How to Get Perfect Sticky Sushi Rice, Every Time!

In order for sushi to be a pleasant experience, every aspect of it must be done right and the stickiness of the rice is one of the most important considerations of all.

How can you make rice grains sticky? You will first start with the right type of rice, to begin with. Ideally, you should go with authentic Japanese sushi rice that was imported from Japan. If you are unable to get ahold of such an item, you can also settle for rice that is described by the label as simply being for sushi. Then you cook it properly.

On that note, a lot of things can go wrong in the interval between choosing the sushi rice and in the actual preparation of the rice. With this being the case, you need to make sure that you are actually using the right methods.

How to Make Perfectly Sticky Rice for Sushi

Making perfectly sticky rice relies on a lot of things, not just the rice that you are going to get. Every stage of the process will contribute to the final results, which is why you need to get them right. For a better understanding of this, take a look at the table below containing the most crucial factors in making rice that is sticky.

Type of RiceMust ideally be Japanese sushi rice. If not available, any short-grain rice will do.
Age of RiceThe rice must still be within its “best by” date or is not older than one year.
Quality of RiceEven among Japanese rice producers, some will be better than others. The higher the quality, the higher the stickiness.
WashingRice should only be washed once and only to get rid of obvious dirt and debris. Too much washing reduces starch levels in rice.
Water quantityThe amount of water used to cook rice will affect the stickiness of the grains.
TemperatureSushi rice is best handled based on temperature stages.
SpeedSushi makers move fast for both freshness and structure.
TechniqueFrom cooking to spreading the rice, to rolling, everything should be done skillfully.
ToolsThe tools used for making sushi will affect the rice’s stickiness and the final product’s quality.

As you can see from the descriptions in the table, you are going to have a lot of considerations when you are thinking about making sushi. With the rice alone, you have to think about all of those factors and how you are going to handle them.

Pull it off, though, and you can end up with sushi rice that is perfect for your needs. Generally speaking, though, you only really need to follow a few steps to do this such as:

·         Choose the right type of rice

·         Cook it properly

·         Time your mixing of the flavors right

·         Work with the right temperatures

·         Move fast, precisely, and with intent

To start with, when you choose the rice for your sushi, you are choosing ones with excellent abilities to absorb water. This is where we are going to get the stickiness for making your sushi. From there, it’s about cooking the rice properly and you do this by basically keeping a few things in mind.

For one thing, you need to limit how many times you should wash the rice. For high-quality sushi rice, you should not have to wash it, at all. Next, you will need to add the right amount of water. The usual ratio is 1:1.5, which is where you add one and a half cup of water for every cup of rice.

Unless the rice is already old or you are using the wrong type of rice, this should be enough to get it right. If you are a beginner, you should only use the rice cooker for cooking the rice, as well. Don’t take your chances with a stovetop because you will need to be very careful with your heat levels when you do.

You will know that your sushi rice is cooked when it is perfectly puffed up while still being whole. It should neither be too sticky or too loose, either. From there, you can fluff the rice and then transfer it to a glass bowl where you will add the appropriate flavorings that you want to use. Make sure that the rice is still steaming, at this point.

Adding the flavorings when the rice is already cold will make it less sticky and will limit absorption. So make sure to get this part right. Once the mixing of the flavors is done, it’s time to let the rice cool down. Ideally, it should be at room temperature when you start using it to form your sushi and you should definitely use it right away.

Freshly cooked sushi rice results in the best stickiness, flavor, and texture for your needs. It will clump together more easily and will also be less of a hassle to spread on the nori. There will also be less moisture, so you can work with it for longer, though this is not exactly advised.

Strictly speaking, you should move fast when you are working with sushi. You must use efficient movements and you must not waste time with having to make choices on the spot. You should already know what to do before you even started. This means having some level of familiarity with the right methods of making sushi and having a plan.

Having the right tools is incredibly important, as well. If you don’t have the right knife, the right rolling mat, and the right plates, your sushi won’t be as good as you need it to be. When it comes to your knife, in particular, dulls knives result in ruined sushi because they can cause the rice to fall apart. You would be squishing the sushi rather than cutting it if the blade is not sharp enough.

Why Your Sushi Rice is Not Sticky

If you have been cooking your sushi rice for some time and have been getting results that are not the most ideal, you are probably committing one of the more common mistakes. When it comes to stickiness, the culprits are often easy enough to spot. Among the most common suspects in this particular issue are:

·         Choosing the wrong rice

·         Using old rice

·         Washing the rice too many times

·         Using too little water

·         Adding flavors when the rice is cold

·         Working with cold sushi rice

·         Being too slow in forming your sushi

If the sushi rice that you are working with is not sticky enough for you, this just means that you are making one or all of the mistakes listed there. Starting with your choice of rice, it was already mentioned that you should ideally choose Japanese sushi rice. The reasons for this are simple and they all have to do with quality.

For one thing, the Japanese are very particular with regard to the kind of rice that they are using. In the case of sushi rice, the strain is specifically engineered to be used for sushi. On that note, you can actually use any short grain rice for sushi, but you need to be skilled in cooking the rice to get the results you need.

If you are using the right rice but you are still getting bad results, the rice might already be too old. Even the highest quality grains can still become useless once enough time has passed. If rice becomes too old, it will become incapable of absorbing water as well as it should. This means less gelatinization and less stickiness.

Assuming that you did everything on the shopping front right and you got the right type of rice of the right age, you can then mess it up during the washing process. Conventional wisdom might tell you that you need to wash the grains until the water becomes clear. This is just not right.

When it comes to sushi rice, you will want to preserve the starch as much as possible. Not mention you are throwing away a lot of nutrients when you wash the rice too much. If you got high-quality rice, you should not even have to wash it at all since it is already clean. However, if you are going to be paranoid about it, you should wash the rice only once.

Once that’s done, you should add water, based on the right ratio. This was already discussed above and the reason for this ratio is because it results in the perfect stickiness for the rice. Some people who may have been cooking rice for other dishes will have other ways of measuring water, which can result in rice that is too loose. You don’t want that.

After the rice is already cooked, you must not waste time. If you wait too long to add the flavorings, your rice might become too wet and slippery. This results in the loss of stickiness. The same goes for when you are working with rice that was stored in the chiller and you didn’t wait for it to warm up to room temperature.

Finally, even if the rice that you got was perfectly sticky when it was prepared, if you take too long in forming your sushi, it can still get loose. This is due to how the various ingredients interact with each other and the moisture that is involved. So if you want to maintain the stickiness of the rice, it’s best for you to work fast.

How Sticky is Too Sticky?

On that note, there is a case for discussing the possibility of sushi rice being too sticky and the various reasons for why this might be the case. Among the most likely culprits for why rice can become too sticky includes:

·         Too much water

·         Rice is too starchy

·         Using high-starch rice

·         Stirring while cooking

·         Rice is too cold

As to how you can tell that the sushi rice you are using is too sticky, you can use the following signs to make that distinction:

·         Clumps together too much

·         Has become too mushy to use

·         Unable to spread properly

·         Results in blocks that are too dense

Basically, the stickiness of the sushi rice is only intended to make sure that it retains its form once it has already been molded or rolled. At the same time, it should not be too dense so as to affect the weight, mass, or enjoyment of the sushi itself.

So, let’s take a look at the culprits that were discussed above, shall we? Starting with the water issue, if you put too much water in the rice, it will result in a mushy mess. At that point, the rice would be much closer to porridge than it is to sushi rice.

There is also the question of the level of starchiness of the rice. As already brought up before, different rice will inevitably come with different qualities and this includes the levels of starch. Some sushi rice will be starchier than others and might require a bit more rinsing to work with.

If you followed the right ratio and you end up with rice that is too sticky, you might want to rinse the grains a few more times than you originally did. On that note, there is also the possibility of you using high-starch rice by mistake.

These two types of grains look almost identical, except high-starch rice is much whiter. So if you bought an unmarked rice pack by mistake, this could explain the excess in stickiness. If this is the case, then you just need to replace it with the right type of short-grain rice.

There is also the case of you stirring the rice while cooking it. This is only ever the case when cooking the rice on a stovetop. Assuming that this is what you decided to do, make sure not to touch the rice until it is cooked. Do not stir it under any circumstance.

Finally, if you cooked the rice perfectly and then decided to put it in the chiller, the rice can become too sticky if it is too cold. This type of stickiness is not ideal since the rice grains will tend to clump together. You want to be able to spread them evenly and with ease. If the rice is too cold, this will not happen.

Related Questions

Why is My Rice Sticky?

Rice is sticky because of the starch that is present in the grains and the more starch there is, the stickier the rice will be. The level of stickiness that you want will depend on the purpose of the rice. For normal dishes, you want the rice to be looser while sushi requires stickier rice.

How Do You Make Rice Not Sticky?

If the rice you make keeps ending up being too sticky for you, you can either reduce the amount of water you use or you rinse the rice grains more often. There is also the option of soaking the rice after rinsing if the problem is particularly persistent.

How to Fix Rice That is Too Sticky?

Assuming that you catch the problem on time and find that you used too much water to cook the rice, you can fix this problem through a few methods. One is to open the lid to encourage more evaporation through steam. This will reduce the stickiness of the rice to a hopefully workable level.

If there is simply too much water for that, you can then use sliced bread to absorb some of that moisture. You basically just place the square bread on top of the rice and let it soak up the excess water. Depending on how much water there is, you might need to use more than one slice of the bread.

In cases where the rice is too sticky but the grains have not burst and turned to mush, you can salvage the rice by basically letting it cool down and then adding your flavorings once it does. Doing so will add more moisture and slipperiness to the rice, thus reducing the stickiness. Just make sure not to put too much flavoring like vinegar on the rice or it might make the taste overpowering.

Can Non-Sushi Rice Be Used for Sushi?

Strictly speaking, only sushi rice should be used for making sushi. However, with food being a relatively flexible industry, you can count on the option of using other types of rice to be on the table. If you have absolutely no other option, you actually can use other types of rice.

In the case of long grain rice, you only need to make sure that it gets sticky enough and you can achieve this by basically allowing it to retain as much starch as possible. This means not washing it if at all possible and increasing the amount of water used for cooking it. This will result in stickier rice, but if you use too much water, you’ll end up with pudding.

During the flavoring process, you might also add some sugar. This can help add stickiness and flavor to the rice. 

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