When learning to make sushi, you quickly realize that it’s more of an art form than cuisine. As with all recipes, you always want to be exact with the freshest ingredients possible. Even so, does this also apply to the rice you use for making sushi? I was curious, so I looked into the matter and decided to share my findings with you.
Regular rice is really not a good choice for making sushi. This is because sushi depends so heavily on the flavor and texture of the rice. California rice or Italian risotto rice are reasonably good substitutes. However, the best option is always to use sushi rice to make sushi.
Now, let’s take a closer look at why regular rice should not be used and explore if there are any viable substitutes.
Why Can’t You Use Regular Rice to Make Sushi?
Regular rice is very different than sushi rice. The size and textures are the biggest problems. Regular rice is long-grain rice, meaning that it is 4-5 times longer than it is wide. Furthermore, it doesn’t stick together well unless it is overcooked to the point of being mushy. Sushi rice sticks together to maintain its shape without being cooked to mush.
What Are the Differences Between Sushi Rice and Regular White Rice?
There are three main types of rice. Interestingly enough, these are classified by grain length-to-width ratio: short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grain.
- Short-grain rice is what is mainly grown in Japan and has been carefully perfected over hundreds of years. This is the type of rice that, ideally, will be used to make sushi rice. When cooked properly, it clings together, but it is not mushy.
- Medium-grain rice also sticks together fairly well but, on the other hand, tends to be slightly chewy. Chinese-style rice is usually medium-grain, as is Bomba rice, which is used to make Paella.
- Long-grain rice includes Jasmine rice, Mexican rice, Basmati rice, and American long-grain rice. These long-grain rice types tend to get fluffy yet remain firm when they are cooked.
Sushi rice is a type of steamed, short-grain Japanese rice that is used specifically for making sushi. In Japan, it is known as sumeshiI, which means vinegared rice. This is because, unlike most rice, sushi rice is flavored with vinegar-based seasonings.
To make the best sushi, it is important to have both the correct flavor and the right type of grains. Unfortunately, regular white rice is long-grain rice, not short-grain, and lacks the qualities needed to produce great sushi.
Is There a Sushi Rice Substitute?
Although the secret to really good sushi is the rice itself, there are a few substitutions that could be used in a pinch.
- California rice- Also called Calrice or Calrose, is a type of rice readily available in the U.S. This rice was introduced to the states by Japanese-American owners and has a very similar texture to Japanese rice. Calrose is frequently recommended when it is difficult to find Japanese rice.
- Italian risotto rice- Also called arborio rice, is another good alternative because it is similar in size and texture to sushi rice. However, risotto rice can sometimes seem a bit chalky and it has a slightly different flavor.
- Riced Cauliflower- For a low-carb substitute, riced cauliflower may be an option to consider, although it will fairly different from regular sushi in texture and flavor.
Is Jasmine Rice Good for Sushi?
Jasmine rice comes from Thailand, and it can also be called Thai fragrant rice. Not only is Jasmine rice the wrong length since it is long-grain, but it also does not contain enough starch to be used for sushi. The grains of Jasmine rice are very dry and fluffy when they are cooked. They won’t hold together well and, worse, they will harden when they cool. Using Jasmine rice for sushi may result in a crunchy or crumbly dish. Furthermore, Jasmine rice has a flavor that is noticeably different than that of sushi rice.
Can You Use Basmati Rice to Make Sushi?
Basmati rice is very similar to Jasmine rice, but it comes from the Himalayan mountains, originally. The main difference is that Jasmine rice is slightly shorter and rounder. Basmati is also a very fragrant type of rice, although it smells different than Thai fragrant rice. Just like Jasmine rice, long-grain Basmati rice should not be used for sushi. It does not have the correct size or texture.
Where to Buy Sushi Rice?
Thanks to the ongoing mixing of cultures, sushi rice is often available locally. If there is a Japanese grocery store or an Asian market nearby, it likely has everything you need for sushi, including both sushi rice and sushi rice vinegar. Of course, sushi rice is also available from many online sites, such as Amazon. Here is a brand that I highly recommend.
I hope you have found this article helpful. Be sure to check out some of my other articles before you go. Here are a couple you might be interested in:
- How long does rice last?
- Is rice a good survival food?
- How to store rice and beans for the long term
Thanks for reading!
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.