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California Roll Bowls (VIDEO)

Make California Roll Bowls and enjoy all the flavors you love about a classic California sushi roll, in a way that’s much easier to prepare. Filled with fresh ingredients, top these sushi bowls with spicy mayo, wasabi, and more.

We love making our favorite Asian-inspired recipes at home, from California Sushi Rolls to Spring Rolls. You’re going to love these California Roll Bowls just as much as we do!

Overhead view of two California roll bowls topped with a drizzle of spicy mayo next to chopsticks.

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Fresh California Sushi Roll Bowls

This fresh and fun recipe for California roll bowls is essentially a deconstructed California Sushi Roll. Sometimes, filling a bowl is way easier than rolling a roll, and you don’t need any special tools or techniques to make it happen. 

These perfect sushi roll bowls come together with easy homemade Sushi Rice, classic Cali roll toppings, and a generous drizzle of my favorite spicy mayo and a mix of soy sauce and wasabi. We’re walking you through how to make everything from scratch, from the sticky sushi rice right down to the homemade spicy mayo. 

What Is a California Roll?

A traditional California roll is a type of inside-out sushi roll. Also called uramaki, California rolls consist of sushi rice (rather than nori) wrapped around a filling of imitation crab meat, avocado, and cucumber. If you’re wary of raw sushi like I am, Cali rolls are the way to go. No raw fish, here!

California Roll Bowls Video

Watch Natasha prepare the ultimate California roll bowl, complete with perfect sushi rice. This sushi bowl recipe has all the familiar flavors of a classic California roll, but it’s much easier to prepare and easier to serve.

Ingredients

Below are the ingredients you’ll need to make the sushi rice and also to assemble your bowls. Don’t forget to scroll to the recipe card for the full recipe details.

For Perfect Sushi Rice

  • California Calrose Rice – This is a type of Japanese-inspired medium grain rice that’s produced in California, but you’ll find it just about everywhere in the US. Calrose rice cooks up soft and sticky, making it perfect for sushi recipes. Here are the Best Sushi Rice Brands.
  • Sushi Vinegar – Also called seasoned rice vinegar. You can make this yourself, see my Pro Tip below.

For Assembling the Bowls

  • Crab Meat – This recipe uses imitation crab meat (either sticks or flakes).
  • Nori – A type of edible seaweed found in most major grocery stores. Nori comes in sheets, so you’ll need to chop it up to sprinkle over your sushi bowls.
  • Avocado – Choose a ripe avocado and dice it up into small, bite-sized pieces. 
  • Cucumber – My favorite is English cucumber since it has fewer seeds. 
  • Jalapeños – I know, I know. We’re not making Mexican bowls. But I can’t resist a nice, spicy kick in my rice bowls. Feel free to use another type of chili or Sriracha instead, or leave off the heat altogether.
  • Chives – Also optional, for garnish.
The ingredients for California roll bowls.

Pro Tip: Making your own seasoned rice vinegar is easier than you’d think. In a saucepan on the stovetop, combine and heat 4 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Once dissolved, allow the mixture to cool.

Sushi Toppings and Sauces

Here are some of our favorite garnishes and sauces for dressing our California roll bowls:

  • Spicy Mayo – To make homemade spicy mayo, combine a ¼ cup of mayo with 1 tablespoon of Sriracha hot sauce (or to taste). It’s as easy as that.
  • Soy Sauce – Use low-sodium soy sauce or the regular kind.
  • Wasabi – This is a type of Japanese horseradish that comes in the form of a spicy green paste. Use your preferred wasabi paste from the store.
  • Pickled Ginger – This is the bright pink, shredded ginger often served in sushi restaurants as a condiment alongside wasabi.
  • Sesame Seeds – We love the flavor of toasted white or black sesame seeds.
Various garnish and sauce ingredients for topping California roll bowls.

How to Make a California Roll in a Bowl

There’s no need to crack out your sushi rolling mat for this recipe. These California roll bowls come together in just a few quick steps:

Making the Sushi Rice

First, you’ll prepare the rice you’ll use as the base for your bowls. Here’s how to make perfect sushi using the stovetop method. If you have a rice maker, you can also fast-forward the process, following the instructions for your machine (then just skip to Step 3 below).

  1. Wash the Rice – Begin by rinsing the rice thoroughly under cold water. This step is important as it removes the excess starches, for sticky rice that holds together without being overly chewy.
  2. Cook – Next, simmer the rice in a large, covered pot. Once cooked, leave the rice in the pot to rest, still covered, for 15 minutes.
  3. Season – Finally, scoop the hot rice into a bowl. Break up any clumps before adding a drizzle of sushi vinegar, gently folding and cutting it into the rice with your spatula.
  4. Cool – Cover rice with a damp kitchen towel and leave your sushi rice to cool to room temperature while you prepare your California roll toppings.
Photo collage showing the various steps for preparing sushi rice and spicy mayo.

Assembling the California Roll Bowls

When your rice is cooled and your toppings are ready, assembling your California roll bowls couldn’t be easier:

  1. Add Rice – First, divide the sushi rice between the bowls.
  2. Add Toppings – Layer on your toppings, including crab, cucumber, avocado, and nori (edible seaweed). Sprinkle on some chilies and chives if you’d like. See below for more easy sushi bowl topping ideas.
  3. Garnish and Serve – Drizzle your bowls with spicy mayo (recipe above), soy sauce, and/or your choice of dressing, along with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Serve your bowls in true sushi fashion with a side of pickled ginger and wasabi.
Photo collage showing how to assemble a California roll bowl.

Pro Tip: Craving some extra heat? Whisk together soy sauce and wasabi and drizzle the mixture over your bowls. My favorite!

Common Questions

What is Calrose rice?

Calrose rice is short or medium-grain white rice that’s grown in California (hence the “Cal”). This rice holds together well when cooked, making it ideal for Asian and sushi dishes.

Why do you wash sushi rice?

Japanese-style rice tends to have a higher starch content than other varieties. This makes it sticky, which we want, but too much starch makes rice chewy. Washing the rice before you cook it rinses off any excess starch.

Is a California roll made with crab or shrimp?

Traditionally, California rolls are made with crab meat or imitation crab meat.

Are California roll ingredients raw or cooked?

Besides the rice and avocado, all ingredients in this California roll bowl are cooked. Imitation crab is actually a kind of fishcake, so while it’s cold, it isn’t raw.

Can I substitute shrimp?

Yes! If you don’t like imitation crab meat, use cooked shrimp instead for a Shrimp Sushi Roll Bowl.

California roll bowls topped with a drizzle of spicy mayo next to chopsticks.

What to Serve With Sushi Roll Bowls

Aside from garnishes and dipping sauces, we love enjoying these California roll bowls as a light lunch or dinner. If I feel like bulking up a meal, I’ll serve these bowls with more of our favorite Asian-style dishes:

Make-Ahead

These California roll bowls are best when they’re made fresh. The sushi rice can be made a few hours in advance and kept covered at room temperature. You’ll want to use it within that time, as the rice will harden once it’s refrigerated. 

  • To Store: If you’re not serving your sushi bowls within an hour of making them, they should be covered and stored in the fridge to keep the crab meat fresh.
  • Freezing: I wouldn’t recommend freezing these sushi roll bowls as none of the ingredients hold up particularly well when frozen.
Overhead view of two California roll bowls topped with a drizzle of spicy mayo next to chopsticks.

You’re going to love making these light and easy California roll bowls. They are easier than making Fancy Sushi Rolls and perfect if you’re craving the fresh flavors of your favorite sushi roll, in a quick and tasty one-bowl recipe!

More Asian-Inspired Recipes

If you loved these California roll bowls, here are more must-try Asian-style recipes:

California Roll Bowls Recipe

5 from 17 votes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
A California roll bowl topped with a drizzle of spicy mayo next to chopsticks.

Fresh California Roll Bowls are everything you love about a classic California sushi roll, only so much easier to prepare. You’ll love topping this sushi bowl recipe with soy sauce, spicy mayo, and wasabi.

Author: Natasha Kravchuk
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $16-$20
Keyword: california roll recipe, rice bowl recipes, sushi bowl
Cuisine: American, Asian
Course: Lunch, Main Course
Calories: 388
Servings: 5 servings

Ingredients

Ingredients for Perfect Sushi Rice:

  • 2 cups Calrose rice, (Japanese short or medium grain rice)
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 5 Tbsp sushi vinegar, (seasoned rice vinegar*)

Ingredients for California Roll Bowls:

  • 8 oz flake-style imitation crab meat, chopped
  • 1 sheet of nori seaweed, chopped
  • 1 large avocado, diced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced
  • 1 jalapeños, finely diced, optional
  • 1/4 cup chives, finely chopped, optional

Garnishes and Dipping Sauces:

  • soy sauce, regular or low sodium
  • wasabi paste**
  • spicy mayo, (1/4 cup mayonnaise with 1 Tbsp sriracha sauce)
  • pickled sushi ginger, optional
  • toasted sesame seeds, white or black

Instructions

How to Make Sushi Rice:

  1. Set rice in a colander and thoroughly rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Drain well. Put drained rice in a large heavy saucepan and add 2 cups cold water.

  2. Set the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce heat to the lowest simmer. Cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (15 min). Remove from heat and let rest covered for another 15 minutes.

  3. Transfer rice to a large bowl and break it up to get rid of all the hot clumps then drizzle with 5 Tbsp of your sushi vinegar and use a rice paddle to slice and fold the vinegar into the rice. Continue mixing the rice until it's just warm. Cover rice with a damp kitchen towel and cool to room temperature as you prep your toppings.

How to Make California Roll Bowls:

  1. Divide rice between 4-5 bowls. Layer the toppings over the rice: crab, cucumber, avocado, seaweed, jalapeños, and chives.

  2. Combine mayo and sriracha sauce and drizzle that over your bowls then drizzle with soy sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

  3. Serve with a side of pickled ginger and wasabi paste and pass around the soy sauce.

Recipe Notes

  • *Make your own sushi vinegar by combining the following 3 ingredients and dissolving them together over low heat on the stove, then let the mixture cool: 4 Tbsp Rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar, 2 tsp fine sea salt.
  • **To make the bowls extra spicy, stir together soy sauce and wasabi to taste then drizzle it over your bowl.
  • Nutrition note: nutrition facts do not include sauces and condiments. 
Nutrition Facts
California Roll Bowls Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 388 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Fat 6g9%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 4g
Cholesterol 5mg2%
Sodium 267mg12%
Potassium 338mg10%
Carbohydrates 72g24%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 218IU4%
Vitamin C 9mg11%
Calcium 36mg4%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Natasha Kravchuk

Welcome to my kitchen! I am Natasha, the blogger behind Natasha's Kitchen (since 2009). My husband and I run this blog together and share only our best, family approved and tested recipes with YOU. Thanks for stopping by! We are so happy you're here.

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Read comments/reviewsAdd comment/review

  • MWalker
    February 4, 2023

    These were so good!
    I used cauliflower rice to lower the carbs (but still mixed in the sushi vinegar etc). I will definitely be making these again very soon!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 4, 2023

      So glad you loved them! 🙂

      Reply

  • Antonette Marie
    February 2, 2023

    Holy smokes! I can’t believe how delicious this turned out! We absolutely LOVED it! Since moving to a rural area 2yrs ago we have not had sushi & this was the perfect sub! I even made the cucumber salad app just like at the bar! Some panko on top to finish & I couldn’t even tell the diff! Thanks AGAIN Natasha! Your recipes are the CONSISTENTLY THE BEST!!!!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      February 2, 2023

      Hi Antonette! That’s very kind. I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you for sharing your wonderful feedback. I’m glad you loved the recipe.

      Reply

  • Kelsey
    January 28, 2023

    Oh man, this is sooo yummy! I appreciate your site so much, thanks for breaking it down and making it easy to attempt new recipes out of my comfort zone! This was easy and stress-free and tasted so good I couldn’t believe I made it!

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      January 28, 2023

      You’re welcome! I’m so happy you’re enjoying my recipes, Kelsey!

      Reply

  • Julie O'Keeffe
    January 22, 2023

    I can’t wait to try this!! Would love to see other bowl recipes with chicken. Thank you, I love your recipes, and love having you right next to me making your dishes so I can follow step by step.

    Reply

    • Natasha's Kitchen
      January 22, 2023

      You’re welcome. I hope you’ll love this and all the recipes that you will try!

      Reply

  • Olivia
    January 21, 2023

    Thank you for sharing this recipe! I loved how easy this was to make and it tasted amazing!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 21, 2023

      You’re very welcome! So glad you loved it.

      Reply

  • Michelle
    January 21, 2023

    So delicious! My whole family loved it and super easy! Thanks Natasha😋

    Reply

    • Natashas Kitchen
      January 21, 2023

      You’re welcome! I’m so happy you all enjoyed it, Michelle! Thank you so much for sharing that with me.

      Reply

  • Steven
    January 20, 2023

    Who doesn’t enjoy good sushi! That’s not a question, everyone does! Thanks Natasha! Another must try recipe. Everyone in my family enjoys sushi.

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 21, 2023

      Hi Steven! I hope your family loves this recipe. 🙂

      Reply

  • jess
    January 20, 2023

    california rolls are one of my favorite sushi dishes, so this has become one of my favorite bowl recipes to make! thank you for sharing this amazing recipe

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 20, 2023

      You’re very welcome, Jess! It’s so simple and delicious! I hope you love it.

      Reply

  • Andie
    January 20, 2023

    This is the recipe I’ve been needing in my life!! So yummy!

    Reply

    • NatashasKitchen.com
      January 20, 2023

      Hi Andie! I’m so glad to hear that. I hope you love it!

      Reply

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