What’s the Difference Between Sushi Rice and White Rice?

If you’re planning to make your own sushi, then you might ask yourself about the difference between sushi rice and white rice. Similarly, you may be wondering if white rice is good enough for a traditional Japanese sushi recipe.

When it comes down to it, sushi rice is a shorter grain, has a different texture (namely, stickiness), and brings the best flavor for sushi compared to white rice. Sushi rice is really just reserved for making sushi, while white rice is used everywhere else.

Sushi RiceWhite Rice
TypeShort-grain or medium-grainCan be short, medium, or long-grain
TextureSticky and holds together wellLess sticky (unless it's short-grain)
TasteVinegary, slightly sweet due to added seasoningsNeutral
UsagePrimarily for sushi and some Japanese dishesUsed universally in many different cuisines
PreparationSeasoned with a mix of vinegar, sugar, and saltTypically boiled or steamed without seasonings
StorageOften kept slightly warm for sushi preparationStored at room temperature after cooking
Caloric ContentSlightly higher due to added sugar (depends on the recipe)Varies based on type but generally lower than sushi rice

Read on to learn more about the difference between sushi rice and white rice. I’ll also get into the details about why sushi rice is the best for sushi compared to white rice.

difference between sushi rice and white rice

What Is Sushi Rice?

Sushi rice is made by steaming and adding vinegar to Japanese short-grain white rice.

This term can be confusing, as some refer to sushi rice as Japanese rice and vice versa. These two terms are especially interchangeable outside of Japan.

Japanese rice comprises several cultivars, such as ordinary Japanese rice and glutinous rice.

Regular Japanese rice, otherwise known as uruchimai, is the staple food of traditional Japanese cuisine, and it’s used for a wide variety of food. This is the type of rice that’s used to make sushi rice.

Unlike ordinary Japanese rice, which can be used for any rice recipe, sushi rice can only be used to make sushi. You can find sushi rice in any Japanese or Asian grocery store, or you can even make your own sushi rice.

All you need is short-grain Japanese rice, vinegar, salt, and sugar. To be more precise, rice vinegar should be your number one choice since it has the mildest flavor.

Unlike plain white rice, which is cooked, sushi rice is steamed in a pot or a rice cooker to make the rice sticky. It’s very easy to make, and it will stick perfectly to the seaweed that holds other sushi ingredients together.

What Is White Rice?

White rice is the most common type of rice, and you can find it in any grocery store. Rice can be divided into three categories according to its size: short-grain, medium-grain, and long-grain rice.

Short-grain rice is the best option for making sushi.

If you can’t find short-grain rice, you can use medium-grain rice to make sushi. Never use long-grain rice for this purpose.

Long-grain rice is used in almost every other traditional Japanese recipe, except for sushi – it is not sticky enough due to its lack of starch.

Long-grain rice comprises most strains of white rice, such as Jasmine rice, Mexican rice, Basmati rice, American white rice, and European white rice.

All of these strains of white rice have different flavors and textures. For example, European white rice isn’t sticky, and therefore it can’t be used to make sushi.

That said, some people make sushi with white rice by making it stickier. You can do so by washing the rice only for a short time. If you wash it too much, then you’ll get rid of all the starch.

You can also soak it in water before you cook it. The more water you use to cook it, the stickier it will be.

However, it simply won’t have the same taste as sushi rice. For that reason, sushi rice remains the best choice for your sushi.

Similarities Between Sushi Rice and White Rice

There are a couple of similarities between sushi rice and white rice.

First, sushi rice is made from short-grain white rice; therefore, both these strains of rice have the same health benefits. Similarly, both of these strains contain some amount of starch.

Secondly, when prepared, both sushi rice and white rice should be stored similarly.

If you have leftover rice, be it sushi rice or white rice, it’s best to store it in a dry container.

To retain the moisture of the rice, wrap the container with a cloth or a damp kitchen towel, and put it in the fridge. While you can leave it overnight, it’s best to eat it the next day.

For more information on what you can do with leftover sushi ingredients, check out my article here!

six sushi pieces on a cutting board with chopsticks wasabi and bowl of soy sauce

Differences Between Sushi Rice and White Rice

The main difference between sushi rice and white rice is the texture. Sushi rice is much stickier than white rice, making it ideal for sushi.

Sushi rice is also made from short-grain rice, whereas white rice is usually medium-grained or long-grained. Short-grain rice also has more starch in it than long-grain rice.

By steaming short-grain rice, you get the ideal balance between separated and sticky rice.

The water ratio used to make sushi rice is 1:1, whereas much more water is required to cook white rice. If you add too much water, it will come out mushy instead.

As mentioned before, sushi rice is also seasoned with rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. On the other hand, white rice isn’t seasoned at all.

Sushi rice is more translucent than white rice, which has an opaque white color. While sushi rice is only used to make sushi, as the name implies, white rice can be used to make a wide variety of foods, from risotto to casserole.

Sushi RiceWhite Rice
Sticky textureDry texture
Short-grainMedium-grain and long-grain
Seasoned with vinegar, salt, and sugarUnseasoned
More translucentLess translucent
Only used for sushiUsed for a variety of dishes


Is sushi rice the same as Japanese rice?

While sushi rice is made from Japanese short-grain white rice, not all Japanese rice is sushi rice. The term can be interchangeable outside of Japan, but sushi rice specifically refers to short-grain rice that has been seasoned with vinegar, salt, and sugar.

Can I use any type of white rice to make sushi?

Ideally, short-grain rice is the best for making sushi due to its sticky texture. Medium-grain rice can be an alternative, but long-grain rice, such as Jasmine or Basmati, is not recommended as it lacks the necessary stickiness.

Why is sushi rice stickier than regular white rice?

Sushi rice is stickier because it is made from short-grain rice, which has a higher starch content. Additionally, the process of steaming and seasoning with vinegar, salt, and sugar enhances its sticky texture.

How should I store leftover sushi rice compared to white rice?

Both sushi rice and white rice should be stored in a dry container. To maintain the moisture, wrap the container with a cloth or damp kitchen towel and refrigerate. It’s recommended to consume the leftover rice the next day.

Can I season regular white rice to make it taste like sushi rice?

While you can attempt to season white rice with vinegar, salt, and sugar to mimic the flavor of sushi rice, the texture and overall taste may not be the same. For authentic sushi, it’s best to use traditional sushi rice.

In Summary

Now you know the primary difference between sushi rice and white rice. If you want to make sushi like a pro, sushi rice is the best ingredient you can use.

While white rice can be used for countless recipes, it’s simply not a good idea to use it for making sushi. On the other hand, sushi rice captures the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and sour flavors.

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