Filled with creamy avocado, sweet crab meat and crunchy cucumber, California roll is by far the most popular sushi roll in the US. In this recipe, you’ll learn how to make the delicious sushi roll at home. I also include a video that demonstrates how you can perfect the sushi rolling technique below.
What was the first sushi roll that you tried at a Japanese restaurant? For many of you, it might be California Roll (カリフォルニアロール) as it is probably by far the most popular style of sushi in the U.S. Today I’ll show you how easy you can make California Roll at home.
What is California Roll?
Before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about what exactly is California Roll. California Roll is a kind of sushi roll (we call makizushi in Japanese) containing crab meat (real or imitation), avocado, and cucumber. Usually it is an “inside-out” roll (we call uramaki), which means that sushi rice is shown on the outside of the roll, and nori (seaweed sheet) is on the inside. The roll is sprinkled with toasted white sesame seeds for nice crunchy texture, but sometimes they are garnished with tobiko or masago fish roes for a more elegant presentation.
Quick History on California Roll
Did you know California Roll or many creative-name sushi rolls are not from Japan? When Japanese people (from Japan) say “sushi”, it usually implies nigiri sushi (a slice of sashimi-grade raw fish on top of rice pillow). In fact, when it comes to for sushi roll (makizushi), we only have a few choices such as Futomaki and Hosomaki. It’s quite different from sushi roll menus in the United States! So who invented California Roll? Apparently, it was the creation of an ingenious sushi chef named Hidekazu Tojo who moved from Japan to Canada in the 70s. In Vancouver, he learned that most Western people didn’t eat raw fish and didn’t like seaweed as well. Therefore, he substituted avocado for toro (fatty tuna) as it has the similar creamy texture and hid nori seaweed by using uramaki technique, so nori is not visible from the outside. That’s the how California Roll turned into a popular menu item! And in my opinion, California Roll tells the story of a successful adaptation and re-imagination of food.
5 Key Ingredients for California Roll
Unlike nigiri sushi or other kinds of sushi rolls, California Roll does not include any raw fish. Therefore, you can make this sushi roll fairly easily at home. All you need is perfectly ripen avocados, cucumber, and crab meat. Crab Meat: I’m unfortunately allergic to crab, so I use imitation crab. Avocado: Find those perfectly ripen avocados! Japanese Cucumbers: For sushi making, we use thin and long Japanese cucumbers. They have little and less seeds in the center compared to regular cucumber. If you can’t find Japanese cucumbers locally, you can use Persian cucumbers or English cucumbers (but remove the seeds in the middle). Japanese Mayonnaise: I always season the crab meat with Japanese mayonnaise first. Japanese mayonnaise is the key for this roll, so please try your best to find it (you can easily purchase it on Amazon). If you want to know more about Japanese mayonnaise and make it yourself at home with American mayonnaise, read the post here. Sesame Seeds: If you have a few extra minutes, toast the sesame seeds in a non-greased frying pan until one or two sesame seeds pop. It adds wonderful nutty flavors and aroma. For me personally, I like to add toasted white sesame seeds in the crab meat mixture, since I use fish eggs (tobiko/masago) for decorating the sushi rice.
How To Roll Sushi Roll
Many people are intimidated by the sushi rolling part. Relax and take it one step at a time by following my recipe and tips. The key is not to overstuff the sushi and tug the roll compact enough for assembling. It’s not difficult and you should be able to make decent sushi rolls with some practice. Maybe your first roll may not look pretty, but practice will make it easier! You can also watch the video below which demonstrates the technique on how to assemble a sushi roll.
Watch How To Make Dragon Roll ドラゴンロールの作り方（レシピ）
Learn how to assemble a sushi roll
I hope you enjoy making this California Roll recipe! If you try it, don’t forget to share your picture on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with #JustOneCookbook. Thank you so much for reading, and till next time!
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- 6 cups sushi rice (cooked and seasoned) (To make Sushi Rice from scratch, click here. Cover the prepared sushi rice with a damp cloth at all times to prevent from drying).
- 9 oz cooked crab meat (255 g or 2 cans)
- 6 Tbsp Japanese mayonnaise
- ½ English cucumber (or Persian/Japanese cucumber)
- 2 avocados
- ½ lemon (for avocado)
- 8 sheets nori (seaweed)
- ¼ cup toasted white sesame seeds
- Ikura (salmon roe)
- Tobiko (flying fish roe)
- ¼ cup water
- 2 tsp rice vinegar
Gather all the ingredients. Sushi rice should be at room temperature.
Crab meat: Combine the crab meat with Japanese mayonnaise and mix together.
Cucumber: Peel and remove seeds with a spoon. Cut into thin long strips, the same length as the nori sheet.
Avocado: Peel, pit, and cut into ¼" (0.5 cm) thick slices (See How To Cut Avocado). Squeeze the lemon juice over the avocado to prevent browning.
Nori: Cut off ⅓ of a nori sheet (save it) and use the ⅔ sheet of nori.
Cover the bamboo mat with plastic wrap and prepare vinegar water for dipping hands (Tezu).
- Lay a nori sheet, shiny side down, on the bamboo mat. Wet your fingers in tezu and spread 1 cup of the rice evenly onto nori sheet.
- Sprinkle the rice with sesame seeds or tobiko.
- Turn the nori sheet over so that the rice is facing down. LIne the edge of nori sheet at the bottom of the bamboo mat. Place the cucumber, crab meat, and avocado at the bottom of the nori sheet.
- Grab the bottom edge of the mat while keeping the fillings in place with your fingers, roll it into a tight cylinder, tucking the fillings in firmly.
Lift the edge of the bamboo mat slightly and roll it forward while keeping gentle pressure on the mat. Cover the completed rolls with a damp cloth at all times to prevent from drying. Continue making the rolls until the ingredients are finished.
- You can use the left over ⅓ of nori sheet to make Ikura Sushi. Cut the nori sheet into half lengthwise. Make small balls with sushi rice and wrap it with nori sheet. Place ikura on top.
- With a very sharp knife, cut each roll in half and then cut each half into 3 pieces. Remember to clean the knife with a damp cloth after every few cuts.
Recipe by Namiko Chen of Just One Cookbook. All images and content on this site are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without my permission. If you’d like to share this recipe on your site, please re-write the recipe and link to this post as the original source. Thank you.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Aug 19, 2011. The content has been updated in May 2017.