One of my favorite foods to make (and eat) are gluten-free California sushi rolls. They are surprisingly easy to make (once you get the hang of it) and I know that by making my own, I am able to ensure no gluten sneaks into my food.
The traditional California roll contains avocado, cucumber and crab (or imitation crab). I never get to eat California rolls because most Asian restaurants use imitation crab, and most imitation crab contains gluten. Beware! In fact, I’ve included imitation crab on my list of the top products that contain hidden gluten. Not only that, but I find sushi restaurants add other questionable ingredients to their rice, as well as soy sauce marinades to their fish, which soy sauce, as you know, is not gluten-free unless specified.
Awhile back, my mother-in-law was at the Kosher grocery store and found crab flavored surimi seafood sticks from Dyna-Sea in the freezer section. They are gluten-free! I know, “seafood sticks” doesn’t sound all that appetizing, but they really do taste like crab and work perfect in my gluten-free California rolls! And even better, the seafood sticks are made from cod, not crab (crab is not Kosher), and the cod is wild caught, not farmed.
There are other “imitation crab” products on the market that are gluten-free (be a label reader) and if you can afford it, you can use real crab too, which, of course, are naturally gluten-free.
With my new gluten-free “crab” in hand, I was ready to assemble the rest of the ingredients needed for the gluten-free California rolls.
A really fun gift for the gluten-free chef – or any home cook – in your life is a sushi making kit*. These kits come with all the supplies you need, but some nice additions too.
However, you don’t need a fancy kit to make sushi. To make your own sushi, I recommend you get a bamboo sushi mat (for rolling). This is a really nice one on Amazon for less than $10* and it comes with a sushi rice spreader too. Your bamboo will last for a long long time so this is a one-time only cost.
At the grocery store, or on Amazon, you’ll also want to get nori or seaweed sheets. You can get them at any grocery store, but the best price is on Amazon. I love love love these seaweed sheets from One Organic*. You’ll only spend about $12.00 for 50 sheets! You won’t find a better price for that amount of seaweed.
You’ll also want to buy sushi rice*. Sushi rice is a short grain sticky rice with a high starch content. It’s perfect for making the sticky rice needed for your California rolls.
Your sushi rice will also require a little rice wine vinegar + sugar once it’s cooked to give your rice its full flavor and texture.
As for the fresh ingredients, you’ll need an English cucumber, carrots (optional), two avocados and your Dyna-Sea (or other gluten-free brand) of imitation or real crab.
Now that you have all the supplies, you’ll want to prepare your rice first. Sushi rice requires 1.5 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Bring to a boil 2 cups of rice and 3 cups of water a boil, then cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes until cooked through. Two cups of rice will ensure you have plenty of rice to work with (and a few nibbles left over). You’ll be able to make 4-6 rolls with that amount of rice.
While the rice is cooking, you can start preparing your ingredients.
Slice the cucumber into long strips the size of the seaweed. Pit and deflesh your avocados and cut them into long strips (you’ll use two strips of avocados for each roll). For the carrots (optional and not part of a traditional California roll), I find a good way to add them to your sushi roll is to use your peeler. Once you remove the outer skin (and throw it away), you continue to peel your carrot to the core to create beautiful strips (you can see the carrot strips in an image below – scroll down).
This is my exact peeler.* I find it’s so easy to use and peels the carrots nicely too!
By this time your rice should be ready to go. 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.
Next, combine about 1 Tbsp of rice wine vinegar and 1 tsp of sugar to a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave the mixture for about 10 seconds and then mix together until the sugar dissolves. Pour the mixture over the rice and fold the rice several times until combined well.
Continue to allow the rice to cool until warm (no longer hot).
Next, lay down your sushi mat and put a piece of seaweed over it. Alternatively, you can lay down your sushi mat, then cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. This is ideal, as the rice sticks to the mat and makes clean up a challenge. The plastic wrap will protect your mat and make clean up a breeze. Here is what it should look like – bamboo mat, plastic wrap then seaweed sheet.
Next, coat the seaweed with a large scoop of rice. Before you start to smoosh the rice to set it in place, gently use your plastic (or wood) paddle to spread the rice to fully cover the seaweed. Once the rice is in place, you can then smoosh it down so it sticks to the seaweed.
Next, add a strip of each of your vegetables, as well as the crab, to the bottom half of the roll until the entire length of the seaweed is covered. Here’s what it looks like:
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 until secure under the ingredients. You want the roll to be tight but not too tight that you squeeze all the ingredients out of it!
Roll the sushi with one other hand and then pull the plastic wrap and mat with the other hand, using a continuous movement until the entire roll is rolled. It’s really easy once you get the hang of it and practice makes perfect. The bamboo mat will guide you in creating the perfect roll.
Once you’ve rolled your sushi, you can cut it into about 10 pieces. I find a wet, sharp knife works well, or use a serrated knife for best results.
If you have leftover rice and ingredients, you can make niri. Niri is an oblong shaped ball of rice that’s been compressed together and topped with either fish or another ingredient. I did not take any photos of my niri – next time. To make them, wet your hands, then grab a small scoop of rice. Compact the rice together and form into an oblong shaped ball. Top the ball of rice with your extra ingredients and serve alongside your gluten-free California rolls.
For a dipping sauce, use gluten-free soy sauce or tamari. (I personally like to mix tamari with chili garlic sauce for a kick). If you’re on the go, I highly recommend these awesome tamari to-go packets* – perfect for portable travel.
There you have it. Delicious and gluten-free California rolls to enjoy any time without worry of getting glutened. Enjoy!
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