Futomaki – Thick Sushi Rolls

In the last decade, sushi has successfully penetrated American food culture. It has appeared in potlucks, picnics, buffets, and all manner of social gatherings. It has also taken its place in the deli section of many grocery stores in providing a gluten-free and healthy option. In short, sushi has come of age in America.

There are different types of sushi but probably the most popular is the maki sushi or rolled sushi. Any season is a good season for maki sushi. The ingredients used can reflect what is available at the grocery stores at the time of the year. The use of raw fish is not a prerequisite. In fact, many sushi bars now serve sushi with cooked meats like smoked salmon, fried smelt, crab meat, shrimp, or ham. Fried eggs are quite common too. Even cheese is used as a filling similar to that of cheese wonton or crab rangoon. There are also delicious vegan and vegetarian options with avocado, cucumber, and asparagus.

Making maki sushi (rolled sushi) is not difficult. It requires a little patience and practice and is easier than it looks. It is actually quite fun when you get the hang of it. The only specialized piece of equipment required is the makisu (sushi mat) and this can be easily purchased at most grocery stores. Furthermore, it is very elegant and pretty to look at once sliced and presented. They make great appetizers or side dishes. Watch them disappear at parties and social gatherings.

When you make your first sushi roll, the nori (seaweed) may be rolled in (as shown here or in the picture below) giving it the appearance similar to that of uramaki (inside-out roll). Do not despair as most of us have been there and done that. Actually it looks quite pretty that way too. To achieve a more uniform roll with the filling in the center, sometimes the sheet of nori needs to be cut down to size. This of course is dependent on the thickness of the layer of rice and the amount of filling used. Most of the time, the nori for futomaki (thick rolls) need not be cut but like all things, practice makes perfect. You may have to try it a few times to get it just right.

I have chosen to use three of my favorite ingredients for these sushi – Nova lox, avocado, and cucumber. The ones above were made with cooked shrimps and avocado. You can use any of the ingredients I have mentioned. Homemade sushi is definitely more cost effective than store-bought ones, especially when you are feeding a crowd.

I will also be doing a step-by-step hosomaki (thin rolls) post and a new uramaki (inside-out rolls) post in the days ahead. I hope this tutorial helps. Do give it a try.

Futomaki – Thick Sushi Rolls
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 to 5 large rolls
  • 5 sheets of nori
  • 1 English seedless cucumber, cut into long thin 6½ inch (16.5cm) strips
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced into strips
  • 1 packet (3 oz/85g) Nova lox, sliced into strips
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi (optional)
  • Pickled ginger (optional)
Sushi Rice
  • 2 cups (400g) medium grain rice
  • 1 piece 2-in x 2-in kombu, wiped with damp paper towel
Vinegar Mixture
  • 6 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1½ tsp salt
  1. Wash and drain rice 4 to 5 times in a medium sized pot. Cover washed rice with water and allow it to soak for 20 minutes. Drain rice.
  2. Pour in 2¼ cups (540ml) water. Drop the kombu into the pot and place pot on stove over medium heat. Just as water is about to boil, remove kombu. Place the lid back on and allow water to come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let rice cook for about 10 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
  3. Turn off heat and remove pot without opening the lid. Allow rice to sit for 10 minutes before handling.
  4. Combine vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve.
  5. Transfer rice to a moistened sushi barrel or large shallow bowl. Pour vinegar mixture evenly over the rice. Gently mix in the vinegar mixture with a rice paddle in a cutting motion. Do not mash.
  6. Turn the rice with the paddle and fan as you go along. This will help the rice absorb the vinegar and give it a glossy look.
  7. Place a sushi mat on your work surface. Then place a sheet of nori with shiny side down onto mat, lining with the edge of the mat closest to you. Moistened your hands and spread an even layer of vinegared rice with the help of the rice paddle onto nori, leaving about 1½ inches of nori at the far end. The rice should be approximately a quarter inch high. Create a ridge at the far end to prevent filling from spilling forward when rolled.
  8. Line up a strip of cucumber, 3 strips of avocados, and several strips of lox in the center of the rice.
  9. Holding down the filling with your fingers, lift the mat with your thumbs, rolling forward until the edge of the mat touches the top of the ridge. Firmly squeeze the mat and continue rolling forward while retracting the mat backwards so that the seam of the nori is at the bottom.
  10. Finally, place the top portion of the mat firmly over the roll, curl fingers and squeeze mat to compact the roll. Do not push too hard as to force the filling out at the ends. Repeat until all rice is used up.
  11. Slice each sushi roll into 6 thick slices.
  12. Serve with soy sauce, a small dollop of wasabi and pickled ginger.

Rolled sushi (uncut) may be wrapped in plastic shrink wrap and stored in the refrigerator for one night. Slice it the next morning for your bento. One entire roll coupled with some fruits are just right for a light lunch. This was Ro-Ri San’s bento for last Friday. I placed some berries and cut fruits in the lower compartment of this bento.

Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day! 😎

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  1. says

    What a lovely post, Biren. So sweet of you to give such detailed instructions on the art of rolling a sushi. Salivating looking at your fabulous pics!

  2. says

    Thank you for this post and the ones you’re going to be doing on sushi. I’ve never made it although I know that in theory it’s really pretty simple – it just takes practice. I really need to get over my fear of making sushi, and I suspect you’ll help! Gorgeous looking sushi in this post. Nice recipe – thank you.

    • Biren says

      If you make these at home, you will certainly not leave the table hungry. These futomaki are a good size and one to one and a half rolls per person should be enough.

  3. says

    I love sushi and thanks for the clear and step by step instructions :) I somehow not good at rolling sushi ….I must keep practising and I love your pickled ginger. Salivating and now you have inspire me to make some for dinner :)

    • Biren says

      Glad to hear that you find the tutorial useful. Just keep rolling and practicing and your rolls will soon be perfect. :)

  4. says

    I love sushi… a must have once a week.
    and I learned something new today…to add kombu the first step in cooking the rice 😀 That would give the rice an awesome flavour. Terimakasih Biren 😀

    • Biren says

      Sama-sama Lisa! :) We love sushi too and it is more economical to make them at home. Yes, it is nice to add the kombu to the rice. I find it more practical this way than to add it to the vinegar.

  5. says

    actually you don’t even need a sushi mat! I’ve successfully made maki sushi before using a damp towel! (: I love sushi rolls, these look great.

    • Biren says

      Yes, I have heard that sushi can be made using a towel but the sushi mat is so easily available these days and very inexpensive too. Still it is an option. Thanks!

    • Biren says

      Good to see you here again Ann. :) You’ve been missed. Yes, time to get those sushi mats out and make some for dinner. :)

  6. says

    Such pretty Futomaki sushi rolls, Biren…you can teach sushi classes, you’re such a pro at it! Love the photos and the great step-by-step directions, as well!
    I think I will be brave enough to make my own!

    • Biren says

      Thanks Elisabeth! You are too kind. I still have a long way to go but I do enjoy making them at home. :) Do give it a try.

  7. says

    What gorgeous sushi rolls!! My SIL gave me a sushi roll making kit a couple of years ago and I’ve never used it. I think it’s time to find it and start! :) Thanks for the great instructions on making sushi rice! I feel that the rice makes it or breaks it and I never knew how it was made, this is a huge thanks! O.K. it’s time to bring out the tools and start rolling! :) Great post my friend!

    • Biren says

      Time to bring that sushi kit out and put it to good use. Yes, the sushi rice is very important for good sushi. You can adjust the level of sweetness and tartness to your liking. I hope you will give it a try.

  8. says

    Wow! They look impressive, as if done by a professional! I like the flavour combo very much, and I learned something new today. I never knew that sushi rice is cooked with kombu, though I had previously apprenticed in a commercial Japanese kitchen, with a born and bred Japanese chef at the helm!Guess it’s true that you never stop learning :)

    • Biren says

      The kombu is usually added to the vinegar for a very short time while it is being heated to melt the salt and sugar. I find it more practical to add the kombu to the rice as it has such a subtle taste. The vinegar tends to over-power it. I don’t even heat up my vinegar as stirring it vigorously is sufficient to melt the salt and sugar.

      Wow…you must have learnt some great knife skills while you were apprenticing at the commercial Japanese kitchen! We never stop learning do we?

  9. says

    I was just thinking the other day about how I should try learning how to make sushi. And here I am looking at your beautiful post! I love the detailed and step by step instructions given.
    I will surely give this a shot. My daughter loves sushi so much , we eat it at least once a week.
    Thank you so much.

    • Biren says

      Thanks Asmita! I am glad to hear you find the step-by-step instructions useful. I hope you will give it a try. It is definitely much more economical to make sushi at home and you can put in whatever filling you like.

    • Biren says

      Thanks Olivia! Kimbabs are delicious as well. My Korean friend makes some really tasty ones that I get to enjoy once in a while. :)


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