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Delicious Crunchy Roll Sushi Recipe (Crunchy California Roll)

Delicious Crunchy California Roll Sushi Recipe with Step-by-Step Instructions
Crunchy California rolls on a white plate with chopsticks in the background.

Crunchy rolls are a great way to combine two methods of Japanese cooking; tempura and sushi. Merging the delicate flavors of sushi with the savory flavors and light crunchy texture of tempura creates a roll that’s a must try for any sushi eater.

Being a cooked roll, this is a also great roll for beginners to the sushi world.

Crunchy California rolls on a white plate with chopsticks in the background.

What is a Crunchy California Roll?

Crunchy California Roll

Crunchy roll sushi combines crunchy tempura flakes with traditional sushi rolls. While crunchy rolls are not as common as traditional California rolls, they are definitely catching on. Most sushi restaurants in the US will offer some type of crunchy roll sushi.

Crunchy California rolls are considered an uramaki roll, or inside out sushi roll, where the rice is on the outside of nori sheet and the fillings are on the inside. The fillings consist of crab (usually imitation as it’s less expensive), cucumber, avocado and tempura batter flakes. The outside of the roll is also covered with tempura batter flakes.

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 the entire nori sheet which makes thicker rolls. If you like smaller rolls, you can cut the nori sheet in half.  This will definitely make the roll thinner and easier to eat with chopsticks but it can be trickier to roll.  You can also cut off the top 1/4 of the nori sheet to reduce the thickness of the roll depending on your preference.

How do you Make a Crunchy California Roll?

While preparing crunchy California rolls is a little more time consuming as it involves making tempura batter flakes, it’s fairly straight forward to make and involves four main steps: cooking the sushi rice, making the tempura batter flakes, cutting the vegetables, and assembling the sushi roll. Below are step-by-step instructions with pictures outlining each step.

Cook Sushi Rice

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

Rinse the sushi rice in water prior to cooking

2. After the rice is rinsed, add it to a sauce pan with 1 2/3 cups of water. (Use the amount of water recommended on the bag of sushi rice you are using as different brands may vary slightly).

Add sushi rice to a sauce pot with the amount of water as recommended on sushi rice package

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 and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until fully cooked.

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 the rice sticking to the dish.

Add sushi rice to a bowl or casserole dish lined with parchment paper. This prevents the rice from sticking to the bowl or dish.

5. Mix 1/4 cup of sushi vinegar into your rice. Stir until the vinegar has absorbed into the rice. Once cooled and fully absorbed, your rice is ready to roll!

Mix sushi vinegar into the sushi rice using a chopping motion until the vinegar until fully absorbed into sushi rice.

Prepare Tempura Batter Flakes

1. In a sauce pan, heat 2 cups of canola oil on medium heat to 375 degrees.

Add oil to pot

2. Assemble the ingredients and chill the water. You may need to add ice if you don’t have access to very cold water. However, make sure to remove ice cubes before combining with egg.

3. Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat until the yolk and white are combined.

Stir egg for tempura batter

4. Add cold water to the egg and mix well.

Add water to egg mix for tempura batter

5. Sift flour into the egg and water combination.

Sift flour into egg/water mixture for tempura batter

6. Using a spoon or chopstick, lightly mix making sure not to over stir. The batter should be mixed but a little lumpy.

Mix tempura batter

7. Using a chopstick or small spoon, sprinkle small amounts at a time of batter into the hot oil and fry for 20 to 30 seconds, or until light brown.

Add tempura batter to oil

8. Once done, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate covered with a few paper towels to absorb the oil.

Remove batter from oil

9. Repeat the process until all the batter is cooked.

10. Discard the remaining oil when complete.

Prepare the Crab Salad Filling

1. To make the crab salad, start by shredding the 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 Crunchy California Rolls

1. Cut the avocado and cucumber: Slice the avocado in half the long way. Remove the seed and cut each half into 6 slices. Each whole avocado should yield around 12 slices. Cut the cucumbers into strips that are as long as your nori wrapper 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 cup of rice onto the nori sheet in an even layer. Tip: Mix a bowl of water with a splash of rice vinegar and wet your hands before touching the sushi rice to avoid it sticking to your hands.

Pressing sushi rice to the nori sheet

4. 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 nori sheet over

5. Add the filling: Spoon about 1/8 of the crab salad mixture onto the nori sheet and spread evenly across the middle of the sheet. Then 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 filling to the roll

6. Add the tempura flakes: Sprinkle tempura mixture over the crab. I wouldn’t go too heavy with the tempura flakes as we will sprinkle on the outside of the roll as well.

Add tempura flakes to crunchy California roll

7. Roll the sushi: Use the bamboo sushi mat to fold your roll until it is completely enclosed. 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 roll

8. Add tempura flakes to the outside of the roll: Sprinkle the tempura flakes over the roll and gently push the flakes onto the roll with the sushi mat, causing the tempura flakes to stick to the rice on your roll.

Add tempura flakes to the outside of the Crunchy California roll

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 Crunchy California Roll

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

Crunchy California Roll Recipe

Crunchy California rolls on a white plate with chopsticks in the background.

Crunchy California Roll Recipe

Delicious Crunchy California Roll Sushi Recipe with Step-by-Step Instructions
Print Pin
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Japanese
Keyword: Crunchy California Roll, Crunchy California Roll Sushi, Crunchy Roll, Crunchy Roll Sushi
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 4 Rolls
Calories: 549kcal

Equipment

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

Ingredients

Sushi Rice

  • 1 1/3 cups Sushi rice dried, will cook to 4 cups
  • 1/4 cup Sushi vinegar

Tempura Batter Flakes

  • 2 cups Vegetable oil
  • 1 cup All purpose flour
  • 1 Egg Large
  • 1 cup Water Ice cold

Sushi Roll

  • 4 Nori sheets
  • 1 Ripe avocado
  • 1 English cucumber Sliced into 1/8 sticks
  • 8 oz Imitation crab or real crab
  • 1 tbsp Japanese mayonaise
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • Lemon Juice

Instructions

Cook Sushi Rice

  • Rinse 1 1/3 cup of sushi rice by placing it in a colander and running water through it until the water is clear.
  • After the rice is rinsed, add it to a sauce pan with 1 2/3 cups of water.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mix 1/4 cup 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!

Prepare Tempura Batter Flakes

  • In a sauce pan, heat 2 cups of canola oil on medium heat to 375 degrees.
  • Assemble the ingredients and chill the water. You may need to add ice if you don’t have access to very cold water. However, make sure to remove ice cubes before combining with egg.
  • Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat until the yolk and white are combined.
  • Add cold water to the egg and mix well.
  • Sift flour into the egg and water combination.
  • Using a spoon or chopstick, lightly mix making sure not to over stir. The batter should be mixed but a little lumpy.
  • Using a chopstick or a small spoon, sprinkle small amounts at a time of batter into the hot oil and fry for 20 to 30 seconds, or until light brown. Once done, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate covered with a few paper towels to absorb the oil.
  • Repeat the process until all the batter is cooked.
  • Discard the remaining oil when complete.

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.

Assemble the Crunchy California Rolls

  • Cut the avocado and cucumber: Slice the avocado in half the long way. Remove the seed and cut each half into 6 slices. Each whole avocado should yield around 12 slices. You can also drizzle a little lemon juice over your cut avocado to prevent it from browning in your roll.
    You will then need to cut the nori sheets in half so they will fit onto your sushi mat and be the proper size for your rolls. 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 cup of rice onto the nori sheet in an even layer. Tip: Wet your hands prior to handling the sushi rice. This will prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.
  • 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.
  • Add the crab: Spoon about 1/8 of the crab salad mixture onto the nori sheet and spread evenly across the middle of the 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 tempura flakes: Sprinkle tempura mixture over the crab. I wouldn't go too heavy with the tempura flakes as we will add to the outside of the roll as well.
  • Roll the sushi: Use the bamboo sushi mat to fold your roll until it is 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.
  • Add tempura flakes to outside of roll: Sprinkle the tempura flakes over the roll and gently push the flakes onto the roll with the sushi mat, causing the tempura flakes to stick to the rice on your roll.
  • 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.
  • 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 entire nori sheet which makes thicker rolls.
If you like smaller rolls, you can cut the nori sheet in half.  This will definitely make the roll thinner and easier to eat with chopsticks but it can be trickier to roll.  You can also cut off the top 1/4 of the nori sheet to reduce the thickness of the roll depending on your preference.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1Roll | Calories: 549kcal | Carbohydrates: 67.7g | Protein: 11.7g | Fat: 23.2g | Saturated Fat: 3.5g | Cholesterol: 27mg | Sodium: 527mg | Potassium: 421mg | Fiber: 5.1g | Sugar: 4.5g | Calcium: 80mg | Iron: 3mg

Frequently Asked Questions

Are crunchy California rolls gluten-free?

While California rolls by themselves can be gluten-free depending on the type of crab used, the tempura batter often contains gluten as it uses all purpose flour. However, you can make crunchy California rolls gluten-free by substituting the all purpose flour with a gluten-free one-to-one substitute and making sure you use either real crab or an imitation crab that is gluten-free.

Are crunchy California rolls healthy for you?

While avocados and cucumber are great for you and imitation crab is not bad for you, sushi rice and the tempura batter is not very good for you as they are both higher in calories and lower in nutrients.

Can the tempura batter be substituted for something else in crunchy rolls?

Yes. Though tempura batter is my favorite way to add crunch to sushi rolls, you can also use Panko bread crumbs, tobiko, or masago to give it a crunch.

Final Thoughts on Making Crunchy Roll Sushi

Crunchy sushi rolls are a delicious way to taste two Japanese cooking methods in one meal. And while it may seem a little intimidating at first with the preparing of the tempura batter and rolling of the sushi, it’s pretty simple once you dive into it. We hope you enjoy this delicious meal! Happy cooking!

Check out the below articles for more great sushi recipes:

How to Prepare Boston Roll Sushi

Ebi Sushi: What it is and How to Make it

Easy and Delicious Unagi Sauce (Eel Sauce) Recipe

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