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Sushi FAQ: What exactly is sushi vinegar? (2020 updates including FAQ)

You need to add sushi vinegar to turn rice into sushi rice.

So, what is Sushi Vinger? Is it different from regular vinegar?

Sushi vinegar is Rice vinegar, salt and sugar.

The current style of Nigiri Sushi was invented in Tokyo some 250 years ago. Back then, red vinegar and salt were used to make sushi vinegar. No sugar was added.

These days, many sushi chefs - especially those at boutique high-end omakase only sushi bars - choose to carry this tradition and avoid sugar.

It is believed adding sugar to the sushi vinegar destroys the delicate balance between fish and sushi rice.

The science behind sushi vinegar

When sushi was invented 250 years ago, there was no electric refrigerator. Keeping the fish and rice from spoiling was a challenging task. Cooked rice, when left at room temperature, starts to spoil within a few hours because of spores of a bacterium.

Vinegar, salt and sugar are all effective antibacterial agents that can slow down a bacterium's spores.

Also, they represent three of five tastes - sour, salty and sweet.

So, adding vinegar, salt and sugar to cooked rice makes sense from both practical and taste points of view.

What kind of vinegar, salt and sugar should I use?

This is the big question.

Most recipes call for rice vinegar. It makes sense because rice vinegar is made from rice, it should go well with cooked rice.

White vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and champagne vinegar may be too strong to use as sushi vinegar when combined with fish.

I have used fruit vinegar as strawberry and peach vinegar, and they work well with vegetarian sushi.

Types of rice vinegar

I use Marukan organic vinegar to make sushi vinegar. It so happens this vinegar is made from the same rice we use: Lundberg Organic Sushi (short grain) rice.

Is Maruka is unavailable at your local supermarket, I recommend using any rice vinegar.

The most popular ones are:

Some FAQs

Q: There are so many rice vinegar out there. Which one should I use?

A: No need to worry so much about which brand to use. First, look for the most popular ones and anyone would do. You can purchase a couple of different ones and try out. Taste is subjective, so it comes down to whether you like it or not. The only way is try for yourself.

Q: What type of salt and sugar should I use?

A: I like to use sea salt and organic cane sugar. Just like rice vinegar, it's really up to you to use the type of salt and sugar you like. I use sea salt because most of my ingredients are fish. I figured sea salt would go better with fish than rock salt (No tasting done. It's just my theory.)

Q: What is this darker colored rice vinegar?

A: There is red rice vinegar. It's made from Sake Kasu, the lees by-product from sake production. Red Rice vinegar has more umami (amino acid) had a rich flavor, mild taste and aroma (less vinegar tingling aroma). It takes longer to make red rice vinegar and costs more. So, it is used by more boutique higher-end sushi bars in japan


Rice Vinegar Recipe

(In this video, I show how to make your own sushi vinegar.)


  • Marukan Organic Rice Vinegar 5 parts

  • Organic Cane Sugar, 3 parts

  • Sea Salt, 1 part

  • ·Dry Konbu Kelp, 1–2 sheets


1. In a pot or a bowl, places all the ingredients

2. Stir until sugar and salt is dissolved. If necessary, place the pot over low heat to help dissolve sugar and salt. Be careful not to over heat the solution to prevent the vinegar from evaporating.

3. Let itsit for overnight and transfer to a small container(s).


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