California Rolls


Fresh crabmeat, creamy avocado, and crisp cucumber are at the heart of this popular sushi roll.

California Sushi Rolls

Frederick Hardy II / Food Styling by Melissa Gray / Prop Styling by Christina Brockman

Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
4 servings
4 rolls

A California roll is a maki-style sushi roll that uses avocado, cucumber, and lump crab meat instead of the traditional raw fish. Maki-style sushi means that the ingredients are rolled in seaweed and paired with vinegared sushi rice. 

The origins story for this dish varies. According to some accounts, the California roll was not created in California at all but in Vancouver, Canada, by a Japanese chef named Hidekazu Tojo. He could not get his western clients to eat the raw fish in sushi, so he swapped the raw fish for locally enjoyed ingredients like steamed Dungeness crab and avocado.

Another account claims that the California roll was created In Los Angeles by a different Japanese chef, Ichiro Mashita. The common thread is that each of these chefs sought a way to bring their culinary traditions to their new homes while utilizing the ingredients endemic.

How to Make California Rolls 

The key to making California rolls, and sushi rolls in general, is the rice. Tossing freshly steamed rice with a rice vinegar and sugar mixture helps make the rice sticky and also infuses it with a tangy-sweet flavor that complements the other ingredients.

Sliced avocado, crunchy cucumber, and fresh crabmeat fill out the interior of the roll. Togarashi-spiced mayonnaise brings all of the ingredients together by adding creamy balance to the sour rice and crisp textures.

You’ll need a bamboo sushi rolling mat to help guide you as you roll. California rolls are delicious to prepare for lunch or dinner and a great way to get your guests involved at a gathering. Line up the bamboo mats and let your friends roll their own.


  • 1 1/2 cups sushi rice

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup, plus 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar, divided

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably Kewpie)

  • 1/2 teaspoon togarashi seasoning

  • 2/3 cup fresh lump crabmeat, drained and picked over, or medium-size peeled, deveined cooked shrimp, butterflied

  • 2 (8-inch) toasted nori (dried seaweed) sheets, halved

  • 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds

  • 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

  • 1 small Persian cucumber, cut into 4-inch matchsticks

  • 1 small avocado, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup pickled ginger, drained

  • 4 teaspoons wasabi paste


  1. In a large bowl, cover rice with cold water. Using your hand, agitate rice to release starch; carefully drain water. Rinse rice 5 to 7 more times until water runs clear. Transfer rice to a small saucepan, and add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook until rice absorbs water, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and let rice stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer rice to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or large bowl; set aside, and let cool completely, about 20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, combine sugar, 1/4 cup of the vinegar, and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a small microwavable bowl; microwave on HIGH until sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute. Pour hot vinegar mixture over rice, folding to coat rice in vinegar mixture using a spatula (be careful not to break grains of rice). Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature.

  3. Stir together mayonnaise, togarashi seasoning, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Add crabmeat, and fold to coat with mayonnaise mixture.

  4. To make 1 sushi roll, place a 9 1/2-inch bamboo sushi mat on a clean work surface. Cover with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Place one-half of the nori sheet on plastic wrap. Fill a medium bowl with warm water, and place on work surface next to bamboo mat for wetting hands. Scoop about 3/4 to 1 cup of reserved rice onto nori sheet. Wet hands, and press rice into an even layer over nori. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon each toasted white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds. Carefully flip nori sheet and rice onto plastic wrap so that rice is touching plastic wrap and nori sheet is facing up. Place 4 cucumber pieces lengthwise down center of nori sheet. Top with about 2 tablespoons of crabmeat mixture and 2 or 3 avocado slices. Using bamboo mat and plastic wrap, lift and roll bottom of sushi and nori sheet up and over filling. Continue to roll until filling is fully enclosed by rice and nori sheet. Firmly hold bamboo-wrapped sushi roll to make sure it is completely sealed. Remove bamboo and plastic wrap from sushi roll. Repeat process to make 3 more sushi rolls.

  5. Fill a tall glass with hot water. Dip a sharp chef’s knife into hot water, and cut sushi into 6 to 8 slices, dipping knife into water between each slice in order to create cleaner cuts. Serve with pickled ginger and wasabi.

Related Articles