Best Rice for Sushi Bowls: Perfect “Lazy” Meal

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California rolls sushi bowl in white bowl with a text "Best rice for sushi bowls"

My go-to hack to satisfy my sushi cravings is to make its lazier alternative: sushi bowls. 

These bowls capture the same flavors and textures as traditional sushi.

Yet– they take half the time and effort to make! 

Now, others think that you can simply use any type of rice for sushi bowls. 

After all, you won’t need to mold, roll, or do anything to it. 

However, unless you want to eat sushi bowls that taste nowhere like sushi… 

Only a few rice varieties should be on your grocery list for this dish. 

Sushi Bowls VS Poke Bowls: Not The Same

Sushi bowl in wooden background.

Lots of people confuse the two or even use them interchangeably. 

However, sushi bowls and poke bowls are not the same. 

Sure, they have lots of similarities. 

To name some, they’re both served in a bowl with a mix & match of vegetables, rice, and protein. 

But, while poke bowls don’t really have clear guidelines about which type of rice you should use…

Sushi bowls require specific rice varieties for them to still taste like sushi. 

Uncontested Rice Variety for Sushi Bowls: Sushi Rice

The official name of this rice is Japanese short-grain rice. 

It’s the rice variety that’s primarily used for sushi. So, for simplicity’s sake, many supermarkets in the West refer to it as “sushi rice.” 

Now, the primary reason this rice variety is used for sushi is its high starch content. 

Simply put, it has the perfect stickiness to mold sushi into its ideal shape. May that be a roll, gunkan, or maki. 

Obviously, sushi bowls don’t need to be molded into any specific shape.

But there are still lots of reasons why you should use sushi rice for your next sushi bowl creation. 

Reasons to Use Sushi Rice for Sushi Bowls

Close up image of sushi rice in wooden bowl.

Familiar Texture: Sushi bowls should still taste and feel like sushi despite being “shapeless.” To achieve that, you’ll want to stick to the familiar, sticky texture sushi rice gives for all varieties of traditional sushi. 

Absorbs Flavors Well: The short grain size and starchy nature of sushi rice allow it to absorb flavors better than most types of rice. This quality is essential for making your sushi bowls flavorful and delicious. 

Touch of Authenticity: Japanese short-grain rice is a staple in Japanese cuisine. It’s the default choice of rice when making sushi. So, if you love making your homemade food taste “authentic” like I do, sushi rice is the best option for your sushi bowls. 

Rice Alternatives for Sushi Bowls 

I’m no stranger to the not-so-fun experience of not being able to find the only ingredients you need on the supermarket’s shelf.  

But, whenever I fail to find Japanese short-grain rice (and can’t be bothered to check another store), I just opt for these alternatives. 

Calrose Rice 

Calrose rice is a medium-grain rice (not short-grain like the traditional sushi rice). 

But, it has always been a popular alternative rice for making sushi.

Like sushi rice, it absorbs flavor better than most rice varieties. 

And, while it may not be as sticky as Japanese short-grain rice, this difference won’t cause a problem at all if you’re making sushi bowls.

Personally, I don’t even notice the difference in texture! 

Japanese Short-Grain Brown Rice

Raw brown short grain rice in wooden bowl on the wooden table.

The beauty of sushi bowls (compared to traditional types of sushi) is that the success of your dish won’t heavily rely on the rice’s stickiness. 

This means you have the option to use less sticky yet healthier rice variations like Japanese short-grain brown rice!

It contains more fiber, is richer in vitamin minerals, and has a lower glycemic index than its white rice counterpart. 

Of course, the texture of your sushi bowl would be slightly different. But sometimes, I actually love the variation for a change! 

Rice Up Your Bowl of Sushi Bowls 

Nobody can change my mind that sushi rice is still the best option for any sushi-inspired dish there is.

But the good thing about sushi bowls is that they’re way more forgiving than traditional sushi variations when it comes to which rice you can use. 

So, although I always highly recommend using Japanese short-grain rice or Calrose rice for this dish, don’t be too afraid to check out other rice varieties as well. 

Yield: 2

Simple California Rolls Sushi Bowls

California rolls sushi bowl in dark background.

One of the simplest sushi bowls you can make for lunch or your late-night sushi cravings!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 1 cup of raw Sushi rice (yields 3 cups of cooked)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 ½ tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup of Japanese mayo
  • 1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce
  • 5 ounces of imitation crab
  • ½ of small carrot (grated)
  • 1 nori sheet (crumbled)
  • ½ of an avocado (diced)
  • ½ cup of cucumber (diced)
  • 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of low-sodium soy sauce


Cook the Sushi rice according to the package’s instructions.

  1. While the rice cooks, create the rice seasoning by combining the sugar, salt and rice vinegar. Warm the mixture over the stove or in the microwave if needed.
  2. Once the rice cooks, slowly combine the rice seasoning into it. 
  3. Cut or slice the vegetables and the imitation crab accordingly. 
  4. In a bowl, combine the Japanese mayo with sriracha to create a spicy mayo sauce. 
  5. Divide the rice into 2 bowls. 
  6. Assemble the bowls. Top each one with the imitation crab, avocado, cucumber, carrot, and crumbled nori sheets. Drizzle spicy mayo and sprinkle sesame seeds on top to finish. 
  7. Serve each bowl with soy sauce on the side (or drizzle a tablespoon of it over each bowl before serving).

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