Making good sushi is about more than just assembling ingredients; it’s an art. And as any artist can tell you, the first step to making good art is gathering the proper tools for the job. One of the most essential “tools” for making sushi is rice, but will any type of rice do the trick?
You can make sushi with risotto rice (specifically Arborio rice) if genuine short-grain sushi rice, known as japonica, isn’t available since it’s also short-grain. However, it’s slightly larger than sushi rice, has a firmer texture, and isn’t quite as sticky, but it can work.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of using Arborio, or risotto rice for sushi. I’ll also provide you with some general information on sushi rice and share my top three picks for the best sushi rice with you. Forewarning, though, this article might leave you with a growling tummy.
Can You Use Risotto Rice To Make Sushi?
First off, let’s discuss the term “risotto rice.”
Risotto is a rice dish, usually made with Arborio rice, so asking if you can use risotto rice to make sushi is like asking if you can use hummus beans to make curry.
In precise terms, you use garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) to make hummus, and you use Arborio rice to make risotto.
So, the more appropriate question would be, “Can you use Arborio rice to make sushi?” The answer is yes.
However, as is the case with many things, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Arborio rice will work for sushi, and it won’t even be that bad, but genuine sushi rice is much better. There are a few reasons for that.
Let’s break it down into the pros and cons.
Pros of Using Arborio Rice for Sushi
The only way Arborio rice is superior to sushi rice is that it’s sometimes easier to find in stores. However, a couple of “pros” make it a good substitute for (but not as good as) sushi rice.
- Like sushi rice, Arborio rice is a short-grain rice, so it “fits” well in sushi rolls.
- If cooked correctly and prepared with the right ingredients, Arborio rice will be slightly sticky and hold together better than many other types of rice.
Cons of Using Arborio Rice for Sushi
Despite those few “pros,” sushi rice is always the better option for sushi. Here are a few of the most significant reasons why.
- Arborio rice is slightly larger than sushi rice, which isn’t a huge deal, but it’s noticeable.
- Arborio rice doesn’t get as sticky as sushi rice, making it harder to keep together.
- Most importantly, Arborio rice has a denser and firmer center than sushi rice, adding a tough, harder-to-chew texture that doesn’t suit sushi.
What’s the Best Rice for Making Sushi?
It may seem silly to say, but the best rice for making sushi is sushi rice. I know – shocking, right?!
To be more precise, the best sushi rice is genuine Japanese sushi rice, known as japonica. If you want to break it down even further, you should be looking for a cultivar of japonica called uruchimai. Japanese chefs use this rice to make sushi. It’s a short-grain sticky rice grown in Japan.
Here in the United States, California grows a medium-grain japonica cultivar and markets it under the name Calrose. Because of its availability, it’s one of the most commonly used rice brands for making sushi in the United States. Even so, it’s not ideal, being medium-grain.
While Calrose rice is preferable to any risotto rice brand, it still falls far short of the real thing. With that in mind, the following are the three best, most authentic short-grain japonica cultivars you can use to make delicious sushi.
Here are some of the best sushi rice options:
Best Overall: Shirakiku Hitomebore Japanese Rice
Of course, when it comes to cooking, everything is subjective. However, for my money, hitomebore rice is the best rice for sushi. A short-grain rice with a wonderful stickiness, it holds its shape exceptionally well.
It’s smooth and soft, the ideal texture for sushi. And it has a pleasant sweetness to perfectly complement the boldness of the fish and sauces. The rice is reasonably priced and readily available on Amazon.com.
Runner Up: Nozomi Super Premium Short-Grain Rice
Nozomi Super Premium Short-Grain Rice from Amazon.com is another good option for sushi. It’s supremely sticky and holds its shape almost without a wrap to keep it in place. It also has a pleasant, soft, and smooth texture. It’s more delicate than the Shirakiku Hitomebore rice, though, and doesn’t hold up as well over time.
Nozomi Rice doesn’t have the same sweet taste, either, which is why I put it as the runner-up instead of the winner. Of course, if you enjoy rice with a milder, less noticeable taste, you may prefer this brand over the other.
Most Convenient: Annie Chun’s Cooked Sushi Rice
I hesitated to add Annie Chun’s Cooked Sushi Rice from Amazon.com to the list because it’s not one of my favorites. It’s medium-grain rice for one thing, and while medium-grain will work for sushi, it’s not the best option.
However, in terms of convenience, it’s hard to beat Annie Chun’s. The rice is pre-cooked, so all you have to do is stick it in the microwave for a few minutes to get it warm. It’s the quickest, most convenient way to make sushi at home. It’s also pretty sticky and stays together well, and the taste is mild and unassuming but not unpleasant.
So, while I still recommend using short-grain sushi rice for sushi. Annie Chun’s is a decent alternative if you’re in a hurry and on a budget.
Now, let’s recap: You can use risotto rice, more appropriately known as Arborio rice, to make sushi. It’s a short-grain rice that’s moderately sticky, so it works well in a pinch. However, there are so many better options than Arborio rice, most of which are affordable and available on Amazon.com. So why use a substitute when the real thing is within reach?
- Taste of Home: What Is Risotto?
- Food.: Arborio Rice
- Cook’s Illustrated: Finding the Best Sushi Rice
- Just One Cookbook: Japanese Rice – Everything You Need to Know
- Allrecipes: What is Calrose Rice?
- Boat Basin Cafe: 10 Best Sushi Rice Brands Reviews: A Party without Sushi is Just a Meeting
- What Is the Best Rice Cooker: What is the Best Sushi Rice Substitute, Top 3 Favorites
- Best Japanese Products: Best Japanese Rice Brands 2021