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Known as Inarizushi in Japan, Inari Sushi is a type of traditional sushi made of vinegared rice tucked inside little deep-fried tofu pockets. They are one of the easiest sushi dishes to make at home, and can be served as a snack or part of your sushi meal. vegetarian and vegan-friendly
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Mizkan™.
Looking for easy sushi recipes to make at home? You won’t go wrong with Inari sushi (稲荷寿司). Tasty, filling, and addicting, Inari sushi can be enjoyed at any time of the day. They make a satisfying little snack and the perfect finger food to serve at your next home gathering. In this recipe, I’ll show you how to make proper sushi rice and two variations of Inari sushi.
What Are Inari Sushi?
Inari sushi (稲荷寿司, いなり寿司), or Inarizushi as we call it in Japan, are made of sushi rice that is stuffed inside seasoned deep-fried tofu pockets/pouches called Inari age. The tofu pockets are cooked in a dashi-based broth. After the tofu pockets absorb all the flavors, they are squeezed to remove the liquid and ready to be stuffed with sushi rice.
With their sweet and savory taste and toothsome bite, these little golden pockets are the best sushi to enjoy at home, picnic, or on the go. Inari sushi are also a popular item for bento boxes, and you may see this type of sushi packed at the deli along with sushi rolls.
The Origin of Inari Sushi
Behind its popularity, Inari sushi has a fascinating story. It gets its name “Inari” directly from the deity who protects the crops. At Inari shrines in Japan, people bring the deep-fried tofu pockets–what we call aburaage (油揚げ)–as offerings and place them in front of the fox statues on the shrine grounds.
It is said that foxes are the messengers of the Inari god and it’s believed that they like aburaage. Eventually, newly harvested rice was added as a filling to the fried tofu pockets to show gratitude for good crops towards the Inari god.
Hence, the dish was named Inarizushi or Oinari-san (O is an honorific prefix, and -san is an honorific title) and has been enjoyed for over 170 years.
Tokyo vs. Osaka Style Inari Sushi
In Japan, Inari sushi in the Tokyo area and the ones in the Osaka area are actually different in shape. In the Tokyo area, Inari sushi is shaped like a straw bag and the sushi rice is completely wrapped inside.
Whereas in the Osaka area, you will find fox-ear-like triangle-shaped Inari sushi that exposes the sushi rice at the bottom. Other versions include straw bag-shaped Inari sushi that is decorated with colorful ingredients on the top opening. Sometimes sushi rice inside the tofu pocket is mixed with various ingredients to give additional flavors and texture.
Tokyo-Style Inari Sushi
- Straw bag-shaped
- Sushi rice is completely covered in Inari age
Osaka-Style Inari Sushi
- Triangle-shaped (sushi rice is exposed on the bottom)
- Straw bag-shaped (opening on the top, decorated with colorful ingredients)
- Sushi rice is mixed with ingredients like Osaka-style chirashi sushi
How to Make Inari Sushi
Inari sushi is made in three simple and easy steps.
- Make homemade Inari age* by simmering tofu pockets in sweet and savory dashi-based broth. Or, buy packaged Inari age from a store.
- Make sushi rice. Cook rice with kombu (dried kelp) and season the cooked rice with sushi vinegar.
- Stuff the sushi rice into the tofu pockets.
It all comes together very quickly once you make the sushi rice.
*If you have an extra hour, I recommend making homemade Inari age. You can even make it in advance and freeze it!
Homemade vs. Store-Bought Inari Age
Homemade Inari age are the best, in my opinion, especially because store-bought ones tend to be a lot sweeter. However, there are benefits for store-bought Inari age. Let’s compare the two.
Homemade Inari Age:
- Natural ingredients and no preservatives.
- You can adjust the seasonings – less soy sauce, less sugar, etc.
- Vegetarian/vegan-friendly with the use of kombu dashi.
Store-bought Inari Age:
- To make homemade Inari age, you’ll need deep-fried tofu pouches, but they can be hard to find. According to JOC readers around the world, ready-made Inari age are more accessible at their local Japanese/Chinese/Korean grocery stores.
- Shorten cooking time for Inari sushi by roughly one hour.
When I have time, I make my own Inari age; otherwise, I use the store-bought Inari age for Inari sushi or kitsune udon. When I make homemade Inari age, I make sure to double or triple my recipe and freeze them for later use.
How to Make Delicious Sushi Rice
When we say “sushi rice” in Japan, it always means the seasoned steamed rice that we use to make all kinds of sushi. We never use unseasoned regular steamed rice to make sushi.
Sushi rice (sumeshi 酢飯) is made with short-grain rice cooked in kombu-steeped water and then seasoned with sushi vinegar.
Sushi vinegar (sushizu 寿司酢) is made with just three ingredients–rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. It gives the rice a beautiful shine and delicious flavor, perfect for all kinds of sushi. You can find my detailed technique to prepare sushi rice in the recipe card.
I can’t emphasize enough that it’s important to use rice vinegar, not other types of vinegar you may have in the pantry. Rice vinegar is a lot milder than the other kinds of vinegar. The only brand I’ve been using ever since I started cooking is Mizkan Natural Rice Vinegar.
I personally use many types of Mizkan sauces and condiments for my home cooking. As a leading brand in Japan for over 215 years, I trust Mizkan for bringing authentic Japanese flavors to our dinner table.
For convenience, I also keep a bottle of sushi vinegar at home when I need to make sushi rice in a pinch. Sweet, mild, and versatile, Mizkan Seasoned Rice Vinegar is my go-to sushi vinegar to accent many Japanese dishes!
For Japanese-inspired recipes and other quick and delicious usage ideas, you can follow Mizkan on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Tips on Making Inari Sushi
When Making Sushi Rice
- Use only Japanese short-grain rice. Do not use any other type of rice as it won’t be sticky enough and will fall apart easily. Read more here.
- Make sure to use rice vinegar, not other kinds of vinegar.
- Use a large bowl (I use a sushi oke or hangiri here) or a baking sheet to cool and season the cooked rice.
- “Slice” the rice, instead of mixing the rice, so the rice will not get mushy.
- Fan the cooked rice to cool it, which gives a beautiful shine to the rice!
When Stuffing Sushi Rice
- Carefully open the tofu pockets. They are so fragile, so take your time as you open the pockets.
- Don’t stuff too much rice. Start with a small amount. You can always add more.
- Stuff the rice into two corners. This is very important to achieve the perfect round corners.
- For Osaka-style Inari sushi, flip upside down and show the rice. Tuck in the edge of the Inari age inside the bag, so it will have a round smooth edge. You can decorate the top with shredded egg crepe called kinshi tamago, ikura, cooked shrimp, cucumber slices, or any toppings you like!
The Perfect Sushi to Enjoy Anytime
For those who enjoy cooking with your kids, you want to give Inari sushi a try! Together, you can stuff the sushi rice into the tofu pockets. It’s super fun and ridiculously easy.
I love packing Inari sushi in a bento box with some vegetables for a simple quick lunch. For dinner, you can serve Inari sushi with futomaki, hosomaki, or temaki sushi (hand roll sushi) as part of your sushi meal. They make the perfect afternoon snack too!
Tableware from Musubi Kiln
I’ve partnered with a great ceramic online shop from Japan called Musubi Kiln. You will get 10% off with a coupon code JUSTONECOOKBOOK for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
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Made of vinegared rice tucked inside little deep-fried tofu pockets, Inari sushi is easily one of the easiest sushi to make at home. It’s vegetarian and vegan friendly too!
To Make Sushi Rice
Gather all the ingredients. Prepare sushi rice ahead of time.
Use your fingers to gently wash the rice with your fingers in a circular motion and rinse a couple of times until the water is clear. Drain into a fine-mesh sieve and shake off excess water.
Put the well-drained rice in the rice cooker bowl and add measured water to just under the 3-cup line of your rice cooker pot. If your rice cooker has a “Sushi Rice” mode, add water up to that line. Place the kombu on top of the rice, let the rice soak in the water for 20-30 minutes, and start cooking. If you don’t have a rice cooker, cook the rice in a heavy-bottomed pot over the stove or an Instant Pot with the amount of water I specified in this recipe.
To make sushi vinegar, combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Microwave it for 30-40 seconds till the sugar is completely dissolved. Alternatively, you can heat the sushi vinegar in a saucepan.
Once the rice is cooked, discard the kombu. If using a wooden sushi oke (also called hangiri), moisten it completely with running water and drain it well. Transfer the cooked rice to the sushi oke, a large bowl, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread out the rice evenly so it will cool faster.
While the rice is hot, gradually pour the sushi vinegar all over the rice. Keep it at a lukewarm/room temperature. With a rice paddle, gently “slice” the rice at a 45-degree angle to incorporate the sushi vinegar mixture and separate the chunks of rice. Do not stir or mix the rice because the grains may break and the rice will become mushy. While using this slicing motion, vigorously fan the rice with a paddle fan or another type of fan. This cools the rice and takes away the excess moisture. Fanning makes the rice shine and keeps it from becoming mushy. Cover the prepared sushi rice with a damp towel (or paper towel) and keep it for a few hours at room temperature.
Leftovers can stay in a cool place for several hours and should be consumed within the same day they’re prepared. However, they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. I highly recommend keeping them in an airtight container or a plate wrapped tightly with plastic and then wrap around the container/plate with a thick kitchen towel. This way the food stays safe in a cool environment, but the rice doesn’t get hard from cold air in the refrigerator.
Editor’s Note: The post was originally published on February 28, 2011. It’s been updated with new images and revised blog content in December 2021.
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When we have a sudden craving for sashimi we usually buy from our local Japanese supermarkets. If you don’t have a reliable shop to purchase quality sashimi nearby, we would recommend buying from Catalina Offshore online.
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