Homemade Sushi Recipe and Tutorial (Maki Rolls)

Homemade sushi maki rolls
I'm a sushi gal all the way, and have been ever since I was a little girl; even before it became “in vogue” enough for them to be selling sushi in the grocery store, at pizza places, and steak houses, sushi was one of my favorite foods.

 I love all Asian food, pretty much, (Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Pakistani, you name it!) but sushi is one of my all time favorite foods, evoking pleasant memories of loving time spent with my family.

 Because sushi is one of my favorite foods, I do pamper myself and allow myself to splurge and go out to a sushi bar on occasion, but that enjoyability is often marred by a bit of guilty feelings by how much I'm spending on something so fleeting, so I try not to go out for sushi too often.

Instead, I try to bring the sushi bar to my own home, and make this treat for a fration of the cost of what it costs in the restaurant or store.

Honestly? I enjoy homemade sushi even more than restaurant sushi, because at home I'm able to fill my sushi with all the things I enjoy, and don't need to confine myself to the choices on their menu.

This post is very picture heavy, and even includes a video at the bottom to make it even clearer. Would you like to learn how to make sushi and be able to treat yourself to this delicacy without needing to pay a fortune? Come on in and join in on the fun.

How to Make Sushi Maki at Home Frugally

Prepared sushi rice (see my instructions here how to make sushi rice frugally)
Nori seaweed wrappers (see note below for alternatives)
Fillings, such as:

  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Scallions
  • Avocado
  • Omelets
  • Lox
  • Canned tuna fish
  • Mock crab
  • Sushi grade fish
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Etc...
Condiments, such as:
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi
  • Pickled ginger
  • Spicy mayo
Alternative Ingredients Note:
Re: Nori wrappers- If you don't want to use nori (seaweed) as the wrapper for your sushi because it is too expensive, because it isn't available locally, or because you don't like the taste, you can also use rice wrappers soaked in water for 30 seconds, a very thin omelet, homemade crepes (leave out the sugar and replace the milk with water if using that recipe), or lettuce leaves, collard green leaves, kale, or Swiss chard.
Re: Sushi rice- the recipe I've included for homemade sushi rice includes white sugar, which I've cut out of our diet for health reasons. To make this more healthy, you can substitute honey (in a 1:1 ration) for the white sugar in the recipe and it tastes just as yummy, and is healthier. Yes, the recipe includes white rice, but according to certain traditional and paleo/primal foods websites I've read, of grains, white rice is actually the most neutral and easily digestible and if you're going to include one grain into your diet, its a good idea for it to be that one, so I don't feel bad about recommending its use in a recipe. However, if you avoid white rice, sushi can be made with brown rice or quinoa or even things like parsnips (!!!), but as their texture is very different from the sushi rice I make, I can't guarantee that you can make rolls with those using my instructions, but you're invited to try.
Re: Condiments- I use gluten free soy sauce, purchased pickled ginger, and purchased wasabi paste, but I would like to try making the recipe I've seen for healthier homemade pickled ginger, I just haven't done so yet. You can also make spicy mayo, but I've never done it.
Re: Fish- A fish store just opened up near me that sells sushi grade salmon. It isn't so cheap per pound, however, I asked them to slice the 2 pound fillet of fish into 6 pieces. Because of safety, to kill potential parasites, you're supposed to freeze sushi fish for at least 2 weeks before using it, so I just used one piece of the salmon for a whole meal of perhaps 10 sushi rolls, and saved the rest for another sushi making session. Even though the salmon is still expensive per pound, because you don't need so much fish for your sushi, you don't need to spend so much even on sushi grade salmon for your sushi if you go that route. If you don't have access to sushi grade fish, you can also use cooked fish in your recipe or leave out the fish entirely.

Bamboo sushi mat (a one time expense, and you can buy this very cheaply )
Plastic wrap (recommended but not necessary, just makes clean up easier, and helps if using something other than nori to wrap your sushi)
Serrated knife


1. Wrap your sushi mat completely with plastic wrap so that it is entirely covered and has no bamboo exposed, but make sure that your mat is still flexible. (If you're an experienced sushi maker, you can skip this, but I don't recommend that to a novice.)

2. Make sure your sushi rice is room temperature- if your sushi rice is hot it won't stick as it should. Note- you don't want to have refrigerated your sushi rice either- once refrigerated its consistency changes- make your sushi rice a few hours in advance so it has time to cool down but doesn't need to go in the refrigerator.

3. Prepare your sushi fillings. In restaurants, the carrots they use are generally raw, but my mom taught me how to make the carrots even yummier for sushi. Take carrots, onions, and fresh ginger and peel them all.

4. Slice your onion into rings, and cut your carrots into thin matchsticks, each a few inches long, and cut your ginger into very tiny pieces.

5. Saute your onions in oil until translucent, then add carrots and ginger, and cook until soft. Set aside to cool.

6. Prepare the rest of your sushi filling. You want them to be cut into uniformly sized pieces, each approximately the same length, and of a consistent width throughout. In the picture below you can see the sauteed carrots with onions and ginger, avocado slices, cucumber sticks, strips of egg omelets, and scallions.

7. Lay 1 sheet of nori (or whatever other wrapper you're using) on your sushi mat.

8. Wet your hands thoroughly (but be careful not to drip water on the nori, as it will make it sticky and ruin it), and take some sushi rice from the pot, and press a thin layer of rice onto the bottom 1/2 to 2/3 your nori. Don't just place the rice down, you need to mush it down onto the seaweed.

When doing this, its important to note that your sushi rice needs to be a uniform thickness throughout the entire area covered with rice, otherwise your sushi won't hold together nicely (it will be lumpy or too loose and your fillings will likely fall out). Make sure the top edge of the rice is a straight line, and make sure the edges and corners of the nori aren't neglected. You may find the rice starting to stick to your fingers as you do this. If so, wash the rice off and then take some more rice using your wet hands. The water will stop the rice from sticking to your hands.

9. This is what your nori should look like once you've covered it with your rice. Note that the rice reaches all the corners and edges. Also be careful that no rice gets on the upper portion of the nori, or this will stop your sushi from sticking together nicely.

10. Once you've covered the required portion of the nori with rice, use a finger to make an indent in the rice in a straight line towards the bottom middle of the rice, as in the pictures.

11. Lay your fillings in the indent in the rice, making sure that you are putting the same amount of filling across the whole thing, that there isn't one side or part with a thicker layer of fillings, as this will cause problems when trying to make your roll stay together. Again, I'll repeat, the most important rule when making sushi maki is that everything needs to be uniform and consistent, otherwise the roll won't hold together nicely. I like to put in as many fillings at once, especially if I'm not using fish, as it adds more flavor, but feel free to do it as you choose.

12. Use your fingers to hold the fillings in place, and stick your thumbs under the bamboo mat.

13. Continue to use your fingers to hold the fillings in place, but now start trying to roll the rice on the nori that's closest to you with your thumb. You want to make this as tight as possible, and you want that edge of the rice to meet the farther edge of the rice, where it meets the nori. Of course, you'll need to remove your fingers from the filling, but try to do this at the last possible moment.

14. After you've brought one edge of the rice to meet the other edge of the rice, and you have some nori flat on the mat, you want to tighten your roll and make sure it isn't too loose by pressing down on the part of the sushi mat that is touching the uncovered plain nori.

15. Unroll the sushi mat, and using your fingers, tightly roll the roll the rest of the way until you have a cylinder of sushi roll. If you're a novice, dab a tiny drop of water along the edge of the nori before rolling it up- this will help the seaweed stick to itself.

16. Roll the sushi roll in the bamboo mat loosely from the further end of the bamboo mat, rolling it towards you instead of away from you as you were doing before, until your sushi roll is surrounded entirely by bamboo. Up until now, in all the steps you wanted everything to be as tight as possible, but this specific step you should make sure to do loosely enough.

17. Wrap your hands around both sides of your sushi mat/roll, and press firmly. This is how you're making sure that everything will hold together nicely and it won't fall apart. Don't press too hard though, or your rice and fillings will likely squirt out the sides. Make sure you're pressing both sides evenly, or the same thing will happen.

18. Unroll your mat to reveal your perfectly beautiful sushi maki roll. Front view.

Side view.

19. Using a clean, serrated knife, cut your roll in half and move your roll like this, with both newly exposed ends facing the same direction. Try to find the seam of the nori, and put that side up, and cut directly into that when cutting. This will help your roll not unravel while cutting it.

20. Using your knife, try to smush back in whatever came out of the other ends of the sushi when rolling it.

21. Cut off the "less pretty" ends first. You can either eat them now or serve them with your sushi. I tend to do the former, as it ruins the presentation of the final product because they generally look less than perfect unless you're a REAL expert. (My having made sushi rolls at least a hundred times in my life doesn't make me enough of an expert for that.)

22. Use your knife to cut the rest of the sushi roll into uniform pieces. Be gentle with the knife and use a back and forth motion (that's why you need a serrated knife for this) so you don't end up squeezing the rice and filling out of the roll when cutting it. If the knife gets dirty and covered in rice, it won't cut as neatly or as well, so you might want to clean the knife one or two times while cutting the roll.

23. Flip the sushi upright to expose the beautiful filling on the inside. Note how the fillings are pretty centered, and how the nori is all on the outside? I personally don't like how sushi looks when its made into a spiral, as it is when many novice sushi makers make it. This way looks like like how it is made when served in restaurants, in my opinion.

24. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, or whatever other condiments you enjoy.

For those who would prefer a video for even greater clarity, my husband recorded a video of me rolling and cutting the sushi. First video of me ever on my blog, and oh boy, I am a bit camera shy, so please, take it easy with the criticism if you feel any is needed. (This won't be a vlog any time soon, that's for sure.) Sorry about the quality of the video- just as my husband was about to record me, my camera battery died, so this was recorded with a camera phone instead.

If you liked this post and enjoy restaurant style Asian food, and would like to be able to recreate those fancy dishes they serve in restaurants at home without needing to break the bank, you may enjoy these other posts:

Do you like sushi? Do you ever buy it, or do you make it from scratch? How much does it cost you to buy sushi where you live, and how much does it cost when you make it from scratch? How often would you say you eat sushi? When was the first time you ever ate sushi?
What are your favorite fillings for sushi?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Thank you for the thoroughness of this! I know this is 3 years old, but I've been on Pinterest researching sushi recipes & this one has had the best details yet.

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