How To Make Sushi At Home

Although the sushi tradition began in Asia centuries ago, it has since become extremely popular in the United States and around the world. While the trend is only increasing in popularity, sushi fans often find themselves paying high prices for this foreign delicacy.

What most do not realize, is that anyone can easily create elaborate and delicious sushi in their own home for a much lower price. Not only does this save money, but it also allows anyone to customize sushi rolls to include all their favorite ingredients.



  • “Makisudare” – bamboo rolling mat
  • “Hocho” – Sharp kitchen knife


  • “Nori” – dried, edible seaweed paper
  • Short-grain, Jazmin rice
  • Vinegar, salt, sugar, water
  • Any fish, vegetables or additional items to add to the sushi

The only tools necessary are a sharp knife and a “makisudare,” meaning bamboo rolling mat. The term “makisudare” comes from the combination of two Japanese terms; “maki,” which means roll, and “sudare,” which is a term given to a popular bamboo curtain in many Japanese homes. The sushi mat can be found at any cooking store and many grocery stores.

The first step is to prepare the rice that will be inside of each roll. “Shan”, or vinegar rice, is a rice recipe used in the majority of sushi. To create sushi rice, start by cooking as much Jasmine rice that will be needed. For six to eight rolls, make approximately two cups of rice. Traditional white rice or brown rice may also be used to accommodate taste preferences.

“It’s a lot better to use an actual rice cooker than to cook rice over the stove,” said sushi apprentice Kevin Nishimura. “If you cook the rice on the stove it tends to come out in clumps, which isn’t good for rolling.”

While the rice is cooking, mix together two tablespoons each of salt, sugar and rice vinegar in a saucepan. Bring these ingredients to a boil and remove from the heat. These ingredients are what give sushi rice its distinct flavor.

After it is finished, take the sushi rice and spread it out over a large pan or cookie sheet and evenly disperse the vinegar mixture across the top. It is important to use a wooden rice paddle to mix the rice and move it to the second pan. Be gentle with the rice during this process or the rice grains may be cut or smashed, which will affect the sushi.  Immediately after finishing, cover all of the rice with a cool, wet towel and wait until it reaches room temperature.

“The rice is one of the most important parts of sushi, if it isn’t perfect the roll with fall apart or the rice will turn out too crunchy,” Nishimura said. “Covering the rice while it cools will help it stay at the perfect consistency and not dry out.”


Types of Sushi

The next step is deciding on what to make and which ingredients to use. There are multiple different styles of traditional sushi that offer a lot of variety. The four most popular styles in Western culture include “Nigirizushi,” “Makizushi,” “Chirashizushi” and “Temakizushi.”

“Nigiri” is hand-formed sushi that includes a cut of fish or vegetable that is placed over a small amount of formed rice. “Makizushi” is probably the most recognizable styles of sushi in the Western world and is a traditional style, round roll that is cut up into smaller, bite-size pieces. These rolls may include anywhere from one to multiple different ingredients.

“There is a lot of variety there when you make rolls because you can add as many ingredients as you want,” Nishimura said. “You can put whatever you want on the inside and even add different types of fish or vegetables to the outside too. Its fun to play around with all the different options and see what works and what doesn’t.”

“Chirashizushi,” meaning scattered sushi, is much different from the other three styles. It can include many different types of fish scattered in pieces on top of a bowl of a ginger and sushi rice mixture. Actual formation or rolling is not required in this style of sushi. “Chirashizushi” allows someone to try any type of fish on its own instead of combining them with other ingredients. This provides a more straightforward, pure taste of each fish.

“Temakizushi,” or hand roll, is another unique style of sushi, prepared in a single roll where the “nori,” or seaweed, resembles an ice cream cone shape on the outside with all the fish, rice and added ingredients held inside.


Beginning the Sushi Roll

Before starting the first roll, prepare a small bowl of rice vinegar and water. While making sushi, repeatedly dip your fingers in the bowl to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands.

To make a basic sushi roll, start by wrapping the bamboo mat in plastic wrap to keep the rice and any other ingredients from sticking. Next, place a whole sheet of nori over the mat. Take a small handful of rice, form it into a ball and place it in the center of the nori sheet. Using both hands, flatten the rice so it spreads out evenly to the edges of the sheet.

“It’s important to make sure to use the right amount of rice,” Nishimura said. “If you use too much, the pressure will cause the nori sheet to tear. The first time making sushi will take practice to get the right amount, but after a couple tries it’s easy to figure out.”

Once the base of the roll is created the fun begins; choosing ingredients. There are many traditional Japanese and American roll recipes available. Many popular Western styles include California rolls, Philadelphia rolls and Spider rolls. While these are extremely popular among American sushi bars, part of the appeal of making sushi at home is the freedom of creativity.


Choosing the Right Ingredients

Many people trying sushi for the first time may be a bit hesitant to try raw fish; this is why making sushi at home is a great way to introduce someone to the tradition for the first time.

It is very important to understand that some sushi ingredients do and do not go well with others. For example, combining too many types of fish in one roll will cause an overwhelming amount of flavor and ruin the taste of each fish. It is a better idea to combine one to two different types of fish and compliment those flavors with the appropriate vegetables and other additions.

“The flavor combinations may be hard to figure out at first, so look recipes up in books or online or just keep experimenting,” Nishimura said. “You never want to lose the flavor of the fish because of too many ingredients.”

When buying raw fish for sushi it is important to find the freshest sushi grade fish available. The best quality will be found at Japanese markets or traditional fish markets. If these options are not available, there are countless resources online to order sushi grade fish.

The taste and texture of raw fish can change dramatically in a matter of just a few days, so finding the best possible is very important. Look for the freshest Salmon, Tuna, Yellowtail or any other type of fish desired. Some may be easier to find fresh then others depending on the purchase location.

Aside from fish, the cut and preparation put into any vegetables that are added is also very important. Fresh cucumber, avocado and a number of other vegetables are fairly popular. While a lot of these vegetables can be found in any grocery store, traditional Japanese vegetables may be more difficult to track down, but are necessary in many recipes. Ingredients like daikon, shiso and gobo are popular vegetables in many sushi recipes. Adding items such as jalapeno and strawberry can give any roll a unique flavor and enhance taste.

Finishing the Roll

            Now that the appropriate ingredients have been selected and prepared, it’s time to add them to the premade nori sheet and start rolling. First, place whichever ingredients that are desired on the inside of the roll at the top inch of the nori sheet. All ingredients should be cut in long, thin strips and measure about the same length as the nori.

Next, starting at the end with the inside ingredients, take the very edge of the nori and gently fold it over the top. Ideally, the edge of the sheet should be tucked into the roll as tightly as possible. Remember, continuously dipping your fingers into the water and vinegar will keep the sushi rice on the roll and not your hands.

Once the edge of the nori has the ingredients tightly tucked in the first rotation, slowly begin rolling the rest. This is where the bamboo mat will help the most. Use the mat to help guide the roll into the appropriate place. The process requires a gentle touch, so be as patient as possible.

“Some people might get frustrated when their first roll doesn’t turn out absolutely perfect, but with a little practice I think a lot would be surprised at how quickly they pick it up,” Nishimura said.

Once the sheet is completely rolled up, dabbing some vinegar or salt water on the last portion of the nori sheet will help it stick. Take the roll off of the bamboo mat and place it directly onto a cutting board. It is easy to improve the shape of the roll at this point by placing the mat over the top and hand-shaping it to make any improvements.

This is also the time to add any fish to the top of the roll if desired as well. Simply cut the fish that is to be added to the top into a long one inch wide strip and lay it over the top. Again, use the bamboo mat to help the fish conform to the shape of the roll.

Finally, it is time to cut the roll that was just prepared. Take a sharp kitchen knife and wipe down the blade with a wet towel. Most sushi rolls are cut into six to eight pieces depending on size. Between each cut, make sure to wipe down the blade again. This will help keep any ingredients from sticking to the blade and damaging the roll. Afterwards, either let it set in the refrigerator for ten minutes or eat it right away and enjoy!

Making sushi is a fun project for anyone who wants to enjoy a foreign delicacy in their own home. Not only is it fun to experiment with ingredients, it is also healthy, much more cost friendly and will be great entertainment for anyone involved.


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About Bailey Mesch

I live in Denver, Colorado and am a convergent journalism major at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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