Did you know that the term sushi refers to the rice, and not the fish at all? In Japan, getting that sushi rice right is seen as the highest art.

The best, most perfect in-season fish is a matter of connections and deep pockets, but the rice is an art. Ordinary nigiri is such a pale imitation of the highest grade good stuff it’s like chef boyardee vs fresh handmade pasta from a really good Italian restaurant.

While the fish could concievably be the same quality, the sushi rice, even in Japan, can run the gamut from poorly-machine-made conveyor belt sushi (pictured below) to so crazy good they could just put some grass on top and it would taste good – one of Steph’s favorites.

kaiten sushi | www.iamafoodblog.com

But, getting the taste of sushi rice right is not nearly as hard as shaping it properly. Unless you live in a major sushi city (or Japan) it’ll make for way better sushi than most anything you’ll find locally. You will instantly upgrade your homemade sushi with this simple recipe.

What is sushi rice

Sushi rice is Japanese short grain rice seasoned with salt, vinegar, and sugar to form the base for nigiri, maki, and all other kinds of sushi.

At some sushi places in Japan, they often tune the rice to the specific fish – that is, they have more than one batch of sushi rice with different seasonings depending on the fish you’re being served.

Why is this the best sushi rice recipe

This recipe is by Masaharu Morimoto, aka Iron Chef Morimoto. He’s a super nice guy who downplays his sushi accomplishments but is definitely the real deal. For me this is the best sushi rice recipe because it’s the one that tastes closest to the best stuff we’ve had in Japan.

iron chef morimoto | www.iamafoodblog.com

How to make sushi rice

  1. Make the rice. You can either use a rice cooker or Instant Pot to get perfect rice, or use my usual 27 minute stovetop method which has never failed me: 1.25 cups water to 1 cup of rice, bring to a boil, cover tightly with a lid and reduce the heat to the lowest it goes. After 17 minutes, remove from heat but leave the cover on. After another 10 minutes take off the lid and continue with the steps below.
  2. Make the seasoning. While the rice is cooking, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small sauce pan and warm over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Season the rice. When the rice is done cooking, transfer to a very large bowl. Sprinkle on half of the vinegar mixture and use a rice paddle or silicone spatula to gently mix the vinegar into the rice with a slicing motion. The idea is not to break a single grain of rice.
  4. Cool the rice. If you have a fan, or even a clean magazine, fan the rice for a few minutes while you gently toss it to help it absorb the sweet and sour vinegary goodness. You want it to be easily cool enough to handle. Definitely cool enough not to cook any raw fish you put on top.
  5. Enjoy! Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more if needed. Cover with a damp towel until ready to use.

standing sushi bar | www.iamafoodblog.com
standing sushi bar level

Red vs white rice vinegar

Most sushi rice recipes will only tell you to use rice vinegar and leave it at that, and that’s alright. But the mixing of different vinegars is one of the most important ways sushi masters show their personal style. Some will do a 50/50 mix of akazu (red rice vinegar, pictured below) with regular white rice vinegar, for instance. It completely changes the flavor profile of the rice, fish, and sushi as a whole.

We bring back lots of rice vinegars from Japan (where they have whole aisles of rice vinegars) and play with them. Obviously, there’s not a lot of need to invest in these, but if you were ever interested in mixing up your usual sushi, this is where I would start. Amazon has an ever growing selection of more obscure vinegars, such as this unpolished brown rice vinegar from Mizkan, this amber rice vinegar from Kagoshima, or even this black rice vinegar (kurozu) for a wild (but real) black sushi style.

tokami sushi | www.iamafoodblog.com

Rice vinegar vs seasoned rice vinegar

But speaking of vinegar. the standard plain rice vinegar should be a green cap. Don’t buy the orange capped pre-seasoned rice vinegar (aka sushi vinegar). Or do, but don’t add the sugar and salt in this recipe and just use it out of the bottle as-is. It’s not nearly as good to go the premix route but it certainly is much more painless. I prefer going the distance. In this recipe, the assumption is that you are using unseasoned rice vinegar.

The best rice to use

I’ve seen on the internet that some people suggest using glutinous rice. This is just wrong. I’ve also seen recommendations for sushi rice, which sounds ambiguous and weird at best to me. My recommendation is to get a simple koshihikari. It doesn’t matter whether its from Japan or California. You should be able to find koshihikari at any Asian grocery store or, of course, online.

My favorite rice is nanatsuboshi from Hokkaido.

nanatsuboshi | www.iamafoodblog.com

Instant pot sushi rice

You can make great sushi rice in an Instant Pot! Just cook your rice as normal, then release the lid and you can season and fan the rice right inside the instant pot. No other changes needed.

What to use this sushi rice for

  • california roll cones!
  • make an ehomaki to celebrate the beginning of spring
  • order up some assorted sashimi from your favorite sushi-ya and make a chirashi bowl
  • or fry up a salmon filet and go to town. Sushi rice and fish is a combination that can’t be beat – it doesn’t matter whether the fish is raw or cooked.
  • And heck, forget everything I said up top about about the art of nigiri and just have some fun making it at home!

dynamite sushi roll | www.iamafoodblog.com

I really hope you give this one a try!



tokami sushi | www.iamafoodblog.com

Sushi Rice

 Instantly upgrade your homemade sushi
Serves 4
4.84 from 6 votes
Prep Time 3 minutes
Cook Time 27 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • 1 cup rice Short-grain Japanese rice such as koshihikari preferred
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar see notes
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt sea salt preferred


  • Place the sushi rice in a colander, rinse throughly and let drain for 15 minutes. Cook rice according to the package instructions or your preference.
    instant pot white rice | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • While the rice is cooking, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small sauce pan and warm over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves.
    sushi rice seasoning sure looks like water | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • When the rice is done cooking, transfer to a very large bowl. Sprinkle on half of the vinegar mixture and use a rice paddle or spatula to mix the vinegar into the rice while using a slicing motion. Fan the rice while mixing to dry it out slightly – it helps if you have a friend to fan while you mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more if needed. Cover with a damp towel until ready to use. Enjoy!
    standing sushi bar | www.iamafoodblog.com


You can use regular rice vinegar, but experimenting with a combination of red and white vinegar is recommended. 
Courtesy of Masaharu Morimoto via food & wine.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Sushi Rice
Amount Per Serving
Calories 201 Calories from Fat 3
% Daily Value*
Fat 0.3g0%
Saturated Fat 0.1g1%
Cholesterol 0.01mg0%
Sodium 1746mg76%
Potassium 54mg2%
Carbohydrates 43g14%
Fiber 0.6g3%
Sugar 6.1g7%
Protein 3.3g7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

More japanese food

Read More


  1. Jonathan Perelmuter says:

    There’s really nothing quite like sushi rice made with authentic akazu vinegar! Fortunately, The Japanese Pantry recently started to import and sell one of the absolute best ones made in all of Japan: Iio Jozo! Don’t sleep.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating