A Guide to Make Sushi Rice Without a Rice Cooker

The key to an excellent sushi dish lies primarily in the rice. If you’re looking to wow your guests with your sushi making skills, then cooking delicious sushi rice should be one of your top priorities, but is it possible to make sushi rice without a rice cooker?

You can make sushi rice without a rice cooker. Although a rice cooker will make things easier for you, your sushi rice can still turn out great without one. All you need are the right ingredients, and with the proper technique, your saucepan will handle all the work that a rice cooker would.  

For most people, making sushi rice with a rice cooker is hard enough. This article highlights a step-by-step process that you can use to make sushi rice without a rice cooker, the essential tools you’ll require, some side dishes you can serve with sushi, and a few tips worth knowing about preparing sushi rice. 

Tools for Making Sushi Without a Rice Cooker

Even without a rice cooker, making sushi at home shouldn’t be a complicated process. As long as you have all the necessary tools, you should be good to go. Before you start looking for a recipe that you want to try out, here are some of the tools you must have:

Sharp Sushi Knives

Having the right sushi knives will make the difference between good and bad sushi. The quality of your cutlery is essential, and you must ensure you have the best, so you can preserve the taste and texture of the fish in your sushi.   

You could always go for western-style sushi knives, but if you’d like the authentic Japanese experience, Japanese sushi knives are the way to go. They are handcrafted and specially designed for preparing sushi and sashimi dishes. They are usually long, slender, and extremely sharp, so you can achieve precise slices. 

We recommend the Yoshihiro High Carbon Steel Knife as the best pick for a sushi knife. It features an ergonomic design, which makes it light and comfortable enough to use. The smiths’ handcraft this knife with different Japanese traditional techniques, making it ideal for the perfect sushi rolls. 

Bamboo Sushi Mat

The bamboo sushi rolling mat is better known as the makisu and is one of the most popular tools for sushi chefs. Of course, you could always roll your sushi freehand. However, the makisu will make everything easier and help ensure your rolls are firm enough. 

If you choose to make some inside-out sushi rolls, be sure to cover the bamboo mat in plastic wrap. Doing this helps to prevent the sticky sushi rice from sticking on the mat. You must also clean and dry the rolling mat immediately after use to prevent the growth of bacteria. 

There are different sushi rolling mats to choose from, including synthetic ones. However, it’d be best if you went for bamboo rolling mats since they offer better results and are quite affordable. 

This Delamu Sushi Making Kit includes a bamboo sushi mat made of top-quality bamboo. The bamboo has no splinters, which ensures your sushi rolls are perfect. Besides, the kit comes with a free PDF guide to help you get started on making sushi at home. It also includes other tools you will need, including five pairs of chopsticks, one spreader, and one paddle. 

Rice Paddle

The secret behind sushi’s unique taste lies in the rice vinegar. Once the sushi rice is cooked and is cooling, you must mix it with the rice vinegar, which acts as a seasoning. This crucial step requires that you use a paddle to blend the vinegar well with the rice. 

When shopping around for a rice paddle, you’ll notice that they are made from different materials, including plastic and silicone. However, we’d recommend getting a bamboo paddle, such as Helen’s Asian Kitchen Rice Paddle

Although it is lightweight, it is strong, making it the ideal paddle for stirring, mixing, and turning foods. It’d be a great addition to your kitchen, and you’ll love how evenly it spreads the rice vinegar in the sushi rice. 


Speaking of mixing the rice with the vinegar, you need an ideal container for this step. The Japanese sushi master chefs use the hangiri to mix the rice. The hangiri is a wooden container whose role in making sushi dates as far back as when sushi originated. Although you can use any mixing bowl, a hangiri gives the sushi a better texture. 

The hangiri is often shallow with a flat bottom. If you’re looking for one, you’re better off with one that includes a lid. Once you’ve mixed the rice with the seasoning, cover it and let it cool as it absorbs the seasoning. 

This BambooMN Hangiri Sushi Rice Mixing Tub is an excellent choice and is great for absorbing the moisture in your rice and allowing it to cool faster. 

Other Essentials for Making Sushi Rice

Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish prepared with vinegared sushi rice as the main ingredient. Sushi rice is a Japanese staple, and when correctly done, it is fluffy, light, and not very sticky. Japanese sushi rice has a moist texture, and this makes it great for holding a roll.

Other ingredients used to prepare sushi are seafood, vegetables, sugar, and salt. The Japanese traditionally prepare this sushi using short-grain or medium-grain white rice. Some of the seafood used to prepare sushi includes tuna, yellowtail, eel, and salmon. After all the cooking, chefs use Daikon radish and soy sauce to garnish the sushi rice.

How to Make Sushi Rice Without a Rice Cooker

To make sushi rice, you can either use a rice cooker or not. You can easily make this delicious Japanese rice without a rice pot, and it will taste just as good. If you’re wondering how to hack this, here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Prepare all your ingredients.
  2. Wash the rice.
  3. Soak the rice.
  4. Boil the rice in a saucepan.
  5. Prepare the seasoning.
  6. Mix the rice with the seasoning.

Prepare the Ingredients You’ll Use

The first step in making sushi rice will be to gather all the ingredients that you will use. These ingredients include:

  • Sushi rice or short grain rice
  • Water
  • Japanese rice vinegar
  • Salt
  • White sugar
  • Vegetable oil

When you have all the ingredients ready, it is time to make your delicious sushi rice.

Wash the Rice

The second step is to clean your rice thoroughly until the water is clear. Japanese rice is starchy, and cleaning it several times will ensure it is clean and the excess starch is out. 

Put the rice in a large bowl and pour water to cover the rice. Use your hands to rub the grains gently in the water for a minute. Drain the cloudy water and add more fresh water. Clean the rice again until you have clear water. Doing this helps ensure your rice doesn’t stick to the pan while cooking.

Soak the Rice

After the rice is clean, it is advisable to let it soak for some time in water (at least 30 minutes) before you start cooking. This process enables the rice to rehydrate and prevents it from drying when boiled.

After soaking the rice, cooking it will require less water than you would use without soaking, simply because the rice becomes soft. The soaking also prevents the rice from becoming too mushy when mixing with sushi vinegar.

Boil the Rice in a Saucepan

Add water in a saucepan and mix with the rice. Bring the rice to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a lid. 

Cook for about 20 minutes and avoid opening the lid while the rice is cooking. Opening the cover will let out the steam that has already built up. Let the rice cook until it’s tender and all the water is absorbed. After that, turn off the stove and let the rice cool down.

Prepare the Seasoning and Add It to the Sushi Rice

Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, oil, and salt in a saucepan. Simmer the mixture under medium heat until the sugar dissolves. You can also use a whisk to hasten the process. 

Alternatively, you can use seasoned rice vinegar, which will allow you to skip this step. Seasoned vinegar is ready for use, and once your rice is cooked, just mix it directly with the vinegar. 

In a large plastic or wooden bowl, put the rice and add your vinegar seasoning. Mix it in using a cutting motion. Continue mixing until the vinegar is evenly distributed in the rice.

Cool the Vinegared Rice

Spread out the rice well for it to cool down. You can use a fan to speed things up when turning the rice. The cooling helps get rid of the excess mixture and keeps the rice from getting soggy.

Another way of hastening the cooling process is by putting on the A/C in the room. You can also open the windows to let in a cold draft. The only method you shouldn’t use to cool the vinegared rice is refrigeration.

Tips for Making the Best Sushi Rice Without a Rice Cooker

Using a rice cooker for your sushi rice is the easiest way. However, it’s possible to cook delicious sushi rice at home without a rice cooker. Here are a few tips to make everything easier for you: 

Choose the Right Rice Variety

There are different rice types, and the key to nailing the perfect sushi rice is choosing the best. Short grain rice is considered the best option for making sushi rice. It has a high starch and moisture content, which helps the rice remain sticky after cooking. The stickiness helps keep sushi rolls in shape and ensure they don’t disintegrate as you slice through them. 

Cook the Rice Correctly

This is where the most significant problem lies. How do you know that your rice is cooked to perfection? Your ideal sushi rice should be sticky so that it stays in shape. However, it shouldn’t be too soft since you want single grains to be identifiable. Rice that’s too soft will end up being murky. Additionally, the rice grains shouldn’t be hard, and you shouldn’t feel the crunchy taste when you take a bite. 

Use the Correct Tools

The kind of tools you choose when making sushi at home determines the overall outcome. Sushi’s authenticity lies in the taste and texture, and the tools you use will determine that. Therefore, you must ensure you have the right tools that will help you make the best sushi. 

For starters, sharp sushi knives are a must-have. Without this, you will not be able to make clean and precise fish slices. Besides, using blunt knives may also cause you to disintegrate the rolls as you slice them. 

If you don’t have a bamboo hangiri and rice paddle, you’re going to need a wooden spoon and plastic bowl for mixing the rice with seasoning. Wood and plastic are excellent choices since metal tools may react with the vinegar in the seasoning. Additionally, a wooden paddle will help ensure the vinegar mixes evenly with the rice. 

Other tools you need include a saucepan with a lid, a chopping board for slicing the toppings, and a plastic wrap to help keep the sushi in place and prevent it from falling apart. 

Don’t Keep the Rice Overnight

Getting the right rice portions for just one night can be challenging. However, you should try to ensure that the rice doesn’t remain. When you have leftover sushi rice, you’ll need to have it refrigerated. 

Refrigerated rice is usually hard and doesn’t reheat well. Therefore, making more sushi rolls with this rice may be far-fetched. Besides, if you also have some raw fish left, you risk having bacteria grow on it. 

In case you have some leftover sushi rice, you can try whip up an entirely different dish by trying out a few recipes.  

What Side Dishes Can You Serve With Sushi?

Once your sushi rice is seasoned and cooled down, you can now make the sushi rolls you’ve been dying to try out. However, most people who opt for homemade sushi may find themselves stuck when trying to figure out the best side dishes to use. If you’re one such person, here’s an extensive list of some of the best sushi side dishes: 

  • Miso soup: Many Japanese meals are usually accompanied by soup. Miso soup is a great side dish to have with sushi. This soup is made of miso paste and dashi stock. The main ingredients are tofu and spring onions or Negi.
  • Pickled ginger: This is served with sushi most of the time as a palate cleanser. You can take bites in between the sushi pieces. It is not easy to find baby ginger, so many Japanese restaurants just use regular ginger and add food color to it.
  • Tempura: This is an easy-to-make side dish and can be quite addictive. You can serve your sushi with either shrimp or vegetable tempura. Sushi tempura is a great combination to have whenever you go to a Japanese restaurant. If you want to make crisp and fluffy tempura at home, you can mix wheat flour and iced water and use chopsticks to mix it well.
  • Edamame: This gives a nice crunchy contrast to sushi. These are just soya beans in the pod. They make for a great side dish to accompany sushi. It is prepared by merely blanching the beans in salty water and steaming or boiling them until they are well cooked.
  • Gyoza: This is one of the best side dishes you will have with sushi. This is a Japanese half-moon shaped dumpling that has minced pork filling. To complement the seafood toppings in sushi, you can use vegetable fillings in your gyoza. You can combine cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, onions, minced ginger, and garlic chives for the filling. Wrap the filling in the dumpling wrappers. You could deep fry or even boil it.
  • Eggplant: Infuse your sushi with teriyaki flavors and get that sweet and smoky side dish. For the best results, it’d be best to start by marinating the eggplant in teriyaki sauce. Leave them there for a few minutes and proceed to fry them in olive oil.
  • Kani salad: This is not particularly a traditional side dish. It is made with Japanese ingredients, and that’s why many use it as a side dish. You can combine Kani, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, and Japanese mayo for a great-tasting side dish. To make it more delicious, you can add mango slices to it. This addition will make it more colorful and attractive, and you can add some slices of avocado to get that creamy and nutty twist.
  • Seaweed salad: This is a great salad that can make for a great side dish. This salad will counterbalance the heaviness in the sushi rice. Seaweed salad is easy to make and great for the body. You can season your seaweed salad by mixing miso, sesame oil, soy, mirin, yuzu, rice vinegar, chili, salt, and sesame seeds. The combination of these ingredients makes a tasty sauce.
  • Tamagoyaki: This is a Japanese egg roll, and it has a great flavor in it. The sugar and mirin give it a sweet taste. You can serve it on the side or as a filling, and you will have a great sushi accompaniment.
  • Green tea: Japanese love green tea. They take it in the morning, during lunch, and even in the afternoon. They don’t take it for the taste but for its curative properties and health benefits. Japanese restaurants serve green tea hot or cold for free. While eating sushi, you can accompany it with this staple in Japan, the green tea.
  • Dango: This is a mochi-like dumpling that one eats to counterbalance the bitterness of green tea. Dango usually has matcha, red bean pastes, and other mild sweet fillings. One serving has a combination of three different dangos fastened in a skewer.
  • Matcha ice cream: This is a traditional Japanese dessert, matcha ice cream. Matcha has a powdery taste, and most people find it to be quite bitter. Making matcha into ice cream brings out an excellent taste, and it’s just the right way to culminate your Japanese meal.

Sushi Eating Etiquette You Should Know

If you’re making sushi at home, you’ll not need any formalities. After all, you’re in the confines of your home, and you can enjoy the dish however you want. 

However, if you’d like an excellent sushi experience, it’d be best to eat out in a restaurant once in a while and get to experience how that is. Knowing how to eat sushi will enhance your experience if you visit a Japanese restaurant for this cuisine. 

On arrival, you will be greeted with a traditional greeting, “irasshaimase,” which means “come in.” All you need to do is to acknowledge the greeting if you don’t understand the language. It is more polite than keeping quiet all the same.

When you get served with this delicacy, the waiter will provide a wet towel that you will use to clean your hands before you start eating your sushi. Be sure to fold it back neatly before returning it.

Sushi is best eaten using chopsticks, and you’ll have to polish your skills beforehand. At the restaurant, make sure to use your chopsticks the right way to pick your sushi and follow the basic etiquette of using chopsticks. When not eating, place your chopsticks on the holder that is beside your plate.

If you place your chopsticks anywhere else, this may show that you have finished eating. You can place chopsticks between sashimi pieces. Put sushi pieces in the mouth upside in such a way the fish is against your tongue.

Sometimes, you may want a side dish that isn’t on the menu. Most restaurants will allow you to request something that’s not on the menu but usually accompanies sushi dishes. Therefore, you should feel free to request a sushi side dish that you love or are dying to try. 

Here are several other tips to help you keep your etiquette in check when eating sushi:

  • Make sure not to put wasabi right in the shoyu dish. Fingers of rice topped with fish, also known as Nigiri-Zushi, come with wasabi right under the fish.
  • You can eat sushi (Nigiri-Zushi) using your hands. Do not be afraid to do this. Make sure you eat your sashimi with your chopsticks. Take your fish (Neta) and dip it in your shoyu and not the rice because the rice will absorb too much shoyu. A lot of shoyu will soak up the rice and make it lose its taste.
  • If you intend to pick food from another person’s plate, do not do it with the tips of your chopsticks that you used to put in your mouth. To pick food like this, make sure to use the end of your chopsticks that you hold.
  • Eat ginger in between bites of different types of sushi. Ginger is considered a palate cleanser.
  • If you don’t get a spoon for the soup, don’t request one. You should pick up your bowl and drink the soup from it. Use the chopsticks to put the pieces that are in the soup right in your mouth.
  • Do not pass food from your plate to another person using your chopsticks. Instead, pass a plate to allow the other person to take the food for themselves.
  • Avoid sticking your chopsticks in your rice and leaving them up. This brings the symbolism of Japanese funerals and prayers for ancestors.
  • Do not drink sake with sushi or any other type of rice dish. You can drink sake with sashimi or take it before or after the meal. The feeling behind this is that they are both rice-based and so they don’t complement each other. You can take green tea with sushi or sashimi.
  • You can have sake both hot or chilled. You may need to experiment to know what you like. In general, quality sake is usually served cold.
  • Belching at the Japanese table is termed as impolite and is not allowed in sushi etiquette.
  • You can tip the Itamae (sushi chef) if you sit at the bar. There is a tip jar around that you can put in your tip. When done, thank the Itamae if you were seated at the sushi bar.
  • You will find tips included in the bill in Japan, but you can tip as you feel fit in other countries like North America.

Final Words

Although making sushi rice without a rice cooker seems like a challenging task, it isn’t. As long as you have all the right ingredients, essential tools, and follow the procedure above, you should be able to make great-tasting sushi rolls. Besides, you’ll hardly notice the difference between sushi rice cooked in a rice cooker and that prepared on the stovetop. 

So, don’t stress yourself out if you don’t yet have a rice cooker. Simply follow the steps we’ve outlined above and make some sushi rolls that everyone will love!

Here are some of my favorite sushi making tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you find it useful as you make sushi at home. Here are some tools I’ve used that I hope you’ll find helpful, too. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to use any of them, I will earn a commission. But honestly, these are the exact tools that I use and recommend to everyone, even my family.

Rice cooker: For getting started, I really like Zojirushi Rice Cooker. The Zojirushi Rice cooker does not only make rice-cooking dirt simple, but it is a quality gadget that cooks better than most chefs can. Unlike most kitchen gadgets, it does not sacrifice quality for convenience.

Knife:The Kai Knife is one of the best sushi knives in the market. Made in Japan’s famous knife-making capital, Seki city.