Don’t Have Sushi Rice? Here Are 7 Tasty Substitutes

Hey sushi fans! If you’re hankering for homemade sushi but don’t have the right rice, don’t sweat it. You’ve got options! While short-grain white rice is ideal, you can substitute other grains to get your sushi fix.

The key is finding a rice that’s sticky and sweet to mimic the texture of traditional sushi rice. Here are some solid stand-ins to consider:

  • Short-grain brown rice – Nutty flavor and chewy texture. Just add some rice vinegar.
  • Sticky rice – Very similar sticky texture to real deal sushi rice. Easy swap.
  • Arborio rice – The risotto rice has a nice “al dente” bite. Toss with seasoned vinegar.
  • Cauliflower rice – A low-carb sub for the health conscious. Lacks stickiness but tasty.

You can also try quinoa, brown rice, or even regular white rice in a pinch. While not ideal, they can work by amping up the vinegar, sugar and salt.

The bottom line? With the right seasoning, you have flexible options for sushi night beyond just short-grain white rice. Try out a substitute grain and create your own fusion sushi masterpieces!

Read on for more tips on how to make these alternatives really shine in homemade sushi.

Best Substitutes for Sushi Rice

If you want to closely match the tender, gluey texture of real sushi rice, go for these options:

Short-Grain Brown Rice

Brown rice has more fiber and nutrients than white. Look for short-grain, which will be the stickiest. Rinse thoroughly before cooking for fluffy grains. Season with a vinegar mixture just like sushi rice. The nutty brown rice flavor pairs nicely with salmon or avocado rolls.

Medium-Grain Rice

Types of medium-grain like Calrose or Japonica aren’t as sticky as short-grain. But they are cheaper and easier to find. Cook the rice well and mix with seasoned vinegar to get the texture as close as you can to short-grain. Fill nori rolls tightly so the rice sticks together.

Short-Grain White Rice

The ideal choice is Japanese-grown short-grain rice labeled “sushi rice.” But any high-quality short-grain white like Arborio or Bomba rice will work when seasoned right. Rinse well and cook with a touch less water than package directs for firmer rice. Dress with vinegar, sugar and salt to taste just like at your favorite sushi joint.

Sticky Rice

This sweet Asian rice gets super gluey when cooked. Make sure to rinse very well. Then season the sticky rice with a rice vinegar mixture infused with sugar, salt and perhaps mirin. Pack it into rolls and dip your fusion sushi in soy sauce and wasabi like the real thing.

Alternative Grains for Sushi

For a low-carb sushi bowl, try these grain alternatives to rice:

Cauliflower Rice

Pulse raw cauliflower florets into rice-sized pieces. Cook until tender then drain any excess moisture. Cauliflower lacks starch so it won’t get truly sticky, but it makes a nice neutral base for sushi fillings. Load it up with extras like avocado and spicy mayo to distract from the rice!


This superfood seed has a satisfying crunch when cooked. To use for sushi, rinse quinoa then lightly sauté in oil before cooking. Chill the cooked quinoa in the fridge to harden it up before using. Mix in a tablespoon of rice vinegar for subtle stickiness. Quinoa sushi is great stuffed with shrimp, mango and cucumber.


Cook pearled barley until it’s super soft and nearly mushy. Chill it down then mix with seasoned rice vinegar. The plump barley grains cling together pretty well. Make vegetarian sushi rolls with marinated tofu and veggies wrapped in barley instead of rice.


Whole wheat or regular couscous lacks sticky starch, but its small grain size makes an interesting sub for rice. Hydrate it in rice vinegar first before filling nori rolls. Load it up with salmon, cream cheese and everything bagel spice for a fun twist.

When All Else Fails…Regular Rice

Don’t have any specialty grains or cauliflower on hand? Make it work with basic long-grain white rice! Here are some tips:

  • Rinse very thoroughly to remove excess starch. This helps prevent mushiness.
  • Undercook the rice slightly to retain some bite. Let it cool before using.
  • Mix in vinegar generously along with sugar and salt to get as close as you can to sushi rice texture.
  • Pack rolls extra tight so the rice stays together instead of falling apart.
  • Add extra fillings like tempura shrimp or avocado to distract from subpar rice.
  • Dip finished sushi rolls in tempura flakes or sesame seeds to help adhere fillings to the rice.

While it won’t be authentic, regular rice can in a pinch let you DIY sushi night. Don’t cancel your plans – whip up cheater sushi instead!

Seasoning is Key for Sushi Substitutes

To make any rice or grain substitute shine, be generous with the seasoned vinegar dressing. Make it tangy, sweet and salty to mimic sushi rice flavor.

Start with 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt. Taste as you go until it’s irresistibly sweet-sour. Other flavor boosters can include:

  • 1-2 tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • Grated ginger
  • Sesame seeds
  • Rice seasoning powder

Don’t be shy – season away until the rice substitute tastes as close as possible to the real thing. This can make up for variances in texture.

Roll Creative Fusion Sushi

Part of the fun of using rice alternatives is coming up with untraditional sushi fillings that complement them. Get creative!

Some flavor combos to try:

  • Brown rice, baked tofu, carrots, zucchini, avocado
  • Quinoa, mango, shrimp, red pepper, spicy mayo
  • Barley, smoked salmon, dill, cream cheese, capers
  • Cauliflower rice, tempura sweet potato, cucumber wasabi sauce
  • Sticky rice, tuna, daikon radish sprouts, shiso leaf
  • Couscous, roasted eggplant, pickled burdock root, shiitake

With seasoned rice substitutes and vibrant fillings, you can make craveable fusion sushi creations at home. Sushi night is back on!

So next time sushi is on the menu, don’t sweat it if you don’t have the exact rice on hand. Get creative with cauliflower, quinoa, couscous, and other alternatives instead. With the right seasoning, you can still DIY tasty homemade sushi.

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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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