Prided for its plump, sticky grains and its starring role in your favorite sushi rolls, perfectly cooked sushi rice is easy to make at home.
For many years, rolling my own sushi held no appeal. Sushi was a great excuse to take a night off from cooking and do our small part to support the local restaurant scene.
Somewhere along the way, however, I got the itch to try my hand at it. Since I’m a bit of a geek, I always do my research when attempting something new in the recipe world. So I read all about sushi-making techniques, the history, etc.
Clearly, good sushi starts with the rice.
But a funny thing happened as I went through the trial and error of creating the perfect sticky rice. I hit on an entirely new meal. California Roll Sushi Bowls are easy to pull off on a weeknight, and my family adores them. You can mix and match your toppings of preference, or even make a spicy tuna roll by following this recipe for spicy tuna in this How to Make Sushi tutorial.
Until I learned to make sushi, I always thought the rice, though sticky, was plain rice. At first glance, it might seem strange to stir the following vinegar mixture into the cooked rice, but it’s essentially a homemade equivalent of the store-bought “seasoned” rice vinegar and what is traditionally added to sushi rice.
Some sushi rice recipes use a lot more vinegar and sugar, but after playing around with various proportions, I found the following ratio offered balanced flavor that doesn’t seem sweet, tangy or salty. It just makes whatever it’s used in taste a little better.
So use this recipe as a starting point for your favorite sushi roll, be it a spicy tuna, California, spider roll, etc.–there are so many good ones. Or grab yourself a bag of rice, worry not about technique, and make these deconstructed Sushi Roll Bowls!
What is sushi rice?
Sushi rice is technically more a specific way of preparing rice than a rice variety, although short grain rice is used. It is traditionally made by stirring vinegar, sugar, and salt into hot, cooked short-grain Japanese white rice (or sometimes short-grain brown rice). Oftentimes, the mixture is then cooled and used to make sushi.
Because this type of rice has a higher starch content than most other varieties, it tends to clump or stick together when cooked. When buying, look specifically for sushi rice, although short grained varieties may also be used.
Where can I buy sushi rice?
Sushi rice is widely available in the international or rice aisle of most large grocery stores as well as online. (I tend to pick it up locally, although Nuts.com is an example that I have used and enjoyed.) If you’d like to try your hand at rolling sushi at home, you can generally find nori, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, and even chopsticks and sushi mats quite easily too.
What is the best way to reheat rice:
This rice is best made fresh and can be served warm or at room temperature, according to preference. If it’s more convenient for you to make the rice the day before, transfer the cooled rice to an airtight container, and before covering, place a wet (but not dripping) paper towel directly on the rice. When ready to eat, place a freshly dampened paper towel over the rice and gently reheat in the microwave. This will prevent the rice from drying out and help maintain the fluffy, just-cooked texture.
For a smaller rice yield, the recipe may be cut in half. Just remember to also use half the amount of seasoned vinegar.
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml) unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1½ tablespoons (18 grams) granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt (less ¼ teaspoon if using table salt)
- 2 cups (360g*) sushi rice
- 2½ cups (20oz) water, plus extra for rinsing rice
For the seasoned vinegar: Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave on high for about 45 seconds. Stir the mixture to fully dissolve the sugar and salt. This step may also be done on the stovetop. In this case, use a small pot and heat just to the boiling point, stirring occasionally, or until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from heat. The seasoned vinegar may be used right away or cooled and stored at room temperature until ready to use.
For the sticky rice: Place the rice in a medium saucepan or other pot with a tight-fitting lid, and cover with cool water. Swirl the rice in the water, and pour off the water. Repeat 2 or 3 times or until the water is mostly clear. The last time, pour everything into a fine mesh strainer and drain the rice well.
Return the rice to the pot along with 2½ cups of cool water. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Once the water begins to simmer evenly across the surface, stir the rice, reduce the heat to low or medium low (just enough to maintain a gentle simmer), and cover the pot. Cook for 14-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove the pot from the heat, with the lid still on, let the rice rest for 10 minutes. (I recommend using a timer for the cooking and the resting.)
Immediately after the rest period, remove the lid and stir in the seasoned vinegar. Fold to thoroughly coat each grain, breaking up any clumps. Allow the rice to cool to room temperature before using to make sushi or sashimi. Helpful hint: Cover with a damp towel lightly touching the surface to prevent the rice from drying out.
*Rice weighs 180 grams per cup. I have found that this weight translates to a slightly scant cup. This may be why some people have trouble cooking rice: if you unwittingly measure too much rice, there won’t be enough water, and the rice will likely stick to the pot before it’s done cooking. If you don’t have a scale, I recommend filling the measuring cup just below the rim or at least running the straight edge of a knife across the top to ensure the cup isn’t overfilled.
Using the sticky rice for something other than sushi? You may omit the seasoned vinegar. For more flavorful rice, however, you may wish to stir in the salt as the water comes to a boil.
To make sushi rice in a rice cooker: For this preparation, use 2 cups rice and 2 cups water. After rinsing and draining the rice, briefly stir the rice and water together in the bowl of a rice cooker. Cover and cook according to the device instructions.
Storage: When stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, the rice will keep for up to 3 days.
To reheat rice: I use the microwave and find it helpful to add a light sprinkle of water and cover the rice with a damp paper towel. This allows the rice to rehydrate a little while reheating.
If you’d like to make sushi bowls that include nori:
Toast the nori: In a large skillet over medium heat, warm a sheet of nori until it’s crisp enough to crumble easily, flipping halfway, about 5 minutes. It will turn a brighter shade of green. Alternatively, for a speedier toasting method, you may hold the sheet of nori with tongs and carefully heat it over a gas burner set to low.
Remove from heat and tear the nori sheet into quarters. Next, directly over the pot of rice and using your hands, crumble each quarter into very small pieces and drop them right into the pot (do this right after cooking, resting, and adding the seasoned vinegar to the rice). Stir the nori into the rice and set the rice aside to cool as directed. Toasted nori adds a subtle, briny flavor to the rice and can also be using as a topping or garnish on the sushi bowls.
For making sushi: Plan on 6 ounces (or 1 lightly packed cup) per sheet or nori.
For sushi stacks: For these, I use a 1 cup dry measure to form the stacks and use a loosely packed measurement of about 5 ounces per cup. (With this sushi rice recipe, there will be enough rice for 5 stacks – 6 if you go a touch scant on the rice). Then for each stack, I first add a chopped seafood of choice, followed by diced cucumbers and scallions, then a layer of mashed avocado, followed by ½ cup (2½ ounces) sushi rice, which compressed to about ⅓ cup. Once gently packed, I flip the stack onto a plate and drizzle with 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari and a drizzle (1-2 teaspoons) of sriracha mayo.