Cooking Japanese rice

Rice is the most important component in nearly every Japanese meal so cooking it correctly is a good skill to master if you want to regularly eat Japanese food.  When we first read about cooking rice the Japanese way, we were put off by the washing stages, thinking that they couldn’t possibly make a difference to the finished product- how wrong we were!  If you don’t wash your rice well, or even if you wash it half-heartedly, you end up with an overly starchy mass which lacks the flavour, character and definition of properly cooked rice.  In our opinion the best rice to use is Koshihikari (Megumi is an excellent brand), it has very short grains which retain a distinct bite, a beautiful pearly appearance, and a sweet flavour unrivalled by other rices.  There have been many times while eating a bowl of this rice that I have thought to myself, I could be happy eating nothing else but perfectly cooked plain white rice for three meals a day.

In Japan, nearly all rice is prepared in electric rice cookers, and while we couldn’t justify the storage space for a dedicated rice cooker, we have perfected a way to cook it in an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker that gives identical results. Don’t worry if you haven’t got an Instant Pot, we’ve included instructions for cooking rice in a saucepan too.

The cornerstone of nearly all Japanese meals.



  • 2 cups Japanese short grain rice
  • pinch of salt


  1. The most important process in cooking your rice properly is to wash it well.  Place the rice in a bowl in your sink and add plenty of water, 4 or 5 inches above the level of the rice.
  2. Using both of your hands, swirl the rice around in the water, then rub the grains between your palms in a circular motion.  Repeat this step a few times until you think you’ve rubbed all of the grains and the water has turned very cloudy with starch.  Drain off the water, then add fresh water and repeat this whole process two more times.
  3. When you’re happy that your rice is clean and free of loose starch, drain well and transfer to the inner pot of your pressure cooker.  Add 2 1/3 cups of cold water and a pinch of salt, ensuring that the rice is level and fully submerged.
  4. Cook the rice at high pressure for 4 minutes, then leave for 12 minutes so the pressure can release naturally and the rice can steam to complete its cooking.  When opening the pot be careful not to allow any condensed steam to fall onto the cooked rice as this will make it soggy.  You can serve immediately, but we prefer to wait 2 or 3 minutes before eating the rice so it can reach the perfect texture.


If you want to cook your rice in a saucepan.

  1. Follow steps 1&2 from above.  Place your drained rice into a saucepan and add 2 1/3 cups of cold water and a pinch of salt, cover the pan with a lid and over a high heat bring it to the boil (this should take 3-5 minutes).
  2. When the water has come to the boil, turn the heat as low as it will go and leave to cook for another 10 minutes.  When the 10 minutes is up, turn the heat off but don’t remove the lid from your pan.  Let the rice steam undisturbed for a further 10-15 minutes before removing the lid and serving.


You can use either of these methods to cook any amount of Japanese rice- simply use 15% more water than your volume of raw rice e.g for 1 cup of rice, use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water; for 1 1/2 cups of rice, use 1 3/4 cups of water.

Serves 4.


11 thoughts on “Cooking Japanese rice

    1. Hi Elle, adding salt is by no means a standard way of cooking Japanese rice, but we’ve found that seasoning the water slightly enhances the flavour of the finished rice. Adding salt is usual when cooking rice or starches from other cuisines so we thought we’d give it a try, and liked the results. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, that’s neat! I didn’t know that other cuisines did that. I recently heard about a Chinese style of adding in salt and pepper, a dash of olive oil, and a whole fresh tomato when cooking a pot of rice! I haven’t tried it out yet, but that would be different for sure hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I thought adding salt to water for the process of cooking rice was common. Unless I am overthinking, the salt breaks up, and essentially increases the boiling temperature of the water. But I may be very wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, in nearly all cuisines you add salt when cooking grains, purely for seasoning I believe. Wouldn’t you have to add quite a lot of salt to increase the boiling point? or would a small ratio like 1 tablespoon salt to 3-4 litres water be enough to affect it?


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