Must You Use Short Grain Rice For Sushi?

In a pinch, we have all asked if medium grain rice can be used for sushi. Is using medium grain rice going to make your sushi fall apart? Rice is the foundation for sushi. Certain strains of rice can only be found in Japan after centuries of cultivation.

If you know the history of sushi then you know that sushi was invented as a way of preserving fish by fermenting it rice. Originally, the rice was thrown out. As sushi evolved, rice was seasoned with rice wine vinegar and the rice itself was given a great importance.

Sushi should be made with short-grain rice. Shorter grain rice is stickier, which is essential for having your sushi roll stay together. Long grain rice is firm and grainy. It contains less moisture.

Unless you use a variety of rice specifically grown for sushi, medium grain rice will often give you a chewy final product that could disappoint. If you really cannot find short grain rice, then we do have some tips for medium grain rice varieties that can work well with sushi.

Keep in mind that unless you are purchasing your rice from a specialty store, there is even a risk of medium grain rice being mislabeled as short grain!

The shorter the grains of rice, the stickier it will be when cooked.

Can you use long grain rice for sushi?

No, no, no! Please do not try to make sushi with long grain rice. You are going to be so disappointed. Long grain rice is the driest of all the types of rice. It will not stick together properly. If you absolutely must cook sushi with long grain rice, place the rolls into a bowl so that when they fall apart at least you can eat the remains!

But other recipes let me substitute medium grain rice for short grain rice!

In many dishes, short grain and medium grain rice can be used interchangeably. Your dish will not be truly authentic but it will be palatable. This is not the case for sushi. Sushi very much requires the stickiness that short grain rice provides. There are some exceptions. If you absolutely cannot find short grain sushi rice, some medium grain varieties such as Calrose rice can be used. It will not be quite as authentic as using short grain rice, but it is fine if you are in a pinch. Calrose rice has been cultivated in California since the 1950s as a Western version of authentic rice and is actually quite good.

There is no hard and fast rule against using medium grain rice. Some varieties of starchy medium grain rice can hold itself together as you prepare and serve the dish. If you want to create truly authentic sushi, however, you should use short grain Japanese rice.

What type of rice is used for sushi?

Koshihikari rice is the most incredible sushi rice you will find. It is very sticky! While Westerners call this rice “sushi rice”, Japanese people simply know it as rice! (What do French people call French toast, I wonder?)
If you do have to use medium grain rice, definitely go for a Calrose variety.

Is stickier always better?

Nope! Sticky is good, but there is such a thing as too sticky. The most glutinous Japanese rice is great for other Japanese dishes, but is simply too clumpy and sticky when cooked to be perfect for sushi. The classic short grain rice developed over centuries or more is always the best rice for making any type of sushi

Warren Ransom

I have always been fascinated by the creation and culture of different foods, particularly sushi and sashimi in the modern era of Japanese cuisine. I am a classically trained chef and sushi connoisseur, also having operated a food service company and enjoy investigating and experimenting with food around the world.

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