How to roll Maki Sushi like a pro

how to roll maki sushi like a pro

It’s taken me 6 months to make a decision on how to present maki sushi recipes to you. Maki sushi is one of my favourite things to eat. It just never gets boring and I eat it at least once a week but I couldn’t decide whether to create short individual recipes or whether to do one massive recipe-less guide as a blog post. It was then that I realised that although I love eating sushi, I knew almost nothing about it. I didn’t even know at the time what the type of sushi I was making was called. I was just ignorantly dubbing it ‘Sushi rolls’. So off I went to learn a little more about the super yummy meal I was making so often.

What is maki sushi?

Maki sushi, a staple in Japanese cuisine, consists of vinegared rice, seaweed (nori), and a variety of ingredients like fish, vegetables, or avocado, all rolled together. The history of maki sushi dates back to the Edo period in Japan when it evolved from a preservation technique using fermented rice to the contemporary art form we recognize today. The innovation of including fresh fish and other ingredients in the roll is credited to Hanaya Yohei in the early 19th century, marking the beginning of a culinary tradition that has become beloved worldwide.

Is sushi healthy?

Maki sushi can be a healthy option when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. The dish often includes nutrient-rich ingredients like fish, seaweed, and vegetables, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. However, the overall healthiness depends on the specific ingredients and preparation methods, as variations with excessive amounts of mayonnaise, fried components, or high-calorie sauces may reduce its nutritional value.

Do you have a diet restriction?

Sushi is great for the following diet restrictions:

  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Dairy Free
  • Gluten Free
  • Low FODMAP
  • Ultra Processed Food Free

Ultra processed food free recipes are recipes that use ingredients where no additives have been used. This will include ingredients that can be made at home to be UPF free such as stock cubes, sauces and seasonings.

The research on sushi:

In amongst my googling I came across a blog post titled ‘Ultimate Sushi” by So thank you to Nami for teaching me what I needed to learn a long time ago!

The one sushi fact I had previously known is that Sushi is not all raw fish. In fact the word sushi refers not to the filling but to the type of rice used. For many years my dad had proclaimed sushi was not something he could ever eat. The idea of eating raw fish or raw meat was just too absurd to him. After me telling him many times and even showing him photos with no raw fish in sight he now is more open to the idea of trying this delectable dish. However, I’ve not yet got him to try making it as he thinks it would be too complicated. One of those meals that looks impossible to make as well as the professionals, but he’s wrong! It’s actually very easy, to make this type of sushi you don’t need rolling mats or any other fancy equipment, just your ingredients and a flat surface.

There are two main types of maki sushi. Futomaki and Hosomaki. The only difference between the two is that Futomaki makes a 2” roll and Hosomaki makes a thinner 1” roll. If you want you could even learn the Japanese names for various fillings but I’ll leave you to read Nami’s blog for that! Maki is characterised by the Nori seaweed being on the outside of the roll.

Step 1: Choose your fillings:

In terms of fillings you can put whatever you want in so I’ll not go into too much depth with suggestions. My favourites are raw cucumber or pepper sticks for a low calorie option. Rice of any kind is quite a calorie dense ingredient. If your trying to stick to a strict calorie count then filling options may be limited to vegetables. Occasionally I will go for what I really want which would be tuna mayo and sweetcorn. It’s always seemed to me like putting mayonnaise in sushi is the kind of thing you don’t admit to. It turns out it’s a thing and even has a name: California rolls. Given the name it’s fairly obvious it’s not a traditional sushi ingredient but it’s so damn good.

So, let’s get started. As with most of my recipes ingredient portions are designed for 1 person. In this case we will be making 1 roll. if you want to make 2 or 3 rolls, then double or triple ingredients but I would highly stress the point that sushi does not last well, don’t make more than you need and don’t make it the day before you intend to eat it because not only will it be soggy but leftover rice is a huge risk when it comes to food poisoning, and I speak from experience when I say it’s not worth the risk.

Step 2: Cooking the rice:

Weigh out your rice and thoroughly rinse it to get rid of any excess starch. If you skip this step then you will end up with a foamy starchy solution bubbling over the sides of your pan and making your kitchen a mess, it will not however affect the cooking of the rice in my opinion. Ideally, cook the sushi rice in a small pan with a well fitting lid. If your pan has a well fitting lid you should be okay with the 1:2, rice:water ratio. Meaning for every 75g of rice you want 150ml of water. If your pan has a badly fitting lid like mine I’d recommend you up the water to 1:3(225ml). If your pan has no lid, meaning the water evaporates much faster than it should id go for at least a 1:4(300ml). Place your washed sushi rice in your pan along with the water and cover.

The sushi takes 12-15 minutes to cook from boiling and if your water ratio is correct there should be no water left. If there is just continue heating until any extra water has evaporated. Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, ½ teaspoon of sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Gently stir into your rice and then leave the rice to cool with the pan still covered. That’s another tip, let the rice cool completely before trying to build your Sushi roll. If your sushi is still warm it will wilt the Nori and it will rip whilst you’re trying to roll.

Once your sushi is cool, prepare your work space. I like to use a plastic chopping board but your kitchen worktop will be fine too just make sure it’s completely dry. You need 2 spoons for scooping the rice and a bowl of cold water. Anything you don’t want the sushi rice to stick to needs to be kept wet, i.e. your fingers and spoons and later on a knife.

Step 3: Spread the sushi rice

Lay out your Nori sheet with the rough side facing up (I like to think of it as Velcro for the rice) and then spread your rice onto your Nori. You need to do this gently, with more of a smooshing than a spreading motion to avoid stretching or ripping the already dampening Nori. leave a 1cm gap around 3 edges but 1 inch gap at the top. This will be where the nori sticks down. The rice will seem like it’s barely enough to cover but this is intentional. I find the thinner you spread the sushi the easier it is to roll.

Step 3: Include your fillings

Once your rice is down into onto your filling, whether you’ve chosen fresh vegetables, raw fish or a mayonnaise based mixture it’s important not to over fill because again this can cause havoc when rolling. Keep it to a thin 1 inch strip of filling like you can see in the photos to avoid using too much. I also try to avoid cutting vegetable strips in a way that creates pointy edges. For example when I use carrot I grate it rather than cut it into batons and I cut the hooked end off pepper strips just for a smoother roll. Place your filling an inch away from the bottom of your rice (not in the middle of the nori) which again makes for a smoother rolling experience and ensures that your filling stays in the middle of your nori roll.

Step 4: Roll the maki sushi

Now you’re ready to start rolling. Roll up from the bottom folding the bare nori over your filling, keep a firm hold on your roll, compacting the rice and filling together as you go but not squeezing so tight that the nori rips. Take it slow and steady and when you get half way, whilst still holding your roll in position dip one finger in your bowl of water and run it along the top edge of the nori. This will act like glue. Continue rolling all the way to the end. You’ll notice that in the time it’s taken to roll, your nori has changed from a crisp sheet of dried seaweed to the moist casing we are all familiar with on maki sushi.

Step 5: Cut the sushi rolls

Now you can cut your Maki Sushi into bite size slices. Grab a sharp knife. Run the tap and wet your knife before cutting. Don’t forget that rice is still super sticky and if a dry knife hits it, all you will do is rip your sushi roll apart. Wet the knife again after every single cut. Now your sushi is ready to serve, grab some light soy sauce or vegan alternative for dipping and tuck in!

Tip recap:

1. Wash the rice REALLY well.

2. Pay attention to rice:water ratios depending on your lid availability

3. Cool the rice before rolling.

4. Use water on everything you don’t want the sushi rice to stick to.

5. Don’t over fill.


  1. Rainbow Roll Extravaganza: Create a visually stunning maki sushi by incorporating a spectrum of colorful fillings. Combine fresh slices of tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber, and mango to achieve a vibrant and flavorful rainbow roll. Drizzle with a zesty citrus soy sauce for an extra burst of freshness.
  2. Tempura Twist: Add a delightful crunch to your maki sushi by including tempura shrimp or vegetables as a filling. The contrast between the crispy tempura and the soft rice creates a satisfying texture. Dip the finished roll in a tangy eel sauce for an indulgent touch.
  3. Sesame Sensation Roll: Elevate the nuttiness of your maki sushi by rolling it in toasted sesame seeds. Apply a thin layer of sesame seeds to the exterior of the roll, adding a delightful crunch and a rich, toasty flavor. Pair with a side of ginger soy sauce for a sophisticated twist.


Q: Can I use brown rice instead of sushi rice?

A: While brown rice can be used, traditional sushi rice is recommended for its stickiness and ability to hold the roll together. If opting for brown rice, ensure it’s cooked to a slightly sticky consistency for better results in rolling.

Q: How do I prevent the rice from sticking to my hands?

A: Keep a bowl of water with a dash of rice vinegar nearby. Dip your fingers in the water before handling the sushi rice; this will prevent it from sticking to your hands and make the rolling process smoother.

Q: Can I make maki sushi ahead of time?

A: Absolutely! Prepare the sushi rice and fillings in advance, but assemble the rolls just before serving to maintain the freshness and prevent the nori from becoming soggy. Cover the rolls tightly with plastic wrap to retain their shape.

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how to roll maki sushi like a pro

Sushi Recipe

Learn how to make Maki Sushi like a pro!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 1
Calories 270 kcal


  • 1 sheet Nori
  • 70 g Sushi rice
  • 150 ml water see above for ratios
  • Your choice of fillings see above
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt


  • Wash your rice and combine with the water in a pan, heat on medium for 15 minutes until the rice has boiled almost dry.
    70 g Sushi rice, 150 ml water
  • Meanwhile, mix your rice flavourings and once rice is cooked add this in and stir well
    1 tbsp rice vinegar, ½ tsp sugar, ¼ tsp salt
  • recover the rice and wait until completely cooled.
  • Place Nori rough side up and spread sushi rice on top
    1 sheet Nori
  • Add a strip of your filling as shown in the pictorial above.
    Your choice of fillings
  • Roll your sushi up tightly and cut with a wet knife.


Calories listed does not include fillings, use vegetables to keep it low cal.
I thoroughly recommend reading the detailed version above before making sushi.

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