The first time I tried sushi in high school, it was love at first bite. For years, I enjoyed sushi at restaurants but the thought of making it myself seemed too intimidating. It had to be way too complicated, right?
Then my food allergies happened.
I’ve mentioned before how I’ve been forced to change my diet due to some newly developed food sensitivities. It’s forced me to cut out a lot of things, particularly carbohydrate sources. It’s disheartening to miss foods and flavors I’ve enjoyed since childhood. But I’ve learned to appreciate things I can still have, like sushi, and I found myself getting takeout sushi on a weekly basis. I finally realized that for as often as I was craving sushi, I might as well save some money by making it myself.
As it turns out, creating a simple sushi roll really wasn’t as complicated as I’d feared and I now make it quite regularly. After talking about making my own sushi on Instagram, I had some followers express interest in a simple sushi making blog tutorial. I’m definitely no sushi expert (I’m more of a sushi peasant, if anything), but I’m willing and happy to share what I know!
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You will need a few specialty items to get started. Some ingredients can be found in the international aisle at your local grocery store, or you can order them online (which is great if you’re a lazy mole person like me, who doesn’t like to leave home to run errands).
- A bamboo sushi rolling mat
- Japanese -style, short-grained rice (regular rice won’t work)
- Japanese rice vinegar
- Nori seaweed sheets (this is the brand I like, but any Nori sheet will work)
Traditionally sushi rice is washed very thoroughly several times before cooking. Put your rice in a big bowl and wash it several times, changing out the water until it’s clear. Use a strainer to drain and allow rice to sit for one hour before cooking. If you’re short on time, you can also opt to soak the rice in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then drain and cook.
I use a 1 and 3/4 cup of rice to 2 cups of water ratio. In a large saucepan, combine rice and water. Cover and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Being careful not to lift the lid, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for another 10-15 minutes.
While the rice cooks you can make your dressing and get your rolling station set up. I use a cheap bamboo rolling mat and (out of personal preference) wrap it in plastic wrap. I just find the plastic makes for easier cleanup and there’s less issue with rice sticking (especially for inside-out sushi rolls). I use a basic vinegar dressing for the rice, but swap out traditional sugar for coconut sugar (which gives the rice a brownish tint).
Rice Vinegar Dressing
- 3 Tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 Teaspoons sea salt
Combine all ingredients, mixing together in a small bowl and set aside.
When rice is ready, transfer it to a large, wide bowl. You’ll want to avoid using a metal bowl since you will be working with the rice while it is still hot. A wooden bowl is optimal, but a ceramic bowl works fine as well. Pour your rice vinegar sauce over top.
(If you’re curious what those spots on my shoulder are, click here to find out.)
Using a flat spatula, move it quickly in sharp, chopping motions through the rice from a side angle. You don’t want to mix the rice together like you would a cake batter, because the rice is sticky and the sauce won’t disperse well. If the rice is especially hot, I will sometimes mix with one hand and use a paper plate to fan the rice with the other hand to help cool it as I mix.
Lay your Nori seaweed sheet down with the shiny side down and the rough side face-up (the rice sticks better to the rough side).
Now, this part is important: keep a little dish of water nearby. Wet your hands with water before handling the rice and continue wetting your hands as needed in handling the rice, because the rice will be very sticky.
Spread the rice over the Nori sheet. It can be hard to distribute if you dump a big clumb on there, so I usually roll the rice into a long, log-like shape, set it down in the middle of the sheet and work the rice out into an even layer with my fingers.
I count macros throughout the week and weigh and measure my food to know precise portions. Since I like loading up on carbs for good pre-workout energy in the gym, I like a big, thick sushi roll. I use a ratio of one cup of rice per Nori sheet, but you can use less for a thinner roll. You can also cut the Nori sheet in half, then turn and roll sideways for a smaller, leaner roll. It’s really quite customizable, so I say unto you: Follow your heart and roll what makes you happy.
Okay. Here it is. The moment you’ve been waiting for; possibly even dreading. Rolling everything together. Don’t panic. It’s not that bad. We will get through this together.
Add your filling ingredients onto one edge of the sheet. I usually just keep it simple with some fresh veggies cut into long, thin slices. Here I’m using carrots and avocado. But you really can go wild and toss just about anything in there.
Pick up the edge of the rolling mat from the side nearest you, using your fingers to help keep the filling ingredients in place as you lift it up.
Begin rolling the mat over to meet the other side, carefully keeping the rice inside the Nori sheet.
Lift up the top edge of the bamboo mat (so that it doesn’t get stuck inside the roll) and gently press and roll the cylinder together every so slightly to join.
Continue rolling in the fashion (you’re doing great!).
At the end of the roll, I like to give a gentle squeeze to the whole roll. You don’t want to squish it, just firm up the final shape a bit.
And there is it. Your big, beautiful sushi roll! Take a moment to perform a small victory dance.
Now, if you wanted to stop right here, you could just eat the whole roll burrito-style. That’s quite often what I do since I like sushi as a portable afternoon meal or snack when I’m on the go.
But if you wanted to get all fancy and use eating utensils like a more civilized human being, you can slice it up.
In the same manner you wet your hands, wet a large, sharp knife with a splash of water to help prevent the rice from sticking.
Using a gentle pressure, slide the blade through the roll, taking care not to smash it as you do. Don’t feel too bad about that first piece if it doesn’t look ultra glamorous. The end piece of a sushi roll is kind of ugly, anyway. Like that first unsightly pancake in an in a big stack of flapjacks, you can just hide it at the bottom of the pile or eat any unsightly evidence.
See what I mean? Look how pretty it is inside!
Keep on slicing, wiping and wetting your knife as needed, to complete the whole roll.
And there you have it! How to make an easy sushi roll!
Like I said before, I usually keep it simple with a basic veggie roll. But you can add other ingredients, like raw or cooked meat. You do have to consume raw protein at your own risk, so I haven’t braved adding raw fish into my rolls just yet. But know there are a couple Asian markets in town that offer sushi-grade quality fish for when I’m ready to try it. I’ve heard there are two keys to buying raw fish for sushi:
- 1) Assuring same day freshness of the fish
- 2) That it is labeled as high-quality, “sushi-grade” meat and safe for raw consumption
I’ll often eat a couple of these rolls a day and love how they’re a very portable, carb-dense meal/snack. As a fitness instructor, I’m on the go most of the week traveling from gym to gym. That means packing my food to take along with me to make sure I can get all my calories in throughout the day in a timely manner to support all my activity.
And there you have it. You now know all of my sushi-making secrets! Go forth. Roll. Eat. Be happy.
Do you love to make sushi? As a newbie to the sushi making world, I’d love to hear any tips or tricks you have learned along the way! Feel free to share your wisdom in the comment section!
- 1 3/4 Cups Japanese -style, short-grained rice
- 1 Pack of Nori seaweed sheets
- 3 Tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar (I used coconut sugar)
- Your favorite veggies, cut into long, thin slices
- 2 Teaspoons sea salt
- 2 Cups water
- 1 Bamboo sushi rolling mat
- Small bowl of water
Place rice in large bowl and rinse thoroughly, changing out the water several times until the water is clear. Use a strainer to drain and allow to sit for one hour before cooking. If you’re short on time, soak the rice in cold water for 10-15 minutes, then drain.
In a large saucepan, combine rice and water. Cover and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes. Being careful not to lift the lid, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for another 10-15 minutes.
While rice cools, combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl, mixing together well. When rice is ready, transfer it to a large, wide bowl and pour your rice vinegar sauce over top. Using a flat spatula, mix rice and dressing together with quick chopping motions from a side angle until everything is well combined (don’t mix it together in a circular fashion). If the rice it especially hot, simultaneously mix with one hand and use a paper plate to fan the rice with the other hand to help cool as you mix.
You can run the Nori sheet over a low gas flame or electric hot plate for a few seconds to give it a quick toast and bring out the flavor and give it a crisp texture before adding the rice. Lay your Nori sheet down on your bamboo rolling sheet with the shiny side down and the rough side face-up. Wet your hands in the small bowl of water, and take a handful of rice and mold it into a long log-like shape. Place it in the center of the Nori sheet and use our fingers to spread it out evenly over the mat (wet your hands in the water as needed to prevent rice from sticking). Add your filling ingredients to the edge of the sheet closest to you and roll the sushi according to the steps listed in the above post.
All writing and images copyright © 2018 Rachel Elise Weems Woods