How to Make Sticky Rice For Sushi

Sushi is famous for its delightful combination of flavours, textures, and artful presentation. At the heart of every excellent sushi dish is the sushi rice, or “share,” which is perfectly cooked, seasoned, and pleasantly sticky. In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to make sticky rice for sushi at home to craft your sushi rolls, nigiri, and other sushi creations confidently and authentically.

Ingredients for Sticky Sushi Rice

Before we delve into the step-by-step process, let’s gather the essential ingredients for making sticky sushi rice:

For the Sushi Rice

  • 2 cups of sushi rice (short-grain Japanese rice)
  • 2 1/4 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Equipment Needed

To make sticky sushi rice, you’ll need some specific kitchen equipment:

  • A fine-mesh sieve or strainer
  • A wooden sushi rice paddle (shamoji) or a non-metallic spatula
  • A large, shallow, non-metallic bowl (preferably wooden or plastic)
  • A clean, damp cloth or plastic wrap to cover the rice

Preparing the Sushi Rice

Now, let’s dive into the step-by-step instructions for preparing the perfect sticky sushi rice:

Rinse the Rice

Rinsing the sushi rice is crucial to remove excess starch and ensure that the rice grains stick together correctly. Follow these steps for rinsing:

  1. Place the sushi rice in a fine-mesh sieve or strainer.
  2. Rinse the rice thoroughly under cold running water, gently agitating it with your fingers. Continue rinsing until the water runs clear. This can take several minutes, so be patient.
  3. Drain the rinsed rice thoroughly in the strainer, allowing excess water to drip away.

Cooking the Sushi Rice

Now that your sushi rice is rinsed and ready let’s move on to the cooking process:

  1. Combine the rinsed sushi rice in a medium-sized saucepan and 2 1/4 cups of water.
  2. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring the water to a boil while uncovered.
  3. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible (simmer), cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, and cook for 15-18 minutes. Keeping the lid on during cooking helps trap the steam and ensures even cooking.
  4. After 15-18 minutes, remove the saucepan from the heat, but keep the lid on. Allow the rice to sit for an additional 10 minutes. This resting period allows the rice to finish cooking with the residual steam and become perfectly tender.

Preparing the Sushi Vinegar

While the sushi rice is resting, it’s time to prepare the sushi vinegar, also known as “sushi.” This vinegar mixture is essential for seasoning and flavouring the rice:

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a separate small saucepan.
  2. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar and salt completely dissolve. Make sure not to bring it to a boil; you’re only warming it to dissolve the solids.

Seasoning the Sushi Rice

Now that the sushi vinegar is ready and the rice has rested, it’s time to combine them to create seasoned sushi rice:

  1. Transfer the cooked rice to a large, shallow, non-metallic bowl (preferably wooden or plastic). Avoid using metal bowls as they can react with the vinegar.
  2. Drizzle the warm sushi vinegar mixture evenly over the rice.
  3. Using a wooden sushi rice paddle (shamoji) or a non-metallic spatula, gently fold the vinegar into the rice while fanning it to cool it down. This process should take about 10 minutes, and avoiding smashing the rice grains is crucial. Fanning the rice helps to remove excess moisture and achieve the desired sticky yet firm texture.
  4. Continue folding and fanning until the rice reaches close to room temperature. You’ll notice that the rice becomes glossy and slightly sticky, which is the perfect texture for sushi.

Storing Sticky Sushi Rice

Once your sticky sushi rice is prepared, it’s essential to store it properly to maintain its quality and prevent it from drying out:

  1. Cover the sushi rice with a clean, damp cloth or plastic wrap to keep it moist while you prepare your sushi ingredients.
  2. You can also place a damp cloth over the rice and cover it with a lid or plastic wrap. The damp cloth prevents the rice from drying out.

Using Sticky Sushi Rice

Now that your sticky sushi rice is ready, you can create various sushi dishes, such as sushi rolls (maki), nigiri, or sushi bowls (chirashi). The possibilities are endless, and your homemade sushi will taste just as good as what you’d find in a sushi restaurant.

Tips for Perfect Sticky Sushi Rice

Here are some additional tips to ensure your sticky sushi rice turns out perfectly:

  • Use high-quality sushi rice (short-grain Japanese rice) for the best results. Other types of rice will have different stickiness and flavour.
  • Be precise with your measurements, especially when preparing the sushi vinegar. The right balance of sugar, salt, and vinegar is critical to the rice’s flavour.
  • Use a non-metallic bowl and utensils when working with sushi rice, as metal can alter the taste.
  • Practice patience when rinsing the rice; this step is crucial for removing excess starch and achieving the right texture.
  • When folding the vinegar into the rice, use a gentle, slicing motion with the sushi rice paddle or spatula to avoid smashing the grains.
  • Maintain a slightly moist and relaxed environment when storing sticky sushi rice to prevent it from drying out.


Making sticky sushi rice at home is a rewarding and essential skill for sushi enthusiasts and home chefs. With the right ingredients, equipment, and techniques, you can create perfectly seasoned and textured sushi rice as the foundation for a wide range of sushi dishes. Whether making sushi rolls, nigiri, or bowls, your homemade sushi will impress your guests and satisfy your culinary cravings. Enjoy the process of mastering this essential element of Japanese cuisine and delight in the delicious results.

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