Temaki sushi is the perfect dish to make and enjoy with family and friends. It's quick to learn, easy to do and can be filled with any ingredients you like, making it the ultimate customizable meal! Learn everything you need to know, from how to roll temaki sushi step by step to 10 delicious flavour combinations made by me!
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What is temaki sushi (hand roll sushi)?
Temaki sushi (手巻き寿司) known as temakizushi in Japanese, is a type of rolled sushi (makizushi) that is shaped by hand rather than using a bamboo sushi mat. Nori seaweed is cut into smaller pieces (halves or quarters), then topped with vinegared sushi rice and a variety of fillings before being rolled into a cone shape. Fillings are usually cut into strips and often include ingredients such as fresh seafood like salmon or tuna, vegetables like avocado or cucumber and Japanese rolled egg called "dashimaki tamago".
Although these days temaki sushi is a casual dish that is mainly made at home, it is said to have originated from a sushi restaurant called "Tsukiji Tamazushi (築地玉寿司)".
A brief history of hand roll sushi
The basic type of hand-rolled sushi is the trumpet-shaped "suehiro" hand-rolled sushi, and as I mentioned earlier, Tsukiji Tamazushi was the first restaurant in the world to invent this type of sushi. The "Suehiro Temaki" was invented more than 50 years ago, in 1971.
At the time, the owner wanted to create an unprecedented sushi dish in order to make sushi more accessible to young people. There is also an interesting story about the shape of the dish, which was inspired by the shape of an ice cream cone.
As a result, it attracted attention as a novel product, and temaki sushi quickly became a favourite in the restaurant. In other words, temaki sushi is not a traditional sushi, but rather a more modern and casual kind of sushi.
Sushi roll vs hand roll: what are the differences?
As you might expected, sushi comes in a lot of different forms. One of the biggest questions regarding hand roll sushi is differences between sushi roll (maki sushi) and hand roll (temaki). I will explain the differences in detail.
First of all, maki sushi (巻き寿司) is a kind of generic term for rolled sushi. Those wrapped in nori seaweed are called "nori maki" and within "nori maki", there are several variations such as "hosomaki" (thin with just 1-2 fillings) "futomaki" (thick with 3+ fillings), "ehomaki" (7 fillings) and "temaki sushi".
Incidentally, gunkanmaki does not fall into the nori-maki category, since it is shaped with rice first and then rolled onto nori.
If you are making sushi at home, hand roll sushi is quicker, easier and more enjoyable for the family to make because you don't need to worry about shaping it perfectly and you can fill it with whatever you like!
Essential ingredients for hand roll sushi
You can't make temaki sushi without these two vital ingredients!
It goes without saying that in order to make any kind of sushi, you're gonna need rice!
Sushi is made with a type short grain white Japanese rice known in Japanese as "uruchimai" (粳米), it's commonly labeled as "sushi rice" outside of Japan even though it's used for most every day Japanese meals and not only for sushi. It has a slightly sticky texture and helps the sushi hold its shape. The most famous and accessible type is called "koshi hikari" and can be purchased here on Amazon.
Rice in Japan is generally cooked in a rice cooker for easy, perfect rice every time. However if you don't own a rice cooker you can follow my tutorial on how to cook Japanese style rice on the stove here.
Once the rice is cooked, it's mixed with rice vinegar, sugar and salt. The ratios vary depending on your tastes, but I've included my own sushi rice recipe below.
Nori (dried seaweed) is also a vital ingredient when making most kinds of sushi, including temaki sushi. It's made from a type of red algae and has a distinctive flavour.
One of my personal favourite things about temaki sushi is the fact that because it's usually freshly rolled, the nori is still crispy when you eat it!
We generally cut the nori in half when making temaki sushi, so one sheet should make two rolls.
Once opened, nori tends to go stale very quickly (even if it's in a resealable bag). To prevent this, keep all opened packets of nori in a ziplock bag in the freezer! It will keep for 6 months or more and there's no need to defrost, you can use it straight away!
Not essential but recommended
There's no rule about what you should or shouldn't put in temaki sushi, but I don't think many Japanese people would go without these ingredients:
- Rice vinegar or sushi vinegar (to season the rice)
- Wasabi (usually spread on the rice before adding fillings)
- Soy sauce (for dipping)
Fillings you can use to make hand roll sushi
Hand roll sushi is a dish with free spirit, so there are no set ingredients you have to use. That means, you can use any ingredients you have access to that suit your tastes. But you might think "where should I start?" so here, I will list all the popular ingredients you can consider when you make temaki sushi at home!
Whatever ingredients you choose to use, make sure to cut them in strips so that they fit in the cone!
Sashimi grade fish/seafood
It wouldn't be sushi if I didn't mention sashimi grade raw fish, and they are definitely the most popular fillings in Japan! Out of all fish, the following are most popular:
- Ikura (salmon roe)
- Sea urchin...etc
If you use sushi grade fish, be sure that you buy it from a reputable seller and that it is labeled "sushi grade" to ensure it's safe to eat raw.
Although the risk is low, eating raw fish always comes a small risk of parasites or food born illness and is not recommended for young children, pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems.
Depending on where you live, I do realise getting sashimi grade fish can be tricky or expensive. But don't worry! Here is a list of possible alternatives:
- Canned tuna or tuna mayo instead of raw tuna
- Smoked salmon instead of raw salmon
- Boiled prawns instead of raw prawns
- Ebi fry instead of raw prawns
- Crab stick intead of fresh crab
Again, feel free to try anything you want as possibility of hand roll sushi is endless!
Dashimaki tamago is an egg dish made by frying and rolling well beaten eggs that have been seasoned with "dashi" (Japanese soup stock), soy sauce and mirin. This creates a nice colour in hand roll sushi and tastes great too.
I have my own recipe for dashimaki tamago, so if you want to use it, please check it out!
Cucumber is a simple, yet great ingredient to use for temaki sushi! It adds some refreshness and crunchy texture to sushi!
If you want to know how to prep cucumber for sushi, I explained how in my kappa maki recipe.
This is a modern twist for temaki sushi, but adding avocado is a great option! I often pair avocado with salmon or prawns for hand roll sushi!
While I personally like cucumber and avocado the best, you might want to experiment with various vegetables such as:
- Perilla leaves (shiso leave/ooba)
- Pickles (pickled daikon radish etc)
- Spring onion
- Bell peppers
Natto is a fermented food made from softened soybeans that have been boiled or steamed and fermented by the bacillus natto. If you already like natto, please try as this is one of the most popular filling for hand roll sushi in Japan.
However, if you haven't tried natto yet, I recommend to try it on its own first as there are a lot of people who don't like it as well.
I have made a post all about natto, so if you're interested please check out this natto 101 post.
How to make vinegared sushi rice
Cook perfect sushi rice on the stove with these steps!
1. Wash the rice
Generally you should wash the rice to remove the excess starch. I do this by pouring the rice into a sieve and placing it over a bowl. Fill it with cold water and swish it around until the water becomes cloudy.
Lift the sieve out and empty the bowl, repeat these steps 3 times. You will find that the water doesn't become perfectly clear, but that's okay. 3 times is enough!
2. Soak the rice
For best results, transfer the rice to your cooking pot (or rice cooker) and soak in cold water for 30 minutes (1 hour in a cold environment). This allows the grains to slowly absorb the water to the core, helping it to cook more evenly.
The general rule is for each Japanese rice cup (150g) add 200ml of cold water.
3. Cook the rice
I recommend using a rice cooker, but if you don't have one, follow these steps:
- Turn the heat on medium and bring the water to the boil with the lid on. (Do not remove the lid at any point.)
- Once you can hear it boiling, set a timer for 2 minutes.
- After 2 minutes, turn down the heat to medium low and set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Once 3 minutes are up, lower the heat to a simmer and set a timer for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, turn up to the highest heat for 10 seconds and then turn the stove off.
- Leave the pot on the stove with the lid on and allow the rice to cook in the residual steam for 10 minutes.
Steam is one of the most important aspects of cooking Japanese style rice. If you remove the lid then the steam will be release and you could end up with hard, unevenly cooked rice. I know it's tempting to check it, but trust the process!
4. Mix in the vinegar, sugar and salt
Once your rice is cooked, lightly mix it with a rice paddle to fluff it up.
For each Japanese rice cup (150g before cooking) I add:
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- ¼ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
You can change the ratio to suit your tastes (some people like it sweeter for example) but this ratio is my personal favourite!
Be sure to check the bottle and determine whether you are using plain rice vinegar or seasoned sushi vinegar. Products labeled "sushi vinegar" often already have sugar and salt added for your convenience, so you simply add it to the rice on its own.
Instructions on how to hand roll temaki sushi
Hand roll sushi can be mastered after just a few tries, follow my step by step guide to get it right every time!
1. How to position the rice
Probably one of the most important points to get the shape right is the placement of the rice! First, cut the nori in half and place it on a flat surface with the rough side facing upwards.
Place the rice just left of the middle of the nori. Spread it to make a right angled triangle shape, the longest side of the triangle will travel from the bottom left corner to the top of centre of the nori.
If you've done it correctly there will be an empty triangle on the top left like the picture above.
Be careful not to press the rice too hard and wet your hands with cold water to stop it from sticking.
2. How to fill temaki sushi
Use your finger to spread a thin layer of wasabi through the middle of the rice (optional).
Next, lay your ingredients over the wasabi, diagonally from the top left corner of the nori to the bottom right corner of the rice.
When you roll the temaki sushi, bring the bottom left corner of the rice (1) to the top right corner (2) so that the two shorter edges (red dotted lines) of the "rice triangle" meet. Make sure not to add fillings to these corners and edges otherwise it will become difficult to roll.
3. How to roll temaki sushi
Bring the bottom left corner to the top centre of the nori, essentially you're folding your triangle of rice in half diagonally.
Once you've folded the triangle, you will be able to roll the rest of the nori sheet around the back to make a cone shape.
Try and make the corners match up (1 and 2) so that the final shape is beautiful and neat.
Once it's rolled, dip it in soy sauce, eat and enjoy!
10 temaki sushi variation ideas
Here are 10 flavour combinations I created to give you some inspiration!
1. Salmon and avocado
Avocado is not a traditional topping but these days, everyone loves bit of avocado in temaki sushi! As I explained in salmon and avocado donburi recipe, avocado especially goes well with salmon in my opinion.
A small bunch of broccoli sprouts makes nice presentation too!
- Sashimi grade salmon or smoked salmon
- Broccoli sprouts
2. Salmon and ikura
Another classic combo for Japanese sushi! Salmon and ikura with shiso leaves and cucumber! Some people might not be fond of texture of ikura, but if you already like it, definitely worth a try. This combination is full of interesting textures!
- Sashimi grade salmon or smoked salmon
- Ikura (marinated salmon eggs)
- Shiso leaves / perilla leaves (ooba)
3. Mixed sashimi and dashimaki tamago (rolled omelette)
Dashimaki tamago is almost a must ingredient when we make hand roll sushi in Japanese households. It adds different colour, texture and taste to the sushi!
If you want to know how to make it at home, check out my dashimaki tamago recipe.
- Sashimi of your choice (I used salmon and yellowtail in the picture above)
- Dashimaki tamago
- Chopped spring onions
4. Tuna and cucumber
In Japan, when we think of sashimi, we probably think of tuna first. Of course it is a popular topping for hand roll sushi too! In this picture, I simply used tuna sashimi and cucumber with a shiso leaf.
- Sashimi grade tuna
- Shiso leaves / perilla leaves (ooba)
5. Wasabi tuna mayo and cucumber
Can't get fresh tuna? In that case, you can make tuna mayo using canned tuna! Here are the ingredients to make wasabi tuna mayo:
Just mix them up in a small bowl and that's it! Tuna mayo is not only a popular filling for temaki sushi but also for onigiri rice ball in Japan.
- Wasabi flavoured tuna mayo
Negitoro is basically a minced raw tuna (made with offcuts) and you can easily make it by mashing sashimi grade tuna or simply buy it already made from your local Japanese food store.
- Negitoro (minced tuna sashimi)
- Chopped spring onions
7. Imitation crab salad
Imitation crab is also a popular option among Japanese households, especially with kids! Simply mix imitation crab with mayo and wrap it with lettuce!
- Imitation crab
- Japanese mayonnaise
8. Spicy mentaiko mayo
If you already like mentaiko, you can use it for hand roll sushi too! You can simply use it as it is, or mix with mayonnaise! If you want to know more about mentaiko, check out my mentaiko pasta recipe!
- Mentaiko (spicy cod roe)
- Japanese mayonnaise
- Shiso leaves (ooba)
9. Soboro chicken (miso flavoured chicken mince)
Who says you cannot use meat in hand roll sushi? Sure you can! It is completely different from the other options, but it does go very well with sushi rice. This is a great option for people who aren't a fan of fish.
If you want to know how to make this soboro mince, check out my soba salad recipe! You can use any kind of mince you like!
- Soboro mince (check out this recipe for detailed instruction)
Okay, I know natto can be intimidating for some people, but if you have already tried and liked it, it's a popular option for Japanese hand roll sushi too!
If you want to know more about Japanese natto, please check out my natto 101 post.
What are your favourite ingredients to put in temaki sushi? Let us know and comment below!
Temaki Sushi (Hand Roll Sushi)
- 300 g uncooked Japanese short-grain rice
- 350 ml water
- 5 g dried kelp(s) - (kombu) optional
- 1 tbsp sake - optional
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Pour 300 g uncooked Japanese short-grain rice into a sieve placed over an empty mixing bowl. Fill the bowl with cold water until the rice is submerged. Swish, drain and repeat 3 times to remove the excess starch and dirt/debris.
- Transfer the rice to a cooking pot and add 350 ml water and 5 g dried kelp(s) (optional). Leave to soak for 30 mins to 1 hour.
- Add 1 tbsp sake (optional) before placing the pot on the stove.
- Turn on the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Listen for bubbling and do not remove the lid.
- Once it starts to it's bubbling, set a timer for 30 seconds. After 2 minutes, reduce the heat to medium-low and set a timer for 2 minutes.
- When 2 minutes are up, lower the heat to a simmer and set a timer for 5 minutes.
- After 5 minutes, turn up to the highest heat for 10 seconds and then turn the stove off. Leave the pot on the stove with the lid on and allow the rice to cook in the residual steam for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, take off the lid, remove the kombu if you used it and lightly mix the rice without crushing the grains.
- Mix the 2 tbsp rice vinegar, 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp sugar in a small bowl until fully dissolved.
- Transfer the rice to a wide container (wider=fasted cooling) and pour the sushi vinegar mixture over the top while it's still hot. Mix and fan to cool the rice.
- Cover with a damp tea towel to stop it from drying out until it's time to serve.
How to assemble temaki sushi
- Cut 8 sheets sushi nori seaweed(s) into halves and set one down horizontally in front of you.
- Add about 30g of sushi rice and spread it out on one half of the nori, leaving the top corner empty. (Wet your hands to prevent the rice from sticking.) The rice should be shaped like a right-angled triangle.
- Spread a thin layer of wasabi paste diagonally through the middle of the rice triangle. (Optional)
- Place your choice of fillings over the top of the wasabi.
- Bring the bottom left corner of the nori up to the centre so that short edges of the rice triangle meet.
- Roll the remaining nori around the back of the cone, try and line up the points for a smoother and more beautiful shape.
- Dip in a personal bowl of soy sauce (depending on the filling) and enjoy!
What's the difference between a sushi hand roll and a sushi roll?
In short, hand roll sushi is shaped freehand whereas regular sushi rolls are shaped using a bamboo rolling mat.
How do you do a hand roll?
Place the rice on one half of the nori, leaving a triangle space in the corner. Add your fillings diagonally across the rice and roll the bottom corner to the top centre of the nori. From there you can wrap the rest of the nori around the back to make a cone shape.
How do you eat sushi hand rolls?
You simply dip them in soy sauce and take a bite! We eat hand roll sushi with our hands.
What is the other name for a hand roll?
It's called "temaki sushi" or "temakizushi" in Japanese.
How much rice is in a hand roll?
An average for one roll should be about 25g-30g for the best rolling experience, but it's all down to how small you cut the nori seaweed and how much rice you want in one.
Can I make sushi without sushi mat?
You actually don't need any sushi mats to make hand roll (temaki) sushi. In fact, if you use a mat then it's not really temaki sushi anymore.