A flat sushi rice bowl filled with perfect sushi rice, ready to be used.

California Roll – Tastes Better From Scratch

This California Roll sushi recipe is fresh, affordable, and absolutely delicious! California Rolls are incredibly easy to make with our step-by-step instructions, easy sushi rice recipe and a few fresh ingredients.

Looking for more seafood recipes? Try Cioppino, Lobster Roll, or Easy Homemade Crab Cakes!

A plate of eight California sushi rolls ready to enjoy.

I have always been a HUGE sushi fan, so I was so excited when my friend Maria agreed to teach us how to make sushi. We learned so much from her, including how to make perfect Sushi Rice, Spicy Tuna rolls, and all about the different types of sushi, and I am so excited to share her California Roll recipe with you.

Lauren and Liz from Tastes Better From Scratch sitting on a couch with their friend Maria, who taught them how to make sushi.

Why I love this recipe:

Crowd Pleaser – California rolls are popular for a reason, and a perfect starting point for kids or adults to venture into the sushi world. My kids love them in their school lunch.Quick – These California sushi rolls come together so quickly! We love make an evening of it and prep all the components so everyone can have fun assembling their own. Mix up the filling and toppings, like making Spicy Tuna rolls.Delicious – From the fresh crunch of the cucumber, to the perfect sushi rice, I promise you will enjoy every single bite!

Fun Facts from Maria:

California rolls are not truly Japanese—the idea was created in America (hence the name “California Rolls”). Japanese Sushi rolls always have nori seaweed on the outside (not rice on the outside).Sushi is not raw fish! That is Sashimi. Sushi means “sour rice”, which is rice seasoned with a vinegar mixture. Sushi rice is used to make sushi rolls.

Sushi is never served in groups of 4. The word “four” in Japanese – shi (or si) –has the same pronunciation as “death” so Japanese people avoid things in four. Sushi is served in 3,6, or 8 pieces. Nigiri is served with 2 pieces.

Difference between a Sushi Roll, Sashimi and Nigiri:Sashimi means raw fish. When you order it at a restaurant, you are ordering a piece of raw fish.Nigiri means “squeeze” or “grip” and is made by cupping rice in the palm of your hand, and pressing down on it with two fingers, to form a small, compact oval of rice, in which a piece of raw fish is placed on top. If seaweed nori is wrapped around the rice and topped with toppings like salmon roe, flying fish roe, or sea urchin, it’s called Gunkan-maki. Gunkan means “warship” and it was so named because it looks like a warship.

How to Make a California Roll:

Prepare Sushi Rice: Follow my steps for preparing sushi rice, and allow it to cool to room temperature before assembling rolls.

Wrap Bamboo Mat in Plastic Wrap: Cut a piece of plastic wrap, about 2 feet long (enough to stretch around both sides of the mat, and wrap the mat flat, tightly, in plastic wrap. Repeat with another long piece of plastic wrap, starting at the other end of the mat, to cover it from the other direction. This will keep the sushi rice and nori from sticking to the bamboo mat.

A bamboo sushi rolling mat wrapped completely in plastic wrap to prevent sticking.

Prepare Filling Ingredients:

Cut off the end of a Cucumber: According to Maria, Japanese people cut the stem end off, then take it and rub the two cut raw cucumber sides together, pushing slightly, in a circular motion, for a minute or so to bring out any bitterness.

The end of a cucumber sliced off and being rubbed against the main part of the cucumber to remove the bitterness.

Slice Cucumber: Cut the cucumber into two or three pieces, 3-4 inches long. Slice each piece horizontally (long side) into ¼ inch slices. Lay the slices flat and cut into ¼ inch sticks (julienne style).

A cucumber being sliced into long chunks for an easy California roll recipe with a Japanese knife.

Cut Avocado: Slice avocado in half, remove core and peel skin off. Lay flat side down and cut horizontally into ½ inch thick slabs, and then lay the slabs flat and cut into ¼ inch sticks.

A two image collage showing an avocado being peeled and then sliced into long pieces.

Prep Crab Sticks: Unwrap and use your hands to tear each in half from the top, (like you would split a stick of string cheese in half).

An imitation crab stick being gently pulled apart in half.

Prep Nori: You can use whole sheets of Nori for large sushi rolls, or break nori sheets in half to make smaller California rolls. To do so, stack two or three sheets together and fold the nori in half, the two short ends coming together. Press to crease it, and then gently pull the sheets apart.

A pile of three Nori seaweed sheets being broken apart in half for a California Roll recipe.

Assemble California Roll: Place bamboo mat horizontally on counter in front of you. Place a piece of nori on top, dull side facing up. (For large sushi rolls use a whole sheet of nori, with the short side parallel to you. For smaller shushi rolls–as shown in our photos–use half a sheet of nori with the the long side parallel to you).

Place a small bowl of water next to your work station. Scoop roughly ½ or 1 cup (depending on roll size) of sushi rice onto the nori. Wet your fingertips and gently spread the rice with your fingertips (don’t smash it) into an even layer across the nori). Add or take away rice as needed.

Two images showing sushi rice being carefully spread on a sheet of Nori to make California sushi roll.

Add Sesame Seeds: Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds lightly over the top of the rice. Now carefully flip the whole thing over, so that nori seaweed is facing up.

Roasted sesame seeds being poured on top of rice that is spread on a sheet of nori.

Add Toppings: Line two pieces of crab, end to end, slightly off center, closest to you. Line two cucumbers and two avocados next to it, in a line.

A California roll with cucumbers, avocado, and imitation crab stick, ready to be rolled.

Roll: Before rolling, position nori about an inch from the end of the bamboo mat, on the end closest to you. Then lift the end of the bamboo mat closest to you up and over the ingredients, tucking them inside. Touch the edge all the way down to seal it, with the ingredients rolled inside. Place your hands in a claw on top of the mat, over this first rolled section or sushi to hold and seal it tightly. Then continue pulling the bamboo mat away from you with one hand, while gently rolling the sushi, with the other, until it’s rolled all the way up.

Press both hands on top of the bamboo mat and squeeze the sushi roll gently beneath it, to make sure it holds firmly together.

Two images showing how to roll a California Roll with a bamboo mat.

Cut California Roll: Remove the sushi mat. Use a very sharp knife to cut the ends off, if you want. Slice the roll in a back and forth motion, being careful not to smash it, into 4 or 6 pieces. Wipe knife clean with a wet paper towel after each cut.

A California Roll being sliced in fourths.

Serve: Stand sushi rolls up and serve accompanied with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Enjoy this California Roll sushi recipe!

Fun facts: Wasabi and ginger have the benefits of killing bacteria, and ginger is also a palate cleanser between sushi rolls and aids in digestion.

A California Roll being held by chopsticks and dipped in wasabi.

Storage Instructions:

To Store: Sushi is best eaten right after making, but you can wrap them in plastic wrap to store them in the fridge for a little while. They don’t last very long in the fridge, as the rice will get hard.

Recipe Variations:

Additional Filling Ideas: Cooked eel, shrimp, raw sushi grade ahi tuna, cilantro, mint, green onion. Try our Spicy Tuna Roll.Sauces and Toppings: Drizzle with sriracha mayo for a Spicy California Roll, or garnish with eel sauce, salmon roe or tobiko, or fried onions.Crunchy California Roll – spread toasted panko crumbs on top of the roll, and use a piece of plastic wrap to press them in. Add tempura shrimp inside the roll, if desired. Serve as a California Roll Bowl: Add the rice and chopped filling ingredients to a bowl, with chopped pieces of nori. Drizzle with sriracha mayo, soy sauce, eel sauce, or whatever other toppings you’d like.To make Sushi Rolls without a Mat: A piece of parchment paper can be used instead of a sushi mat!Temaki Te (Sushi Hand Roll): Place a small square of nori (¼ of a sheet) dull side up in the palm of your hand with one corner pointing up. Add a small scoop of rice to the top 2/3’s of the nori (leaving the bottom part empty) and smooth into an even layer. Layer your favorite toppings, like thinly sliced cucumber, avocado, raw fish, eel, canned tuna with mayonnaise, egg, kampyo, teriyaki chicken, natto (fermented soy beans), or cooked carrots and mushrooms, on top of the rice. Pull the side corners in to the center, forming a roll that is cone shaped, with toppings heavy at the top, pinching at the bottom, where you hold it. Enjoy!

A plate of California Rolls with two Temaki Te (Sushi Hand Rolls) stacked in front.

More Fun Authentic Sushi Tools (optional):

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Recipe

Prepare sushi rice and allow to cool to room temperature before assembling rolls.

Wrap Bamboo Mat in Plastic Wrap: Cut a piece of plastic wrap, about 2 feet long (enough to stretch around both sides of the mat, and wrap the mat flat, tightly, in plastic wrap. Repeat with another long piece of plastic wrap, starting at the other end of the mat, wrapping it in plastic wrap, so that the mat is flat, and completely covered tightly from both directions. This will keep the rolls from sticking to the mat.

Cut Cucumber: According to Maria, Japanese people cut the stem end off, then take it and rub the two cut raw cucumber sides together, pushing slightly, in a circular motion, for a minute or so to bring out any bitterness. Cut the cucumber into two or three pieces, 3-4 inches long. Slice each piece horizontally (long side) into ¼ inch slices. Lay the slices flat and cut into ¼inch sticks (julienne style).

Cut Avocado: Slice avocado in half, remove core andpeel skin off. Lay flat side down and cut horizontally into ½ inch thick slabs, and then lay the slabs flat and cut into ¼ inch sticks.

Prep Crab Sticks: Unwrap and use your hands to tear each in half from the top, (like you would split a stick of string cheese in half).

Prep Nori: You can use whole sheets of Nori for large sushi rolls, or break nori sheets in half to make smaller California rolls. To do so, stack two or three sheets together and fold the nori in half, the two short ends coming together. Press to crease it, and then gently pull the sheets apart.

Assemble: Place bamboo mat horizontally on counter infront of you. Place a piece of nori on top, dull side facing up. (For largesushi rolls use a whole sheet of nori, with the short side parallel to you. For smaller sushi rolls–as shown in our photos–use half a sheet of nori with the long side parallel to you).

Add Sesame Seeds: Sprinkle roasted sesame seeds lightly over the top of the rice. Now carefully flip the whole thing over, so that nori seaweed is facing up.

Add Toppings: Line two pieces of crab, end to end, slightly off center, closest to you. Line two cucumbers and two avocados next to it, in a line.

Roll: Before rolling, position nori about an inch from the end of the bamboo mat, on the end closest to you. Then lift the end of the bamboo mat closest to you up and over the ingredients, tucking them inside. Touch the edge all the way down to seal it, with the ingredients rolled inside. Place your hands in a claw on top of the mat, over this first rolled section or sushi to hold and seal it tightly. Then continue pulling the bamboo mat away from you with one hand, while gently rolling the sushi, with the other, until it’s rolled all the way up. Press both hands on top of the bamboo mat and squeeze the sushi roll gently beneath it, to make sure it holds firmly together.

Cut California Roll into pieces: Remove the sushi mat. Use a very sharp knife to cut the ends off, if you want. Slice the roll in a back and forth motion, being careful not to smash it, into 4 or 6 pieces.Wipe knife clean with a wet paper towel after each cut.

Serve: Stand sushi rolls up and serve accompanied with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Enjoy this California Roll sushi recipe!
Sesame seeds: if you buy raw sesame seeds, toast them in a hot dry skillet before using, for best flavor.
To make Sushi Rolls without a Mat: A piece of parchment paper can be used instead of a sushi mat!
Storage Instructions: Sushi is best eaten right after making, as the rice will get hard in the fridge. For best results, wrap prepared sushi rolls in plastic wrap before refrigerating. 
Variations:

Additional Filling Ideas: Cooked eel, shrimp, raw sushi grade ahi tuna, cilantro, mint, green onion. Try our Spicy Tuna Roll.
Sauces and Toppings: Drizzle with sriracha mayo for a Spicy California Roll, or garnish with eel sauce, salmon roe or tobiko, or fried onions.
Crunchy California Roll – spread toasted panko crumbs on top of the roll, and use a piece of plastic wrap to press them in. Add tempura shrimp inside the roll, if desired.
Serve as a California Roll Bowl: Add the rice and chopped filling ingredients to a bowl, with chopped pieces of nori. Drizzle with sriracha mayo, soy sauce, eel sauce, or whatever other toppings you’d like.

Calories: 222kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 5gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0.01mgSodium: 9mgPotassium: 201mgFiber: 4gSugar: 0.5gVitamin A: 59IUVitamin C: 3mgCalcium: 153mgIron: 2mg

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Author: Paul Wilson