All the ingredients you love about California Rolls, but without the rolling, deconstructed into a yummy and easy Sushi Bowl!
If you love sushi rolls, but not the cost of eating out, try making these sushi bowls instead – all the same flavors, but a fraction of the price, and super easy to make for a weekday lunch or dinner!
Years ago I lived near the most incredible fresh seafood market where I used to pre-order soft shell crab and sashimi grade fish, so I could host sushi making parties. Boy, those were fun! Almost another lifetime ago, though – I was single, childless, had a ton of energy, and not a whole lot of responsibility. Now the idea of doing any of that is a big “nope!” We just frequent our neighborhood sushi joint to get our California roll fix instead.
But that gets pricey. So at least a few times a month I make Sushi Bowls at home. They’re not elaborate like the restaurant rolls, but they have all of our favorite ingredients thanks to common grocery store items and my homemade Yum Yum Sauce. Plus, way way cheaper. Bonus, everyone can build their own, so it’s still a fun thing to do with the family or a group of friends.
California Sushi Bowl
The recipe we’re sharing today is basically a deconstructed California Roll, minus the rolling, and pretty mush the least expensive variety of sushi. They’re made with sweet and tangy sushi rice, fake crab meat, and fresh crunchy vegetables. You can definitely play with the ingredients, though, to suit your tastes, budget, and access to higher end ingredients. We love them with tuna, salmon, and real crab, too. But we usually go basic when making these at home.
Sushi Bowl Recipe
Here’s what you’ll need:
(Scroll below to the printable recipe card for details and measurements.)
- Sushi Rice: Calrose sushi rice is a specific type of Japanese short grain rice, which becomes sticky as it cooks. Koshihikari, Botan, Nishiki are all popular brands, but another brand is fine as long as it’s sushi rice.
- Seasoned rice vinegar: This vinegar is made with added salt and sugar. It’s folded into the cooked rice to give it awesome flavor. It can be found near all the other vinegars in most common grocery stores.
- Imitation crab: My family loves imitation crab (which is actually fish that’s been shaped and sort of flavored to seem like crab.) We think it’s kind of sweet. That’s actually what’s in a California Roll. And since it’s so much cheaper, that’s what I use for these bowls. But you can totally use real crab meat, of course.
- Vegetables: We add carrots, English cucumber, and avocado to our bowls.
- Seaweed: The Nori snack packs are perfect for these bowls, but you can buy full sheets if you can’t find them.
- Yum Yum Sauce: My homemade Yum Yum Sauce is what takes the bowls from 10 to 100. It’s a sweet and tangy mayo based condiment that gets drizzled over the top. Don’t skip it!
- For serving: Soy sauce, sesame oil, wasabi, and toasted sesame seeds are great additions for flavor and to finish off the bowls.
There are so many other delicious toppings you can include. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Crispy onions
- Toasted coconut
- Masago (smelt roe)
- Cooked asparagus
- Cooked shrimp
- Furikake seasoning
How to Make Sushi Rice
The rice is the base of your sushi bowl and really the star, so let’s make sure it gets extra special love and care. Here are some tips to ensure your sushi rice is perfect!
- Wash the rice really well: Before cooking the rice, you want to wash it and remove surface starch until the water runs clear. If you don’t, the cooked rice will be gummy.
- Transfer cooked rice to a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer: Mix in the seasoned rice vinegar while the rice is still hot, so it can absorb the flavors.
- Be gentle while mixing: Gently combine the rice with the vinegar with a slicing motion using a rice paddle/spoon. Be gentle, do not stir or mash it up or it will end up being a big glob of rice.
- Let it cool completely: Fan the rice while mixing to dry it out slightly and set aside to cool completely, otherwise it won’t hold its shape and will melt all the toppings.
Make Ahead and Storing Leftovers
I prefer prepping and serving all the ingredients right after making them, but there are some parts of the dish that can be made in advance.
Make ahead: The sushi rice can be made a day ahead of time. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature. The Yum Yum Sauce can also be made several days ahead of time, stored in a tightly sealed container or jar in the fridge, then bring it to room temperature. The carrots and cucumber can be cut the day before using, but fresh is best.
Leftovers: Once the sushi bowls are assembled, they’re only good for another day, otherwise everything starts to brown and get soft. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
More Asian Inspired Recipes:
California Roll Sushi Bowls
- butter (for the baking sheet)
- 1 cup uncooked sushi rice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 4 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar
- 6 ounces imitation crab meat sticks , chopped
- 1 medium carrot , peeled, and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
- 1 medium English cucumber , seeded, and cut into 1-inch matchsticks
- 1 ripe avocado , cut into small cubes
- 1 square sheet Nori seaweed , crumbled into small pieces
- Yum yum sauce , for serving
- Soy sauce, Sesame oil, Wasabi, and Toasted sesame seeds , for serving
- Butter a rimmed baking sheet. Set aside.
- Rinse the rice with cold water in a strainer or colander, making sure to mix it around with a spoon or your fingers, until the water runs clear.
- Add the rice and 1 1/2 cups of water to a rice cooker or pot and cook according to package directions.
- Transfer cooked rice to the rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the seasoned rice vinegar evenly all over the top. Gently combine with a slicing motion using a rice paddle/spoon (be gentle, do not stir or mash it up.) Fan the rice while mixing to dry it out slightly. Set aside to cool completely.
- Scoop rice into bowls and top with the crab, carrots, cucumber, avocado, and seaweed.
- Drizzle with yum yum sauce.
- Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, sesame oil, and toasted sesame seeds on the side.
- Enjoy as is or mix everything together and eat that way.