I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of sushi rice substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Calrose rice is the best substitute for sushi rice. It’s accessible and budget-friendly too! If you want a healthier or gluten-free option, try cauliflower rice mixed with cream cheese. Other options include quinoa, glutinous rice mixed with long-grain rice, or cucumber sheets.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made different batches of maki rolls to test several sushi rice substitutes.
Sushi rice is a short-grained rice that boasts a firm but sticky texture, which allows it to hold all the fixings and fillings you want in sushi rolls. I was looking for a substitute that was just as sticky and didn’t fall apart when I tried to roll it.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Calrose rice||A great option||10/10|
|Cauliflower rice||Mix with cream cheese||9/10|
|Quinoa||Use more water to cook||9/10|
|Glutinous rice||Mix with long-grain rice||8/10|
|Basmati or jasmine rice||Okay in a pinch||7/10|
|Soba noodles||Add a nutty flavor||7/10|
|Skip it||Use cucumber sheets||6/10|
Calrose rice was my favorite sushi rice substitute, and it’s widely used for making sushi in Western countries where traditional Japanese rice is harder to find. In fact, it’s what most Japanese restaurants in the USA will use.
It’s a medium-grain white rice, but it becomes soft and sticky when you cook it, mimicking the signature traits of sushi rice. It’s grown in the sunny fields of California, making it a breeze to find in any store. And as a bonus – it doesn’t come with a hefty price tag!
You can also get brown Calrose rice if that’s more your thing.
How to substitute: Replace sushi rice in a 1:1 ratio with cooked Calrose rice.
If you’re looking for a healthy, low-carb, or gluten-free alternative to sushi rice try cauliflower rice. It doesn’t naturally have the stickiness you need for sushi but there are ways around that.
One of the hacks I’ve learned comes from The Castaway Kitchen, which involves cooking the cauliflower rice with coconut milk, oil, and a touch of gelatin or agar-agar. This gives the grains a stickier texture so you can roll it out just like traditional sushi rice.
If you think this sounds too complicated, a simpler alternative is to mix the rice with cream cheese or mayonnaise. My Keto Kitchen suggests using 5 ounces of cream cheese for a pound of cauliflower rice, but feel free to experiment to find the right balance for you.
Psst… I’ve also heard about mixing in mashed avocado if you don’t want to use dairy.
How to substitute: Replace sushi rice in a 1:1 ratio with modified cauliflower rice.
Don’t like cauliflower rice? Try quinoa instead. It’s a power-packed ingredient, boasting a higher plant protein content than traditional rice.
Again, quinoa isn’t naturally sticky like sushi rice. But I have another easy fix! Simnett Nutrition’s tip (which has always worked for me) involves using slightly more water than you usually would to cook the quinoa and cooking it for slightly longer.
He uses 4 1/4 cups of water for 2 cups of quinoa and cooks it for 20-25 minutes.
The Lazy Cat Kitchen uses a different technique. They cook the quinoa with miso paste or flaxseed egg to give it a sticky texture (and a delicious flavor if you use the miso option).
How to substitute: Replace sushi rice in a 1:1 ratio with cooked quinoa.
You may have encountered glutinous rice before in the famous mango sticky rice, but it’s not only for desserts! This short-grain rice variety has high amounts of amylopectin, making it even stickier than sushi rice.
Its soft and chewy texture paired nicely with the crisp elements of my sushi roll, but the texture isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a fan of food that’s too soft, try blending the glutinous rice with some regular long-grain rice to give it a firmer bite.
I went for a 3:1 regular long grain rice:sticky rice ratio and thought it worked well.
How to substitute: Replace sushi rice in a 1:1 ratio with a blend of glutinous and long-grain rice.
Basmati or jasmine rice
If you need something quickly, check if you have any basmati or jasmine rice in your cupboards. These are both considered medium-grain so with a bit of tweaking can make a decent stand-in for sushi rice.
Just like with quinoa, you’ll want to use more water than normal to cook the rice (a ratio of 1:1.75 rather than 1:1.5 rice to water) to make it a bit moister. And don’t hold back on the sushi seasoning! You can also use some of the methods mentioned earlier, like mixing the rice with cream cheese.
You can use brown or white varieties of rice here, it won’t make a difference.
Psst… this option will work fine in rolls, but you might have difficulty molding it for something like nigiri.
How to substitute: Replace sushi rice in a 1:1 ratio with medium-grain rice like basmati.
If you don’t mind a change of flavor, soba noodle sushi is delicious! And it looks as good as it tastes.
Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour which gives them a pretty greyish color, and a distinct nutty flavor. The noodles won’t become super sticky, so this option will only work with maki-style rolls where the seaweed sheet is on the outside to hold everything together.
One tip I have for you is to dry the noodles as much as possible before rolling the sushi. Any moisture will make the seaweed soggy and the rolls can unravel.
Here’s the recipe I followed for my soba noodle rolls.
How to substitute: Replace sushi rice in a 1:1 ratio with seasoned soba noodles.
Skip the rice entirely
You don’t necessarily need any kind of rice for sushi. Sure, traditional sushi rolls often include rice, but what’s stopping us from getting creative? One of the suggestions that frequently came up in the forums was using thin cucumber sheets to roll the sushi, like the video below.
Slicing cucumbers into such thin sheets can be tricky and requires practice, but once you master it, you have an incredibly healthy base for your sushi rolls. Carrots can work too.
You can also simply use nori sheets to hold everything, and use a little bit of cream cheese to ‘glue’ the ends of the nori together.
How to substitute: Remove the sushi rice altogether and replace it with thin sheets of cucumber.
Substitutes to avoid
There were many suggestions for sushi rice substitutes, but not all of them worked out great.
- Bomba rice: Bomba rice is a short-grained variety, but it’s actually prized for its non-sticky nature, making it a popular ingredient for paella.
- Couscous: I wasn’t a fan of my couscous sushi, but this may just be personal preference. I found the texture too light and fluffy for the fillings and thought the cream cheese overshadowed it (cream cheese was essential because couscous isn’t sticky at all!).
- Arborio rice: Arborio rice is perfect for risotto because of its ‘chalky’ texture and al dente bite, but it’s this chalkiness that makes it a bad option for sushi.
Best Sushi Rice Substitutes + 3 To Avoid
- 1 cup calrose rice
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 cup cauliflower rice
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 cup glutinous rice
- 1 cup forbidden rice/black rice
- 1 cup short-grain brown rice
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen sushi rice substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.