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!
Sushi Rice is steamed rice that’s flavored with vinegar-based seasonings and it’s only used for making sushi. Perfectly cooked sushi rice is fundamental in making authentic sushi.
Watch How To Make Sushi Rice 酢飯の作り方
Simple instruction on how to make sushi rice with kombu, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.
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.
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 舎利. 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.
Making Perfect Sushi Rice
TYPE OF RICE
– To achieve 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 is 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 (please note that short grain rice is NOT glutinous rice aka “sticky rice”).
– 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).
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.
– 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 ‘sushi’ option which makes it really easy to ensure perfectly cooked rice.
– The basic seasonings needed for sushi rice includes sushi vinegar, salt and sugar to achieve the balance of sweet, salty and sourish 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.
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. Some time between 1300 – 1500’s, 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 TELL IF YOUR SUSHI RICE IS 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 surface 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.
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- ⅓ cup rice vinegar (⅓ cup = 80 ml)
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1½ tsp Kosher salt
Gather all the ingredients.
Please note: 1 rice cooker cup is 180 ml. So when you use Japanese rice cooker, 1 cup means Japanese rice cooker cup.
- Put rice in a large bowl. Rinse the rice and discard the water immediately. Rice absorbs water very quickly when you start washing, so don't let the rice absorb the unclear water. Repeat this process 1-2 times.
- Now use your fingers to gently wash the rice by moving in a circular motion.
- Rinse and discard water. Repeat this process 3-4 times.
- Let the rice soak in water for 30 minutes.
- Transfer the rice into a sieve and drain completely.
- Gently clean the dashi kombu with a damp cloth but leave the white powdery substances which contribute to the umami flavor in dashi. Do not wash the kombu.
- Put the rice in the rice cooker bowl and add water (not hot or warm) to just under the 3 cup line. If your rice cooker has "Sushi" option, add water to 3 cup line for "Sushi". Since you add sushi vinegar to the rice, rice is on the firm side. If you cook rice without a rice cooker, water should be about 540 ml. Place the kombu on top of the rice and start cooking.
- To make sushi vinegar, 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.
- When the rice is cooked, moisten sushi oke/hangiri (a round, flat-bottom wooden tub) or a large bowl with water so the rice will not stick. Transfer the cooked rice into the sushi oke and spread out evenly so the rice will cool faster. While it’s hot, pour sushi vinegar over the rice.
- With a rice paddle, slice the rice at a 45 degree to separate the rice grains 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 till rice is cooled.
- Keep the rice covered with a damp towel (or paper towel) until ready to use.
Rice: 1 rice cooker cup is 180 ml, not same as 1 US cup. 1 cup will make 2 cups of cooked rice. Please use short grain rice for sushi.
Want to make less sushi rice? If you want to use 2 rice cooker cups (360 ml) instead of 3 cups, you can adjust sushi vinegar ingredients as following: 4 Tbsp rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar, and 1 tsp kosher salt.
Sushi Vinegar: There is a convenient Sushi Seasoning available at Japanese/Asian grocery store.
Equipment you will need:
- rice cooker - If you don't have a rice cooker, please follow How To Make Steamed Rice (in a pot).
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: How To Make Sushi tutorial video is added in November 2014.