How To Make (Cheap) California Rolls At Home: Just $1.50 Each
The California roll is the “gateway roll” for many into a world of sushi. And it’s easy to see why:
- The ingredients are simple: Crab, cucumber, avocado, rice, and seaweed.
- There is no raw seafood, making the California roll ideal for those who are hesitant to eat or make raw seafood sushi.
- No raw fish needed also eliminates the need to track down sushi grade fish – something inaccessible to many.
- California rolls are typically one of the cheapest sushi rolls on menus and in the grocery store.
- California rolls are simple and delicious.
How Much Do California Rolls Typically Cost?
Prices vary widely depending on where you live, where you shop, the season, and the availability of ingredients. But here are the current prices for California rolls in St. Paul, Minnesota:
- High-end sushi restaurant: $9.95
- High-end grocery store: $8.95
- Regular grocery store: $6.99
California rolls are typically not the most expensive sushi rolls on the menu. But they’re still not cheap.
Which is why you should learn to make your own California rolls at home – on a budget, of course!
How To Make California Rolls At Home For Much Less
- Avocado: $1.25
- Cucumber: $.99
- Imitation crab (1/ 2 package from ALDI): $1.32
- Seaweed: $2.00 or 5 sheets
- Sushi rice (1/2 package from Target): $1.69
- Rice vinegar: $.25
Total cost for 5 rolls: $7.50
Cost per roll: $1.50
Note: I did not include the cost of sesame seeds (optional) and accompaniments (soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi). If you choose to use these, the price will be higher – albeit not too much.
Making Sushi At Home: The Process
Scroll down for detailed recipe instructions. But here’s the process, in a nutshell:
1: Gather ingredients
2: Make rice, and allow to cool
3: Julienne cucumbers
4: Wrap sushi mat in plastic wrap (so rice won’t stick to the sushi mat)
5: Cut off top 1/3 of the seaweed sheet. Place on sushi mat.
6: Using damp hands, gently pat rice on top of seaweed sheet
7: Flip the seaweed over and add fillings (cucumbers, crab, and avocado) toward the bottom of the sheet.
8: Using the sushi mat, start rolling up, tucking the sushi roll in to ensure a tight roll.
9: Tighten roll and set aside (or refrigerate) until ready to cut.
10: Cut ends off, if desired. Cut each roll into 8 pieces.
Do I Need Any Special Equipment?
Yes. You’ll need a sushi mat to make homemade sushi at home: Here’s a cheap mat that will do the trick.
Otherwise, you’ll need seaweed sheets, which are quite easy to find in most larger grocery stores, as well as Super Target, Walmart, and Asian grocery stores.
Do I Need Any Special Ingredients?
Most of the ingredients for California rolls are easy to find (avocado, cucumber, imitation crab). But you may need to plan ahead to find:
- Sushi rice: I purchase sushi rice at Target (look for the Nishiki brand). Check the Asian food section of your local grocery store or go to a specialty Asian grocery store). Make sure you buy sushi rice, which is a short-grain rice with a higher starch content than typical varieties of rice. Long-grain rice or basmati rice or minute rice will not work!
- Rice vinegar: Rice vinegar is a mild and slightly sweet vinegar made from fermented rice. It gives sushi rice slight tang and sweetness. Do not substitute regular white vinegar for rice vinegar!
- Seaweed: This is readily available in most grocery stores that have an Asian food section (like Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, etc.)
How To Roll Sushi Rolls
Rolling sushi rolls is not hard, but if you’ve never done it I suggest watching the process before attempting to do it yourself.
Here’s short video (2:44) showing you how to assemble sushi rolls:
More Cheap Sushi Recipes
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy really good sushi at home. Here are a variety of recipes for all skill levels to try:
- Teriyaki chicken sushi rolls
- Teriyaki chicken sushi burritos
- Spicy tuna sushi bowls
- Homemade quinoa sushi rolls
- Quinoa poke bowl
- California roll salad
- 2 cups sushi rice
- 4 cups water
- Rice vinegar
For sushi rolls
- 5 sheets seaweed
- 1 avocado
- 1 cucumber, seeds removed, julienned
- 4 ounces imitation crab (flake style or leg style)
- White or black sesame seeds, optional
- Prepare sushi rice. Rinse rice with cold water. Place in a heavy-duty saucepan with water. Turn heat on to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until rice is cooked. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once rice is cool, sprinkle with rice vinegar - 1 tablespoon should do it. Set aside until ready to assemble rolls.
- To assemble sushi rolls: With seaweed sheet laying horizontally in front of you, cut off top 1/3 of seaweed. Using a sushi mat wrapped in plastic wrap, lay seaweed shiny side down. Using damp hands, top with sushi rice. Flip seaweed over so rice is facing down. Place crab, cucumber, and avocado slices toward the bottom of the seaweed. See photo above in post for a visual. Start rolling the sushi from top to bottom, making sure that you are keeping the roll tight - you don't want it to fall apart when you slice it. Repeat with remaining rolls. Sprinkle each roll with sesame seeds (optional) and cut into 8 pieces.