How to Make the Best Crispy Rice

Crispy rice is the crunchy snack of my dreams—and soon to be yours too!

Sushi has always been a favorite of mine, and learning how to make it at home was a game changer! From the careful washing of the rice, to the multi-stepped process of rolling up specialty rolls, it’s the type of food you’ll love making as much as you love eating it.

But not all sushi favorites come in rolls. This crispy rice is the perfect bite—a cube of sushi rice fried to golden perfection, with sweet sticky rice inside, and whatever fresh toppings your heart desires. Once you try it, you’ll never want another sushi night without it!

What Is Crispy Rice?

Crispy rice originally referred to the layer of rice at the bottom of the pan that crisps up from cooking. It’s so delicious that many cultures have their own version of purposefully crisped rice dishes. In the sushi world it’s made by packing cooked sushi rice into little squares, and frying them until perfectly golden brown.

Crispy rice was popularized by the famous restaurant Nobu, but it really took off thanks to the dedicated food-lovers of TikTok. Whether you try the viral crispy rice waffle version, or go for these classic little squares, crispy rice is about to be your new favorite dish.

Crispy Rice Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 cups slightly cooled seasoned sushi rice
  • 1/2 pound flake-style imitation crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup Sriracha mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cucumber
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil, per batch
  • 1/2 medium ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Sesame seeds, soy sauce, wasabi

Directions

Step 1: Form rice

Line a 9×9-inch baking pan with plastic wrap. Have a small cup of water ready to go.

Wet your hands, then take your cooked sushi rice and press it firmly and evenly into the plastic wrap. It should be about 1/2-inch thick. Cover and refrigerate rice until chilled, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Step 2: Dredge rice

Using the overhanging sides of the plastic wrap, remove rice and place immediately on a cutting board. Discard plastic wrap and cut rice into 24 pieces.

Prepare a shallow bowl of cornstarch. Dip each piece in the cornstarch and then shake off the excess.

Step 3: Fry rice

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Making sure not to crowd the rice, cook in batches until golden brown, 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove and let drain on paper towels.

Step 4: Top and serve

In a small bowl, combine crab, mayonnaise, cucumber and green onion. Mix well and taste for seasoning. Top your rice squares with sliced avocado, a dollop of crab mixture, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds to finish.

Enjoy immediately with soy sauce and wasabi.

Crispy Rice Toppings

How To Make Crispy RiceTMB Studio

The first time I had crispy rice, it was topped with spicy tuna and a fresh jalapeno, and that remains one of my favorite ways to eat it! But it goes great with so many different toppings. Creamy things like avocado or spicy tuna mix are a great contrast to the crunch of the rice. And any vegetable that would make its way into a veggie roll—like cucumber or carrot—would be a wonderful addition.

Tips for Making Crispy Rice

To make the best crispy rice, make sure you’re packing the cooked rice as tightly as possible so it sticks together well for frying. And don’t skimp on the cooling time—giving your rice time to chill in the block will make it easier to cut and easier to fry.

Do you have to use sushi rice?

Japanese sushi rice is a short grain rice that holds together well due to its sticky quality, making it a perfect rice for frying up. Once cooked, it’s mixed with sugar and rice vinegar, which brings out its sticky quality even more and gives it its unique flavor. While other rice can certainly crisp up, it may be difficult to hold together while frying.

This is a great way to use up leftover sushi rice, but using fresh made sushi rice is also fine. Preparing the rice while it’s still slightly warm will also help the squares stick together, which makes frying them much easier.

Can you refrigerate the rice instead of freezing it?

You can do either! To refrigerate you’ll need at least 2 hours, or freeze it for just a half an hour before frying it off.

How long will crispy rice leftovers last?

Crispy rice is always best served fresh and hot. To store leftovers, leave the toppings off and store the crispy rice in the fridge for up to a week. Just re-crisp when you’re ready to eat and top with fresh toppings.

Risa Lichtman
Risa Lichtman is a chef and writer living in Portland, Oregon. She is the owner/chef of Lepage Food & Drinks, a small food company featuring Jewish seasonal foods, providing takeaway all around Portland. She has previously published poems in Poetica Magazine, the anthology The Art of Bicycling, Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature, and The Dos Passos Review. She lives with her wife Jamie, their dog Isaac, and their cat Sylvia. Follow her at @risaexpizza, or find her delicious food offerings on @lepagefoodanddrinks.