Now you can appease that California Roll craving whenever you like by using our simple step-by-step guide for making fresh sushi at home! Sliced avocado and imitation crab salad are rolled up in subtly sweet seasoned rice and a sheet of roasted nori seaweed. Incredibly impressive-looking but secretly so easy to make!

A plate full of California sushi roll pieces are on a white plate.

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.

While I’m often a HUGE fan of the raw and uncooked kinds, I love getting a vegetarian Avocado Roll or even switching it up with a Philadelphia 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.

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!

Nori, sushi rice, cucumber, avocado, crab meat, mayo, salt, and sesame seeds are the ingredients in this California roll recipe.
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Ingredients You’ll Need

Notes about the ingredients needed for this California Roll recipe are below. Jump to recipe for the exact measurements.

  • 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. 

Special Equipment for Sushi Making

  • Bamboo Mat: The main kitchen tool you’ll need when making sushi rolls at home. While you can use a simple dish towel, a sushi mat makes the process much easier.
  • Non-stick Rice Paddle: This helps ensure the sticky sushi rice adheres to the nori instead of sticking to the paddle.
  • Sharp Knife: A sharp knife is essential for cutting vegetables into thin, long strips and for slicing the sushi roll into pieces.

Note: For more information on preparing sushi rice, avocado, and julienned cucumber at home, please see How to Make Sushi Rice, How to Cut an Avocado, and the best way to Julienne Cut .

How to Make a California Sushi Roll

Please see the recipe card below for more detailed ingredient amounts. Jump to recipe for the printable instructions.

1. Prepare the sushi rice and filling ingredients.

You will need about 4 cups of cooked Sushi Rice. The secret is a sweetened vinegar mixture. You want to add the vinegar mix while it’s hot, but let the rice cool completely before making the sushi.

Using a sharp knife, julienne the seedless cucumber into roughly ⅛- to ¹⁄₁₆-inch thick matchsticks. 

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.

2. Mix the 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.

3. Spread the rice onto the nori sheet.

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 work, too!

4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and flip nori over.

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!

4. Add filling ingredients and roll nori using the mat.

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.

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. Ensure the plastic doesn’t get wrapped into the roll.

Set it aside, and repeat with the remaining strips of nori and filling ingredients. You should end up with 4 California rolls.

5. Cut sushi roll 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.

Wet a very sharp chef’s knife under cool water to prevent sticking, then carefully slice each roll into 8-10 pieces, rewetting the knife every 2-3 slices.

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.

Storing Leftover Sushi Rolls

For the best taste, enjoy homemade sushi rolls immediately after making. To store, keep uncut rolls wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. They will last up to 2 days before the avocado browns and the rice hardens.


What is the orange stuff on California rolls?

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.

Are California rolls considered raw?

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.

Why don’t they use real crab in California rolls?

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.

Sushi Roll Making Tips

  • Do not overfill the rolls or they will be hard to tightly roll up.
  • A bowl or cup of water nearby is perfect to keep your fingers or knife from sticking.
  • The sushi rice should be cool before adding it to the nori or it will get a rubbery texture.
  • Cut ingredients into thin strips so you get a bit in each bite.

More Sushi Recipes

Fresh, delicious sushi can be both easy and inexpensive with even more of these simple recipes:

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5 from 1 vote

California Roll Recipe

Now you can appease that California Roll craving whenever you like by using our simple step-by-step guide for making fresh sushi at home! Sliced avocado and imitation crab salad are rolled up in subtly sweet seasoned rice and a sheet of roasted nori seaweed.
Yield 4 rolls
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 45 minutes
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  • 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.
    4 cups seasoned sushi rice, 1 small cucumber, 1 avocado
  • 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.
    8 oz. imitation crab meat, ¼ cup mayo
  • 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.
    4 sheets nori
  • 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.
    Toasted sesame seeds
  • 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!
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review letting us know how it was!

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5 from 1 vote



  • Bamboo mat: If you don’t have one, a dish or tea towel will also work great for rolling!
  • Storage: For the best taste, enjoy homemade sushi rolls immediately after making. To store, keep uncut rolls wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the refrigerator. They will last up to 2 days before the avocado browns and the rice hardens.
  • Sushi Rice: Learn how to make your own sushi rice at this recipe here. Make sure to let this come to room temperature completely before rolling the sushi.
  • Filling: Avoid overfilling the rolls, as this makes it difficult to roll them up tightly.
  • Prevent Sticking: Keep a bowl of water nearby to wet your hands and prevent the rice from sticking.


Calories: 410kcal, Carbohydrates: 53g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 18g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 12mg, Sodium: 422mg, Potassium: 375mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 267IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 23mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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