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What Is a Boston Roll?

By Carol Luther
Updated Dec 08, 2021
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A Boston roll is an Americanized version of a Japanese sushi roll. Instead of traditional raw seafood, this sushi recipe pairs poached shrimp with sushi rice and Japanese cucumbers. This recipe is an adaptation of the California roll, in which imitation crab meat, or surimi, is the primary seafood ingredient. The shrimp and rice combination is the foundation of a sushi recipe commonly made only in sushi restaurants on the eastern U.S. coast.

What Is a Boston Roll?

A classic example of fusion cuisine, the Boston roll has poached shrimp replacing the more traditional raw fish found in Japanese sushi. Fusion cuisine lets sushi chefs modify traditional recipes to make them more appealing to sushi initiates and American food culture, which has fewer instances of recipes using raw fish and meats. A Boston roll retains its Japanese roots by keeping the standard nori seaweed wrapper as the base of the roll. The salty nori wrapper imparts authentic flavor to the American ingredients in this version of sushi. Recipes for this style of sushi often use up to five sheets of nori.

What’s In a Boston Roll?

Depending on availability, one finds Japanese or American cucumbers and avocados in a Boston roll. The cucumbers generally are thinly sliced before the chef adds them to the sushi ingredients. Avocados are not a traditional sushi ingredient, but food historians believe the use of avocados is an adaptation based on ingredients common to the California roll.

The Difference Between a Boston Roll and California Roll

California rolls and Boston rolls are very similar. Boston rolls and California rolls both have the same ingredients, despite one major difference. These sushi rolls are made with avocado, nori seaweed, and cucumber, though a Boston roll has poached shrimp and a California roll has imitation crab. The poached shrimp and imitation crab are cooked and safe for anyone who wants sushi rolls made without raw fish. Both rolls are usually served with a side of wasabi, pickled ginger slices, soy sauce, and perhaps a side of spicy mayo.

What to Eat With a Boston Roll

Japanese seasonings for a Boston roll maintain the dish's Asian roots. Wasabi, a fiery paste similar to horseradish, may be included in the roll or served alongside. Soy sauce, a traditional Asian condiment, often appears in recipes for these rolls. Additional spicy sauces and sesame seeds that chefs incorporate into the roll are drawn from Asian cuisine or are elements that fit the fusion approach for this type of sushi.

Are Boston Rolls Healthy?

Boston rolls consist of several healthy ingredients. First, brown rice can be a healthy substitution for white rice in Boston rolls. Boston sushi rolls also contain poached shrimp. Shrimp is a good source of protein and several vitamins and minerals, including zinc, vitamin E, and vitamin B6. Boston rolls are made with cucumber and avocado as well. Cucumbers are an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin B, along with several other minerals. Avocado is a healthy fat and an excellent source of vitamins C, E, K, and B6.

Boston rolls also contain nori seaweed. Nori seaweed is a nutritious source of several vitamins and nutrients. Nori seaweed contains vitamins A, C, E, and K. Nori seaweed also contains folate, zinc, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Overall, Boston rolls contain generally healthy ingredients. You can also pair Boston rolls with low sodium soy sauce or eat Boston rolls without any dipping sauces.

How Many Calories in a Boston Roll

Depending on where you purchase your Boston sushi roll, the number of calories in the roll will vary. Some restaurants may serve Boston rolls with a side of regular soy sauce or with white rice instead of brown rice. Some people may also choose to eat their Boston rolls with a side of spicy mayo. Because spicy mayo is a creamy, high-fat condiment, spicy mayo can add many calories to your meal.

Boston sushi rolls have avocado, which is a healthy, high-fat, and high-calorie food. Typically, a Boston roll will have between 280 and 370 calories, depending on the specific ingredients used. If you would rather be sure of the calories in your Boston roll, you may opt to make your own Boston roll at home.

How to Make a Boston Roll

If you decide to make a Boston roll at home, you will need several ingredients. As previously stated, a Boston roll has shrimp, avocado, rice, nori seaweed, and cucumber. You will need to mix the cooked rice with specific ingredients. Sushi rice has its best texture, taste, and consistency when prepared with a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. After your sushi rice is ready, you will need to poach the shrimp. The shrimp will only take about three to five minutes to cook in boiling water.

First, you need to lay a sheet of nori seaweed on your plastic wrap-lined bamboo sushi mat. Then, you will need to cover the seaweed in a layer of sushi rice. Flip the seaweed sheet so that the rice is on the bottom, and now you can begin filling the nori sheet with the avocado slices, poached shrimp, and cucumber. Roll the bamboo mat until the ends meet. Some varieties of Boston rolls have tobiko on the outside for a nice crunchy texture. Boston rolls are often served alongside spicy mayo, soy sauce, pickled ginger, or wasabi.

The Boston Roll Compared to Traditional Sushi

When compared to traditional sushi, the Boston roll offers an alternative for diners who have concerns about sustainable seafood choices. National and international organizations that provide information and education about seafood sustainability issues consider shrimp a good alternative to the less sustainably farmed and fished species often used in traditional sushi, such as tuna, snapper and sole. Eating a Boston roll allows one to avoid contributing to overfishing of endangered fish species that traditionally have played a starring role in sushi. The shrimp in this version of sushi is cooked, so one also can be less concerned about the potential for illness stemming from consuming raw seafood.

Boston Roll Sushi Ingredients

The ingredients of the Boston sushi rolls are as standardized as its California roll cousin, for which it is the northeastern variation. Both Boston and California rolls contain cooked seafood. If you are beginning your foray into sushi or the thought of raw fish is not an idea you are accustomed to yet, this roll might be for you. The primary ingredients of a Boston roll from the outside include:

  • Orange tobiko
  • Seasoned rice
  • Nori seaweed
  • Poached shrimp
  • Fresh cucumber
  • Ripe avocado

Orange Tobiko

Orange tobiko is used as a heavy garnish on the outside of the Boston roll. Technically, tobiko is caviar but a less expensive and more readily available version. Tobiko is the small, orange, pearl-like eggs off the flying fish. You can expect tobiko to taste salty, just like traditional caviar, with a slight hint of smoke. Tobiko also adds another layer of crunch and texture to the sushi roll.

Traditionally, tobiko is sourced from flying fish from the northern Taiwan straight and East Chinese Sea regions. As soon as eggs are spawned, fishers collect them. Once identified by color, the tobiko is preserved immediately to maintain freshness. The primary colors of tobiko are:

  • Orange
  • Black
  • Red
  • Green

Seasoned Rice

Unlike more traditional rolls with the nori seaweed covering the ingredients, the rice covers the outside of the nori for the Boston roll. To get a Boston roll to taste similar to the one you order from a restaurant, you have to follow a series of careful steps.

Begin your quest for greatness by purchasing only the highest quality rice. After that, patience is the next key ingredient. You cannot rush rice, and if you do, your Boston roll will suffer, and so will your tastebuds. Complete the recipe for sushi rice with great care.

Sushi Rice


  • Short-grain sushi rice of a high quality
  • 1 sheet kombu
  • Homemade sushi vinegar to taste


  • Rinse the rice in a strainer
  • Use less water than when cooking regular rice
  • Rule of thumb: one cup water for one cup rice
  • Add one sheet of kombu to rice while cooking for flavor
  • Cook for the amount of time listed for the amount of rice
  • Let rice cool slightly after cooking
  • Remove kombu
  • Season with sushi vinegar to taste
  • Let cool completely

Sushi Vinegar


  • ½ c. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • One tbs. fine sea salt
  • Two tbs. fine sugar


  • Add all ingredients to a medium pot
  • Bring to boil
  • Reduce to simmer until granules dissolve
  • Remove from heat and let cool

Nori Seaweed

Underneath the layer of seasoned sushi rice, the familiar layer of nori seaweed keeps all the internal ingredients together in the Boston roll. Nori is just a sheet of edible dried seaweed used to wrap sushi, and it can be made from a few different kinds of seaweed. When choosing nori, be sure to select options that have sustainable farming practices.

To roll the nori around the inside ingredients, you might need the help of a sushi mat and paddle at first. Once you have some practice and become more familiar with the task, you can use your hands and apply pressure to create Boston rolls easily.

Poached Shrimp

Many people appreciate both Boston and California roll because there isn’t any uncooked seafood involved. As you become initiated into the world of raw fish, the Boston roll is a great place to start. Poached shrimp is a primary internal component of the Boston roll, but newbies can also take a little walk on the wild side with the flying fish roe on top. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Fresh Cucumber

Fresh cucumber is considered the element of crunch in a Boston roll, and only the crispest and freshest cucumbers will do. The preparation of the cucumbers is first to wash and dry them thoroughly. Then, the cucumbers can be cut into two-inch matchstick pieces and combined evenly with the other ingredients to be rolled inside the nori sheet.

Ripe Avocado

Ripe avocado adds a layer of creaminess without pouring on a heavy sauce or condiment, as many contemporary rolls do. Ripe avocados are chosen at the grocery store based on touch; if you can lightly push an avocado and your finger makes a depression, it is nice and ripe. Another way to tell is that the avocado’s stem is gone or it is easy to remove. If the stem fights back, the avocado is too firm for your Boston roll. Once you find the right avocado, dice it into ½-inch cubes and layer it on the cucumber.

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Discussion Comments
By feasting — On Dec 21, 2012

Does the Boston roll include both avocados and cucumbers, or does the chef choose one or the other? I've never eaten those together before, but I can see how the flavors might mesh.

By Perdido — On Dec 21, 2012

@orangey03 – I'm with you on eating just the cooked sushi. However, I hate nori. That's why I can't stand the Boston roll.

Nori tastes awful to me! I've seen seaweed floating around in the ocean before, and it is not something I'd want to put in my mouth. Also, it didn't agree with my stomach when I did eat it that one time.

By orangey03 — On Dec 20, 2012

I've eaten all kinds of sushi, but I definitely prefer the cooked kind. I tried raw sushi once, and I hated the texture and the taste.

Many of the rolls on the menu at my favorite restaurant use nori. So, the Boston roll tastes similar to all of them because it also uses nori.

I have to say that I like knowing exactly what is in my sushi, and this is one way that the Boston roll provides peace of mind for me. When I'm unsure of the ingredients of other rolls, I'm afraid I might be eating eel or fish eggs!

By StarJo — On Dec 20, 2012

The Boston roll sounds like a good thing. I love eating sushi, but I'm scared to order the rolls with tuna in them too often. I've heard that you should only eat tuna once every two weeks to avoid getting too much mercury in your system.

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