Does learning how to make sushi at home sound intimidating? With this guide, making and mastering homemade sushi is not only easy, but a lot of fun—and most importantly, delicious.
It’s that familiar mealtime logic puzzle for the summer: you want something refreshing and healthy, but also something substantial enough to carry you through a long day at the beach or on a hike. There are at least three different diets in your group, and no one’s trying to eat another soggy PB&J.
The answer to this dilemma? Sushi. It’s easy to customize, quick to assemble, and filling without being heavy. With so many different forms, it’s also perfect for nearly every situation. If you’re planning a trip, maki or sushi rolls are neat and portable. For last-minute dinner parties, nigiri sushi, or small balls of rice usually topped with seafood, form impressive centerpieces.
Of course, top-of-the-line sushi is an art (we’ve all seen “Jiro”). But with just a few tools and basic ingredients, even the most beginner home chef can whip out tasty sushi rolls that’ll beat any supermarket sushi display.
Tools for Making Homemade Sushi
First, let’s talk equipment. For stellar rice, you can’t beat an electric rice cooker. It’ll produce just the right texture, and all you have to do is hit a switch. That being said, your usual stovetop method works perfectly fine if you don’t already have a cooker on hand.
Aroma 6 Cup Rice Cooker, $14.96 at Walmart
If you don't trust your stovetop rice cooking skills this simple-to-master rice cooker will put you at ease.
If you’re planning to tackle maki or roll sushi, you’ll want to track down a bamboo or silicone rolling mat. Silicone ones tend to be easier to clean, but most chefs prefer bamboo. To combat any sticky rice messes, you can also cover them with a layer of cling wrap or pop them in a plastic bag before rolling.
BambooWorx Sushi Making Kit, $9.99 on Amazon
Here's the ideal starter kit for making sushi at home.
Sushi Mat, $9.95 on Amazon
Get rolling with this nonstick sushi mat.
Other than a cooker and a mat, there are just a few optional items that can help take your sushi game to the next level. A good rice paddle or wooden spoon makes mixing rice a bit easier.
If you plan on making sushi often, a special mixing bowl called a hangiri or sushi oke is a worthwhile (and beautiful) investment.
Kotobuki Hangiri Mixing Bowl, $79.99 on Amazon
This elegant rice mixing bowl is handmade in Japan.
These are definitely not necessary though—whatever mixing implements, bowls, and cutlery you have on hand will likely do the trick.
Sushi Ingredients of Utmost Importance: Rice and Seaweed
As the main base for flavor, the rice is probably the most crucial component to nail when it comes to making homemade sushi. When shopping, look for types specifically labeled “sushi” (for Japonica rice) or “CalRose.” These are shorter grains that will give you a nice chewy texture. Favorite brands broadly available in the U.S. include Nishiki and Kokuho.
Nishiki Sushi Rice, $2.98 at Walmart
Premium grade sushi rice that won't break the bank.
It’s also entirely possible to use other types of rice or grains too. Swap white rice for nutty brown or black rice, for example, or use quinoa for a lighter alternative (there’s even a special sushi quinoa these days, for that chewy texture). Changing up the base will usually result in a looser roll, but it’s a fun, easy way to experiment with flavors and accommodate different diets.
Before cooking your grain of choice, make sure to rinse it a few times by covering with water, giving it a good swirl, and draining. For sushi rice, repeat this process until the water is clear. This rinsing is a must to remove excess starch and prevent mushiness when cooking.
After your rice is done, it’s time to season it with a vinegar-y mixture. Though different people use different ratios to suit their palates, the components are almost always rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. The mixture is heated in a saucepan, as you would with a brine for pickling. After scooping out your grains into a large bowl (preferably shallow, to allow for even cooling), pour some of the mixture over it, and gently combine. There’s a certain technique to this too, but the important part is to make sure that you don’t smush the grains.
The second part to a successful sushi roll is in the seaweed. The type used for sushi is called nori, which is dried, roasted, and often sold in sheets. You’ll probably find the best selection in Asian grocery stores, but most supermarkets and places like Amazon usually have a few on hand. Generally speaking, look for darker sheets with shinier finishes.
One Organic Sushi Nori, $13.95 on Amazon
This package of roasted organic seaweed will suit your nori needs.
Putting It Together: How to Roll Sushi (and What to Put in Your Maki)
Now for the fun part—the filling! When shopping for fish, make sure to buy selections meant to be eaten raw, which means fish that has been previously frozen (to prevent parasites). Stay away from freshwater varieties, and stick to ones you’ve seen used in rolls before—tuna, salmon, and yellowtail are all popular options for their sweetness. Though some markets use the “sushi grade” label, this doesn’t always guarantee freshness. When in doubt, check with the fishmonger behind the counter.
If you’d rather not go the raw fish route, cooked options like canned tuna, smoked salmon, and imitation crab meat also work well. Raw, pickled, and fermented vegetables (especially popular in kimbap, a Korean dish similar to sushi) help balance out flavors and add different elements of texture.
To make a maki roll, place a sheet of nori onto the rolling mat. Gently spread a thin layer of rice to cover—this is easiest to do with your fingers, dipped occasionally in water to prevent sticking. Place your ingredients of choice on one end of the sheet and then roll as you would a burrito, using the mat to help you roll and keep things tight and tidy. To make uramaki, sometimes known as an “inside out” roll, simply swap the nori and rice steps so that the rice is on the outside. Slice and admire your handiwork!
If you don’t have a mat, nigiri are a good option. Simply form a small mound of cooked, seasoned sushi rice with your hands and top with your ingredient of choice. For an extra special touch, wrap a thin piece of nori around the middle like a belt.
Related Reading: What Is the Difference Between Sushi and Sashimi?
Header image by Chowhound