You’ve found the definitive guide to how to make Japanese rice in a rice cooker, and also how to make Japanese rice on the stove. Learn the rice-to-water ratio, which brands of Japanese rice are best, and what makes Japanese rice different from other types of rice.
O.K. I admit it. I’m a rice snob. Ever since I lived in Japan, I really only like Japanese rice. My husband has been converted, too. We went to Japan for our honeymoon, and one of the first things we bought as a married couple was a rice cooker.
But if you have always wanted to know to make Japanese rice and don’t have a rice cooker, no worries! You can easily do it on the stove, and I will show you how!
But first, let me answer all your burning questions about Japanese rice. 🙂
If you want to go straight to the instructions and step-by-step pictures for making Japanese rice, go ahead and scroll down.
What is Japanese sushi rice?
Sometimes in America, we refer to “Japanese rice” and “sushi rice” interchangeably. However, in Japan, sushi rice is actually Japanese rice that has been seasoned with vinegar and sometimes sugar. It is usually tossed and fanned to help it cool off quicker, and it is used to make actual sushi.
What is short grain, glutinous, or sticky rice?
If you compare Japanese rice to other types of rice, you will notice that the grain is shorter and fatter. It is a starchier form of rice, and that’s why it is called “glutinous” or “sticky.”
I would just like to point out that “gluten” and “glutin” are two different things. Japanese rice (and all rice, for that matter) are “gluten-free.”
Gluten (with an E) refers to the sometimes problematic protein found in wheat and some other types of grains.
Glutin (with an I) refers to a texture that is “glue-like,” or “sticky.”
Which type of Japanese rice is the best?
There are many different types of Japanese rice available in many different countries. Some of the most popular brands are Calrose, Nishiki, Kohuko, and Koshihikari. If you are not a native of Japan, you probably will not be able to tell the difference between the many brands. I have tried most of these brands and have not noticed a marked difference between them.
Where to buy Japanese rice.
You can buy Japanese rice in almost any grocery store. Most stores have an “Asian” section with small bags of Japanese rice. If you want larger bags of Japanese rice, you may need to visit an Asian market in your area. You will generally get a better rice on the rice when you purchase a large quantity at an Asian market.
Sometimes you can even find large bags of Japanese rice at Costco.
Which Japanese rice cooker is best?
The easiest way to make Japanese rice is with a rice cooker. However, there are a dizzying array of options! From the super low-tech (like the kind I have with only a single button for “cook”) to the medium grade (with extra steamer baskets so you can steam vegetables at the same time as you make your rice) to the super high-tech with a bunch of buttons and functions.
I bought my rice cooker over 15 years ago at an Asian market, and it is still going strong. Which one you choose depends on your desires. Do you want to make more than rice in your rice cooker? Do you care about the type of metal used in the pan? Do you want a super-high capacity rice maker?
I honestly can’t tell you which type of Japanese rice cooker is the best. In my experience, they all do an excellent job of cooking rice, so you really can’t go wrong. If you ever see a rice cooker with a bunch of bad reviews, then obviously steer clear. But if you get a rice cooker made from an Asian manufacturer, you’re pretty safe. They’ve got this thing down to an art.
If you want to get really geeky about how rice cookers work and all the different options out there, you can read this great article called How Rice Cookers Work on HowStuffWorks.com.
All right! Now that we’ve got all that stuff out of the way, let’s get cooking!
How to Make Japanese Rice
I’m going to show you first how to do this in a rice cooker, and then how to do it on the stove. There are a couple of things that are the same with both methods.
What is the Japanese rice to water ratio?
When you are cooking the rice in the rice cooker and on the stove, I have found that the perfect rice to water ratio is:
1 to 1 1/4.
That is, one cup of rice to one and a quarter cups of water.
With that being said, you may need to experiment a little. Different factors can affect the rice to water ratio, such as:
- How soft you like your rice
- How old the rice is
- How humid it is where you live
Just experiment a little until you find the perfect balance for your likes.
How to wash rice.
With both the rice cooker and stove-top versions of cooking, you need to rinse your Japanese rice first. This is because there is a white powder left on the rice from processing. If you don’t rinse it off, your rice may come out more like glue than rice. We don’t want that!
To rinse the rice, just put it in a pan or bowl, cover the rice with water, and swish it around with your hands. The water will turn milky. I’d say you need to swish it for a good thirty seconds before draining.
You can drain the rice in a fine-mesh sieve or colander. Just make sure the holes aren’t big enough to let the rice through.
I have a special colander made especially for rice and other small grains (like quinoa, which is actually a seed if we want to get technical :)) It’s the OXO Good Grips Rice, Quinoa and Small Grains Washing Colander.
It’s great because the water drains more slowly, so you can see if it is still milky or not and if all the excess starch has been rinsed off. If you just try to rinse your rice in a regular colander under running water, you can’t tell when all the starch has been rinsed off.
How to Make Japanese Rice in a Rice Cooker
Once you’ve rinsed your rice, go ahead and just pour it into your rice cooker pan.
I suggest cooking at least two cups of rice in your rice cooker. The rice cooker has a spring at the bottom that aids in regulating the temperature (based on the weight of the pan, I imagine). When I have tried to cook only one cup of rice, the rice has turned out a little crunchy on the bottom and not well-cooked. Better to make a little extra rice.
Now add the water. Remember the ratio is 1 1/4 cups of water for every cup of rice. When I cook two cups of rice (enough for my family of five), I add 2 1/2 cups of water.
Now just close the lid, press the “cook” button, and walk away!
Your rice cooker will vent steam, so it’s best not to have it right under your kitchen cabinets.
Also, once the rice cooker indicates that it is done, leave the lid closed for another fifteen minutes or so to let the rice fully absorb the water. I have found that if I open the lid right away, my rice is sometimes a little more “al-dente” than I would like.
Just serve the rice directly from the rice cooker and close the lid to keep the rice warm. Most rice cookers also have a “keep warm” function that automatically engages once the rice is done cooking.
How to make Japanese rice without a rice cooker (on the stove).
You’ll want to go ahead and rinse your rice and then pour it into a medium-sized stock pot that has a tight-fitting lid. The lid should be tight-fitting to retain water, and the keep your kitchen from becoming spattered with rice juice 🙂
Add your water. It’s the same ratio as when using a rice cooker: 1 cup of rice to 1 1/4 cups of water.
Put the lid on the pot and cook on the stove over medium heat.
When the water boils and bubble start coming out of the pot, it’s time to turn the heat down to low. But don’t open the lid!
Continue to simmer the rice for another 12-15 minutes, until you don’t hear any bubbling inside the pot. If you are worried about whether or not the rice is done, remove the lid and quickly use a spoon or spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan and see if there is any water remaining. If there is, quickly replace the lid and let the rice cook for another minute or two.
If no water is remaining, replace the lid and move the pot off the burner. Allow the rice to sit undisturbed with the lid on for another 15 minutes to finish absorbing all the water. When it’s ready, it should look like this:
Then just stir the rice with a rice spatula or spoon to fluff it up and serve!
There you have it! Perfect Japanese rice both in a rice cooker and on the stove!
Now, what will you eat it with? How about my Chinese Pork Loin with Honey Garlic Sauce, or Healthy Baked Chicken and Broccoli? It’s also great with my Honey Mustard Curry Chicken, and I even use the leftover rice for my Lemony Chicken Broccoli Casserole!
- 2 cups Japanese rice (also known as short-grain, sushi, or glutinous rice)
- 2 1/2 cups water
- Thoroughly rinse your rice until the water runs clear.
- Add your rice to your rice cooker or a medium-sized pot with a tight-fitting lid.
- Add the water to the rice cooker or the pot.
- If using the rice cooker, close the lid and press the button for "cook."
- If using the pot on the stove, cover the pot with the lid and heat it over medium heat.
- Once the water starts boiling and bubbles start coming out of the pot, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid!
- When you can no longer hear water bubbling and the 12-15 minutes have passed, remove the pan from the burner.
- Once the rice is done in both the rice cooker and pan, let the rice rest for fifteen minutes with the lid on to finish absorbing all the water.
For more tips and tricks, be sure to scroll up in the post to see my step-by-step instructions and pictures.