
Overview of Cooking Steps
- Rinse the rice and dice the sweet potatoes.
- In the rice cooker (or pot or donabe), add well-drained rice, seasonings, and water. Place the sweet potatoes on top.
- Cook the rice and serve with gomashio.
A Quick Note on Satsumaimo
Japanese sweet potatoes aka Satsumaimo have an earthy, extraordinarily sweet flavor and luscious texture when compared to orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. The purple tubers are appreciated for its distinct nutty flavor akin to a roasted chestnut. They are starchier, drier, and denser in texture.
Just like the regular sweet potatoes, you can roast, steam, deep fry, make desserts, or add them in soups or curries, or enjoy them in mixed rice. Japanese sweet potatoes don’t flake easily or get mushy, which make them ideal for various preparations. I can’t resist the simplest way of roasting or steaming them.
These days you can find Japanese sweet potatoes available at major grocery stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, farmers markets, or local co-ops when they are in season.
There’s plenty to love about Japanese sweet potatoes! You can learn all about it here.
Cooking in Zojirushi Rice Cooker
For this recipe, I used Zojirushi NL-GAC10 BM Umami Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer.
Comes with an exclusive UMAMI setting, the rice cooker has the ability to extend soaking and steaming for enhanced flavor – which I find the ideal for simple dishes like this. Not only is the rice perfect, but the sweet potatoes turned out wonderfully tender.
The multiple menu settings and cooking functions are well-designed, and I really enjoy its versatility and ease of use.
Made in Japan, the Umami® Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer comes with these advanced features:
- Advanced micro computerized Fuzzy logic technology
- Menu settings include: white, umami, mixed, sushi/sweet, Jasmine, porridge, congee, brown, GABA brown, quick white, quick Jasmine, and slow cook. It activates the rice for increased nutritional value, and the steam setting allows cooking without need for extra oils or fats.
- Convenient steam function and BPA-free steaming basket accessory
- Exclusive Umami setting
- Automatic keep warm, extended keep warm and reheat function
- Easy-to-clean clear coated stainless steel lid
- Convenient delay timer (2 settings) provides freshly cooked rice at the programmed time
The rice cooker is also available on Amazon if you’re interested.
How to Cook Sweet Potato Rice without Rice Cooker
If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can also use the following methods.
You can use a donabe (Japanese earhtenware pot) or a pot to cook the rice on the stovetop. I highly recommend using a heavy-bottomed pot for cooking rice. Pots with a thick base will prevent uneven hotspots and have a better heat distribution so the rice is less likely to stick to the bottom and get burnt.
To cook, cover the donabe (or heavy-bottomed pot) with the lid. Turn on the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 13-15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove from the stove, and let it rest, undisturbed, for 20 minutes.
Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker)
The pressure cooker seals tightly during cooking, so the rice to water ratio is 1:1. Use high pressure for 2 minutes and natural release for 10 minutes.
3 Important Tips for Cooking Rice
- Measure rice and water precisely
- 1 rice cooker cup is 180 ml. More about this topic below.
- Rinse the rice properly
- Always use cold running water.
- Use a large bowl and NEVER use a meshed colander/sieve because it damages rice kernels.
- Use your fingers to gently wash the rice in a circular motion. Most of the water should be drained when washing.
- Soak rice in a measured water (total liquid) for 20-30 minutes.
- New rice cookers include “soaking” time programmed already. Check your model.
- Japanese short-grain rice is more plump than other kinds and takes a while for moisture to go all the way to the center of the rice.
Rice to Water Ratio
It’s always a fun discussion when it comes to rice to water ratio as internet tells you it should be 1:1. If you cook Japanese short-grain rice, please follow the Japanese method of preparing rice (the “correct” way). I explained more in this post.
The Japanese golden rule for rice to water ratio is 1 to 1.1 (or 1.2)
So… Exactly How Much Water Do You Need for Each Cup?
The plastic rice cooker cup that comes with the rice cooker is a 180 ml cup. In Japan, this amount is called ichi go (一合). Here’s how much water you need for each rice cooker cup when you follow the 1:1.1 ratio.
1 rice cooker cup (180 ml) = 200 mlCalculation: 180 ml x 1.1 = 198 ml
2 rice cooker cups (360 ml) = 400 ml
3 rice cooker cups (540 ml) = 600 ml
4 rice cooker cups (720 ml) = 800 ml
How About Making Mixed Rice?
For sweet potato rice, or any mixed rice, the rice to water ratio should be still 1 to 1.1 (or 1.2).
However, the mixed rice is often seasoned with other condiments to flavor the rice. Therefore, the “water” for mixed rice actually means total liquid, which includes water, condiments, and seasonings.
So for example, if you include 1 Tbsp soy sauce and 1 Tbsp sake as seasoning for your mixed rice, 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of liquid should be counted for the total liquid amount.
What to Serve with Sweet Potato Rice
Serve Satsumaimo Gohan as you would with regular steamed rice. For a Japanese-style dinner, I like to pair it with:
- Nameko Mushroom Miso Soup or Vegetable Miso Soup
- Mackerel Simmered in Miso (Saba Misoni)
- Chrysanthemum Greens and Tofu Salad (Shungiku Shiraae)
Tableware from Musubi Kiln
I’ve partnered with a great ceramic online shop from Japan called Musubi Kiln. You will get 10% off with a coupon code JUSTONECOOKBOOK for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
Japanese Sweet Potato Rice (Satsumaimo Gohan)
- 3 rice cooker cups uncooked Japanese short-grain rice (2 ¼ cup or 540 ml)
- 2 Japanese sweet potatoes (Satsumaimo) (14 oz, 410 g)
For Rice Cooking Liquid (2 ½ cup or 600 ml)
- 2 tsp toasted black sesame seeds
- ½ tsp kosher/sea salt (I use Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- Gather all the ingredients. If you change the amount of rice, please read the post on rice to water ratio.
To Prepare the 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 for 5 minutes and shake off excess water.
To Prepare Sweet Potatoes
- While draining the rice, wash the sweet potatoes with a brush under running water and cut them into ¾″ (2 cm) thick slices.
- Cut the sweet potato into ¾″ (2 cm) cubes. Soak in cold water until ready to use. Tip: This is an important step to remove astringency from the sweet potatoes and prevent from discoloration.
To Assemble Rice and Sweet Potatoes
- Add the drained rice in the rice cooker bowl (or the donabe or heavy-bottomed pot). Add sake, mirin, and salt.
- Add measured water and mix all together with chopsticks.
- Drain the sweet potato well. Place the sweet potatoes on the rice in an even layer. DO NOT MIX with rice (Rice can't cook evenly when you mix with other ingredients). Let the rice soak for 20-30 minutes.
To Cook in Rice Cooker
- Put the rice cooker bowl in the rice cooker and start cooking (if your rice cooker has the Mixed or Umami Mode, use it; otherwise use White Mode (or simply turn it "on").
To Cook in Donabe or Heavy-Bottomed Pot over Stove.
- Cover the donabe (or heavy-bottomed pot) with the lid. Turn on the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. This should take about 8-10 minutes, but it depends on how much rice and sweet potatoes are in the pot and the heat on the stove. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and cook for 13-15 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove from the stove, and let it rest, undisturbed, for 20 minutes.
To Make Gomashio
- Add the black sesame seeds in a small pan and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes, over low heat (optional step). Combine the toasted sesame seeds and salt in a small container.
- Once the rice is ready, fluff the rice gently with a rice paddle. Serve into individual bowls and sprinkle some gomashio on top to enjoy!
- You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for a month.