California Roll Recipe

Learn how to make the most Popular Sushi Roll made in America...
But kick it over the top with a Roe-Mayo Sauce that you can only find right here!

California roll with roe on the outside
california roll

I hope that when you get done following this California roll recipe that you will think that it is the best California Roll that you have ever tasted.

Maybe even surpassing the ones that you've been getting in your favorite sushi bar. 

Well, at least that is my goal.

But before we actually get started, I thought you might be interested in hearing a little about how it came to be. How the California roll originally got created. It actually does have a very interesting history.

The story goes that the California roll was developed in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles in the late 1960's by Machita Ichiro the sushi chef in a restaurant called Tokyo Kaikan.

It seems the restaurant was having problems obtaining fat belly tuna (toro) for its mainly Japanese customers so he started to substitute avocado instead. Avocado has a similar consistency and tends to melt in the mouth kind of like toro.

Later, when the  number of American customers started to increase, some said that they disliked the texture of the seaweed, so Ichiro turned the roll "Inside-Out"; thus putting the rice on the outside, and the seaweed on the inside. In effect, "hiding" it. 

This seemed to pacify the American customers and so the California Roll was born.  

Rather clever, don't you think?

It must have worked because the California roll is now one of the most popular types of sushi ordered in the U.S. and the California roll recipe is one of the most, if not the most, popular sushi recipes searched for on the internet.

Its popularity however has not caught on in Japan. The Japanese prefer the texture of seaweed. And since the California roll tends to fall apart more easily when picked up with chopsticks and dipped in soy sauce they don't prefer it over the traditional Maki roll with the seaweed on the outside.

A California roll doesn't have to be eaten quite as quickly as the other Maki rolls because the nori is rolled up on the inside of the rice so there are no worries about the nori splitting. The Maki rolls which have the nori on the outside may split after a while because the rice expands over time.  

California Roll Recipe

California roll with black and white sesame seeds on the outside


Sushi Rice (this will yield 4 cups of rice and this recipe 4 rolls)

(Try to buy a high quality Japanese short grain white rice if you can)

Sushi Nori

Imitation crab meat sticks
Measuring crab meat stick
Showing cellophane wrapper on crab meat stick
Slicing crab meat stick in half

4 oz. crab meat preferably sticks or legs (split in half). Each crab stick will be around 1oz.

1/2 salt-scrubbed english (hot house) or Japanese cucumber sliced into slivers

Slicing avocado in half
2 halves of avocado
Slicing avocado for california roll

1 avocado (slice avocado right before you are ready to assemble your roll so that it won't discolor)

Black and White Sesame Seeds

4 tsp toasted or roasted white sesame seeds (or 8 tsp if you don't have black sesames seeds)

4 tsp toasted or roasted black sesame seeds (or 8 tsp if you don't have white sesames seeds)

Roe-Mayo sauce


Bamboo Sushi Mat

How to make Roe-Mayo Sauce

Tobikko flying fish roe package
Opened Tobikko flying fish roe package
Roe, Mayo, and green onions for Roe-Mayo sauce
Mixed Roe, Mayo, and green onions for Roe-Mayo sauce


2 Tbsp Japanese or Regular Mayonnaise

2 Tbsp finely minced green onions

2 Tbsp flying fish roe

1 tsp imitation wasabi or real wasabi (optional - only if you want to add some "wasabi kick" to this sauce)


Combine mayonnaise, green onions, and roe in a bowl and mix well.

If you don't have flying fish roe you can get it here. And even if you don't add the flying fish roe, this roll will still be delicious so don't let that stop you from making it.

Cover and store in refrigerator while you are preparing the other ingredients for your roll. 

Assembling the California Roll

Bending nori in half
Bending nori back the other way to help break it
Finish breaking nori in half

1. A California roll is normally made by taking a 8 x 7 inch sheet of Nori and cutting or folding the sheet in half on the 8 inch side so that you end up with two 4 x 7 inch sheets, although I recommend not using this method, but rather the next one where we cut the nori into a 5 x 7 inch sheet. 

The following is just to show you how to make a 4 x 7 sheet in case you decide to try it this way later.

In the leftmost picture above, I am bending the nori sheet over on the 8 inch side. When the left edge is even, I take my right hand and pinch up and down the right edge.

Next, in the middle picture the nori is folded back the other way to help make the break.

In the rightmost picture, the final separation is made. 

Measuring 5 inches on 8 inch side of nori sheet
Showing 5 inch side of nori

I think a 5 x 7 inch sheet is better and easier for making this California roll recipe. This is the way I'd recommend you making this roll, if nothing at least for the first few times.

When you've built your confidence then you can try it with a 4 x 7 sheet and see how you like it.

Anyway, measure 5 inches from the edge of the 8 inch side and either cut it with scissors or fold and break. 

Sushi mat makisu in gallon plastic bag

2. Put the bamboo sushi mat in a gallon ziploc bag or wrap it entirely in saran wrap.

If you use a gallon ziploc bag, buy the cheapest ones you can find. The plastic will be thinner and more flexible and easier to roll. This is the one time when cheaper is better :-)

dipping fingers in vinegared water
Tapping excess vinegared water off of fingers

3. Dip your hands in vinegared water (1/4 cup rice vinegar + 1 cup water) and tap your fingers on a folded damp rung-out towel to remove any excess water.

Measuring 1 cup of rice for california roll
1 cup rice on nori for california roll

4. One of the best ways that I have found to make your california rolls a consistent size is by measuring your rice each time. Take your 1 cup measure and moisten the inside with vinegared water so that the rice will not stick. Shake out any excess. Then measure out 1 cup of rice and put it on your nori sheet. Refer to the pictures above.

1 cup rice spread on nori for California roll

5. Spread the 1 cup of rice over the entire nori sheet so that it goes to all four of the edges. If you want to distribute roe, tempura, or sesame seeds over the rice, you can do it here before flipping the sheet over or wait to sprinkle it over the top of the roll when finished; it is up to you. 

Mixed black and white sesame seeds

6. Mix the white and black sesame seed together. 

black and white sesame seeds on rice for california roll

7. Spread 2 tsp of sesame seeds evenly over the rice. 

Roe-Mayo Sauce spread over nori for california roll

8. Flip the sheet over so that the nori side is now facing up. If you like wasabi, you can swipe some on before spreading about 1/4 of the roe mayo sauce across the nori. Make it not quite centered but rather a little closer to you (see picture above).

Adding crab sticks to california roll

9. Lay 2 half pieces of the crab on top of the roe mayo sauce. 

Adding cucumber and avocado to california roll

10. Now lay 3 or 4 slivers of cucumber right next to the crab on the side farthest from you. Then lay a row of avocado across the nori next to the cucumber. 

First step in rolling California roll

11. Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands by putting your thumbs under the mat and while lifting up, use your fingers to hold the fillings in place.

2nd step in rolling California roll

12. Keep rolling the mat until the end of the mat touches the nori straight down, enclosing all of the fillings.

Tightening California roll

13. Now, lift the edge of the mat with your fingertips (so that it won't get turned under) and continue rolling until it is all sealed. 

Finished California roll not sliced

14. Flying fish roe, tempura or sesame seeds can be sprinkled on the top or you can roll it in them (if you did not do it earlier).

1st slice for California roll
2nd slices for California roll
Final slices to create 8 pieces for California roll

15. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Moisten your sushi knife with vinegared water and cut the roll exactly in the center (leftmost picture above). Then cut each half in half again (middle picture). Finish by cutting the 4 pieces in half. 

California roll on sushi plate

Remove the plastic wrap, arrange on a sushi plate and serve!

And there you have it. The California Roll Recipe with a special Roe-Mayo sauce.

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David Guthrie, EzineArticles Basic Author