9 Common Sushi Making Mistakes to Avoid


Sushi is a popular dish not only in Japanese culture but across the world as well. This Japanese dish is highly versatile as it can go from being a simple, tasty meal to an extravagant one with the most premium ingredients available. The road to making this dish at home can be difficult, but it is certainly doable. 

Whether you’re taking a sushi-making class or learning how to do it on your own, here are some common mistakes you may encounter when making sushi.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Making Sushi

Making sushi is an art. For some people, enrolling in a sushi-making class is vital in creating this dish, while others use tutorials on the web to try their hand at it. Whichever of the two you may be, there are a number of mishaps that you’re bound to run into when you make sushi. Learn all about the most common mistakes and how you can fix or avoid them. 

Using the Wrong Rice

Perhaps the most common mistake that people make when it comes to making sushi is using the wrong type of rice. Some people will just pick out any kind of sticky white rice to make sushi. This is a mistake that you definitely don’t want to make. Otherwise, your sushi will all go wrong from the first step alone. If you want to make great sushi at home, you should use the right sushi rice.

Sushi is usually made using Japanese short-grain rice. The high starch levels in short-grain rice are what makes it sticky. When short-grain rice is cooked properly, its shape and composition allow it to stick together better than long-grain rice. 

You also might wonder if brown rice is good to use as sushi rice. After all, brown rice is healthier than white rice. While that is true, it’s best to avoid brown rice when it comes to sushi. Brown rice has a tough texture, and it doesn’t stick easily as well. You will need short-grain, sticky rice if you want to make sushi properly. 

Not Rinsing Sushi Rice

Just like any other regular rice, it’s vital to rinse sushi rice. Failing to rinse your rice properly can result in a lot of sushi-making mishaps. For one, rinsing your sushi rice will reduce the excess starch, preventing it from being too sticky and having that pasty, gummy texture when eaten. Yes, sticky rice is vital in sushi making but if it’s too sticky and mushy, the shape of the sushi won’t hold up.

Rinsing your rice also means that you’ll wash away the dirt and other impurities that could have gotten mixed in during the entire process of harvesting and packing the rice grains. Rinse your sushi rice three to four times until the water runs clear. After draining the liquid, let your sushi rice rest in a bowl, colander, or rice washer for 10 to 20 minutes before cooking. This draining and resting process is crucial to achieving good results when cooking sushi rice.

Cooking Rice Wrong

Rice can seem very simple to cook but if you aren’t used to doing so, you can encounter numerous mistakes. Preparing your rice correctly is an essential part of making sushi. If you fail to cook sushi rice correctly, you may end up not having any sushi to make or eat at all. 

First off, it’s important to know the correct water-to-rice ratio that sushi rice requires. The ideal ratio for sushi rice is 1:1. This means that for every 1 cup of rice, you will need to add 1 cup of water. After adding the right amount of water needed, let the rice soak in the water for at least 10 to 20 minutes. Skipping this process makes the cooked rice watery and undercooked, so make sure you don’t skip this part.

If you’re cooking your rice on the stovetop, make sure that you cook it at a medium temperature and not on a high flame. Setting your rice on high flame will cook the outer layer and undercook the middle layer. To get the best results and the perfect texture, use medium heat. 

Aside from using the stovetop, one of the best ways to ensure that you have perfectly cooked rice is to use a rice cooker. Using a rice cooker will take out much of the guesswork when making rice. 

Whether you cook on the stovetop or use a cooker, let your rice rest without opening the lid for 10 minutes once it’s cooked.

Using Too Much or Too Little Seasoning

Sushi may seem like a straightforward dish in terms of flavor, however, many people don’t realize that sushi wouldn’t be sushi without the addition of sushi vinegar in the rice. 

Sushi vinegar is a mixture of rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. Traditionally, this mixture was added to sushi as it helps slow down the process of bacteria growth in rice while the dish sat around waiting to be consumed. However, this ingredient cemented its role in sushi as it adds the perfect balance of saltiness, sweetness, and tanginess to the rice. 

If you add too much vinegar, you can ruin the taste of your rice. It can also end up being too wet to hold its shape. Too little vinegar and your dish will not have that distinct taste. If your rice is vinegary, you can neutralize the taste by adding a sprinkle of baking soda or baking powder.

Not Using Sushi-Grade Fish

The right kind of fish is absolutely essential in sushi-making. Picking the wrong fish can result not only in bad-quality sushi, but you may also end up risking your health if you do so. Don’t make the mistake of picking up just any fillet of fish at the grocery or the market. Since fish in sushi is eaten raw, the wrong kind of fish may have bacteria on it which could put your health at risk.

Instead, ensure that you will only use sushi-grade fish that is safe to consume raw. This is the same goes for eating a piece of sashimi or nigiri, which is hand-pressed sushi.

It’s important to examine the fish before buying it. Ensure that you are only getting extremely fresh fish or fish that has been stored properly. If you can’t get absolutely fresh fish, then only eat high-quality raw fish that has been frozen as the freezing process kills parasites. 

Handling Raw Fish Incorrectly

Aside from making sure that you only buy and use high-quality fish, it’s also crucial that you handle it correctly. According to the FDA, fish is one of the toughest food items to handle, as improper storage of it can lead to a lot of food-borne illnesses. 

It’s important to keep your fish away from other foods that are ready to eat, such as bread or tomatoes. Additionally, wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching the raw fish or when you change tasks. 

Overstuffing the Sushi Rolls

For some people, sushi isn’t good if the roll isn’t stuffed to the brim with ingredients. However, if you add too many fillings or too much rice, your sushi may not roll up tightly. It can result in messy sushi pieces. Your sushi rolls can split open if you try to use too much rice or stuffing. It can also overpower the flavor of the other ingredients.

To avoid using too much rice and to have well-rolled sushi, you should only add thin layers of each ingredient. The standard amount of rice is 15 to 17 grams or a half-ounce. 

Thinking You Need a Bamboo Mat to Roll Your Sushi

Chefs in sushi restaurants are often seen using a bamboo mat when rolling sushi. Known as makisu in Japan, the sushi ingredients are laid flat on the top of the mat and then rolled up to create a perfect roll. 

One mistake that a lot of people think is that a bamboo mat is absolutely necessary. While it’s good to have and adds to the authenticity, you can make your own sushi at home without it. A plastic wrap, dish towel, parchment paper, or aluminum foil would work just as well in rolling sushi. 

Aside from those, you can also buy a roller to roll your sushi. A roller is a highly convenient tool to use. Simply add your sushi ingredients to the rolling tool and within seconds, you’ll have a perfectly rolled sushi.

Mix Wasabi with Soy Sauce

Most people enjoy eating sushi by dipping it into a mixture of wasabi and soy sauce. However, according to experts, this is actually the wrong way of enjoying this wonderful dish. Mixing your wasabi into your soy sauce will result in their flavors overpowering each other. 

Instead of mixing wasabi with soy sauce, dip your sushi in the wasabi on the side and then dab the other side into the soy sauce. This way, you get the ideal balance of flavors. Aside from wasabi, pickled ginger should also be served on the side. Its strong flavor will help clean your palate between bites.

Final Note

Making sushi at home involves a lot of steps and techniques to practice. You may encounter a lot of mistakes here and there but once you’ve mastered it, you can enjoy sushi at home anytime that you want. With your knowledge, you can even level up to making other kinds of sushi dishes such as nigiri, temaki, and chirashi to liven up your family mealtimes.