I produced 150+ pounds of rice/sushi rice a night for a Japanese-owned and operated sushi restaurant, so I know a bit about the subject matter I am writing about, finally.
Updated on: Sept. 24, ’22 to Oct 19, ’22 (design for quick readability), Aug 9th, ’23 (added domestic Japanese products/design tweaks).
The most critical component of nigiri sushi is the rice, but for Americanized sushi, it is the spicy mayo and how big of a soy sauce saucer for your Jessica Albacore roll is to chillax in. So if you are the former, you will appreciate this blog post on the top sushi rice brands, although if you are the latter, you will appreciate my blog post on soy sauce.
Japanese American and Japanese rice brands are short/medium-grain rice grown here in the United States in California (for a plain bowl of table rice to “sushi rice”). There are Japanese grown rice brands, and I finally added the top brand in August of 2023.There are other top domestic Japanese brands, but I am still doing research to determine which brands to add. For now, enjoy the $98+, Yuki Tsubaki ultra high-end koshikari from Japan.
Also, do not let the lead-in fool you because I still do not know nearly as much as a traditionally trained, seasoned Japanese sushi chef, which is why I have included several resources with links below.
Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself, and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain Amazon and other affiliate links that, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.
Which Rice Brands are Listed
As always, I am not listing only brands and products available on Amazon.com or products that benefit my bottom line. What I have listed are all the brands used by the Japanese and Japanese American community which are not all sold on Amazon and my focus is on creating legit content because that is all it takes to outrank other sites, along with not being an Amazon Affiliate ho.
For the every day plain bowl of rice, as a Japanese American, we ate Kokuho Rose, and if you are old enough, you may remember that Kokuho Rose used to come in cloth bags.Kokuho Rose is a Japanese American hybridized variation of Koda Farms Kokuho Rose and is distributed by Nomura and Company out of San Francisco/Burlingame, CA, 941340.
What is the Point of This Post/Article
To let you know which brands of rice Japanese and Japanese Americans traditionally use to produce sushi or that daily staple of a bowl of rice.
You will not find fusion alternatives for rice or sugar for vinegared sushi rice here or influencer ‘wisdom’ (inaccurate/misinformation all for the likes which I would like to nickname these types as ‘Ally’s’).
Also, many non-Asian mainstream media outlets tend to throw all 51 Asian countries altogether because they do not know the difference between Thailand and Taiwan or Japan versus Jakarta.
Japanese Rice vs Basmati, Jasmine, and Other Varietals/Types
If you read any American-based media outlet, they will constantly refer to any Japanese rice as “sushi rice,” but the Japanese do not just eat sushi (one reason most do not refer to all bread as burger bread in the US). The rice used by the Japanese can be eaten and used in a variety of dishes, not just Japanese or used in sushi. Oh, Jeebus, “you people.”
Medium grain rice is moist and tender in texture which is great for Italian risotto or a Spanish paella. Whereas a short-grain rice, like a sticky Koshihikari is ideal for sushi or simply as a table rice to be eaten alongside other dishes.As opposed to long-grain rice like Basmati or Jasmine that you have had in the form of fried rice or ‘frijoles and arroz.’
Popular Rice Varietals
- Short grain rice: Koshihikari, Akita Komachi.
- Medium grain rice: Arborio, Bomba, Black, Calrose, KR55.
- Long grain rice: Jasmine, Basmati.
The Top Japanese American Medium and Short-Grain Rice Brands
Several rice brands are by big Japanese food distributors (Wismettac to JFC) to brands by the actual producer/farmer such as Koda Farms and their Kokuho Rose varietal, an icon in the Japanese American community.A lot of pride goes into rice by these producers, so any of these products, regardless of how affordable they are, will make a great rice for whatever you are cooking.
The top U.S. market medium-grain and short-grain rice brands are all grown in California (all listed in alphabetical order), along with pricing. Just keep in mind the pricing may be exponentially higher due to the time this post was posted. Pricing is based on a 15lb/240oz bag:
Listed in ascending order from good to the very best (by varietal).
As of August ’23, I have made it easier with a big ole red button the size of Clifford with the price range of the product (from Walmart, Target, etc), so if you click on the link, you will know where the price sits in comparison.I personally like an easy button, but as mentioned before, I can’t stand sites that skew things solely to feed their own pockets or Amazon (if you appreciate this, sharing the article helps).
The numbers are meant to be groupings:
4-8, short/med grain and
One of the most affordable and cost-effective brands.JFC’s longest selling rice brand.
A Japanese American medium-grain rice brand out of California (the ‘Cal’ in ‘Calrose’ may have given that away). Also, several well known sake and mirin brands utilize Calrose to produce their products.
Kokuho Rose (Nomura and Co.)
A Japanese American icon in the community and notable hybrid varietal of Kokuho Rose grown in Northern Sacramento, California.Aside from OP, Maui & Sons, and Vans, there was Kokuho Rose in my childhood.
Talking about confusing AF, and until I did all the research, I had no clue about how big of a clusterfock and branding debacle exists between Kokuho Rose and Heirloom Kokuho Rose by Koda Farms. On the Nomura Co website they list Koda Farms Kokuho Rose, but on the Koda Farms site, they do not list “just Kokuho.” I will have to email them to get clarification. As for what I can figure out, they say they were known for distribution and marketing (they aren’t doing a great job at communicating). Although, they are the Japanese American California medium-grain rice brand that I always buy, and they are the quintessential Japanese American brand in every household (update below).
UPDATE: So finally, here is the difference between Koda Farms and Kokuho Rose. In continuous commercial use since 1962, Kokuho Rose® is the trademark and property of the Koda family businesses, which alone produce the pure KR55 strain. Historically, this rice was once grown in very limited quantities. As such, permission was granted to Nomura and Co., Inc., of Burlingame, CA, to utilize this trademark on their own hybridized version of Heirloom Kokuho Rose (North of Sacramento).Nomura and Co. is Koda Farms’ main broker/distributor for the domestic (and limited global) distribution of our proprietary Koda Farms Heirloom Kokuho Rose as produced on our farm in the San Joaquin Valley.
KR55 (a legendary medium grain rice), Heirloom Kokuho Rose
Grown exclusively by Koda Farms since the 1950s, and their Organic Heirloom Varietal Brown Rice, is certified kosher.Better than Calrose says Koda Farms.
A Japanese American California medium-grain rice brand, and if you compare them to Calrose, they will smack you upside your head if you think it is the same as the above product. According to the Koda Farms site, they offer up the KR55 which is like a race horse (more comparable with the below products) vs. the donkey above.
Organic Brown Rice, Heirloom Kokuho Rose
Grown exclusively by Koda Farms since the 1950s. Unique proprietary heirloom varietal for superior taste and is GMO-free, with unmatched milling for highest whole kernel percentage, and certified kosher.
Sho-chiku-bai (short grain sweet “mochi” or “sticky” rice)
NOTICE!: this is not “table rice,” and it is used to produce mochi to mochi donuts. Its delicate flavor and unique sticky texture are suited to specialized applications, from the aforementioned mochi, to Korean confections, Chinese dim sum, and Filipino bibingka.
‘New Variety,’ like Kokuho and M401
Nishiki Brand Rice is known as New Variety. The rice is touted by JFC as “loved by sushi chefs,” and they are also a #1 best seller on Amazon.comIf 9 out 10 dentists know a thing or two, so do sushi chefs.
If I’m not buying the above, I’m buying Nishiki (an Amazon #1 best seller), another California grown medium-grain brand I like because of the packaging, pricing, and that cartoon rice kernel character (yup, that superficial of a reason). Although, why listen to me, and in JFC’s own words, they tout ‘sushi experts agree that Nishiki is their number one choice.’
White and brown rice are the same exact grain, but the difference is that white rice has been milled and polished. The process removes the bran and germ layers (brown in color).White rice is less nutritious and does not have the nutty and chewy taste/texture of brown rice although there is a reason why Asian cultures throughout the millennia have removed it, it contains inorganic arsenic (only an issue if you are eating it in large quantities – I had to research this after hearing Joe Rogan mention it).
Premium Brown Rice (Medium Grain Rice)
Grown within the rich fertile soil and crystal clear waters of Northern California.“Fertile soil” bradduh.
Nishiki brown rice has a delicate texture and pleasant nutty flavor when cooked, which is perfect as a healthy alternative to white rice. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice with higher content of fiber, magnesium, and other nutrients that will benefit your diet.
Premium short-grain (the 2nd most popular type in Japan).If you are not cool with second place, the next 3 products are for you.
Hitomebore means “fall in love at first sight” and is a premium short-grain rice (also the 2nd most popular variety in Japan). Grown in the verdant Sacramento Valley of California, this Hitomebore rice “brings quality to your table. With perfect taste, luster, and aroma this rice will be delicious in any dish.”
If you have the money, and you want the best Japanese rice/sushi rice (also one of the most popular in Japan), buy the Koshihikari varietal from either 3 brands listed below (w/links). 2nd choice is the Hitomebore, but if you are on a budget either Nishiki or Kokuho Rose are great choices for your daily/weekly meals.We would eat Kokuho Rose on a weekly basis because we had a rice cooker/warmer “all-in-one” which you can also read about in my Japanese rice cookers/warmer article.
Tamaki Rice Corporation
Tamaki is a Japanese-owned company with nitrogen filled bags to maintain the utmost in quality.The Nissan GT-R of rice.
Once again, another California grown Koshihikari product, but this is like the Nissan GT-R of rice because of the bag. The bag utilizes ‘a nitrogen flush and sealed package’ (the GT-R has nitrogen filled tires). Another major difference is that they are a Japanese owned and operated company.
Koshihikari and Yume Gokochi
Tamanishiki koshihikari (short grain) is by the largest Japanese food distributor in the country, Wismettac.Wiss…sem-met-tac-tic-tack or Nishimoto if you’re old school.
“Super Premium” (their words), along with “all natural, raised in California” is a short-grain Japanese rice. Like Nishiki, this product is also distributed by one of the countries largest food distributors.
Koshihikari (Premium Short Grain Rice)
If you think this is the number one product, you skipped over the part where I mentioned you can not go wrong with either three koshihikari rice brands.The next koshihikari is the BEST of the best out of them all, but you will pay for it.
Known as the “king of rice” for its sweet aroma, great taste, fluffiness, and sticky texture. For sushi preparation and daily meals, Koshihikari is the very best there is.
Japanese Rice Grown in Japan
The cream of the crop
Yuki Tsubaki Koshihikari
Koshihikari (Ultra Premium Short Grain Rice)
When you think of this rice, there is no better ladies and gentlemen, you are the top 0.003% of allYes, I loved Top Gun ever since 1986, and I had it on both BETA, VHS, then DVD, and now digitally (I wonder if I have it on Blu-ray).
naval aviatorsrice — the elite, the BEST of the best. We’ll make you better.
This extremely rare and premium Koshihikari rice comes from less than 0.003% of the Koshihikari rice grown in Uonuma region. The soil used to grow Yuki Tsubaki is prepared using four times the standard cost and manpower and the polishing process takes three times longer compared with other white rice. Frequently receiving awards at the International Contest on Rice Taste Evaluation, Japan’s largest contest for rice, Yuki Tsubaki is favored by discerning, high-end establishments in Japan.
Shelf-stable rice and Accessories
Microwavable rice that does not need to be refrigerated.
Microwavable Koshihikari (Premium Short Grain Rice)
A product of a Japan, this microwaveable product sold by MTC Kitchen allows you to try a cooked koshihikari short grain white rice in a 6 Packs x 7.05 oz (200g) for $13-14+
Microwavable in 2 minutes “freshly cooked rice” (Short Grain Rice)
A 3-pack of 21.16 ounce servings. Is all natural ingredients, high-quality Japanese short-grain rice and is a product of Japan (shelf stable for doomsday bunkers, and backpackers/camping and avoid refrigeration and direct sunlight).
Inomata Plastic Japanese Rice Washing Bowl with Strainer, 2 quart
As an Asian, like many of my other fellow peoples of the world that are not American, the dishwasher is drying rack, we have multiple refrigerators, and washing rice is in the rice cooker insert. Although, this is 2023, and we live in a time where we have a dedicated rice straining bowl. Something I never used washed 23-27 seven pound batches of rice a day for a Japanese restaurant. The worst was early mornings on a cold Colorado morning because I could not wash rice is warm water.
If you are not in the United States, and you are in closer proximity to Japan, you can take advantage of the varietals mentioned by JapanLivingGuide.net “What to Know about Japanese Rice: Buying, Storing & More.“The content on this page is skewed to North American consumers.
Asvel 4.4lb (2KG) Rice Container and Pour Spout
Store your rice in this BPA (Bisphenol A) free container with a measuring cup that screws on over the pour spout. With over 7k reviews on Amazon, Asvel, a Japanese company based out of Yamatokoriyama City, Japan is the brand that every Chinese company tries to knock off on Amazon (a lot of copycat knockoffs), minus their ability to produce a BPA free product.
I know most of you already have your little R2 unit in the form of a Japanese rice cooker, but if you do not, here are the TOP Japanese rice cooker brands.For as little as $35 to $711, you can take your Japanese rice to Jedi level rice cooking.
Not sure if you want or need a Japanese rice cooker that every Asian household has, read Melissa M’s review on Amazon.com “Didn’t know I needed this but I did“
5 1/2-Cup to 10-Cup (Uncooked) Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer, 1.0/1.8-Liter. Utilizing computerized “fuzzy logic” technology, this cooker senses how your rice is cooking and makes adjustments to time and temperature to create fluffy, delicious rice every time.
How to Prepare Sushi Rice
Psssss, just pour a vinegared solution: vinegar, salt, sugar, on the rice (the TL;DR of it).
Producing Sushi Rice (Sushi Meshi/Shari)
Being the sole person who had to wash, cook, and mix sushi rice for a restaurant that did 600 to 700 covers for dinner service with 12 sushi chefs was nerve racking. If I was not producing the 7 pound batches back to back with my 3 pressure cookers that took 23 minutes to cook, I would shut the sushi bar down (25-28 batches in total per night). On top of all of that, the mixing of the sushi rice had to be spot on because I had 12 critics.
American food producers f*ck chit up by stupefying/labeling certain types of rice as “sushi rice,” because it is just rice. Yes, it can be used for sushi, although you can also call it paella rice by the same criteria. Also, for rice vinegar/seasoning, I find it silly that some consumers buy a product labeled “Sushi Chef rice vinegar.”The “Sushi Chef” brand by Baycliff out of NY helps people who are not familiar with the cooking ingredients which they have been doing since 1982, that’s impressive.
- Shari/Meshi: sushi rice.
- Shari Su/Sumeshi: rice vinegar/sugar/salt mixture.
- No mames guey: a phrase you use when you are producing sushi rice 55+ hours a week.
Basic Shari Su Mixture
- Rice (komezu)/red vinegar/sake lees (akazu).
- (Everything is weighed/measured, mixed, and combined and stored in a plastic container).
This is a rice vinegar for sushi rice, salads, and these 7 benefits by Natalie Falk
The addition of rice vinegar is how you produce Japanese sushi rice. The above bottle (yellow green label), you will have to add additional ingredients (sugar and salt) although the bottle below (yellow orange label) is a seasoned rice vinegar perfect for sushi rice right out of the bottle.
Some sushi chef’s and restaurants may use a mix of red vinegar (akazu) blended with rice vinegar and was traditionally used and you can read more via the Sushi Geek.com.
|RICE VINEGAR BRAND||INGREDIENTS||PRICE/SIZE|
|Marukan||Rice Vinegar (Water, Rice), Sugar, Salt. Acidity: 4.1%||$8 / 24 oz|
|Sushi Chef||Rice Vinegar Diluted With Water to 4.1% Acidity, Sugar, and Salt.||$9-10 / 10 oz|
Sushi Rice Process
- Washing/rinsing the rice 3-4x’s (don’t break the grains).
- Since we are using ‘old’ rice we soaked it for a bit because the older rice soaks up more moisture like shari su.
- Once done soaking, we drained it and let it sit till being cooked.
- We always had our shari su prepared ahead of time.
- Cook the rice and make it easy on yourself and buy a Japanese rice cooker.
- Immediately mix the rice in the hangiri/oke with the shari su (don’t break the grains).
- Cool down the mixture and let it sit because you want to serve it at room temperature.
- The finished product should be el dente (not mushy like one blogger wrote), and the grains should not be smashed or broken (which releases starch), because you want each full rice grain to be intact when you take that initial bite.
Sushi rice is a short-grain (ideally but medium-grain is also used) rice mixed with “shari-su,” a vinegared mixture of salt and sugar.Vinegar has antibacterial properties (David Suzuki Foundation).
Sushi Rice Preparation Equipment
- Hangiri/oke (an example of one): yea, you may think it’s overkill, but if you have a bread maker, espresso maker, or a dedicated deep-fryer, you can dedicate some kitchen space for a hangiri which also looks cool. The hangiri helps manage the moisture content during your mixing and is a wooden tub made of Japanese cypress with copper bands.
- Shamoji (one from Korin/Miyajima): yea, it’s a wooden paddle, but if you have more magic going on in your kitchen, than the bedroom, this dual purpose spatula can add some shades of grey to your life (as kids, this is what we got spanked with, till I broke it in half). Once again, I recommend it because it helps you mix your sushi rice properly which is very critical to producing a proper sushi rice.
If you are looking to produce sushi rice yourself, I have all the tools used by Japanese restaurants that you will need to produce sushi rice.They are not mandatory, but they help in getting it right.
Silly thoughts you may be having in your head, and I have your answers
- There are three types of rice: short, medium, and long-grain.
- Japanese rice is just rice, but if you add a vinegar/sugar/salted mixture, it is now ‘sushi rice’ (shari su/sumeshi) which translates to ‘su’ (vinegared) and ‘meshi’ (rice).
- The vast majority of Americanized sushi rice is barely seasoned or properly seasoned at all, so you would have to go to a traditional or Edomae style sushi restaurant to experience it.
- Yea, you don’t have to add the vinegar mixture, and you can still eat plain short-grain (Japonica) and medium-grain rice like any other rice which is commonly eaten and served rice by Japanese and Japanese Americans at home and in restaurants.
- If you see a product labeled “sushi rice,” it is most likely a non-Asian/Japanese brand that thinks any rice that Japanese eat is for sushi (that label says it all). Not to mention, they treat their customers like idiots because they are a “marketing for dummies” poster child. Their packaging employs every conceivable buzzword from ‘organic,’ ‘American Grown,’ ‘non-GMO,’ to ‘Gluten-free,’ which most, if not all Japanese rice brands are on par with, but they just don’t always or blatantly tout it.
- Short-grain is ideal for a sushi rice (for it being sticky), and a Calrose/KR55/M401 medium-grain is second best, although Jasmine and Basmati are not suited for sushi. Those are medium to long-grain, and they are often used and great for fried rice to ‘frijoles and arroz.’
- Amylose and amylopectin are the two starches. Out of the two, the amount of amylopectin is what determines how sticky a rice will be.
- If you want to read more about short-grain Koshihikari: you can find more information via the NIH (National Library of Medicine) – Koshihikari: a premium short-grain rice cultivar – its expansion and breeding in Japan.
- Typical Japanese uses are for sushi to chirashi: if you are an oblivious blogger like an Ally, then “like poke is oriental right?! So like you people can eat it that way too.” For the record Ally, poke is Hawaiian, and it is typically eaten with plain rice.
- If you are Ally, she also thinks that you have to cook the vinegar/shari su, but don’t be like Ally.
“Though the Japanese were not the first to grow rice in California, they were the first to make it incredibly profitable. Land prices increased four-fold.”– Clarissa Wei “The Unsung Story of the Chinese and Japanese Immigrants Who Brought Rice to California via Good.is
Traditional Sushi Rice Recipes
I have seen home cooks who make videos touting recipes where they did not understand that you have to cook off the alcohol when using sake/mirin, yet they think of themselves as influencers. So if you want to do it right, I would avoid those types, along with the media outlets cashing in on “like, this oriental stuff is trending,” to the bloggers who just copy and steal recipes off of other sites.
There are a lot of narcissistic individuals looking for attention and admiration through social media likes, and their knowledge is lacking, which is why I have to promote the legitimate resources on producing sushi rice below.I have no connection or relation to the sources below (they’re just doing legit content).
Listed here are some of the most trustworthy sources for Japanese recipes and traditional sushi rice recipes. I have not included wannabe influencers, like an Ally type who suggests you put a large slab of konbu in the rice during the cooking process (“like, that is so oriental”) or using coconut sugar as a substitute for sugar (“like, OMG”). Can you do all that? Hell yea you can, except the focus here, is on Japanese food and culture and not about adding your trends/fads to other people’s food culture (“like, whatever”).
Websites/Resources (Alphabetical Order)
The History of Japanese Rice Farmers in California
- Koda Farms (Press and Media): they have a plethora (I wanted to say plethora) of articles dating back from 2003 to 2019. The articles are by the LA/NY Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Vogue, Rafu Shimpo, Lucky Peach, to Stanford University Alumni Association Magazine. NOTE: I have reached out to the company for clarification who initially engaged, but later refused to respond to basic questions.
Sushi Rice Recipe Resources
- Hiroyuki Terada (YouTube video tutorial): I’ve included this video because it’s the most realistic video for most people producing sushi rice (no special equipment required).
- SushiUniversity (article): when a Japanese company decides to engage English speakers with legit content, you better believe I plan on promoting them because it is not common at all. So if you want to learn more about rice varietals and Japanese rice varieties, you need to visit this site by Tabimori.
- Tokyo Sushi Academy (video tutorial in English): the English pronunciation is surprisingly good, so it is odd that they butcher words like ‘polish.’ Overall, aside from the washing, this is almost exactly how I was taught. It is one of the most comprehensive to how I had done it in a restaurant.