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I love sushi and have found that making my own gluten-free sushi rolls at home to be surprisingly easy to do. When I make sushi at home, I know I’m eating sushi that is gluten-free and safe for me to eat. And I save money too … sushi can be expensive!
While I personally don’t feel comfortable handling sushi grade raw fish, I am very comfortable handling imitation crab. So I typically only make California rolls at home while I enjoy tuna rolls and other sushi specialities at trusted sushi restaurants.
In this post, I’ll talk about the ingredients that go into making your own gluten-free sushi rolls (or California rolls) at home, the tools you need, and how you can do it at home yourself with a little practice and finesse.
Sushi Roll Ingredients
Making sushi at home requires a few ingredients that you’ll need to shop for. Let’s discuss each item so you can get yourself set-up for sushi-making success!
The Seaweed: You will definitely need roasted seaweed (also known as sushi nori) if you want to make gluten-free sushi rolls at home. You can get seaweed sheets at most grocery stores, although I find it to be expensive. It’s typically $4-$8 for about 10 sheets. I have found the best price is on Amazon. I use and highly recommend these seaweed sheets from One Organic. You’ll only spend about $14.00 and you’ll get 50 sheets. This supply will last you a long time.
Sushi Rice: You cannot use any old rice for sushi making; rather, you need sushi rice. Sushi rice is a short grain sticky rice with a high starch content. I typically buy this sushi rice and love it, although it’s a bit pricey. My friend told me to go to H Mart, an Asian grocery store in Denver, to get a big bag for a steal. I plan to do that as soon as my rice stash runs low.
Rice Wine Vinegar: Sushi rice gets its distinctive taste when you add a combination of rice wine vinegar and sugar to it. I use either Trader Joe’s rice vinegar or this one. I’m happy with either.
The Crab: You are welcome to use real crab, which is naturally gluten-free, if you want a real treat. I don’t eat crab so I like to buy imitation crab (specifically, I buy Kosher imitation crab sticks by DynaSea – they’re made with cod instead of crab). Most imitation crab contains gluten and is on my list of the top products that contain hidden gluten! Read labels carefully. (TransOcean also makes a gluten-free imitation crab.)
English Cucumber and Avocado: Of course you’ll need an English cucumber and an avocado to complete your sushi roll. These are traditional additions to a California roll (although you can add whatever you like – there are no hard and fast rules).
Dipping Sauce: You’ll also want to dip your sushi in gluten-free soy sauce or tamari sauce (I like these travel tamari packets). Some people like to add wasabi to their soy sauce, but I like to add this chili garlic sauce for a little kick. You can also buy pickled ginger at most grocery stores or on Amazon.
Sushi Roll Tools
You’ll need a few tools to make your gluten-free sushi roll making a success.
Sushi Mat: To make your own sushi, I recommend purchasing a bamboo sushi mat, which is exclusively used for rolling sushi. It helps you roll a nice, even sushi roll. Without it your sushi would probably be lumpy and lopsided. This sushi rolling kit I found on Amazon is only $7.99 and will do the job for you. This is a one time purchase only as the mat is reusable.
Rice Cooker: You can cook your sushi rice on the stove top, but I much prefer cooking it in my rice cooker. I love my rice cooker. I’ve been hooked on only using a rice cooker to cook rice since I was in college. I studied abroad in Tokyo and it’s there I bought my first rice cooker. I haven’t been without one since! I highly recommend this rice cooker on Amazon. It will last you a long time.
How to Make Gluten-Free Sushi Rolls
Now that you have all the supplies and ingredients needed to make sushi rolls, it’s time to get started.
The first step is to make the sushi rice. It is important to wash your rice until the water runs clear (no cloudy water). It is a very subtle difference, but as you rinse the rice you’ll see how the water clears up. It takes about 5-6 rinsings for the water to run clear. Here is what it looks like before (cloudy water) and after (clear water):
Once the water runs clear, drain the last bit of water and add 1.5 cups of water per 1 cup of sushi rice. You can make about four full size rolls per one cup of rice.
Either add the water and rice to your rice cooker, or cook it as directed on your stove top.
While the rice is cooking, begin to prepare the other ingredients.
Slice the English cucumber into long strips the length of the seaweed. Pit and deflesh your avocados and cut them into thin, long strips (you’ll use two strips of avocados for each roll).
I also recommend wrapping your bamboo mat with plastic wrap for easy clean up. Rice loves to get stuck in between the strips of bamboo and it’s a nightmare to clean. My trick is to wrap the mat in plastic wrap, roll my sushi, then discard the wrap.
Once the rice is cooked, remove it from heat and allow it to begin to cool. You don’t want to use hot rice for your rolls as it will ruin the seaweed. I use a plastic paddle and fold the rice continuously to allow the steam to come out of it.
Once the rice is just warm (not hot), I add the rice wine vinegar-sugar mixture. You want to fully dissolve the sugar into the vinegar before adding it to your rice. You can do this by heating the mixture in your microwave for 20 seconds and stirring until the sugar disappears into the vinegar.
Fold the rice several times until the vinegar mixture is combined well with the rice. This motion also will continue to cool the rice.
Next, you’ll add an even layer of rice atop your seaweed. Spread it as evenly as possible. I find a plastic spatula (this one seen below came with my rice cooker) works well. The rice is sticky, so it will stick to everything in site!
Next, add a strip of your imitation crab, English cucumber and avocado to the bottom third of the sushi mat, as shown.
Now for the fun – and challenging – part… the roll up!
Take the bottom of the sushi mat and gently pull it over all the ingredients, sealing the bottom edge of the sushi roll in place just around the sushi ingredients. You’ll want to use both hands to do this. Begin rolling the sushi, using the mat as your guide. You want the roll to be tight but not too tight that you squeeze all the ingredients out of it. Be firm, yet gentle.
Lift the mat slightly and then use it to guide you as you keep rolling until the entire sushi roll is in a log shape. The sticky rice will seal the seaweed in place.
Now you can cut the sushi into bite-sized pieces. I highly recommend using a serrated knife to cut the sushi roll in half, and then you can cut the halves into equal parts, and then halve each half again.
You can get 8-10 sushi bites depending on how you cut it. Serve with your dip of choice.
As I mentioned before, I like to combine gluten-free soy sauce with chili garlic sauce, but you could also get some wasabi and tamari, and if you like, some pickled ginger as well. Enjoy!
Watch my video to see how I make gluten-free sushi rolls. The video quality isn’t great, but you get the picture:
Love that Sushi
I love sushi, and it tastes even better when I add Vitamin L (love) to the mix. Enjoy each bite. You deserve it.
TIP! I make sushi burritos and take them for lunch and pack them for hiking and ski trips. It’s a fantastic portable meal and you don’t even have to cut them into pieces to enjoy the sushi roll. Just eat it like a burrito.
Gluten-Free Sushi Rolls
- Bamboo sushi rolling mat
- Rice cooker (optional)
- Plastic wrap
- Wash sushi rice 5-6 times until water runs clear, not cloudy. Drain rice and add water. Cook in your rice cooker on the stovetop according to instructions until cooked through. Allow rice to cool to warm before using.
- In a small bowl, combine rice wine vinegar and sugar. Microwave for 10-20 seconds and mix until sugar dissolves in vinegar. Pour vinegar mixture over the rice and fold rice until well combined.
- Wrap sushi mat in plastic wrap (optional, but makes clean up easier). Place seaweed sheet on top of mat, then cover it with a thin layer of sushi rice.
- On the bottom one-third of the seaweed sheet, add strips of cucumber, avocado and crab so the pieces lay evenly horizontal over the seaweed.
- Use firm but gentle pressure to roll the sushi in the mat. See video in the post for full instructions. Cut sushi roll using a serrated knife into 8-10 pieces.
- Combine tamari and chili-garlic sauce in a small dipping bowl and mix. Serve as a dipping sauce with your sushi.