Searching for an alternative for sushi rice? The secret to delicious sushi lies in flavorful rice that sticks together well. Mimicking traditional Japanese rice's unique flavor and texture will take your healthy homemade meal to the next level.
Below, we've rounded up ten of the best sushi rice substitutes. We've got something for every dietary need— whether you're looking for a low-carb option, increasing your vegetable intake, or simply running out of white rice.
What Is Sushi Rice?
Before breaking down the best substitutes for sushi rice, let's first take a look at what makes it so great. The key to successfully swapping in different types of rice is to recreate the sticky texture and unique flavor closely. Without it, your meal just won't taste the same— even doused in soy sauce and topped with a mountain of wasabi and ginger.
What type of rice is sushi rice? Is sushi rice the same as regular rice? Chances are you've asked yourself these questions at some point or another while digging into your favorite sushi rolls. Typically, sushi rice is made using short-grain Japanese rice, and its high starch content creates a sticky texture that helps hold the rice together during rolling.
Another key to making sushi rice— whether with classic short-grain rice, whole-wheat couscous, or keto cauliflower rice— is adding the proper seasonings: rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Regardless of which sushi rice alternative you're using, you'll want to add a splash of rice vinegar to give it that traditional umami flavor. In fact, the word sushi translates to 'it is sour.'
What can I use instead of sushi rice?
These ten sushi rice alternatives make for a delicious, nutritious meal—whether you're making a traditional roll, hand roll, or a filling sushi bowl.
Don't have short-grain white rice on hand? No problem! Long-grain white rice is one of the easiest sushi rice alternatives out there. Be sure to cook the rice thoroughly to help create that soft, sticky texture you're looking for. Any white rice you have on hand will do just fine. But if you're looking for something more unique or more nutritious, try the other alternatives below.
If you have any sort of rice or brown rice on hand, you can make milk rice, or some refer to this as pudding rice. Instead of cooking rice with rice vinegar and water, it is cooked with milk, coconut milk, or other types of milk. This method makes great rice that will work great in many dishes, including risotto, sticky rice, and rice pudding. Unlike the other rice variety, this option gives the rice a sweeter taste with a milky flavor. Besides being tasty, it also provides a sticky texture, making it a great sushi rice substitute.
Arborio rice, also known as risotto rice, is short-grain rice with a high starch content that works great for sushi. It's best-known for its role in risotto, a deliciously creamy Italian rice dish. During cooking, risotto rice releases its starch to create a firmer, creamier texture than most other types of rice. Though it has a tendency to turn a bit chalky, with a little salt, vinegar, and sugar, it'll taste just as good as the real thing.
Swapping regular sushi rice for brown rice is a great way to increase your whole grain intake, and brown rice offers so much healthy nutrition. Choose brown sushi rice if you have diabetes since it has the lowest GI. For these reasons, many rice consumers are converting to eating brown rice.
These days, many Japanese restaurants offer brown rice sushi on their menus to appease healthy eaters. While it won't have exactly the same consistency or flavor, the proper preparation can create something similar.
First, you'll want to soak the brown rice for a few hours before cooking. Use brown rice cookers or rice cookers on brown rice settings to ensure the chewy grains are thoroughly cooked. Add an extra splash or two of rice vinegar to balance flavors and help hold the rice together as you roll.
Packed with nutrients, quinoa makes a healthy option for vegetarian sushi rolls. It's a complete protein that's loaded with fiber, amino acids, and iron. Another perk: quinoa is naturally gluten-free.
The ancient grain is naturally chewy, so you'll want to cook it for a few extra minutes and add a little extra sugar to get that soft, sticky texture. In addition to sushi, it can make other traditional Japanese dishes like onigiri, oyakodon, and chirashizushi a bit healthier too.
Cauliflower Sushi Rice
Cauliflower rice is a fantastic sushi rice option if you're eating a keto or low-carb diet. While it won't fill you up as much as other options, riced cauliflower allows you to enjoy your favorite meal while you cut calories. And eat more vegetables while you're at it!
While you can make your own cauliflower rice in a food processor, it's easiest to start with a bag of cooked cauliflower crumbs. You can saute the cauliflower in coconut oil or olive oil for a few minutes and let it cool. Because cauliflower contains less starch than white rice, your vegetable sushi rice will be far less sticky. Roll your seaweed wrap carefully, and cut your roll into larger pieces that'll hold together.
Don't let the name fool you, there's nothing wrong with using forbidden rice for sushi. It binds almost as well as any other short-grain rice. But note, forbidden rice has a bit of natural sweetness, so skip the sugar during seasoning.
Also known as black rice, this nutty, nutrient-rich grain is similar to brown rice. It's packed with antioxidants, fiber, and protein that make for a filling (and not to mention delicious) meal. It is also known to help keep blood sugar and cholesterol under control. Plus, it'll add a unique black color to your sushi roll that's impossible to keep off the 'Gram.
Like brown rice and black rice, red rice provides many healthy nutrients and is one of the best sushi rice alternatives. Some sushi chefs will even use red rice during the holidays or celebrations. While this type of rice takes longer to cook and less stick than sushi rice, they do add extra nutty flavor and texture.
Though couscous isn't technically rice, in a pinch, it can still be used to replace sushi rice. Couscous is a North African dish that's closely related to pasta. The small rice-like balls are semolina flour made from durum wheat, and its high gluten content actually helps create a sticky, rice-like texture— especially with a sprinkle of sugar and a splash of sushi vinegar.
Sticky rice, also known as "sweet rice," tastes sweeter than regular white rice and other types of rice, making this type of rice a better option for dessert. But, because this type of rice is sticky in nature due to its naturally high starch content, it makes a great substitute for sushi rice.
Which rice substitute provides the healthiest choice?
Cauliflower rice is the healthiest choice as it is vegetable and keto diet-friendly. Forbidden rice is another healthy choice, and it contains the greatest protein, and it is ideal for vegans or athletes who need the extra protein. Brown rice is a healthy choice if you have diabetes, as it has the lowest GI.
What to use to add crunchies on top of the sushi?
Many sushi chefs will add tenkas and tempura flakes for a crunchy texture. For less traditional chefs, French fried onion is also a great option.
What can you use instead of seaweed for sushi?
If you don't have seaweed sheets on hand, you can use soy wraps, cucumber, rice wraps, or tofu skin.