Sushi Rice, the Secret Behind Delicious Sushi

[donotprint] I am finally delivering on my promise to talk about seasoned vinegar (sushi-su) and sushi rice (sumeshi).  Sushi rice, or rice dressed with a seasoned vinegar, is an essential component of a variety of sushi dishes.  In fact, sushi wouldn’t be sushi without this rice.  If you are serving slices of fresh uncooked fish without any sushi rice, you are serving sashimi!  My experience is that semi-decent sushi can be ruined by bad sushi rice.  If you can make good sushi rice, there is no reason why you can’t make delicious sushi at home!

Sushi Rice

Sushi Rice Tips & Tricks

  • Use polished (white) short-grain Japanese rice (japonica) or medium-grain California rice.  These types of rice are often labeled as sushi rice or Calrose rice at the store here in the US.
  • Wash your rice to get rid of the starchy powder that clings to the grains. This starchy powder will prevent proper absorption of the sushi-su and give you less than perfect rice.  To wash rice, place your measured rice into a bowl and cover it with fresh cold water.  Use your hand to swish and stir the rice around and then carefully drain the water (I use a fine-mesh strainer to do this).  Repeat this process until the water runs clear.
  • If you eat a lot of rice, a rice cooker is a wonderful investment because it eliminates timing problems, makes perfect rice, and many cookers offer a warming function that keeps rice fresh ahd warm for 24 hours.  My favorite that I’ve personally used is Zojirushi’s Neuro Fuzzy Logic.  But again, it’s an investment!
  • It is best to mix the seasoned vinegar with the cooked rice  in a sushi-oke or an unvarnished wooden bowl, but you can also use a wide shallow glass or ceramic bowl.  I use a wide shallow glass mixing bowl, because that is what I have on hand.  Do not, however, use an aluminum bowl, as this type of bowl will retain heat differently and give the rice a metallic taste.
  • Prepared sushi rice should be stored at cool room temperature, covered with a moist cloth or plastic wrap. It will keep this way for up to 12 hours.  Do not refrigerate it or freeze it, as this destroys the texture.

How to Make Sushi-su (Seasoned Vinegar for Sushi Rice)

There are many recipes for sushi-su (seasoned vinegar), but all use the same basic components: rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Some recipes also through in a small piece of kombu, which adds more depth of flavor, but this is optional.  I prefer my sushi-su to be not as sweet as some.  Once you make your own, you can adjust the sugar to suit your personal taste!  This recipe makes 1 cup of sushi-su.  I like to make extra sushi-su so that I can use it as a salad dressing (you can add some sesame or olive oil, but I like it without).  It is delicious tossed with baby arugula and then sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds.

Baby Arugula Salad

The sushi-su to rice proportions that I like to use are:

  • 3 cups cooked rice: use 1/4 – 1/3 cup sushi-su
  • 4 cups cooked rice: use 1/2 – 2/3 cup sushi-su
  • 5 cups cooked rice: use 2/3 – 1 cup sushi-su

Sushi Rice



Sushi-Su (Seasoned Vinegar for Sushi Rice)

1 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 piece kombu, 2-inches square (optional)

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and kombu in a small saucepan.  Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring until the sugar and salt dissolve.  When the mixture is clear, remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool.  Discard the piece of kombu.  Sushi-su can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

How to Make Sushi Rice

1. Transfer the freshly cooked hot rice to a wide shallow bowl.  Pour a small amount of the sushi-su evenly over the rice.  Toss the rice by gently cutting into it vertically with your rice paddle (or spatula), and then lifting the rice and turning it over.  As you do this, fan the rice with a hand fan or piece of cardboard (or get someone to help you).  Add more of the sushi-su and continue the cutting, folding, and fanning process.  Fanning the rice facilitates quick cooling, which gelatinizes the surface of the rice and gives a glossy finish to the rice.   Towards the end, taste the rice occasionally to decide how much of you sushi-su you want to add.

2. Cover the seasoned rice with a moist cloth or plastic wrap until ready to use.

Now that you’ve got delicious sushi rice, you can start making sushi!

Temaki Sushi

Here are some ideas to get you started:


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That looks beautiful!! nice and fluffy!! just the way I like my rice!

although I still haven’t gotten over the trauma of the all sushi making I had to do for new year’s. :) [i’ll eat it if you invite me, though!!]

Okay, now you have to come here so that you can teach me sushi and I can… well you aren’t stealing any lens from me! I got my eye on you! Great post! ;-)

Sounds good. I don’t like my sushi rice very sweet either. Haven’t made mine with kombu. I’ll have to try that and see what depth I’ve been missing…hehe!

Hi Racheal…gald to know that Daylon is undergoing treatment. Will continue to pray for him and family. Thanks for sharing the secret of making sushi-su and sushi rice :)

We make sushi all the time at our house. I usually just pour rice vinegar in the rice and toss it, but this sounds like a great recipe. I’ll have to give it a try.

It’s funny, I am in now way a person who knows a thing about this. But I did have a good conversation with The Sushi Girl at CmpBlogaway and now between her talk and your post… maybe I am making baby steps forward. TKS GREG

Okay, I’ve gotta try this again, using your step-by-step instructions. My son is a japonaphile, but we’ve never successfully made decent sushi, even after buying good rice at Uwajimaya. Thanks!

I wonder if you can help me. I bought Mogami Sweet Rice (just rice, no added sugar) b/c I thought that’s what to use for sushi rice. It is a disaster. I’ve researched and tried many recipes but it always ends up a sticky, gooey, inedible mess. Right now I’m using it as pie weights for baking crusts but I wonder if there is a way to cook it successfully? I’ve soaked it, rinsed it, done everything I can think of and nothing works. Help!

Mogami sweet rice is definitely different than the rice used to make sushi. The rice you have is probably the kind that is usually used for Thai dishes, like the sticky rice with mango dessert. Are you boiling the rice? Because that may be why its not turning out and becoming so gooey; with sticky rice you’re supposed to steam it.

@Susan, What a bummer! Yes, Mogami Sweet Rice is different from sushi rice. Mogami sweet rice is a type of short-grained Asian rice that is especially sticky when cooked. Although other Asian rices become sticky to some extent, this type is especially sticky.

Next time, when you are looking for Japanese rice/sushi rice, look for polished (white) short-grain Japanese rice (japonica) or medium-grain California rice. These types of rice are often labeled as sushi rice or Calrose rice here in the US.

Now what to do with your Mogami Sweet Rice? This Thai recipe should give you some ideas as to how to use the rice:

I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any more questions!

Oh. I needed this! I just bought stuff to make tempura roll. My rolls are okay. Ihave trouble with the rice…I hope this helps me out. THANKS!

Those are some great tips for cooking rice. Rice is my most favorite thing to eat.I grew up eating lot of rice. Rice cooker is great option but if you don’t have rice cooker you can use your microwave to cook it. The trick is to soak it after washing for at least 30 or 45 mins.

Hey, thanks for this awesome article. I don’t usually stick to a recipe but I think this set of directions will be my go-to from now on.
Joanna @ Stoveless

I live in Japan and sometimes make sushi. But honestly…most people here in Japan just buy the stuff!

Do not forget to fan like mad when letting the rice cool!!!

That and use less water when steaming the rice!

If you have a fancy rice cooker, use the sushi or curry rice cooking mode.

Makes the rice harder, more al dente..and perfect texture for sushi!

Best of luck to all.


Unbelievable recipe! How did you create it? I have tried something like that and I have to say that recipe is enough difficult, so you need not just simple rice cooker, maybe multicooker? I use Redmond 4500. Just because I’m not sure that your cooker is good.

I don’t think she created it, just researched it online or talked to a sushi chef, it’s a good basic recipe for the home cook, pro sushi chefs do it a little differently but ingredients are harder to find.