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9 Sushi Rice Substitute Options

A collage of rice for making sushi.

You find yourself hungry for sushi at an odd hour, or perhaps you live in an area where no Japanese restaurants exist. You need to make your own sushi, but you ran out of sushi rice. Perhaps your local stores do not even carry sushi rice. You can substitute other rice types or other grains. You could, in a pinch, use cauliflower. Read on to learn the many possible substitutes for sushi rice. You might have one in your cupboard right now.

When you want to make sushi right that minute, you can use pretty much any short-grain rice. You do need to cook it a little longer, use a bit more water, and add some sugar to the mixture. This makes it as sticky as possible for your sushi.

These sushi rice substitutes typically require the same amount of rice or rice substitute as sushi rice. You will need one cup of rice for every two cups of cooking water. When using riced cauliflower, you need to increase the amount of cauliflower.

It does not cook like rice. It won’t absorb water as rice does. It does not grow in size. Instead, you need nearly twice as much of the vegetable.

It also does provide the starchiness of rice and does not provide the full feeling of rice. If the cauliflower does not come already riced, you must dice it yourself. One medium head of cauliflower creates about four cups of riced cauliflower. One cup of riced cauliflower equals four ounces.

Related: Types of Rice | Types of Food | Types of Condiments | Types of Sushi | What Goes with Sushi | How to Wash Sushi Rice | Sushi vs. Sashimi | How to Store Sushi

What makes sushi rice, sushi rice?

To work in sushi, you need a very short-grain white rice that cooks up sticky. You could also use red or black rice, but it still has to cook up sticky. This Japanese rice does not start out sweet rice, but you can turn it into sweet rice by adding sugar.

Possible Rice Substitutes

You cannot substitute medium- or long-grain rice for sushi rice. It does not work. You need like with like. That means that using Jasmine or Basmati won’t work.

Regardless of the option you choose, you will need to add more water to it as it cooks, watch it carefully, and add some sugar to the rice. This helps it develop its stickiness. The rice in sushi must take a sticky nature on, so it can hold the other ingredients together. Start with a teaspoon of sugar and add a little bit as you cook the rice until you reach the appropriate consistency.

The stickier it cooks up, the better. You could try preparing any of the following options in your rice cooker.

Pudding rice

This is a bowl of rice pudding with cinnamon.

The small, round rice used for making rice pudding works well as a sushi rice substitute. This provides one of your two best options for making sushi that looks and tastes correct. It provides the appropriate shape, and it can take on the right consistency. You can add the rice vinegar to it as it cooks, and it will soak up the flavor just as sushi rice does.

Milk rice

A bowl of rice milk mud pie with cinnamon.

Before you scour the grocery stores looking for a product titled this, it refers to a recipe. Milk rice requires short-grain rice and milk. In Sri Lanka, this traditional dish uses coconut milk.

In Cuba, it uses cow’s milk. In Sri Lanka, the dish takes on a consistency like that of rice Krispy treats, but in Cuba, you serve it like you would oatmeal or grits. It produces sticky rice that holds together fabulously and easily binds together the ingredients in a sushi roll. You can also make nigiri with this rice since it can clump well.


A close look at a plate of arborio risotto.

Originating from Italy, this rice now grows as a regular crop in California and Texas. The short, oval, fat grains work well as a substitute for sushi rice. You use this rice typically in risotto, but it also works in a pinch for sushi rolls. It also makes a tasty rice pudding if you want to cook a double batch of the rice, then halve it, using one half for sushi and the other for making dessert.

Risotto rice

This is a plate of Italian creamy risotto.

After reading about Arborio, you probably aren’t surprised to see risotto rice listed here. When you see an Italian brand of rice in the grocery marked as “risotto rice,” it probably refers to carnaroli. Chefs adore this rice because it holds its shape and produces a creamy risotto when combined with the broth used to cook it.

You will also find some of these packages contain vialone nano, a shorter-grain rice that you cannot grow with chemicals. Its extremely starchy content makes it cook quickly and it creams up well. Other wonderful options include Baldo, Maratelli, and cal riso.

Read the package carefully before purchasing because it will tell you the width of the grains – fino, semifino, and superfino. The latter is the smallest.

Brown sushi rice

A close look at healthy brown rice sushi.

Sushi chefs frown upon using brown rice. You can in a pinch though, because brown rice sushi is better than no sushi at all. Since brown rice comes in all grains, you must choose short-grain brown rice. It provides added health benefits since it still has the bran, hull, and germ to help it hold nutrients.

It provides added fiber, so remain close to a bathroom if you use this option. It boasts a low glycemic index (GI), so it won’t cause spikes in blood sugar after eating it.

Forbidden Rice

A close look at a bowl of forbidden purple rice.

This rice appears black at first glance but actually grows a dark purple. Grown in China, it traditionally served as food for only the upper class. It tastes a bit sweet and nut-like.

Whole grain rice, contains many antioxidants making it a healthy choice. It also provides a high protein content. It works well as sushi rice because it is sushi rice. Sushi chefs use it and red rice as rice to use in sushi made for holidays and celebrations.

Rice-like Substitutes, Grain or Vegetable

These substitutes work in appearance only. They provided a binding agent to help hold the vegetables and fish together inside the seaweed wrap. They will not mock the taste of sushi, but you will have sushi rolls that “look right.”

Cauliflower rice

This is a close look at a bowl of cauliflower rice.

Riced cauliflower has become the “it” vegetable. It makes a tasty substitute for starchy rice, and it holds flavor well. While it doesn’t suck up flavors like tofu, it can and does draw in the juices of any liquid in which it gets cooked.

That makes it an ideal choice for sushi since it can draw in the flavors of the seasoned rice vinegar used to flavor sushi rice before use in making a sushi roll. This has no starch, essentially, so you will only obtain the appearance of rice. It will not taste like sushi rice either, but you can flavor it with a condiment to help it hold together.


This is a close look at a bowl of cooked quinoa.

The appearance will not match sushi rice, but quinoa can assume the same consistency. Cook it according to the box directions, then add sugar as needed to achieve the appropriate stickiness. You obtain added fiber and amino acids from eating this, which makes for a healthy trade-off of having yellowish rice in the sushi.

Season it to taste with rice vinegar. You can also add condiments to this mixture to achieve the appropriate consistency. You still need to make a sushi roll since rare is the rice that can hold up outside of a seaweed wrap.

Whole Wheat Couscous

A close look at a bowl of dry couscous.

You may feel as if you cooked Indian food, but couscous provides a dandy binding consistency that works well with sushi ingredients. It also throws off the sushi presentation with its brownish hue, but it will taste good. Cook it according to the box instructions and add sugar as needed to create the appropriate consistency.

Where to Buy These Sushi Rice Substitutes

Some options, like cauliflower rice, you can find at your local grocery store. It has become ubiquitous. Others, such as risotto rice brands, you may need to special order online. Finding semifino cal riso at your local grocery in Arkansas or Virginia just isn’t likely.

You probably already special order your seaweed wraps, so do the same with a bag or two of forbidden rice to try it. Try or to order these items. You can also buy your sushi vinegar, kombu, tuna, and apple cider vinegar at these online stores.

Frequently Asked Questions

What sushi rice substitute provides the healthiest choice?

Choose cauliflower rice for the best healthy option. This vegetable simply gets diced into tiny rice-sized pieces and cooked by steaming. Choose this if you eat a keto diet. Forbidden rice provides the greatest protein, the ideal choice for athletes who want to build muscle. Choose brown sushi rice if you have diabetes since it has the lowest GI.

What are the crunchies on sushi?

Depending on the restaurant, the sushi chef could add tenkasu or tempura flakes. Less traditional chefs add French fried onion.

What can you use instead of seaweed for sushi?

If you want to make sushi rolls, you could also use soy wraps, cucumber wraps, rice wraps, and tofu skin as alternatives.

Can you cook sushi rice substitutes in the rice cooker?

You can not cook all of the sushi rice substitutes in a rice cooker. You can use the rice cooker for the other types of rice, but you would need to follow the package directions for quinoa and couscous. These items require a pot on the stovetop for cooking. You can steam riced cauliflower or microwave it.

What can you flavor these rice substitutes with to jazz up your sushi?

The most typical ingredients include sugar, salt, and rice vinegar with dashi which adds umami or savory taste to the rice. Although it is not traditional, you can flavor your rice with other items such as garlic, onion, or pepper. Be careful of using too strong of spices since this can overpower the vegetables or fish.

Trying these spice experiments is best done when you will be the only one eating the sushi. You can self-test your recipes and if they turn out well, you prepare them for others, too.