Should I refrigerate sushi rice?

Quick Answer

Yes, it is recommended to refrigerate sushi rice after cooking. Properly cooked sushi rice can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 days. Refrigerating prevents bacterial growth and keeps the rice fresh longer.

What is Sushi Rice?

Sushi rice, also known as Japanese rice, is a short-grain white rice that has a sticky texture when cooked. It is commonly used to make sushi rolls, nigiri sushi, and onigiri.

The starch content in sushi rice is higher compared to other types of rice. This allows the rice grains to stick together after being seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Proper seasoning gives sushi rice its sweet and sour flavor.

Should Sushi Rice be Refrigerated?

Yes, refrigerating sushi rice after cooking can help prevent bacterial growth and extend its shelf life. Raw rice contains a bacteria called Bacillus cereus that can survive the cooking process.

When kept at room temperature, this bacteria can multiply quickly and produce toxins that cause food poisoning. Refrigeration slows the growth of B. cereus and other bacteria.

Properly cooked sushi rice will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. For longer storage, it can be frozen for up to 1 month.

Here are some key benefits of refrigerating sushi rice:

Prevents Bacterial Growth

As mentioned, cooling sushi rice prevents the multiplication of B. cereus and other bacteria that may be present. These bacteria thrive at room temperature environments.

Refrigerating at 40°F (4°C) or below slows the growth of bacteria significantly. While it does not kill the bacteria already present, it helps prevent toxins from accumulating to unsafe levels.

Retains Moisture

The vinegar seasoning gives sushi rice a slightly wet and sticky texture. Leaving sushi rice at room temperature can dry it out, causing it to harden and lose its sticky texture.

Refrigeration helps retain moisture in the rice and preserves the seasoned flavor. It prevents the rice grains from hardening and drying out.

Extends Shelf Life

Cook sushi rice has a shelf life of up to 2 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. The cool temperature preserves the quality and freshness of the rice for longer.

In comparison, sushi rice left at room temperature may only stay fresh for up to 8 hours. Refrigeration allows you to prepare sushi rice in advance for meals and gatherings.

Proper Way to Refrigerate Sushi Rice

Follow these simple steps to properly refrigerate sushi rice:

Allow Rice to Cool

After cooking, transfer the sushi rice into a shallow container or baking pan and allow it to cool down to room temperature. Covering with a damp cloth can help speed up cooling.

Rice should be cooled within 1-2 hours after cooking. DO NOT refrigerate sushi rice while still hot. Putting hot rice directly into the fridge can cause moisture condensation, ruining the texture.

Portion Into Sealable Containers

Once cooled, portion the sushi rice into sealable containers. Use shallow, wide containers to allow the rice to cool faster when refrigerating. Glass and plastic containers with airtight lids work best.

Divide into smaller containers if storing for more than 1 day to minimize exposure each time its opened.

Refrigerate Promptly

Place the containers of sushi rice into the refrigerator within 30 minutes of portioning. Refrigerate at 40°F or below.

For best quality, sushi rice should be eaten within 1-2 days. It may last up to 3 days refrigerated but the texture and flavor will decline after day 2.

Allow Rice to Come to Room Temp Before Serving

When ready to serve, take the sushi rice out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. Cold rice can change the texture and cause condensation from temperature changes.

Let the sealed container of rice sit at room temp for 30-60 minutes before use. This prevents moisture from accumulating on the rice grains.

How to Revive Refrigerated Sushi Rice

If refrigerated properly, sushi rice can last 1-2 days. However, if kept longer it may dry out. Here are some tips to revive refrigerated sushi rice:

– Add a few drops of rice vinegar and gently mix in. This adds moisture and brings back the seasoned flavor.

– Stir in a small amount of water. Start with 1 teaspoon per cup of refrigerated rice. Mix gently to evenly distribute moisture.

– Place the rice container (without lid) in the microwave and heat for 15-30 seconds to restore moisture and texture. Be careful not to overheat.

– Steam the rice for 1-2 minutes to rehydrate it. Place rice in a steamer basket or colander over a pot of boiling water. Cover and steam.

– If rice is too hard, add more water and recook for 2-3 minutes. This further gelatinizes starches in the rice to improve texture.

Can Refrigerated Sushi Rice be Frozen?

Yes, sushi rice can be frozen for longer term storage. To freeze sushi rice:

– Portion cooked rice into airtight containers or freezer bags. Flatten to about 1 inch thick for quick freezing.

– Cool rice to room temperature before freezing. DO NOT freeze hot rice.

– Store frozen rice at 0°F or below. Rice will keep for 1-2 months frozen.

– When ready to eat, thaw rice overnight in the refrigerator. Microwave briefly until pliable.

– Revive the texture by steaming for 1-2 minutes.

Freeze sushi rice if not using within 2 days. Frozen rice may lose some moisture over time but it can be refreshed before use.

Tips for Making the Best Sushi Rice

Making properly seasoned and textured sushi rice is the foundation for great sushi. Follow these tips:

– Use short-grain Japanese rice varieties like Koshihikari, which are starchy and become sticky when cooked. Long grain rice won’t have the right texture.

– Wash the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove excess starch. This prevents the rice from becoming overly sticky.

– Cook the rice with an equal ratio of water in a pot or rice cooker using the absorption method. This allows the grains to fully absorb the liquid.

– Season the hot rice while fanning to help it cool quickly. Mix in vinegar, sugar and salt until grains are evenly coated.

– Use wooden paddles or hangets when mixing sushi rice to prevent damaging the grains. Over-mixing can make it too sticky.

– Store seasoned rice covered in the refrigerator and use within 2 days for best flavor and texture.

Following the proper techniques for washing, cooking, seasoning and storing sushi rice is key for achieving the perfect texture required to make sushi.

Common Mistakes When Making Sushi Rice

It can take practice to master the art of sushi rice. Avoid these common mistakes:

Not Washing the Rice

Unwashed rice retains too much starch and becomes overly sticky when cooked. Always rinse rice at least 2-3 times before cooking.

Overcooking the Rice

Sushi rice should be sticky but maintain some chewiness. Overcooking leads to mushy, soggy rice. Exact timing depends on the type of rice.

Cooking with Too Much Water

Use a 1:1 ratio of rice to water. Too much water will be absorbed by the rice, ruining the texture.

Underseasoning the Rice

Not enough vinegar, sugar and salt prevents the rice from achieving the signature sweet and sour flavor.

Overmixing the Rice

Gently mix in seasoning to coat grains. Too much agitation can damage the rice structure, causing stickiness.

Leaving Rice to Cool at Room Temp

Always refrigerate rice to prevent bacterial growth. DO NOT leave rice to cool on the counter for more than 2 hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does cooked sushi rice last in the fridge?

Properly cooked and refrigerated sushi rice will stay fresh for 1-2 days. It may last up to 3 days but quality declines after the 2 day mark.

Can you reheat refrigerated sushi rice?

Yes, refrigerated sushi rice can be reheated. Microwave in short 10-15 second increments or steam for 1-2 minutes until heated through. Add a splash of rice vinegar and water to refresh.

Does sushi rice need to be covered when refrigerating?

Yes, refrigerated sushi rice should be kept in an airtight container. Exposure to air causes it to dry out. Store in shallow containers so rice cools quickly.

Can you make sushi rice in advance?

Yes, sushi rice will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, allowing you to make it ahead of time. Portion into sealed containers for easy use. Allow refrigerated rice to come to room temperature before assembling sushi.

Is it safe to eat refrigerated rice after 3 days?

It is not recommended to eat sushi rice after it has been refrigerated for more than 3 days. The quality and texture deteriorates over time and bacteria may start growing. Discard sushi rice kept past 3 days.


Refrigerating sushi rice is highly recommended to prevent bacterial growth and maintain the quality of the rice. Properly cooked and stored sushi rice will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated. Allow rice to cool before refrigerating in sealed containers. Refrigerate within 2 hours after cooking. Sushi rice can also be frozen for longer term storage. Following proper storage methods allows you to safely prepare sushi rice in advance for use in sushi rolls, nigiri and other recipes.

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