Best Rice for Sushi: All Sushi Types

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I still remember that disastrous event when I made sushi rolls for the first time. 

The rice wouldn’t stick, the nori wouldn’t roll, and when I finally got the last roll to work out… 

All the ingredients fell apart when it was finally time to slice the sushi. 

Turned out I was simply using the wrong type of rice. 

Days later, I switched to using the best rice for sushi.

And not to brag or anything, but I’ve never failed in sushi-making since then.

Not just in sushi rolls, but also in other variations like nigiri sushi. 

Let me share the secret to making the perfect sushi rice each time. 

Rice in Sushi: It Has a Complex Role 

Sushi rice in a wooden bowl.

First, let’s understand the role, or rather, the various roles that rice plays in sushi. 

This way, you’ll understand why only a select few rice varieties can be used for this type of dish. 

Rice in sushi isn’t just there for the aesthetic element or to add another layer of texture or flavor. 

Most importantly, it’s the binding agent of the entire dish. 

It’s the component that lets all the other ingredients stick together and allows the roll or nigiri to form in the first place.

Since its most crucial role is to bind, sushi rice must be sticky above all else. 

That’s the key common characteristic between all the rice varieties I’ll recommend for sushi below. 

So, if you’re gonna take one thing away from this article, make it this:

Never use non-sticky rice for sushi (like I unfortunately did during my first try).

Top Rice Variety for Sushi: Sushi Rice

Japanese short-grain rice, AKA sushi rice, is the best rice for sushi.

It’s in the name itself, so it’s impossible to forget once you know it.

In the West, the rice variety that works perfectly for sushi is often conveniently labeled sushi rice.

Surely, you’re wondering:

What kind of rice is sushi rice, anyway?

Raw sushi rice in a wooden scoop.

Well, that’s just the generic label for what’s usually known as Japanese short-grain rice.

This short-grain rice has a high starch content, is incredibly sticky, and absorbs flavors very well. 

Reasons to Use Japanese Short-Grain Rice for Sushi

Balanced Stickiness: Sushi rice has the perfect stickiness to bind all sushi ingredients together and maintain the roll, gunkan maki, or nigiri’s shape while not being too sticky to turn sushi making into a gooey mess. 

High Flavor Absorption: Japanese short-grain rice absorbs flavor way better than other rice varieties due to its short grain structure and high starch content. This creates a balanced flavor where no bite is blander than another.

Texture: Authentic Japanese sushi has an undeniable, satisfying mouthfeel. It is soft yet slightly chewy. Sticky yet firm. Japanese short-grain rice is the best rice for achieving this texture.

Rice for Sushi Alternative: Calrose Rice

Japanese short-grain rice is obviously the best sushi rice candidate. But it might not be available where you live, or it could run out of stock. In those cases, this alternative will be a lifesaver. 

Calrose Rice 

Calrose rice in a bowl.

In the US, Calrose rice is sometimes also labeled as “sushi rice.” 

After all, its size, texture, and flavor are very similar to that of Japanese short-grain rice. 

Calrose rice is slightly less sticky and flavor-absorbant than sushi rice, though (helpful features for sushi making). Which is why it’s not always the number one option.

But good news: a few structural or preparation adjustments can always mitigate these differences!

In fact, when prepared right, most people can’t even differentiate between sushi made with Japanese short-grain rice and Calrose rice. 

Rice is Key in Sushi

Sushi, when prepared with Japanese short-grain rice (AKA sushi rice) or Calrose rice (sometimes also referred to as sushi rice), is always going to be bound for success.

Of course, that’s assuming you do all the other steps right, such as the ingredient ratio, rice preparation, and rolling technique. 

Now, most of the time, I’d recommend at least one or two more rice alternatives for a specific recipe.

But, I must say, sushi is one of those dishes where the type of rice you use can either make or break the dish. 

Yield: 6 cups of cooked sushi rice

Foolproof Sushi Rice

Sushi rice in a wooden bowl with plastic ladle.

The perfect rice for sushi when it comes to taste, texture, and consistency.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of Japanese short-grain rice (or Calrose rice)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ⅓ cup of rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • Water

Instructions

  1. In a strainer, rinse the rice for a minute or two until the water runs clear. 
  2. Pour the rice into a stovetop pot and add 2 cups of cold water. 
  3. Over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil (without the lid).
  4. Once the rice boils, turn the heat to low and cover the pot.
  5. Set a timer for 10 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat. 
  6. Without removing the lid, let the rice sit for 15 more minutes.
  7. Prepare a separate saucepan. There, combine the sugar, salt, and rice vinegar over low flame.
  8. After the rice has sat for 15 minutes, pour the combined mixture over it. Gently fold the rice upon itself to mix. 
  9. Once the rice has cooled down to just above room temperature (not too hot to touch), start assembling your sushi. 

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