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Delicious California Roll Recipe

Delicious California Roll Sushi Recipe with Step-by-Step Instructions
California Rolls

Being the most popular sushi roll in the United States, the California roll is a delicious sushi staple that combines the savory taste of crab and avocado with the refreshing crunch of cucumber.

Being a cooked roll, it’s a great roll to introduce newbies to the sushi world. In fact, my first sushi roll was a California roll. Even now, after eating sushi for many years, I still enjoy eating and making California rolls.

California Rolls

What is a California Roll?

California Roll

A California roll is a sushi roll invented in the US whose filling consists of crab, avocado and cucumber. While I have seen them prepared both as a maki roll (rice on the inside with the filling) and an uramaki roll (rice on the outside of the nori sheet), uramaki rolls are a far more common way to prepare California rolls.

What’s in a California Roll?

Close up view of California rolls on a platter.
The Image Party / Shutterstock

California rolls contain sushi rice and a nori sheet (seaweed sheet) wrapping on the outside and a filling of crab, avocado and cucumber. The crab is usually imitation crab due to the high cost of real crab. In addition, the crab is sometimes shredded and mixed with Japanese mayo. If using imitation crab, I prefer to make a crab salad prior to adding to my roll as I think the Japanese mayo provides a moist texture to the filling.

The rice is often garnished with sesame seeds or tobiko (red fish eggs).

How to Control the Thickness of Your Sushi Roll

You can control how thick your sushi rolls are by how much of the nori sheet you use.  This recipe uses half of the nori sheet which makes smaller rolls. I prefer to use half a nori sheet for California rolls as this makes them easier to eat with chopsticks. However, this does make them more difficult to roll.

If you like thicker rolls or if you are having trouble rolling the sushi, you can use the entire nori sheet.   This will definitely make the rolls thicker and easier roll. tYou can also cut off the top 1/4 of the nori sheet to reduce the thickness of the roll depending on your preference.

How to Make a California Roll?

While making sushi rolls may seem a bit overwhelming when you first start out, it’s pretty simple once you break it down to its three main components. Those components are cooking the ingredients, cutting the ingredients and assembling the roll. Below is a step-by-step discussion on how to make California rolls.

Cook Sushi Rice

1. Rinse 2/3 cup of sushi rice by placing it in a colander and running water through it until the water is clear.

Rinsing sushi rice in the sink

2. After the rice is rinsed, add it to a sauce pan with 1 cup of water.

Pouring sushi rice into pot

3. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and let the rice simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is soft.

Bring sushi rice to a boil, reduce heat, and cover for 20 minutes

4. Remove the rice and place into a bowl or dish and let cool. I would line the dish with parchment paper prior to adding the rice to avoid sticking.

Pouring rice into a parchment-lined bowl

5. Mix 2 tablespoons of sushi vinegar into your rice. Stir until it has absorbed into the rice. Once cooled and fully absorbed, your rice is ready to roll!

Mix sushi vinegar into sushi rice

Check out the following article for a more thorough discussion and recipe on sushi rice: Sushi Rice: Easy Sushi Rice Recipe

Prepare the Crab Salad Filling

Note: If you are using real crab you can skip this step and add the crab directly to the sushi roll without mixing with Japanese mayo.

1. To make the crab salad, start by shredding the imitation crab into a bowl with two forks

2. Add the Japanese mayonnaise with a pinch of salt and gently mix together.

Mix crab salad

Assemble the California Rolls

1. Cut the avocado and cucumber: Slice the avocado in half the long way. Remove the seed and cut each half into 8 slices. Each whole avocado should yield around 16 slices. You can also drizzle a little lemon juice over your cut avocado to prevent it from browning in your roll. Finally, cut the cucumbers into strips that are as long as your nori sheet and about 1/8 inch thick.

2. Prepare your bamboo sushi mat: Cover your bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap. This will help keep the rice from sticking to it.

3. Press rice onto nori sheets: Next, place the nori sheet onto the plastic wrap with the shiny side facing down. Then press around 1/2 cup of rice onto the nori sheet in an even layer. Tip: Mix a splash of rice vinegar into a bowl of water and use to wet your hands prior to handling the sushi rice. This will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.

Spread the rice over the nori sheet for the California roll

4. Add sesame seeds to the rice: Lightly sprinkle sesame seeds to the rice.

Spread the sesame seeds over the rice for the California roll

5. Flip nori sheet over: Gently flip the nori sheet over so the rice is facing down. You will add the filling directly to the nori sheet with the rice on the outside.

Flip the nori sheet

6. Add the avocado and cucumber: Add the avocado slices and cucumber sticks horizontally along the nori sheet. In general, I add 2-3 avocado slices and 1-2 cucumber sticks depending on the size of each ingredient and how everything fits.

7. Add the crab: Spoon about 1/4 of the crab salad mixture onto the nori sheet and spread evenly across the middle of the sheet.

Fill the sushi roll

8. Roll the sushi: Use the bamboo sushi mat to fold your roll until it’s completely enclosed. Once the rice is making contact with the nori roll, pull back the sushi mat so it doesn’t get caught in the sushi. Still using the sushi mat as your guide, finish rolling until the roll is completely wrapped. Then wrap the sushi mat around the roll and gently press, tightening the roll together. Keep in mind that rolling sushi is an art that may take some practice so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t look perfect your first time. It will get easier the more you do it.

Roll the sushi

9. Cut the roll: Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 8 pieces. I do this by first cutting the roll in half. Then cutting each half in half. Then cutting each fourth in half. Tip: Be sure to clean and wet the edge of your knife before cutting each roll.

Cut the California roll

10. Serve and enjoy: I usually serve with soy sauce and wasabi. Sushi rolls are traditionally served with pickled ginger as well.

California Roll Recipe

California Rolls

California Roll Recipe

Delicious California Roll Sushi Recipe with Step-by-Step Instructions
Print Pin
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: California Roll, California Roll Sushi
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 Rolls
Calories: 248kcal

Equipment

  • 1 Bamboo Sushi Mat
  • 1 Pot for cooking sushi rice
  • 1 Sharp knife and cutting board

Ingredients

Sushi Rice

  • 2/3 cups Sushi Rice dried, will cook to 2 cups
  • 2 Tbsp. Sushi Vinegar

Sushi Roll

  • 2 Nori Sheets
  • 1 Ripe Avocado
  • 1 English Cucumber Sliced into sticks
  • 8 oz Imitation crab or real crab
  • 1 tbsp Japanese Mayonaise
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • Lemon Juice
  • Sesame Seeds

Instructions

Cook Sushi Rice

  • Rinse 2/3 cups of sushi rice by placing it in a colander and running water through it until the water is clear.
    Rinsing sushi rice in the sink
  • After the rice is rinsed, add it to a sauce pan with 1 cup of water.
    Pouring sushi rice into pot
  • Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Cover and let the rice simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the rice is soft.
    Bring sushi rice to a boil, reduce heat, and cover for 20 minutes
  • Remove the rice and place into a bowl or dish and let cool. I would line the dish with parchment paper prior to adding the rice to avoid sticking.
    Pouring rice into a parchment-lined bowl
  • Mix 2 tablespoons of sushi vinegar into your rice. Stir until it has absorbed into the rice. Once cooled and fully absorbed, your rice is ready to roll!
    Mix sushi vinegar into sushi rice

Prepare the Crab Salad Filling

  • Note: If you are using real crab you can skip this step and add the crab directly to the sushi roll without mixing with Japanese mayo.
    To make the crab salad, start by shredding the imitation crab into a bowl with two forks
  • Add the Japanese mayonnaise with a pinch of salt and gently mix together.
    Mix crab salad

Assemble the California Rolls

  • Tear or cut the nori sheet in half: Fold the nori sheet in half and gently tear along the seam. If it does not tear easily, use kitchen shears to cut the nori sheet in half
  • Cut the avocado and cucumber: Slice the avocado in half the long way. Remove the seed and cut each half into 8 slices. Each whole avocado should yield around 16 slices. You can also drizzle a little lemon juice over your cut avocado to prevent it from browning in your roll.
    Finally, cut the cucumbers into strips that are as long as your nori sheet and about 1/8 inch thick.
  • Prepare your bamboo sushi mat: Cover your bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap. This will help keep the rice from sticking to it.
  • Press rice onto nori sheets: Next, place the nori sheet onto the plastic wrap with the shiny side facing down. Then press around 1/2 cup of rice onto the nori sheet in an even layer. Tip: Combine a bowl of water and a splash of rice vinegar and use to wet your hands prior to handling the sushi rice. This will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.
    Spread rice over nori sheet
  • Add sesame seeds to the rice: Evenly sprinkle sesame seeds on your sushi rice.
    Spread sesame seeds over rice
  • Flip nori sheet over: Gently flip the nori sheet over so the rice is facing down. You will add the filling directly to the nori sheet with the rice on the outside.
    Flip the nori sheet
  • Add the avocado and cucumber: Add the avocado slices and cucumber sticks horizontally along the nori sheet. In general, I add 2-3 avocado slices and 1-2 cucumber sticks depending on the size of each ingredient and how everything fits.
  • Add the crab: Spoon about 1/4 of the crab salad mixture onto the nori sheet and spread evenly across the middle of the sheet.
    Fill the sushi roll
  • Roll the sushi: Use the bamboo sushi mat to fold your roll until it's completely enclosed. Once the rice is making contact with the nori roll, pull back the sushi mat so it doesn't get caught in the sushi. Still using the sushi mat as your guide, finish rolling until the roll is completely wrapped. Then wrap the sushi mat around the roll and gently press, tightening the roll together.
    Keep in mind that rolling sushi is an art that may take some practice so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t look perfect your first time. It will get easier the more you do it. If you struggle, you can try using less crab filling or using 3/4 or a full nori sheet.
    Roll the sushi
  • Cut the roll: Using a sharp knife, cut the roll into 8 pieces. I do this by first cutting the roll in half. Then cutting each half in half. Then cutting each fourth in half. Tip: Be sure to clean and wet the edge of your knife before cutting each roll.
    Cut the California roll
  • Serve and enjoy: I usually serve with soy sauce and wasabi. Sushi rolls are traditionally served with pickled ginger as well.

Video

Notes

You can control how thick your sushi rolls are by how much of the nori sheet you use.  This recipe uses the half the nori sheet which makes thinner rolls.  I like this for California rolls because it makes them bite size and easier to eat with chopsticks.  However, it does make them more difficult to roll. 
If you like thicker rolls, you can use the entire nori sheet.  You can also cut off the top 1/4 of the nori sheet depending on your preference.

Nutrition

Serving: 1Roll | Calories: 248kcal | Carbohydrates: 35.8g | Protein: 5.7g | Fat: 9.1g | Saturated Fat: 1.8g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 164mg | Potassium: 380mg | Fiber: 3.8g | Sugar: 3g | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2mg

Frequently Asked Questions

Are California Rolls gluten free?

Most California rolls ordered in sushi restaurants or grocery stores are not gluten free as they often contain imitation crab, which is often not gluten free. However, if you use real crab or imitation crab that is gluten free, the rest of the roll is gluten free.

Are California rolls healthy?

California rolls are moderately healthy. While the cucumber, avocado and nori sheet are pretty healthy and the imitation crab is somewhat healthy, the sushi rice and Japanese mayonnaise are high in calories and low in nutrients.

Final Thoughts on California Rolls

California rolls were my first introduction into the sushi world and still remain one of my favorites. These are also the rolls I first attempted to make when I began rolling sushi on my own. When I learned to make good sushi rice and use a crab salad instead of sticks of imitation crab, my rolls significantly improved. I hope this recipe helps you to avoid some of my early mistakes and enables you to make some amazing sushi! Happy cooking!

For more great sushi recipes, check out the following articles:

Delicious Oshinko Roll Recipe

Delicious Dragon Roll Sushi Recipe

The 25 Best Cooked Sushi

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