Master how to make sushi rice like Japanese people do, and you’ll open a world of recipe options. Sushi rice is the life blood of so many delicious sushi recipes. Thankfully, it’s easy to make. Read on to learn how to make an authentic Japanese sushi rice recipe step by step!
How to Make Sushi Rice like a restaurant
I love sushi, and I’m going to show you how to make sushi rice from scratch. Maybe you’ve visited Sushidai at Tsukiji while traveling in Tokyo? Or another great Japanese restaurant in Japan or locally?
You’ve probably wondered, how do they make the rice like that for sushi? The great thing is, you can make it easily at home. So, let’s go!
If this is your first time making sushi, don’t worry, it’s easier than you think! I’ll unlock the secret to making perfect sushi rice every time for you. Once you master perfecting it, you can make you own delicious sushi dishes at home.
This easy sushi rice recipe has three steps.
- How to cook sushi rice on stove or in a rice cooker
- How to make rice vinegar for sushi rice
- How to season sushi rice
Cooking sushi is fun! I learnt how to make sushi rice and use it for sushi recipes from my mother when I was young. The method below is that same approach – authentic, reliable, and perfectly tasty.
Learn this recipe, to become the sushi star of your friends and family! And the whole family can play a part – kids love rolling sushi! Bring joy into your life and share it with your loved ones. Let’s get started!
What is Sushi Rice?
Sushi rice is made with Japanese short-grain rice, uruchi mai. (source) The rice is cooked with kombu (dried kelp). Then it’s seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar and salt, in a round wooden tub (hangiri).
Sushi rice is called sushi meshi or su meshi (shari often used at sushi restaurants in Japanese). Sushi has various styles and categories (source), but their common ingredient is always sushi rice. If the sushi rice isn’t tasty, then your sushi recipe won’t be either.
What rice for sushi?
Short grain rice, uruchi mai, is non sticky rice and is the staple of the Japanese diet. We eat uruchi mai not only for sushi but pretty much any dish with rice.
When this Japanese short-grain rice is exported, it’s often sold as Japanese ‘sushi rice’ in the supermarkets. But you can make sushi rice with any Japanese short-grain rice.
The point is that instead of buying expensive ‘sushi rice’ at a shop, you can make seasoned sushi rice with any Japanese short-grain rice. This is what people make sushi with the regular rice at home in Japan.
Where to buy Japanese short grain rice
I used to buy Nishiki, Kokuho Rose or Sekka for sushi when I was a university student in the UK. They’r’e also available in Australia, the US and Canada. These brands are pretty reasonably priced and are available at local Japanese and Asian shops or on Amazon.
If you’re able to pop into local Japanese shops, you have more options! Popular Japanese rice brands are Koshihikari, Akitakomachi and Hitomebore. I use Tsuyahime. I’ve found these regular Japanese short grain rice options in Sydney. My cousin also uses them and her son does Sekka for sushi in Canada. They are all perfect for making sushi rice!
Trust me, it’s worth going to a bit of effort to source Japanese genuine sushi rice – if you’re going to make sushi, it’s best to use the best authentic ingredients if you can. Of course there are a number of brands made outside of Japan that you’ll find in pretty much every local supermarket. They can be used if you can’t get to a Japanese store.
Sushi Rice Ingredients
The best vinegar for sushi rice is Japanese rice vinegar (komesu). Rice vinegar is traditionally used for sushi rice. It’s milder and a little sweeter than Western white vinegar and Japanese kokumotsu su which is made with corn and wheat.
There is a vinegar called ‘Sushi su‘ (sushi vinegar). This sushi rice vinegar is milder than regular rice vinegar. Amino acid and other additives are included to induce more flavour. Instead of Sushi su, I use pure rice vinegar with no additives from Marukan, a leading Japanese vinegar producer.
Any type of sugar can be used. I use unwashed beet sugar or cane sugar. If you use granulated sugar, it’s easy to dissolve with rice vinegar.
Traditionally sea salt is used for sushi rice. In Japan, almost all salt from the shops is sea salt, or moshio, seaweed soaked sea salt. And sea salt is used not only to add saltiness but to induce the umami of the ingredients.
Hangiri (also called sushi oke) is a round wooden tub, used for seasoning cooked rice with sushi vinegar sauce. It’s made with cypress wood and is bound with two copper bands running around the outside.
The hangiri needs to be soaked in water for 30 minutes before it’s used. If you don’t have a hangiri or wooden tub, you can use any large bowl that you have.
Shamoji is a round and flat wooden paddle, used to combine rice and seasoning in the wooden tub (hangiri).
Nihon tenugui needs to cover hangiri after sushi rice is made. It helps prevent sushi rice from drying out. Any clean cotton towel can be used. I use nihon tenugui, a Japanese cotton towel with traditional patterns and motifs.
1. How to cook sushi rice
Cooking sushi rice is fun and super easy! There are a few things you need to pay attention to:
- Rinse rice thoroughly
- Soak rice in water after rinsing it
- Use less water than what you use with other rice (reduce 10% of water)
- Add kombu (dried sea weed)
How to rinse rice
Firstly, rinse and clean the rice surface with running water in a bowl. Remove the water from the bowl. Rice can easily absorb water. So, this should be done very fast.
Next, rub the rice gently. Scoop up rice by hand and fold it over onto the rice five times. Don’t squeeze the rice with too much pressure as you want to avoid breaking it.
Add running water into a bowl and pour out two to three times. Drain water completely with a sieve. Then add water and soak rice in it before cooking. That’s it!
If the water is slightly cloudy, no problem. This is part of the nutrition of rice and adds flavour by maintaining the umami of rice!
Should sushi rice be soaked before cooking?
Yes! It’s the secret to making umami rich sushi rice. The rice becomes fluffy, soft and tasty. My mother always ensured I soaked rice in water before cooking.
How long should you soak sushi rice in water
Ideally soak rice in water for two to three hours before you cook. Definitely at least 30 minutes.
So, how much water do I need for 2 cups of sushi rice
2 cups of rice needs 2 cups of water to make regular steamed rice. And for sushi rice, just reduce the water by 10% – which is one and half tablespoons of water (24ml) less.
What is the water ratio for sushi rice
Put almost the same amount of water as rice, but just reduce the water by 10%. Otherwise sushi rice ends up too moist. We will be adding sushi rice vinegar for seasoning later on.
How long to cook sushi rice
Cook rice for sushi for 13 minutes on the stove top, and let it sit for 5 minutes without the heat on. Don’t forget to add kombu before you cook.
a. How to make sushi rice in rice cooker
- Rinse and clean rice in a large bowl.
- Transfer rice into the rice cooker. Add required water for cooking. Soak rice in water for at least 30 minutes, ideally for 2 to 3 hours.
- Add kombu.
- Push the button and start cooking rice for sushi!
- Allow the rice to sit for five minutes after turning off the heat.
b. How to cook sushi rice on stove
I show you how to make sushi rice without a rice cooker. It’s simple. Just cook it with a pot on the stove top. This is our favorite way.
- Rinse rice in a large bowl.
- Transfer rice into a pot. Add the water. Soak rice in water at least 30 minutes, ideally for 2 to 3 hours.
- Add kombu.
- Put the pan on the stove and cover with the lid. Add medium to high heat and bring water to a simmer. Then turn it down to low and keep cooking for 13 minutes. Then turn off the heat, and allow to steam with the lid for five minutes with the heat off.
2. How to make rice vinegar seasoning for sushi rice
Making sushi rice seasoning is simple. Combine rice vinegar, sugar and sea salt with a whisk in a small bowl while you cook sushi rice, and allow sugar to dissolve. There’s no need to heat up the rice vinegar seasoning. You lose some of the flavour of rice vinegar if you heat it.
3. How to season sushi rice
This is the fun part in making sushi rice. Kids love it! There are a few steps in seasoning sushi rice.
Remove the kombu, and transfer cooked and steamed rice in the center of a wooden tub (hangiri). Pour the vinegar seasoning over the rice. The rice must be hot.
From here things need to go very fast!
Fan the rice with a fan or uchiwa. Move the rice from the centre of the bowl to the edge with a rice paddle (shamoji) and gently fold it to combine with the sushi seasoning while fanning it to cool it slightly.
Don’t mix up rice excessively as this can break the rice. Gently fold rice and combine the ingredients, but you need to do this fast so that the seasoning is absorbed evenly throughout the rice.
Then gently cut rice to combine with the sushi seasoning while funning it.
Pro tip! When rice is cooled down quickly with the vinegar mix, it starts shinning beautifully. This simple cooking technique elevates your sushi rice to another level! Ideally one person uses the fan, and the other person folds the rice over with a rice paddle. Kids are the perfect fan people.
Important! After rice is cooked and steamed, transfer it into the large wooden tub (hangiri). Don’t season rice in the rice cooker or the pan you just cooked with. If you do, rice becomes mushy, sticky and not tasty.
After you successfully seasoned sushi rice, cover up wooden tub with a cotton cloth. This can avoid it from drying out and hardening.
That’s it! Enjoy sushi!
How to save sushi rice
Sushi should be enjoyed within a day. If you really would like to save it, transfer it into an air-tight container. Make sure it has cooled down completely. Keep it in the fridge for up to three days.
Why is my sushi rice so mushy?
The key to succeeding with sushi rice is ensuring how not to make sushi rice sticky.
- Make sure you do NOT season the rice in a hot rice cooker.
- Always transfer cooked rice into a large wooden tub (hangiri), or a large bowl and start seasoning the rice.
- Avoid over mixing sushi rice, but fold the it with a paddle, but avoid over mixing it.
Sticky rice for sushi is something you need to avoid as much as you can.
What is the best rice for sushi?
According to a friend of mine, a sushi chef and restaurant owner, Koshihikari from Uonuma (Uonuma san Koshihikari) is the best rice for sushi.
He used to work at a sushi restaurant in Akasaka where many of Tokyo’s prestigious sushi restaurants can be found, and his master used Koshihikari from Uonuma for sushi, and so he does at his restaurant.
Should sushi rice be warm or cold?
I recommend keeping sushi rice at room temperature. I’ve visited various sushi restaurants throughout Japan, and they keep it at room temperature.
How to use sushi rice with regular rice
I’ve tried round grain (pudding rice) when I was a student in England. It works ok, but really Japanese short grain rice is so much better. Long grain rice such as Thai Jasmin rice and Basmati rice do not work for sushi. Their texture and taste are so different.
For the perfect sushi rice, Japanese short grain rice is recommended. You will notice the difference!
Collection for Sushi Recipes
Easy Sushi Rice Recipe
- 2¼ cups Japanese short grain rice (note 1) (450g: can yield about 4¾ cups or 990g)
- 2 cups fresh water (473ml)
- 1 kombu (dried kelp: 2 inch square size)
Sushi vinegar seasoning
- ⅓ cup rice vinegar (78ml)
- ⅛ cup sugar (30g: I use beet sugar or cane sugar.)
- 2½ teaspoons sea salt (15g)
1. Rinsing rice
- Add running water to rice in a large bowl and remove the water. Repeat this one more time. This should be done fast.
- Rub rice gently. Scoop up rice by hand and gently place it back in the bowl, folding it into the rest of the rice. Repeat this five times. This should be done quickly. Avoid breaking the rice. (note 2)
- Rinse with running water and pour the water out. Repeat this two to three times.
- Drain water completely with a sieve. Transfer the rice into the rice cooker or a pot. Add water and soak rice in it at least for 30 minutes before cooking. (note 3)
1-a. Cooking rice in a rice cooker
- Add kombu, and push the button to start cooking rice for sushi.
- After rice is cooked, allow to sit for 5 minutes.
1-b. Cooking rice on stove top
- Add kombu.
- Put the pot on the stove and put the lid on it. Turn on medium to high heat and bring water to a simmer. Then turn it down to low and keep cooking for 13 minutes. Then turn the heat off, and allow the rice to sit for five minutes.
2. Making sushi vinegar mix
- Combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt with a whisk in a small bowl while rice is cooking. Allow sugar to dissolve in the rice vinegar.
3. Seasoning rice
- Remove the kombu. Transfer rice into the center of a wooden tub (hangiri or a large bowl) while it's still hot. Pour sushi vinegar mix over the rice.
- Start fanning with a fan, and extend the rice with a rice paddle (shamoji), towards the edge of the tub. Flatten the rice.
- Cut the rice with the paddle and gently fold rice to combine with the vinegar mix while fanning. Don't over mix.
- Coverup the wooden bowl with a cotton cloth, to avoid the sushi rice from drying out.That's it! Enjoy sushi!
- Japanese short grain rice, uruchi mai, is recommended to use for sushi rice. They are non sticky rice. Koshihikari, Hitomebore and Akitakomachi are popular brands and are best for sushi rice. They are available from a local Japanese stores or online. Nishiki and Kokuho Rose are available at Japanese and Asian stores. ‘Sushi rice’ is available at regular supermarkets.
- Rice absorbs the water quickly, and you need to throw away the water before it’s absorbed.
- If water is slightly white and cloudy after rinsing, no problem. Leave it. These contains some of the nutrition and umami of rice in it.
- Sushi rice should be enjoyed within a day. If you really would like to save it, transfer it into an air-tight container. Make sure sushi rice has cooled down completely. Keep it in the fridge for three days.
- Important – Make sure NOT to season rice in a hot rice cooker. Always transfer cooked rice into hangiri or a large bowl for seasoning. Otherwise sushi rice gets mushy and overly sticky. It’s not sticky.