With this easy recipe for California Roll, you can enjoy the best fresh sushi whenever you like! Sliced avocado and imitation crab salad are rolled up in vinegar seasoned rice and a sheet of roasted nori seaweed. The simple preparation for this delicious, healthy treat will have your sushi-rolling skills honed and ready to impress!
If I was forced to choose a favorite sushi roll of all time, it would have to be the classic and all-too-familiar California Roll.
But sometimes you just want to go with what you know – and a California Roll never seems to disappoint.
If you’ve visited some of the other sushi resources on the site (Sushi Rice and How to Roll Sushi) then you know that it’s actually quite possible, and even pretty easy!, to make your own sushi at home.
Yup. No need to wait for a fancy date night out, or grab the adequate but often sub-par sushi from the grocery store.
With a few ingredients and a couple of simple techniques, you can make your own California sushi rolls at home – to eat all by yourself or make a bunch to share with friends!
The simple ingredients you need to make this California Roll recipe include:
- Sushi Rice. Slightly sticky, short-grain sushi rice seasoned with rice vinegar acts as the main base to this roll.
- Nori. Roasted seaweed paper has an amazing salty flavor and helps to hold the ingredients together at the center. It can easily be found at Asian or international food markets as well as on the Asian food aisle at most grocery stores.
- Crab sticks. Imitation crab sticks are the best choice, as they will be shredded to make the crab salad. Real crab meat may be used as an alternative. The sticks may also be left intact, with the mayonnaise omitted.
- Mayo. For the most traditional taste, using a Japanese-style mayonnaise such as Kewpie is recommended. Be wary that it contains MSG, however. Regular American-style mayonnaise also works great.
- Cucumber. A thinly julienned and seedless cucumber should be used – otherwise the natural output of liquid will make the roll watery.
- Avocado. One small, fresh, ripe avocado is needed. To test ripeness, it should have just a small amount of give when gently squeezed.
- Sides. If desired, a California roll is often optionally served alongside soy sauce, wasabi, and/or pickled sushi ginger.
How to Make
These are the steps to follow to make this California Roll recipe. Please see the recipe card below for more detailed ingredient amounts.
Prepare Rice and Veggies
In a large bowl, combine your cooked Sushi Rice with the vinegar seasoning mixture. You want to end up with about 4 cups of rice, made fresh and cooled to room temperature before using.
Using a sharp knife, julienne the seedless cucumber into roughly -1/8 to -1/16 inch thick matchsticks.
These can be as long as you like, up to or exceeding the length of the nori sheet, so long as they can be cut evenly. It’s better to err on the side of longer pieces, as they’ll be cut shorter along with the sushi regardless.
Once removed from the skin and the pit, the avocado should also be sliced thin. Squeeze just a small amount of lemon juice over the slices to keep them fresh and bright green if storing the sushi for longer.
Mix Crab Salad
Place the imitation crab meat sticks in a large bowl, and cut them up into smaller pieces. From there, use two forks to shred the meat up finely, or use your hands to make things even easier.
Add the mayonnaise, and mix until it’s well incorporated with the crab meat. It should have a slightly creamy consistency, and be able to spread with relative ease.
For a little bit of extra heat, some people like to mix a small amount of Sriracha into the crab salad to make a “spicy” California roll. Adjust to taste, and set aside or covered in the fridge until ready to assemble the sushi.
Spread the Rice
On top of a bamboo sushi rolling mat, place one sheet of dried nori seaweed, with the rough side facing up.
Add roughly 1 cup of cooled sushi rice on top of the nori, spreading it out as well as you can with a rice paddle. From there, wet your fingertips with a small amount of water and gently spread the rice the rest of the way out to the edges.
Note: If you don’t have a bamboo rolling mat, a tea towel will do as well!
Sprinkle and Flip
Once the rice is evenly spread in a thin layer across the nori, sprinkle a light dusting of toasted black sesame seeds on top. These add a delicately nutty bit of extra flavor to the California Roll.
Lay a large piece of plastic cling wrap over the rice, and very carefully flip the plastic side down onto the mat. With the nori now facing upward, you’re ready to begin filling your roll!
Fill and Roll
Slightly off center, near the edge closest to you, spread out about ¼ of the crab salad mixture (roughly ⅓ cup) in a thin strip across the nori. On top of it, trying to keep the ingredients close together, lay out ¼ of the avocado slices and a few pieces of cucumber.
Add a small sprinkle of salt, if desired. Finely ground sea or kosher salt is ideal for this.
Starting at the edge closest to you again, carefully lift the mat and curl the bottom edge of the rice and nori over the fillings. Continue rolling, pushing the filling back in as you go and gently applying pressure to the roll to make it take shape.
Carefully peel back the plastic a bit at a time as you roll to keep it from rolling up inside the sushi. Keep enough plastic around the roll at its end to ensure it’s still fully wrapped when you’re done.
Set it aside, and repeat with the remaining strips of nori and filling ingredients. You should end up with 4 California rolls.
Cut into Pieces
The easiest way to slice the prepared sushi is by leaving the plastic wrap on. This holds it together and also prevents the rice from sticking to the knife, but it may be removed if you wish.
Run a very sharp chef’s knife under cold water to wet the blade, and very carefully slice each roll into about 8-10 pieces. Cut 2-3 pieces of sushi at a time, rewetting the blade between to keep the rice from sticking.
Repeat this until each roll has been cut into 8-10 pieces. Cut as much sushi as will be eaten in one sitting, and place any remaining rolls, unsliced and wrapped in plastic, in the fridge.
Remove any lingering plastic wrap from the pieces, and serve the California roll arranged on a platter. If desired, sprinkle with an extra bit of toasted sesame seed, Spicy Mayo, and serve with a side of wasabi, pickled sushi ginger, and/or soy sauce.
Meal Prep and Storage
- To Prep-Ahead: A California sushi roll is best if eaten within the first few hours of making, but can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead of time if kept tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
- To Store: Keep rolls uncut and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and they will last for up to 2 days in the refrigerator. After that, the avocado will begin to brown and the rice will harden.
- To Freeze: It is not recommended to freeze a California Roll or any other sushi, for that matter.
While not featured in this recipe, California Rolls are sometimes served with a light coating of Tobiko, a flying fish roe, across the outside. This adds a salty flavor and slightly crunchy texture that many enjoy alongside the creaminess of the roll.
California Rolls are one of the few types of sushi that are served with fully cooked seafood! This makes it a perfectly safe option for children, pregnant women, and those with immunocompromised systems.
Fresh crab meat can be both pricey and difficult to keep fresh after shelling, so imitation crab meat provides an easy and inexpensive alternative which yields a similar result.
Expert Tips and Tricks
- Practice, practice, practice! Like any skill, sushi rolling may take time and multiple attempts to perfect, so be patient and take your time.
- Rinse the rice. Before cooking your sushi rice, ensure that it’s rinsed well to remove excess starch that can turn it mushy.
- Get the good stuff. For a more high-quality California roll, invest in Kewpie mayo and real crab meat.
- Keep the plastic on. Waiting until after the roll has been cut to remove the plastic wrap makes it easier and less messy.
- Get creative with tools. If you don’t have a bamboo rolling mat, plastic and a tea or dish towel works just as well!
More Sushi Recipes
Fresh, delicious sushi can be both easy and inexpensive with even more of these simple recipes:
California Roll Recipe
With this easy recipe for California Roll, you can enjoy the best fresh sushi whenever you like! Sliced avocado and imitation crab salad are rolled up in vinegar seasoned rice and a sheet of roasted nori seaweed.
- 4 cups seasoned sushi rice cooked
- 8 oz. imitation crab meat 8 sticks
- ¼ cup mayo regular or Japanese-style
- 1 avocado thinly sliced
- 1 small cucumber julienned
- 4 sheets nori roasted
- Salt optional
- Toasted sesame seeds black, optional
Prepare the seasoned sushi rice, julienne the cucumber, and cut the avocado into slices.
Add the crab meat sticks to a large bowl and cut into smaller pieces. Shred the meat with two forks. Add mayo and mix until well combined.
Place one sheet of nori on a bamboo sushi mat rough side-up.* Add 1 cup sushi rice on the rough part of the nori. Spread it out as much as you can with a rice paddle. Then, get your fingertips wet with a little water and lightly spread out the rice to all of the edges.
Sprinkle on some toasted black sesame seeds, if desired. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the rice and flip the nori over onto the bamboo mat.
Slightly off-center and close to you, place ¼ of the crab mixture (about ⅓ cup), ¼ of the avocado slices, a few pieces of cucumber, and a sprinkle of salt, if desired.
Starting from the end by you, lift up the mat and begin rolling, pushing back in the filling as you go. Make sure the plastic wrap isn’t getting wrapped up in the roll. Repeat with the remaining nori and filling ingredients until you have 4 rolls.
To Cut the Sushi: You can either cut it with the plastic wrap still on (the easiest way!) or remove the plastic and then cut. Either way you’ll want to run a sharp chef’s knife under cold water and cut 2-3 slices at a time. Repeat this until you have cut each roll into 8-10 pieces.
If you left the plastic wrap on, remove it before serving. Finish the California roll with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds and serve with a side of wasabi, sushi ginger, and soy sauce. Enjoy!
- If you don’t have a bamboo mat, a dish or tea towel will also work great for rolling!
- Learn how to julienne cut and cut an avocado if you don’t already know.
Meal Prep and Storage
- To Prep-Ahead: California Roll is best if eaten within the first few hours of making, but can be prepared up to 24 hours ahead of time if kept tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.
- To Store: Keep rolls uncut and tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, and they will last for up to 2 days. After that avocado will brown and the rice will harden.
- To Freeze: It is not recommended to freeze California Roll.