You tackled banana bread no problem, then leveled up to sourdough. Ready for your next challenge? Homemade sushi might sound complicated but hear us out. All you need are a few ingredients you love and a few tools to get the ball rolling. Here’s how to make your own sushi with tips from Chef Yuki Chidui, owner and sushi chef at Japan’s first women-run sushi restaurant Nadeshico Sushi, the gender-inclusive Nadeshico Sushi Academy and Next Generation Sushi Association.
What You Need
These tools and special ingredients are all it takes to make maki (rice and fillings rolled in seaweed), temaki (cone-shaped hand rolls) or uramaki (like maki, but the rice is on the outside) at home.
- Rolling mat: This is *technically* optional; you can use a towel and plastic wrap as a substitute in a pinch, or just make lower-maintenance hand rolls. But if it’s your first time, a rolling mat will be the easiest way to get neat, tightly-stuffed sushi. If you really want to do as little hands-on work as possible, go the route of a sushi roller bazooka. (Yes, you read that right.)
- Sushi rice: If you’re wondering why you can’t get enough of California rolls, blame it on the rice. It’s spiked with a few pantry ingredients that take it from blah to bae in seconds. For Chidui, it's all about getting fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth grains. To accomplish this, use short-grain white rice or sushi rice.
- Nori: Dried seaweed sheets not only hold sushi together, but they bring natural umami and saltiness to the roll. And Chidui argues that nori is the most important ingredient. “Choosing a good quality seaweed will make the sushi roll much more delicious.”
- Fillings: We’re talking vegetables, fruit, raw or cooked fish and shellfish and any sauces (looking at you, spicy mayo) or toppings. Unless you’re making vegetarian sushi, try finding sushi-grade fish. The FDA has guidelines for how fish is treated before it’s served in US restaurants but the actual term “sushi-grade” is a bit nebulous. Most of the time, all it means is that particular retailer determined the fish was high-quality enough to be eaten raw. So, it may feel like a gamble, but there's always a risk of parasites and bacteria when it comes to raw fish—even if you're eating at a restaurant. “Choose fish that has little smell of fish and no blood,” says Chidui. “The person who actually sells fish at the fish market knows the best. When you get along with them, they kindly teach you.” If you can’t find any fish you’re willing to take a risk on (try Whole Foods or a local fishmonger), sear the fish in a hot pan with oil before slicing and eating. Cooked shrimp or crab are also nice alternatives.
- A bowl of room-temperature water: Assembling sushi is a lot easier with wet fingers. You don’t want to tear the nori by accidentally sticking to it.
- Sushi knife: This is technically optional, but if you want to make a habit of DIY sushi, Chidui recommends a sashimi knife made of stainless steel. “It's easy to care for and the sashimi knife is very suitable for sushi. The handle should [be wooden] and have a hexagonal shape.”
How to Make Sushi
We’re using our recipe for mango avocado maki as a guide. But you can add any fish you usually order—tuna! yellowtail! salmon!—and substitute any produce. Just don’t overfill your sushi so much that it won’t roll tightly or stay sealed. “The first thing to do is weigh [the rice] well until you get used to it,” says Chidui.
In terms of quantity, each sheet of nori makes one roll, which you can slice into eight-ish pieces depending on how you cut them. One cup of rice should be enough to fill three or four rolls once cooked depending on your other fillings. Just adjust to however many people are eating and voilà.
Step 1: Make the sushi rice. In a medium pot, bring 1 cup rice and 1 1/3 cups water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.
Step 2: Dissolve 2 teaspoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in 3 tablespoons rice vinegar in a small bowl.
Step 3: After about 15 to 20 minutes when the rice is finished, fold in the vinegar mixture until evenly combined. The rice should be sticky and shapeable. Taste the rice and add more vinegar or salt if desired.
Step 4: Assemble the sushi. Place the rolling mat on top of a straight, flat surface, like a cutting board. Then, place a sheet of nori in the center
Step 5: Dip your fingers into the water bowl and flatten a small ball of rice onto the nori starting at the top right corner. Add more until the whole nori sheet is covered and patted down. Then, add your filling about one-third of the way up, leaving some of the rice uncovered at the bottom for easy folding. (Check out our video or Chef Chidui’s sushi-making videos if you need a visual.)
Step 6: Now it’s time to roll. Pick up the bottom of the rolling mat and fold it over the tallest part of the sushi. Tuck, roll and tighten the sushi until it’s one long burrito-like piece.
Step 7: Remove the roll from the mat and slice it into rounds. Wet the knife before cutting. Serve with wasabi, pickled ginger, soy sauce, salad or miso soup.
Looking for a Sushi Making Kit?
Kits are an easy way to get all the tools you need in one shot. Some are low-key and only contain a rolling mat and rice paddle, like Sur La Table’s. Many come with chopsticks and multiple mats like this affordable pick from Walmart, great for date night or sushi-making parties. Some include actual ingredients like Williams Sonoma’s, which comes with nori, sesame seeds and rice vinegar and wasabi powders. Over-the-top kits include everything from mini bazookas for rolling to sushi knives to roll cutters. It all comes down to what you already have and what you’re willing to pay for. Fancy tools or not, tasty DIY sushi is well within your reach. Now, pass the soy sauce.