Here's how to make the slightly sticky and delicately seasoned sushi rice you get in your favorite Japanese restaurants. Although sushi rice is an essential element for making sushi, it's also an excellent side dish for grilled meats or tofu, sauteed vegetables, and Asian-style bowls such as Hawaiian poke.

How to Make Sushi Rice

1. Choose the Right Rice

Uncooked Sushi Rice
Uncooked Sushi Rice | Photo via Bigstock

Look for unpolished, short-grain Japanese rice, easily found at most supermarkets. This kind of rice gives you the right balance of starches for ideal stickiness. If you shop at an Asian market, you might find different grades of sushi rice, ranging from perfect to not-so-perfect grains, but any type is fine to use for home cooking. Tip: Medium- and long-grain rice does not make good sushi rice because it won't stick together when cooked.

2. Rinse and Repeat

Rinsing Sushi Rice
Rinsing Sushi Rice | Photo via Bigstock

Sushi rice is usually covered with powdery talc to prevent it from sticking in the package. The first step to cooking sushi rice is to give it a proper rinsing. There are two approaches to rinsing rice. One method is to place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and run cool water over it until the water runs clear. The other is to place the rice in a bowl, cover it with cool water, agitate the rice well, and drain off the water. Repeat this process (usually four to five times), until the water is clear. After rinsing, let the rice drain for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

3. Boil and Bubble

Add one part rice and one part cold water to a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it starts boiling, cover the pan with the lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the rice until all of the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for 10 more minutes. Of course, a rice cooker is a perfectly acceptable (and easy) way to cook rice, too.

4. 'Tis the Seasoning

The Perfect Simplified Sushi Vinegar
The Perfect Simplified Sushi Vinegar | Photo by Diana71

This next ingredient is what sets sushi rice apart from regular short-grain rice. Sushi rice is seasoned with a simple rice vinegar mixture that provides flavor and helps keep the kernels sticky but separate. Seasoned sushi vinegar (sushi-su) is made of three basic ingredients: rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. For a more authentic taste, add a piece of kombu (seaweed). You can buy prepared seasoned vinegar at an Asian market, or make your own. Simply combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove it from the heat, let cool, and store it in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Tip: You'll want to prepare your rice vinegar mixture beforehand so it's ready to use when the rice is cooked.

5. Cool It

In order to keep sushi rice grains perfectly separate (and avoid a clumpy mess), the rice must be cooled as it is seasoned. Tip: Be sure to use wooden or plastic utensils and bowls; a metal spoon will damage the rice and a metal bowl can react with the rice vinegar seasoning, giving it an off flavor.

Gently transfer the rice to a wide, shallow bowl. If any rice is stuck to the bottom of the pot, do not scrape it out. Pour a small amount of the seasoned vinegar over the rice in the bowl. Using a rice paddle or plastic or wooden spatula, lift and turn the rice several times, making cutting or slicing motions. While you are "cutting" in the vinegar, simultaneously cool it by waving a fan, magazine, or piece of cardboard over the rice. This helps cool the rice quickly, which gives it a glossy finish, keeps the kernels separate, and helps it dry. The rule of thumb is to start with about ½ cup seasoned vinegar for every 5 cups of cooked rice.

Add more vinegar as necessary, continuing to cut, fold, and fan the rice, until you've reached the perfect texture and flavor. Tip: You'll know the rice is ready when you can form it into a small ball without it falling apart. But, once you bite into it, the grains should easily fall apart. Always make sure to moisten your hands with water before handling the rice, so it sticks to the sushi, not to you!

VIDEO: How to Make Sushi Rice

Here's Chef John making sushi rice at home. This video shows you how to cool and fan sushi rice:

Once your rice has been properly cooked, seasoned, and cooled, you can keep it at room temperature, covered with a moist towel, for several hours. Do not put the rice in the refrigerator, as this will turn it crunchy and dry.

How to Use Sushi Rice

a top-down view of a black lacquer bowl of white rice topped with black sesame seeds, with a pair of chopsticks resting on the edge
Chef John's Easy Sushi Rice | Photo by Buckwheat Queen
| Credit: Buckwheat Queen

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