Instant Pot Sushi Rice (Medium or Short-Grain Rice)

This no-soak pressure cooker method is the best foolproof sushi rice recipe. Skip the seasoning step if you want a delicious bowl of warm Asian steamed rice, or follow all the steps for perfectly seasoned instant pot sushi rice.

The best sushi rice has plump, shiny kernels that retain their firm shape. And while the rice is sticky, it should never be mushy.

Short-grain rice is ubiquitous in Japanese cuisine. But vinegar-seasoned sushi rice is traditionally only used for sushi.

You can stick to tradition and use your perfectly seasoned sushi rice for homemade sushi rolls. Or you can serve it as a delicious rice side dish or as the base for poke bowls.

For a bowl of perfectly steamed white short-grain rice, simply skip the sushi vinegar seasoning step and fluff the rice with a fork before serving. This Instant Pot sushi rice recipe works for short-grain or medium-grain rice (like Calrose rice).

A pair of wooden chopsticks picking up a cluster of sticky sushi rice from a ceramic Japanese bowl with an instant pot visible in the background.

What is sushi rice?

While there are many different styles of sushi, the main ingredient is always “sushi rice” (also called shari or sumeshi). Sushi rice refers to vinegared Japanese rice prepared with sugar, salt and sometimes kombu (kelp).

In Japan, becoming an itamae of sushi (Japanese sushi chef) takes years of training and apprenticeship.

We can’t possibly hope to perfect the skill with a single recipe post. But we can help you make delicious sushi rice at home with a few basic techniques and an Instant Pot.

The best rice for sushi

The best sushi rice starts with the best rice for sushi.

The Japanese rice used in everyday Japanese cooking is a short-grain rice called uruchimai. It’s also the rice used for sushi and onigiri (Japanese rice balls).

But don’t confuse sushi rice with glutinous rice (mochigome). Mochigome is for mochi rice cakes and glutinous sweets. While it’s also a Japanese short-grain rice, glutinous rice and sushi rice are not interchangeable. Glutinous rice is much stickier and chewier.

Calrose rice, the medium-grain rice popular with Japanese American producers in California, also makes good sushi rice.

Avoid long-grain rice (like jasmine rice or basmati rice) for sushi.

All the ingredients for sushi rice arranged on a concrete surface, viewed from above. It includes a bowl of short-grain rice, rice vinegar, sugar and salt.

Sushi rice ingredients

  • Sushi rice: Look for rice labelled as sushi rice or Japanese short-grain rice. Korean short-grain rice also works, as does medium-grain Calrose rice.
  • Unseasoned rice vinegar: Use unseasoned rice vinegar to create the perfect balance of savoury, sweet and acidic.
    • You can also use shop-bought seasoned sushi vinegar – omit the sugar and salt from the recipe.
    • If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can dilute white wine vinegar with a splash of water as a substitute. But it’s worth keeping rice vinegar around if you plan to make Asian food often.
  • Sugar: Normal granulated white sugar is all you need, but you can use castor (superfine) sugar to dissolve faster. Or use your preferred sugar alternative.
  • Salt: The coarseness of your salt can influence the salinity of the sushi vinegar. I never use shop-bought fine salt with anti-caking agents (like table salt or some brands of fine sea salt). My salt has a coarsely ground texture. Use ¾ teaspoon (instead of a whole teaspoon) if you’re worried about overseasoning.

For a bowl of steamed short-grain rice (not seasoned for sushi)

Omit the sushi rice vinegar and sugar if you don’t plan to make sushi. Instead, add a teaspoon of salt to the uncooked rice and water in the Instant Pot for seasoned short-grain rice.

Or leave it unseasoned for onigiri (that gets seasoned as you shape it).

Tips for perfect Instant Pot sushi rice

The recipe card has step-by-step instructions for washing and cooking sushi rice in an Instant Pot, so I won’t bore you by repeating those details now. But there are a few important steps worth highlighting.

  1. Use the right type of rice
  2. Wash your rice
  3. Drain your rice well
  4. Use natural pressure release
  5. Don’t overcook
  6. Don’t break the rice
  7. Keep the cooked rice moist

1. Use the right type of rice

While there are all kinds of inventive sushi-like rolls you can make without sticky white rice, we are after perfectly plump, shiny, and firm-yet-sticky white rice kernels today.

And you can only achieve the perfect stickiness with the right type of rice.

Try to find Japanese short-grain rice or rice labelled as “sushi rice” (even if it is medium-grain rice). You can also use Korean short-grain rice (mepssal) or Calrose rice.

This Instant Pot recipe cooks short-grain or medium-grain rice perfectly every time.

A close-up of uncooked short-grain rice for sushi.

2. Wash your rice

Washing your rice removes extra starch and avoids mushy rice.

Place the rice into a large mixing bowl and cover it with cold water. Curl your fingers into a claw shape and gently swirl the rice.

Don’t crush or break the rice.

Pour off the water, and repeat four to five times – until the water starts to run clear. It doesn’t need to be perfectly crystal clear.

Top down view of a hand stirring rice in a glass bowl surrounded with cloudy water.

3. Drain the rice well

Rice absorbs water very quickly. Too much water in the inner pot will lead to watery cooked rice.

Transfer the washed rice to a mesh strainer or sieve and leave it to drain for five minutes before adding it to the pressure cooker.

4. Natural pressure release

After a quick five-minute cook, allow the Instant Pot to release pressure naturally for ten minutes. The rice continues to steam during this time.

It is part of the cooking process, so don’t skip it!

Natural pressure release rewards your patience with evenly cooked and fluffy steamed rice.

Steamed white rice in the instant pot inner pot.

5. Don’t overcook

Remove your cooked rice from the inner pot immediately after the ten minutes of natural pressure release. Otherwise, the residual heat of the Instant Pot causes the rice to overcook, stick to the inner pot and turn mushy.

Transfer the rice to a large non-reactive bowl, like a glass bowl, or use a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Avoid contact with metal bowls (or metal spoons).

Stir your sushi vinegar through the warm rice.

Cooked sushi rice in a large glass bowl drizzled with sushi vinegar.

6. Don’t break the rice

Don’t break the rice while you wash uncooked rice or mix cooked rice with the sushi vinegar.

Crushing or breaking the rice kernels leads to mushy rice instead of sticky rice kernels.

Use a rice paddle or wooden spatula to mix the sushi vinegar into your rice. I use the plastic rice paddle that came with my Instant Pot Duo.

Gently fold the vinegar mixture through the rice in a slicing motion, carefully coating each grain of rice with the sushi vinegar. The individual rice kernels will be glossy and sticky, but not mushy.

A hand mixing sushi vinegar into cooked sushi rice with a plastic rice paddle.

7. Keep the rice moist

Cover the rice with a damp tea towel while it cools down to room temperature. You don’t want to dry out your sushi rice.

Don’t refrigerate the rice. It will dry out and harden your perfectly plump sushi rice. Cooked rice is best used for sushi as soon as it cools to room temperature.

The perfect sushi rice ratios

One of the best things about Instant Pot sushi rice is that it scales well as long as you keep your ratios correct.

You don’t need to change the washing, cooking or seasoning methods. Simply scale your ingredients and keep the cooking time the same.

Instant Pot sushi rice to water ratio

Use a 1:1 ratio of uncooked, rinsed rice to water with this no-soak pressure cooker method.

So for every cup of washed, unsoaked rice, add one cup of water.

Top down view of washed sushi rice in the instant pot inner pot.

Sushi vinegar ratios

I use a 6:3:1 ratio of unseasoned rice vinegar to sugar to salt for my sushi vinegar mixture.

For each teaspoon of salt, use three times the amount of sugar and six times the amount of vinegar.

You can play around with this ratio the next time you make sushi rice. But this ratio is perfect for me. And it’s a great starting point for yours.

Sushi vinegar to uncooked rice ratio

I was childishly disappointed when I ordered sushi in a generic seafood restaurant and received sushi rolls that tasted overwhelmingly of vinegar. (This has never happened in a Japanese restaurant.)

Maybe they ran out of rice vinegar and used stronger-tasting vinegar, or perhaps they just used too much. But whatever the reason, I am forever fearful of overseasoning sushi rice.

I use two tablespoons of rice vinegar (and a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt) for each US cup of uncooked rice (two heaped cups of cooked sushi rice). Or use three tablespoons of shop-bought sushi rice vinegar.

The cooked short-grain rice absorbs the vinegar seasoning as it cools to room temperature.

Tip: If you want to find your perfect ratio of vinegar to rice, make a large batch of the sushi vinegar mixture – it keeps well in the fridge. Add two tablespoons of vinegar to your cooked rice. Taste, and mix in more vinegar until you’re happy with the result.

A bowl of fluffy white sushi rice with an instant pot in the background.

How to serve Instant Pot sushi rice

Vinegared rice is traditionally only used for sushi. Even onigiri (Japanese savoury rice balls) use unseasoned rice.

But I adore the perfectly seasoned sticky white rice. It is sweet and savoury with a slight acidic kick.

Try your vinegared sushi rice for:

For unseasoned steamed white rice, simply skip the seasoning step. Fluff your Instant Pot steamed rice with a fork. Use it for onigiri or rice bowls.

Or serve it with Asian stews like this Gochujang tofu (spicy Korean braised tofu) dish or stir-fries like Chinese tomato egg stir-fry.

Leftover medium- or short-grain rice is perfect for Korean fried rice with gochujang and kimchi!

A pair of wooden chopsticks picking up a cluster of sticky sushi rice from a ceramic Japanese bowl with an instant pot visible in the background.

Instant Pot Sushi Rice Recipe

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This no-soak pressure cooker method is my favourite way to get perfect sushi rice every time. Skip the seasoning step if you want a delicious bowl of warm Asian steamed white rice.
This recipe yields about two and a half US cups of cooked sushi rice.
Recipe byAdri
Servings: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Equipment

  • Large glass bowl (or wooden hangiri bowl)
  • Instant pot (or electric pressure cooker)
  • Rice paddle or non-metal spatula

Ingredients
 

  • 1 cup sushi rice*
  • 1 cup water

Sushi vinegar ingredients (for sushi rice)

  • 2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar*
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground sea salt

Instructions

Rinse the rice

  • Place the rice in a large mixing bowl and cover it with cold water. Swirl the rice with your fingers shaped in a claw. Don't crush or break the rice. Pour off the water, and repeat 4 to 5 times – until the water runs clear.
  • Transfer the rice to a mesh strainer and leave it to drain for 5 to 10 minutes.

Cook rice in a pressure cooker

  • Add the rinsed rice and the cup of water to the inner pot.
  • Lock the lid and move the steam release valve to the sealing position. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook mode (or manual mode for older models) on high pressure for 5 minutes.

Mix the sushi vinegar

  • While the rice cooks, make the sushi vinegar. Place the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl and stir until dissolved.
  • You can gently heat the vinegar mix in a microwave for 30 seconds to help the sugar dissolve. Or use a small saucepan. But don’t allow the vinegar to boil.

Natural pressure release

  • After the 5-minute cook time, allow 10 minutes of natural pressure release before turning the steam release valve to the venting position for quick release. Transfer the cooked rice to a large wooden or glass mixing bowl immediately.

Season the cooked rice

  • Add the seasoned vinegar mix to the glass (or wooden) bowl with the warm rice. Gently fold it through the rice with a rice paddle in a slicing motion to combine, carefully coating each grain of rice with the mixture.
  • Cover the rice with a clean damp kitchen towel and allow it to cool to room temperature before using it for sushi – about 30 minutes.

Notes

  • You can also use Korean short-grain rice or medium-grain Calrose rice.
  • Skip the rice vinegar and fluff the rice with a fork for perfectly steamed white rice. Serve it warm or at room temperature.
  • If you have seasoned sushi rice vinegar, leave the sugar and salt.
  • For this recipe, it is essential to rinse the rice thoroughly without soaking it. Find more sushi rice tips in the full post.
  • For stovetop sushi rice instructions, see this easy stovetop sushi rice recipe
 
IMPORTANT: This recipe uses US cup measurements, not rice cooker cups. 

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