Did you know that rice is the staple food of more than half of the global population? Japanese rice, which generally is short to medium grain with a slightly sticky texture, is incredibly popular all over the world. It can be used in savoury recipes like sushi and onigiri (rice balls), as well as being served alongside tofu or fish as a main meal.
If you want to recreate Japanese cuisine at home, you'll need the right type of rice. That's why we're here to help you select the best product, with recommendations from top brands like Nishiki, Yutaka, and Yumenishiki. Whether you'll be using a rice cooker, a microwave, or simply a saucepan, we'll help you prepare the perfect bowl with ease!
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There are many different varieties of Japanese rice, with each suited to different purposes - from simple white rice to accompany a delicious plate of curry to sticky grains designed for sushi. Plus, they can be prepared in a number of ways.
There are lots of dishes in Japanese cuisine that centre around rice - it is, after all, the nation’s staple food! However, before popping a packet into your shopping basket, you'll need to decide which dish you want to make and which type of rice will work best for your desired recipe.
Koshihikari rice is a short to medium grain rice that's probably the most popular and widely available variety. It's a general purpose rice that typically forms the bulk of main meals such as gyudon (beef bowl) and omuraisu (omlette with rice), but it can be used for making sushi and onigiri too.
Gloriously fluffy and sticky, with a slightly nutty taste, it’s no wonder this variety is the number one type of Japanese rice on the market!
So, if you want to try your hand at making sushi, it’s definitely worth investing in a bag of akitakomachi to get the authentic texture and flavour!
Although genmai rice trails behind other varieties in terms of popularity, its superior nutritional benefits shouldn’t be overlooked. It contains more fibre and protein than white rice, and when sprouted it offers even more nutritional bang for your buck! It's great as an accompaniment to a healthy dinner like grilled fish or baked tofu.
The slightly nutty, wholesome flavour of genmai won’t appeal to everyone; for those who are serious about making a nutritious meal though, it's an excellent choice.
Life gets busy sometimes and finding a way to get meals on the table quicker can take the stress out of cooking - and save on takeaway bills! These days, as well as polished rice in bags, you can also buy microwavable, quick-cook, and even no-wash packets.
When you get home from a long day at work and need feeding fast, the last thing you feel like doing is slaving over a hot stove trying to get a pan of rice to boil.
Instead, why not try a pre-measured, microwavable pouch? Pop one of these into the microwave and you'll be enjoying a delicious Japanese meal in minutes!
Most rice is processed in some way, usually through milling, in order to get to the edible heart of the grain. Quick-cook rice benefits from a bit of extra processing - it's been rinsed, cooked, and then dehydrated.
This means that as you’re essentially just rehydrating and warming up the rice, you'll save a lot of cooking time!
Washing your rice is an important step before cooking, as it removes any dirt as well as the starchy top layer on the grains. However, thanks to new milling techniques that are available, it's possible to purchase musenmai (no-wash) rice that doesn’t require rinsing.
This not only saves water but it's a small way to shave a few minutes off your meal prep time - every second counts when you're hungry!
While most varieties of Japanese rice originate from Japan and much of the expertise in growing these varieties of rice is maintained there, they're cultivated in other countries too. Japanese rice grown in countries such as the USA and Italy is more readily available and cheaper, but can vary in quality.
Japan prides itself on its rice-growing heritage and with good reason - having developed different varieties over generations, no-one knows these grains quite like Japanese rice farmers! In fact, different regions within the country are famous for specific varieties of rice, with Niigata prefecture being generally regarded as producing the best-tasting koshihikari.
As a result, Japanese-grown rice tends to be more expensive and many varieties can be difficult to get hold of in the UK. Still, if you want to make authentic Japanese cuisine at home, it's worth splashing out in order to get a premium product.
With the rise in popularity of Japanese rice, growers in the USA cultivate products for both domestic use and export. Most USA-produced rice is grown in California, where the weather conditions ensure good-quality grains.
Rice from the USA is readily available and an affordable option, so it's a great choice for those on a budget. However, the quality is unfortunately (and understandably) not as high as that of rice grown in Japan.
Italy has expertise in growing the short-grain rice varieties used in risotto and other Italian national dishes, so naturally it produces excellent quality Japanese rice.
With a much shorter distance than Japan or the USA to transport rice to the UK market, Italian-grown grains are both cheaper and more readily available to British consumers. In fact, some of the leading brands of Japanese rice in the UK are actually those from Italy!
Depending on your needs, you can buy Japanese rice in a range of quantities, from one-portion pouches to huge catering sacks. If you have a small household or don’t eat rice very often then a 500g or 1kg bag is likely to suit you best.
However, if you eat rice regularly then a 2kg, 5kg or even 10kg bag will be a more cost-effective purchase in the long run. Those new to Japanese rice might want to start off with something smaller though, in order to decide which brand they prefer!
Click to purchase
Akafuji Koshihikari Rice - Uonuma
A Premium Product From the Japanese Rice Capital
Grown in Italy Using Traditional Japanese Methods
An Affordable Pack of No-Wash Rice
Koshihikari Rice - Toyama
Versatile and Slightly on the Sweet Side
Maruchan Attaka Gohan
Microwaveable Sushi Rice｜Pack of 3
The Secret to Speedy Homemade Sushi
Sweet Mochi Rice
Perfect for Preparing Healthy Dinners
Quick Cooking Whole Grain Brown Rice
Nutritious and Deliciously Nutty
Designed Especially for Sushi-Making
Premium Sushi Rice
A Bulk Bag of Premium-Grade Grains
Kinmemai Microwaveable Milled Hull Brown Rice (3 packs)｜Pack of 3
Convenient and Packed With Health Benefits
Grown in the Uonuma area of Niigata prefecture, which is famous for the quality of its rice crops, this koshihikari is perfection in a bowl. It's fluffy, chewy, and fragrant - everything that Japanese rice should be!
We think the 2kg bag is also a very cost-effective option for households that eat Japanese cuisine on a regular basis. Enjoy this top-quality rice alongside grilled tofu and veggies as a main meal or mixed with a little salt and shaped into onigiri for a quick bite - yum!
Yumenishiki is a very popular rice brand in the UK, so we had to include it on our list! Grown in Italy, this is a new variety of koshihikari rice that has been cultivated by farmers trained in traditional Japanese growing methods. It's ideal for eating with a katsu curry or shaping into sushi and rice balls.
This 1kg bag should suit most households, but if you want even more rice, you can also buy 5kg and 10kg bags. We love that this product offers premium Japanese quality with a lower carbon footprint - you get the best of both worlds!
Nishiki is one of the top producers of Japanese rice in the USA, and this bag of medium-grain musenmai rice comes all the way from sunny California. Suitable as an accompaniment for main meals or for making snacks like rice balls, it's a great all-rounder.
This is an incredibly affordable packet that is readily available to buy online. If you really love it after trying a smaller bag, you can find it in large catering-size sacks too!
Grown in Toyama prefecture in Japan, this koshihikari rice provides just the right amount of fluffiness and stickiness to suit a variety of dishes, from gyudon rice bowls to sushi. Flavour-wise, it's a little sweeter than other brands but it still complements savoury cuisine.
This is one of the more expensive brands of rice available, but you get a huge amount of grains for your money. Plus, it's like a fine wine - definitely worth paying a bit extra for!
If you've never made fresh sushi at home, you’re missing out on a taste sensation! Heat this rice in the microwave for two minutes, leave it to cool for five minutes, and you'll be ready to roll.
This pre-cooked product is a handy staple to have in your cupboard for when you get a sudden sushi craving. While it's certainly more expensive than many other rice brands, it offers the elusive combo of convenience and quality.
This organic brown rice is incredibly sticky, so it's a must-buy for those who love sushi and onigiri! Grown in the Piemonte region of northwest Italy (which is well-known for its cultivation of risotto rice), this is a high-quality product with a slightly nutty flavour.
While this is technically selenio rice, which is an Italian grain rather than a Japanese one, it still does the job and we reckon your dinner guests won't be able to tell the difference - unless they happen to be rice farming experts!
This is a good all-rounder that offers the nutritional benefits of brown rice and is quick to cook too. Plus, it's versatile so can be used as part of your main meal or moulded into onigiri and sushi.
Offering both convenience and a deliciously nutty flavour, this USA-grown rice is ideal for those who are trying to eat a bit healthier. The only downside is the high price, but at least it'll last you a while!
The Yutaka brand (meaning "good harvest") has been a pioneer of Japanese food in the UK for decades, and this rice has been grown in Italy with making sushi in mind. Yielding a sticky, yet fluffy grain when cooked, it's perfect for rolling into maki or shaping into onigiri.
This packet is just the right size for trying sushi-making for the first time, but it's a little small and not very cost-effective if you make Japanese food regularly.
This premium-grade rice from Italy is intended for sushi and onigiri rice balls, but can be used in all kinds of main meals too! So you'll be able to try out a multitude of dishes with this bag and perhaps only have made a dent.
The price for this bag of rice is very reasonable considering the quantity, particularly as it's such high quality. However, we reckon most households would struggle to get through 10kg of rice unless Japanese food is on the menu every night!
While brown rice undoubtedly offers more fibre and nutrition than white rice, it does take a lot longer to cook. Toyo Rice uses the latest milling technology to bring you brown rice that's super quick to prepare! Snap up these pre-measured microwavable packs and you can have soft, fluffy rice ready in just two minutes!
It's a shame that these packets are expensive and use a lot of plastic. However, they’re handy to have in the cupboard on days when you need a hot meal fast!
Next, you'll need to wash your rice. Place the uncooked grains in a saucepan and add water up to about an inch above the rice. Swirl the rice and water with your fingers until the water gets cloudy, then drain the rice using a colander or sieve. Repeat this step twice more or until the water runs clear.
Add one cup of water for each cup of rice, then place the saucepan on the stove over a high heat. Leave the pan uncovered until the water starts to boil, then put the lid on and turn the heat down to simmer. Let it cook for 15 minutes and then turn off the heat, leaving it to sit for 15 minutes with the lid on - no peeking! Finally, take the lid off and use a spatula or a large spoon to fluff up the rice before serving.
If you're feeling inspired to try making more East Asian dishes at home, why not have a look at some of our other food-related articles? Purchase some of these delicious goodies and you'll be cooking up a storm in no time!
Since choosing the best Japanese rice can be a daunting task when there are so many varieties on offer, we hope our guide has helped you learn more about these delicious grains. Whether you plan to make sushi or a simple bowl of fluffy goodness to accompany your main meal, enjoy your Japanese cooking journey!
Author: Sonata Winchester
No. 1: Shinmei｜Akafuji Koshihikari Rice - Uonuma
No. 2: Yumenishiki｜Yumenishiki Rice
No. 3: Nishiki｜Nishiki Rice
No. 4: Shinmei｜Koshihikari Rice - Toyama
No. 5: Maruchan Attaka Gohan ｜Microwaveable Sushi Rice｜Pack of 3
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