Let’s face it, sushi doesn’t taste like sushi unless it is made with extra sticky-sweet short-grain white rice. This Japanese white rice is cooked a certain way to create that unique flavor you are so familiar with. So, what do you do when you’re craving sushi rolls but don’t have sushi rice in your pantry?
Instead of giving up and ordering takeout, use any of these sushi rice substitutes to whip up your favorite sushi rolls right in the comfort of your home!
1. Pudding Rice
The rice you use to make pudding is small, round grain rice that has some sort of sticky texture. It closely mimics the shape and consistency of sushi rice and is easily available in most discount franchise stores, which makes it a great stand-in for the original ingredient.
To enjoy the same sticky consistency and flavor, you can cook pudding rice as-is or add rice vinegar to it while it cooks to enjoy a delicious burst of flavor in every bite.
2. Arborio Rice
Arborio rice is short to medium, oval, fat grain rice native to Italy but is now widely grown in California and Texas. Although arborio is typically used to make risotto, it can still work really well as a stand-in for sticky rice.
But, you should know arborio boils fast and can have a “chalky” texture, which does not go too well with the sushi rolls. To fix its texture, cook arborio with a little bit more water to give it a similar consistency to sushi rice. And when cooked with vinegar, it will absorb the delicious flavor and effortlessly retain ingredients inside the roll.
3. Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower rice is one of the healthiest sushi rice substitutes available. You may buy it pre-packaged or make your own by shredding cauliflower heads in a food processor to the consistency you like. Cauliflower rice is not only starch-free and a great low-carb option but it also absorbs the flavor of any liquid in which it is cooked considerably better than rice.
As cauliflower is starch-free, it will only mimic the appearance of sushi rice, not its distinct taste, texture, or thickness. This means you may need to add a binding agent like mayo, sugar, vinegar, or condiments to help hold the rice grains together when using it to replace sushi rice.
4. Brown Rice
Known for being far more nutritious than white rice, brown rice makes an excellent substitute for sushi rice, particularly for people on a diet. It is also commonly preferred by rice eaters due to its various health benefits. You might even be able to buy brown rice sushi that tastes just like the real thing.
Because brown rice is significantly darker in color as compared to sushi rice, most chefs are hesitant to use it as a substitute. If you don’t mind the difference in appearance and texture, you can use short-grain brown rice instead of the traditional sushi rice in a pinch. Just make sure to soak it for several hours and add rice vinegar or some sweetener (optional) to achieve the sticky texture and desired taste.
Quinoa is a bright yellow grain that is also more grainy and earthier than sushi rice. But it has a similar flavor and texture to sushi rice and doesn’t need a binder to keep the grains together, making it one of the best substitutes for the original ingredient.
When using it in place of sushi rice, please keep in mind that the yellow tint of quinoa will change the appearance of your sushi rolls. But, with the addition of the right seasonings and sauces, it will still be just as delicious. If you want to replicate the stickiness of sushi rice, you can add sugar when cooking quinoa to acquire the desired consistency.
6. Black Rice
Also known as forbidden rice, black rice has an anthocyanin color that seems black at first glance but is actually a dark, vivid purple. This healthy alternative to white rice is grown in China, has a sweet and nut-like flavor, and was traditionally served as a luxurious food item for the upper class in ancient China. Fortunately, black rice has become much more common today.
Because black rice is naturally sweet, dense, and gluttonous, you can skip the added sugar detailed in the recipe when using it as a stand-in for sushi rice. As it binds quite well on its own, you can make delicious sushi rolls using black rice by sticking to the normal ratios of ingredients.
Couscous is a form of pasta made out of semolina flour. It has a brownish tint to it and a flavor that is much closer to pasta than sushi rice. Couscous has a similar texture to sushi rice as well as excellent binding characteristics. This makes it a wonderful substitute for sushi rice; but, because couscous is a gluten-containing grain, it may not be suitable for gluten-free diets.
Keep in mind that cooking preparations will vary if you use couscous as a substitute. Instead of cooking the couscous in water, pour boiling water over it and cover it with a lid to allow the grain to absorb the water, then add a tablespoon of olive oil to keep it from becoming too sticky. You can add seasonings as you would to sushi rice to make the couscous more flavorsome.
8. Risotto Rice
Risotto rice provides a taste and texture similar to white rice but lacks when it comes to stickiness. While arborio is commonly used for risotto, you will also often find other types of risotto rice like carnaroli, and some brands even have a blend of different types of rice labeled as “risotto rice.” So, make sure you check the ingredient list before buying because the rice blend will cook and taste very different.
When using risotto rice as a substitute for sushi rice, please keep in mind that risotto rice can be crumbly. And while this produces a creamy risotto, it may not be as effective for making sushi. To fix this, consider purchasing short-grain rice, such as vialone nano, which is prized for its high starch content. It will help in recreating the stickiness of sushi rice, delivering great sushi rolls.