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What is a California Roll?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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The California roll appears to have been invented in Los Angeles in the 1970s, in response to a general American distaste for eating raw fish. It is a classic example of fusion cuisine, combining a traditional Japanese food with American ingredients for a fresh and unusual flavor. After it took off, numerous other chefs experimented with it, creating regional variations. Within the United States, many establishments which serve sushi offer a variant of the California roll, although it can be a difficult thing to find in Japan, homeland of sushi.

Technically, a California roll is classified as maki-zushi, meaning rolled sushi. It is typically made inside out, so that, in cross section, the roll has a layer of rice, a layer of nori, and then an inner core of fillings. The classic triad of ingredients in a California roll is crab meat, mayonnaise, and avocado. The result is a creamy, rich roll, with a flavor which appeals to many Americans. Other variants use imitation crab, or add cucumber.

After the roll is made, it is frequently rolled in toasted sesame seeds or fish roe, also known as tobiko. The roll is cut into even bite-sized pieces, which are presented on a platter with garnishes. Often, a California roll is paired with other types of sushi, for a diversity of flavors and textures on the plate.

Making a California roll is relatively easy. To create this sushi dish at home, you will need a sushi mat, a sharp knife, a bowl of water, a bowl of sushi rice, toasted seaweed nori, shredded crab meat, mayonnaise, avocado sliced into strips, and sesame seeds or tobiko to roll the sushi in. To make sushi rice, cook short grained rice and mix it with sugar, rice vinegar, and a pinch of salt. You may also find it helpful to cover the sushi mat with plastic wrap before you start, to keep the rice from sticking to it.

Start by laying a sheet of nori on the sushi mat. Dip your hands in the water and spread a thin layer of rice onto the nori, pressing down lightly so that the rice adheres. Carefully flip the nori over and make a line of ingredients down the middle. Then, starting with the edge nearest you, roll the nori up, tucking the end inside the California roll and firmly pressing to compact the roll once it has been made. Do not, however, press too hard, or the filling will squirt out the ends. Next, roll the sushi in sesame seeds or roe, if desired, and cut it before serving.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon992165 — On Aug 19, 2015

Depends on where you get them apparently.

According to my fitnesspal: Kroger Brand California rolls come in at 260 calories for a 10 piece serving with 6g protein, 120% vitamin c and 6g of fat (doesn't break it down but I'm guessing a good bit of that is healthy fat from the avocados).

At 26 calories a piece and they're pretty filling, I'd say there are worse things you could eat for lunch.

By comfyshoes — On Dec 06, 2010

Somerset-I did not know that. I thought that the California Roll calories were a lot less because it seemed like a healthy food to eat.

I usually get the avocado California roll with brown rice. I know it is healthier than white rice.

I wish that they had the California roll nutritional information because 330 calories is a lot and I buy packages that have about 12 rolls, so I don’t even think about all the calories I've been eating.

I do know that despite the calories it does have healthy components to it. The brown rice has a lot of fiber and the seaweed has a lot of protein. Also the avocado is considered a healthy fat and highly recommended for any diet.

I would love to know how to actually make California rolls, but one of my favorite restaurants serves so many varieties that I just go there instead.

By somerset — On Feb 23, 2008

As delicious as California roll is, it is wise to keep in mind that it is moderately high in calories. A 6 piece California roll order is about 330 calories.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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