Sushi Rice

Sushi Rice

It may not be the most exciting part of sushi, but the vinegared rice or sushimeshi (鮨飯) is what makes sushi sushi. By some accounts, the word sushi is a contraction of the words su which means “vinegar” and meshi which means “rice”. Another creation legend is that the kanji character for sushi “鮨” resembles the Chinese character for salted fish “鮓” and so perhaps the origins of sushi lay somewhere in southern China. In any case, raw fish without the rice is just sashimi.

In Japan, where hundreds of varieties of fresh sashimi-grade fish are flown in from around the world to local fish markets, the best sushi restaurants differentiate themselves based on their technique, not just the variety and freshness of their fish. The rice in particular is what separates the truly extraordinary sushi restaurants from the merely good, and how they make it is a closely guarded secret.

Negitoro Roll

Great sushi rice teeters the line between tender and hard. Each grain of rice retains its original shape, and yet they magically stick together, without being gluey or gummy. The seasoning is a balancing act between sweet, sour and salt, well seasoned, but not so much so that it detracts from the fish. Most importantly the grains sport a lustrous shine that would make a shampoo model jealous.

While it may surprise some, not all rice is not created equally. Even amongst short-grain rices there are huge variations in texture, color and shine based on the species, where it was made, what the weather was like, how it was milled, and even how fresh it is. A pound of recently harvested premium rice can fetch upwards of $20 per pound. Unfortunately we don’t have quite the selection of rice here in the US, but lookng for rice labelled as “new crop” is a good start. How the rice is washed, cooked, and seasoned are equally important, so here’s my technique for getting the best sushimeshi out of the rice you have available to you.

Equipment you'll need:

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    Sushi Rice
  • Sushi rice, or sushi meshi is short-grain rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt.
ServingsPrep TimeCook Time
4 5 minutes 30 minutes


  • 326 grams short grain rice (2 rice cooker cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. NOTE: A rice cooker cup does not equal 1 US cup. If you don't have a rice cooker, use the weight measure.
  2. Put the rice in a sieve(with holes small enough so the rice doesn't pass through) over a bowl and wash the rice with cold tap water.
  3. Use your hands to remove the excess starch off each grain of rice by using a gentle rubbing motion. If you scrub too hard you will break the rice, so don't be too rough.
  4. When the water that runs off is mostly clear, drain the rice.
  5. If you're using a rice cooker, add the rice to the bowl of the rice cooker and add cold water to just under the 2 cup line (you want the rice to be on the firm side as you'll be adding the seasoned vinegar after the rice is cooked). If you don't have a rice cooker, add the rice to a large heavy bottomed non-stick pot, then add 1 1/2 cups of cold water.
  6. Let the rice sit in the water for at least 30 minutes. This allows the grains of rice to soak up some water before cooking, which results in shinier rice with a better texture.
  7. If you are using a rice cooker, turn it on and let it do it's thing. If you are doing this on the stove, turn the heat onto high and bring the rice to a boil (be careful not to let it boil over). Turn down the heat to low and cover with a lid. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and let the rice steam for 10 minutes.
  8. While you wait for the rice to cook, combine the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl. You can microwave it for a bit to help dissolve the sugar.
  9. After the rice has had a chance to steam, it should be firm, but the core should not be crunchy. It should be sticky, but each grain of rice should retain its own shape. If your rice was fresh, the surface of each grain should be glossy.
  10. Dump the rice out into a very large bowl, the key is that you want a container with a lot of surface area so you can spread the rice out. Pour the vinegar mixture over the hot rice.
  11. Set the bowl on a damp towel to keep it from sliding. Using a shamoji or broad flat wooden spoon in one hand and a fan or piece of cardboard in the other, gently combine the rice and vinegar using a side-to-side cutting motion with the edge of the spoon. You want to separate each grain of rice, so the vinegar penetrates every surface, but you don't want to break the grains of rice or mash them together. Use the fan in your other hand to fan the rice. This cools the rice and helps the excess liquid evaporate quickly, which gives your rice a nice shine and prevents it from getting mushy. It's a bit tricky mixing and fanning at the same time, so if you can get a helper or use an electric fan it will be much easier.
  12. The rice is done when the surface is no longer wet and slippery, the rice is fluffy, and each grain is very shiny. It will still be a little warm, but it should not be hot. Spread the rice out over the surface of your bowl, and cover with a damp towel until you're ready to use it.
  • laura

    Love that you specified rice cooker cups! :) my biggest pet peeve is rice cooker or Asian rice recipes that don’t specify, and i am always wondering whether to you regular cups or rice cooker cups.


    Typo spotted! Step number 9 in the recipe: “you’re rice is fresh”.
    I’m not pointing it out maliciously. Figured you’d like to know, considering there’s a certain quality to the writing on the site I’ve come to expect (in a good way).

    Your site is great. :)


      There also may or may not be another apostrophe hiccup in the same area (step number 9).

  • daftasanything

    Would I use this same technique for rice for Onigiri(sp) ? Thanks! Love this blog!

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Rice for onigiri is not seasoned. You can follow the wash step and use the same proportion of water to rice, add a pinch of salt, then use the same cooking instructions, but you do not add the vinegar mixture and mix it like with sushi rice.

      • daftasanything

        Thank you.

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  • marina

    hey, i live in malaysia and i tried making sushi rice before but i can’t find the rice vinegar. is there anything else that can replace the rice vinegar? thanks :)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I’m not very familiar with what kinds of ingredients you can get in Malaysia, so I can’t really suggest a substitute. That said, I’m a little surprised you can’t find rice vinegar there as it’s used widely in Asian cooking. If you have a market that sells Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Korean ingredients they should have it as it’s used in all those cuisines. In the US it goes by a couple names including: white rice vinegar, rice wine vinegar, or simply rice vinegar.

      • Lindsey V

        Rice vinegar can be [somewhat] duplicated by taking white vinegar, salt and sugar and cooking them together in a pan over low heat until the sugar dissolves.

        The portions should look like:

        half cup of white vinegar

        1 tsp of salt

        1 tbsp of sugar

        Add more salt, sugar or vinegar until it tastes “right”. You need something acidic or the rice will fall flat.

        I used to prepare the vinegar this way, and my family liked it sweeter, so I would add more sugar to the mix. Everyone enjoyed the rice thoroughly.

        • Marc Matsumoto

          Actually, rice vinegar does not include salt or sugar. I think you might be confusing it with sushi rice vinegar(sometimes known as seasoned rice vinegar), which is what this recipe is for.

    • Tree Lady

      Sushi rice is short grain rice. Shorter grain rice is starchier than long grain, and you need the starch to make the rice stick together in the sushi roll. Jasmine or Basmati would be long grain and would not have enough starch.

    • Gintama

      Hey, I’m in Malaysia too. Quick question: are you living somewhere out in the woods? (I very much doubt it, else you shouldn’t be on the internet.) Anyway even if you’re living where there is no sign of human life, see if you can find your way to a “kedai runcit” (Malay for grocery shop) or “chap hui tiam” (in Hokkien), and ask for “bee chor” (in case the old shopkeep doesn’t speak English). It should cost only RM2.80 for a bottle the size of a large Tiger Beer. The brand I use is Narcissus, came all the way from Fujian China.

      There’s a lot of heated talk lately in my country, about the Islamic ruling party tagging Malaysia-born Chinese like me as “Pendatang” (immigrants), and that we deserve to get kicked back to China. I brought this point up because, well, if it weren’t for the pendatang, how are Malaysians supposed to get common, everyday kitchen stuff such as rice vinegar? Desho?

    • Ezal

      There’s rice vinegar in Malaysia too.. Im from Brunei and rice vinegar is not rare. I use it often. I believe thay are sold in most local markets. Just search for it.

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  • Mel

    Is it ok using cane vinegar instead of rice vinegar? Than for sharing this recipe. I always wonder why the rice in Japan is shinier. I know the technique now.

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  • Roshwill King

    hi marc, i just want to ask if i can use ordinary vinegar, cane vinegar? thanks :)

    • Marc Matsumoto

      It’s not going to have the same taste, but if you’re okay with that I don’t see why you couldn’t use a different vinegar. Also, some vinegars are more acidic than others, so you may need to adjust the amount of vinegar based on the acidity. Unfortunately I’m not familiar with cane vinegar so can’t really give you any guidance there.

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  • Simone Thomson

    I am trying your recipe now but i just realised that i accidentally bought sushi vinegar (with the sugar and salt already added) Could you suggest a total amount of liquid that i should be adding to my rice as i’m not sure how much the sugar in your recipe condenses down to?

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  • omelette aux truffes

    What is the best ingredient used in making sushi?

    • Marc Matsumoto

      I’m not sure I understand your question, are you asking about the rice? vinegar?

  • Tammie Smith

    California Rolls may be a bit tricky but I took away a great deal of information from your post that gives me the confidence to try making them now. Thanks so much, I’ll let you know how I do!

  • camilio4u2

    Thank you Marc .

  • Vernon Chan

    Tried a couple of times but came out a little lumpy and soft. Will need to keep an eye out on the amount of water. Also I used 3 heaped teaspoons of sugar instead of tablespoons.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      The lower amount of sugar you used probably had an impact, the shine on the rice needs a higher sugar content. Also, it’s important that the water is measured precisely. Lastly it’s possible that the type and age of the rice your using will require some adjustments to the amount if water. The newer rice is, the higher the water content.— Sent from Mailbox for iPad

      • Vernon Chan

        Thanks Marc. Will continue testing and experimenting :)

  • Kayla

    Could you give an estimated US cup measuremnet for the rice? I have no way of measuring by weight and im going to try to make California rolls for the first time for Valentines and i really don’t want to mess this up.. Thank you to anyone who can help

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Kayla, a rice cooker cup is 180ml, which is 0.760816 US Cups. Or roughly 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon.

  • Pegglegg

    Hello Marc… I wold love to use your recipe for sushi rice using brown rice…is it possible? What adjustments would I need to make? Thank you

  • Emily Davis

    Hi Marc,
    I am planning on halving all ingredients that this recipe states as I only need a small quantity. Would I need to reduce the cooking time of the rice as I am using a saucepan?
    From Emily.

    • Marc Matsumoto

      Hi Emily, I’m not sure about what will happen in a sauce pan, but rice cookers don’t handle making 1 cup of rice very well. The rice ends up more crumbly than sticky. As for cooking times, since you have less water, it will take less time to bring to a boil, but the 15 minutes of cooking and 10 minutes of steaming remain the same.

  • shaqura

    hi marc bye marc
    from sahqura elias


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!