Want to make sushi at home? Tips and recipes for beginners

Published September 4 2018

Sushi was introduced to the United States through Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo in 1966. A classic staple in Japanese households, sashimi (raw fish), sushi (raw fish with sticky rice) and sushi maki (sushi rolls) took off in America.

You’d be surprised how easy it is — once you’ve had a little practice — to make sushi in your own kitchen.

"Sushi maki is basically like tacos," my friend Saori Miller, who was born and raised by the sea in Kanagawa, Japan, told me. "There’s a general idea, but every family does something different."

We’ve included three variations — including a fried "tempura" chicken roll, great for sushi novices, and more complex rolls with crowd-pleasing presentations to showcase the versatility of sushi.

Sushimaking is an art; authentic sushi chefs train under masters for years. But good ingredients and some basic tips will get you started on your own sushi journey. Don’t be afraid to try something new or work your own flavors into each recipe — that’s how the best rolls are created.

The basics

The rice: Sushi rice is especially sticky. It is typically flavored with rice wine vinegar, although other seasonings can be added. Rice must be completely cooled to room temperature before the sushi is rolled. You can make the rice a few hours in advance and let it cool, or you can simply dump hot rice onto a large plate and use a paddle or spatula to gently cut into it for several minutes until it has cooled.

Prep work: Place the ingredients near your rolling station for fast, easy assembly.

"It is best to have all of your ingredients prepared beforehand. That way when you are creating the sushi maki, you can focus," Miller says.

Knives: Sharp knives are essential for sushi. The knife should be sharp enough to cut clean through a roll without pressing down too hard and squeezing the filling out.

Rolling the sushi: You will need a bamboo sushi rolling mat, inexpensive and found online or at a local Asian grocer, to properly roll your sushi. Cover the bamboo mat completely with plastic wrap to prevent sticking and cross contamination. Rolling sushi can be tricky and can take time to develop. Be patient with yourself if it’s not perfect on the first try. Online instructional videos can be helpful visual aids.

Make ahead

Eel sauce and sushi rice are two sushi essentials — and you can make them at home.

Eel sauce: Combine 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 4 tablespoons sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat for 4 minutes, then remove from heat and let cool. You can keep this in the fridge up to a couple of days before serving.

Sushi rice: Add 3 cups sushi rice (if you can’t find this in the store by name, go with a short-grain rice) and 4 cups water to a ricemaker and prepare according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Or, add rice and water to a saucepan and cook according to rice package directions. Once cooked, let cool, then add 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Work with a wet knife or wet hands when cutting or spreading sushi rice to avoid sticking, and use light motions to keep the rice nice and fluffy.