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Learn how to make Instant Pot sushi rice that turns out perfectly delicious every time! All you need is Japanese short-grain rice, salt, rice vinegar, and a touch of sugar to create the best sushi rolls and bowls at home.
Table of Contents
📖 What is sushi rice?
Sushi rice (also known as sushi-meshi, su-meshi, or shari) is a type of cooked Japanese short-grain rice that has been seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.
Many traditional recipes also call for the rice to be cooked with a piece of kombu (kelp). While optional, it helps to infuse a beautiful umami flavor.
In North America, most short-grain rice is labeled as “sushi rice.” Of course, this has led to much confusion around what sushi rice actually is!
While plain cooked Japanese short-grain rice can be used in a variety of dishes, like onigiri, sushi is only made from seasoned rice.
Sushi rice has a rather interesting story! Long ago in Japan, fish was preserved by being wrapped in fermented rice. Prior to eating it, the rice would be discarded, leaving a sour-flavored fish.
Somewhere around the 14th century, fermented rice was swapped out with vinegar-infused rice. This supposedly improved the shelflife ever so slightly.
Not surprisingly, the vinegar made the rice taste better. From then on, Japanese people began eating fish and rice together, which is now a common sushi practice.
Fun fact: The term “sushi” translates to “sour-tasting.”
🌱 Is sushi rice vegan?
Yes, sushi rice is vegan-friendly! As we mentioned, a typical recipe contains only rice, water, sugar, rice vinegar, and salt. And kombu, which may be added, is also plant-based.
Just try to stray away from refined sugar as much as possible since it’s not always vegan. For reference, we use cane sugar.
🥇 Best pressure cooker for sushi rice
We have used all types of pressure cookers for sushi rice, but our favorite in terms of size, ease of use, and consistency is the Instant Pot Duo Crisp.
But in all honesty, any pressure cooker brand will work. You will just need to alter the cook times accordingly.
♨️ Do I need an Instant Pot?
No, you do not need an Instant Pot to make sushi rice. You can easily use a rice cooker if you have one.
Whichever one you have, we prefer the consistent results of both over a pot on the stove. That way, you can set it, forget it, and come back to perfectly cooked sushi rice in no time!
🍚 How to tell if sushi rice is cooked perfectly
Once your rice is done, it should appear shiny and plump. You should also be able to fluff it without turning the rice into a mushy mess.
If it appears mushy or soggy, it means you have either added too much water or cooked it too long. It will still taste good — just make adjustments for the next time!
🛒 Ingredients & substitutions
Japanese short-grain rice — Also known as “sushi rice” outside of Japan. Make sure you are not buying long-grain, jasmine, basmati, etc. These types of rice will not have the right consistency for sushi-making.
Rice vinegar — Ensure you have unseasoned rice vinegar as you’ll be seasoning it yourself. Different brands will vary in flavor and acidity, so you may need to experiment a little and adjust to your preferences.
Sugar — To balance out the acidic and salty flavors of sushi vinegar. Use a light sugar variety for this recipe (we use cane sugar since it is vegan-friendly).
Salt — To balance out the acidic and sweet flavors. Just use plain ol’ salt.
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Step 1 — In a large bowl, rinse the rice thoroughly until the water appears clear. Then, fill the bowl with water again and leave it to soak for 20-30 minutes.
Step 2 — Once it is finished soaking, drain the rice in a fine-mesh strainer and leave it for 10-15 more minutes.
Step 3 — Using slightly less than a 1:1 ratio, add the rice and water to the Instant Pot. Stir and put the lid on, making sure the pressure valve is closed.
Step 4 — Set the time for 8 minutes on low power. Once the timer goes off, allow it to naturally release for 5 minutes, then quick release.
Step 5 — While the rice is cooking, prepare the sushi vinegar by combining rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan over medium. Heat the mixture until the sugar just dissolves, then remove it from heat to cool down.
Step 6 — When the rice is done cooking, gently transfer and spread it out on a clean sushi oke or parchment-lined baking sheet. Evenly distribute the cooled sushi vinegar over the rice.
Step 7 — Carefully turn the rice over from time to time with a rice paddle or wooden spatula to help it cool evenly. Now, your Instant Pot sushi rice is ready for use! Happy eating!
If you have questions about making Instant Pot sushi rice, check out our FAQs or leave a comment down below!
🍽️ How to serve sushi rice
Instant Pot sushi rice is perfect to serve in many traditional and Japanese-inspired recipes like these:
Maki — Nori (seaweed) wrapped on the outside of sushi rice (like in an avocado roll).
Uramaki — Similar to maki, but with rice on the outside of the nori rather than the inside.
Bowls — Sushi rice is perfect in deconstructed sushi bowls, poke bowls, or other veggie-forward bowls.
Note: Common vegan options for maki and uramaki fillings include yam, avocado, and cucumber.
🌡️ Storage & reheating
The best approach for sushi rice is to prepare just enough for what you’re eating. But if you have extra, here are the best tips to keep it fresh.
Fridge — All types of rice turn hard in the fridge, so try to avoid storing your sushi rice this way.
Freezer — Transfer the rice to an airtight and freezer-safe container while it is still warm, then cover it with a lid to keep the moisture in. Once it is completely cool, it can be frozen for up to 1 month.
Reheating — Uncover the container of rice and place a paper towel on top. Microwave it until it’s steamed all the way through, about 2-4 minutes.
Kombu — Try using kombu for an additional umami element in your sushi rice.
Dashi — Use vegan dashi powder to give the rice an even bigger flavor boost!
Sushizu — If you don’t want to make your own vinegar mixture, you can purchase pre-seasoned rice vinegar called sushizu.
🧑🍳 Top tips
Rinse gently — Try to avoid pouring the tap water directly on the rice as it could cause breakage.
Rinse thoroughly — For the best sushi rice texture, you may need to rinse 5-6 times until the water runs clear.
Slice in the vinegar — Use a wooden rice paddle or spatula, and “slice” the vinegar into the rice so you don’t mash it.
Don’t over-stir — Add the vinegar in slowly to prevent over-mixing the rice.
Yes, it’s important to rinse Japanese short-grain rice as it is a very starchy variety. This will help create a better end result.
You don’t need to use a wooden spoon, but it is the preferred material as it doesn’t retain heat and absorbs some of the moisture from the rice.
No. Rice varieties like long-grain, basmati, and jasmine will not hold up in sushi rolls due to their lower starch content.
🍴 More rice-based recipes
If you love rice, be sure to check out some of our favorite ways to incorporate it into recipes:
- Teriyaki tofu bowl — A quick, easy, and healthy stir-fry perfect for weeknights.
- Vegan poke bowl — A plant-based take on this popular meal filled with wholesome ingredients.
- Sesame ginger tofu — Tofu that’s crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and covered in a flavorful sauce.
- Sweet and sour cauliflower — Baked cauliflower covered in a sweet and sour sauce.
Perfect Instant Pot Sushi Rice
- Instant Pot
- Sushi oke or baking pan
- Rice paddle
- Mesh Strainer
- 3 cups uncooked sushi rice ($2.27)
- 2 ¾ cups water ($0.01)
- 6 tablespoons rice vinegar ($0.30)
- 1 ½ tablespoons cane sugar ($0.01)
- 2 teaspoons salt ($0.01)
- In a large bowl (like the Instant Pot insert), rinse and drain the rice thoroughly until the water appears clear, about 4-5 times.
- Once the water runs clear, fill the bowl with water again and leave it to soak for 20-30 minutes. Drain the water in a fine-mesh strainer and leave the rice draining for 10-15 more minutes.
- Add 2 ¾ cups of water and the drained rice to the Instant Pot. Stir and put the lid on, making sure the pressure valve is closed. Set the time for 8 minutes on low power. Once the timer goes off, allow it to naturally release for 5 minutes, then quick release.
- While rice is cooking, prepare the sushi vinegar. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Heat mixture until the sugar just dissolves (do not let it boil). Remove from heat and let cool.
- When the rice is done cooking, gently transfer and spread it out on a clean sushi oke or parchment-lined baking sheet. Evenly distribute the cooled vinegar mixture over the rice. Carefully turn the rice over from time to time with a rice paddle or wooden spatula to help it cool evenly.
- To speed up the process, use a fan while mixing the rice. Once it has cooled to room temperature, the rice is ready for use! Happy eating!
- Rinse gently — Try to avoid pouring the tap water directly on the rice as it could cause breakage.
- Rinse thoroughly — For the best sushi rice texture, you may need to rinse 5-6 times until the water runs clear.
- Slice in the vinegar — Use a wooden rice paddle or spatula, and “slice” the vinegar into the rice so you don’t mash it.
- Don’t over-stir — Add the vinegar in slowly to prevent over-mixing the rice.
- Use high-quality rice — High-quality rice makes all the difference! Some of the best brands and varietals include Tamanishiki, Botan Calrose, and Heirloom Kokuho Rose.
- If you don’t have an Instant Pot or rice cooker, add the rice and water to a large saucepan over medium-high. Bring the mixture to a low boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave the rice covered for 15 minutes more.
- The general rule for Japanese short-grain rice is a 1:1 ratio between rice and water. However, since we added sushi vinegar, we reduced the amount of water by 10%.
- This recipe yields approximately 7 cups of cooked sushi rice, which makes about 10-14 sushi rolls (depending on their size).
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe to recipe. All prices are in USD.