Best Rainbow Roll Sushi Recipe: An Ultimate Guide

Best Rainbow Roll Sushi Recipe: An Ultimate Guide

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Rainbow sushi roll is both a culinary and visual delight. If you appreciate art, you will love the way this inside-out California roll is constructed and topped with a variety of raw flavors to create a work of art. With mouthwatering fillings and colorful toppings of assorted fish, rainbow sushi roll finds its way in the menu of the top sushi restaurants around the world.

What I love about this style of roll is that each piece has its own unique flavor. So, it is like eating 8 different rolls packed into one. Although making this roll at home takes slightly more time, the end result is definitely worth the effort.

If you are throwing a sushi party at home, I would recommend that you ask your friends to participate in the preparation work which is the most time consuming yet fun part. Having extra helping hands, a glass of wine and interesting conversation helps in reducing the ‘prep time.’


What’s Inside And Outside The Rainbow Roll?

This style of inside-out sushi roll has seasoned sushi rice outside the Nori sheet and then topped with different varieties of raw fish. Salmon and tuna are the most common types of fish used in this recipe, but you may also try shrimp, snapper, halibut, white fish, etc. The inner filling usually comprises of crabmeat or imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado.

Best Rainbow Roll Sushi Recipe


• 2.5 cups of short grain Japanese rice
Vinegar seasoning (sushi vinegar, sugar, salt)
Nori sheets
• 2 large Avocados
• 1 Japanese or Persian cucumber
• 3-4 imitation crabsticks or crab meat
• 1/4 pound sushi-grade salmon
• 1/4 pound sushi-grade tuna
• 1/4 pound sushi-grade sea bass or yellowtail
Wasabi paste
Pickled ginger

Sushi rice is an important constituent of the rainbow roll and it strikes a balance between the delicate toppings and delicious fillings. Make sure you start cooking sushi rice at least 30 minutes before you plan to start rolling because it takes time to cook and cool down to room temperature. Find step-by-step instruction on how to make sushi rice in a cooker and pot here.

Preparing the Filings

Peel the cucumber and cut it into four pieces lengthwise. I prefer using medium-sized Japanese cucumbers because they have less seed than Persian or American cucumbers.  If you can’t find a Japanese cucumber, you may use Persian cucumber or American cucumber. Remove seeds and cut each piece into half to get 8 long and thin strips in total.

For avocado, take a vegetable peeler and remove the skin. Now cut the avocado into half using a sharp knife, remove the pit, and make thin slices. Alternatively, you may cut the fruit into half with the skin on and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, and then make slices. Drizzle some lemon juice or vinegar on the avocado slices to prevent them from turning brown or black.

To prepare the crab filling, carefully peel off thin strips similar to strings of cheese. If the strips are too big, peel further to make fine strips. Collect the pile of strings in a bowl to fill into roll later. This is a time taking and tedious process so ask a friend or family member to participate.

Another method to make tasty crab filling is to finely chop three surimi or crabsticks and put them in a mixing bowl. Now add 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise and masago roe. Mix all ingredients with the help of a wooden spatula or spoon. You must ensure that the seafood is well-coated with mayonnaise. You may cover and store the crab filling in refrigerator until needed.

Preparing the Toppings

To prepare the toppings, you need to use a sharp Japanese knife like this to cut out thin strips of the raw fish. Put the fish fillet on a horizontal slab on the working area. For salmon and tuna, start from the midsection of the fillet using the base of the knife in a 45-degree angle to get a diagonal cut from the center. Ideally, the fish slices should be 0.5 cm thick.

For yellowtail and yellowfin, hold the knife at 23-degree angle at one end of the fillet and make 0.5 cm thick slices by dragging the base of the knife. Always follow a single fluid motion instead of moving the knife like a saw to avoid damaging the edges.

If a few pieces get messed up, don’t worry and there’s no need to discard the pieces. Once they are all pressed into the top of the roll, you really can’t tell the pieces that you messed up. Arrange all the slices on a plate and set aside. Repeat this process for all other fish. You will need at least 6-7 fish pieces for each roll.

Pro tip– Remember to clean the cutting board with some hot water before preparing different types of seafood or fish.

Salmon and Tuna are the two main varieties of fish traditionally used in Rainbow Rolls. In this recipe, I chose yellowtail for my third fish. You may use Sea Bass to get a good color contrast or try other shrimp types. You may use three varieties or more if you wish to unique taste with every piece of sushi.

Related Article: Different Ways On How To Tell If Sushi Is Fresh

Rolling The Sushi

Put the bamboo mat on an even working area and cover it with a plastic wrap. Cut the Nori sheet into half using a scissor and lay it over the bamboo mat, rough side facing towards you. Moist your hands and take half a cup of vinegared sushi rice. Spread it evenly on the Nori, leaving just a 1/4 inch gap on all the sides. Wet your hands and press lightly to ensure that the rice sticks to Nori.

Flip the Nori sheet to have the rice part at the bottom. Now, add 3-4 strips of cucumber in the middle, covering the entire length of the roll horizontally. Sprinkle some crab shreds on top of the cucumber strips and place some avocado slices over it.

Now lift the Nori sheet with the help of the bamboo mat and start rolling away from you, holding the fillings tightly together. Press gently to get a tight and compact roll with sushi rice on the outside.

Arranging The Toppings                

Arranging the toppings is a critical part of the rainbow sushi roll. It depends on you how you wish to arrange the fish pieces so working out a plan in your mind. Start by adding one variety of fish diagonally across the left corner of the roll. You will have some rice portion exposed at the side, but you can take care of that later.

Place another variety of fish next to the first one, in the same diagonal pattern. Follow the same for the third fish to get a nice pattern. You may repeat this combination or add more varieties of fish. I assume that you will have two pieces of salmon, two strips of tuna, and one of yellowtail or Sea Bass to cover the entire roll. You may change this as per your taste and preferences.

Now, take thin slices of avocado and place it in between two fish pieces by slightly slipping the avocado beneath the fish pieces. Repeat this step to have one avocado slice between every two fish slices. Also, place an avocado slice on the upper left hand of the roll to cover the exposed sushi rice.

At this stage, the roll may look a little sloppy and messy but don’t worry. Put a plastic sheet over the roll and press down gently to remove any air and ensure that the fish pieces stick on to the top of the rice. Put the bamboo mat over the plastic sheet and press a little more, squeezing both sides with your hands. The fish pieces will look settled, and the avocados will smoothen out beautifully.

If you don’t get it right the first time, place the mat again and apply some more pressure until the roll looks like the one you see in pictures. It might take some practice to understand how much pressure is enough.

Slicing The Roll

Put the plastic sheet back on the roll and use the bamboo mat to ensure that it compactly holds the contents together. Wipe the blade of your knife with a damp cloth and cut the roll into 6-8 pieces with the plastic sheet on. Cut in a fluid motion to get neat pieces of the roll. Moisten the knife before each cut.

Presentation Of The Roll

The Rainbow sushi roll is more about visual delight and creativity plays an important role here. When it comes to presentation, some extra effort goes a long way to enhance the experience.  Serve the sushi roll on a beautiful traditional sushi dinnerware set.

Arrange thin slices of carrot and cucumber fanned out at the sides to add more colors and character to the dish. Serve with the sauce of your choice. Don’t forget to the pickled ginger to cleanse your palate before every bite.

Rainbow Sushi Roll (Vegan Recipe)

When we talk about the rainbow sushi roll, we usually think about different types of colorful fish toppings. However, that does not mean vegan people cannot enjoy this beautiful delight. You can try making a rainbow sushi roll with colorful veggies. Here’s the recipe:


• 1 batch seasoned sushi rice
• 1/2 medium carrot
• 1/4 yellow pepper
• 1 Japanese  cucumber
• 1/2 raw beetroot
Nori sheets
• Soy sauce
• 1 strawberry (optional for topping)
• 1 mango (optional for topping)
• 1 avocado (optional for topping)
•   1 pineapple (optional for topping)

Start by cooking short grain Japanese rice and then seasoning it to make vinegared sushi rice. To see complete instructions on how to make sushi rice, click here.

Peel the carrot skin and julienne cut to make thin strips. Semi boil the carrot pieces in hot water to make them tender. Peel the cucumber, remove the seeds if any, and make thin strips by cutting them in julienne style. Cut the yellow pepper in similar sizes and remove the seeds.

Peel the beetroot and julienne cut to make thin strips. Remember to cut beetroot at last so that it does not add color to other vegetables. You may also semi-boil beetroot to make it soft.

Steps To Roll

Place the bamboo mat on an even surface and cover it with a plastic film. Lay the Nori sheet on it, rough side facing up.

Wet your fingers and take half a cup of sushi rice. Spread it all over the Nori using your fingers leaving a small gap in the edges.

Add a few cucumbers, carrot, beetroot, and pepper slices at the center of the Nori and roll the mat to get a tight cylindrical shape roll. Cut the roll into 6-8 pieces.

An Alternative Method With Colorful Toppings

If you are feeling more creative, flip the Nori after applying sushi rice on it, add the vegetable fillings on the Nori sheet and roll by lifting the bamboo mat.

Now, cut out thin strips of strawberry, mango, pineapple, and avocado depending upon the availability of fruits. Make the fruit slices of the same size as fish strips. Arrange the slices diagonally in a pattern over the sushi rice to get an assorted and colorful topping.  Follow the same instructions as mentioned for raw fish slices.

Place the plastic sheet over the contents and press gently to flatten them out. Moisten a sharp knife and cut out 6-8 pieces with the plastic film on. Serve with soy sauce and wasabi (see how to make real wasabi).

Common Mistakes To Avoid In Rainbow Sushi Roll

• Buying fish from unreliable sources is a complete no-no.  The recipe uses raw fish toppings so make sure it is sushi-grade and frozen in appropriate conditions to avoid bacterial contamination.

Related Article:Can You Make Sushi From Frozen Salmon?

• Thawing fish by putting it in warm water or leaving it in the room temperature for too long will multiply harmful germs rapidly. Thaw the frozen fish correctly by keeping it in the refrigerator the night before you plan to throw a sushi party to have it ready by the time you want to use it.

• Avoid overdoing the toppings with many species of fish. Too many varieties can spoil the effect and flavor so keep it to maximum 3 plus avocado for the toppings.

• Trying to experiment with fillings is not a good idea in this style because the raw toppings should remain the highlight of the dish. Extravagant fillings will take the cake away from raw fish.

• Not paying attention to the sushi rice can result in a disaster. Making a rainbow roll is a time-consuming process so cook the sushi rice in advance so that you have enough time to do the preparations for fillings and toppings

Related Questions

Why is it called rainbow sushi roll

This style of sushi roll creates a colorful topping with different varieties of raw fish and fruits. It resembles a rainbow, hence the name. You can find a rainbow roll in almost every high-end sushi restaurant around the world.

Can I use other raw fish?

Yes, you can use different types of raw fish as long as they are sushi-grade. Salmon and Tuna are the two main species used in the recipe. You can add other varieties like red snapper, yellowtail, yellowfin, halibut, sea bass, and so on.

How many calories in a rainbow roll?

Per serving of rainbow roll has about 369 calories, 30 grams total fat, 24 grams carbs, 35mg sodium, 7 grams protein, and so on.

What is different between the rainbow roll and sashimi

Sashimi is a beautiful assortment of sushi-grade raw fish handpicked by the chef. Rainbow rolls, on the other hand, comprises of raw fish with the sushi rice, Nori, and fillings inside the roll. The former lets you relish the unique taste of raw fish alone, while the later features a mix of different flavors.

The Final Words

While there’s no record about who started the rainbow sushi roll, I am sure he was someone with interest in creativity and artwork. Rainbow roll appears like a perfect blend of westernized California rolls and traditional sashimi. While the roll is inside-out with the Nori hidden inside, the raw fish glistening like a rainbow on the top makes it extremely appealing to the eyes.

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