How to Make Sushi Without a Mat

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Cutting board filled with homemade Vegan Sushi made without a mat

John and I have a thing for sushi. Sticky rice, crunchy veggies, spicy seafood, plus that wasabi, ginger soy combo? Umami ftw.

Veggie, california, spicy tuna, fire spitting dragon (is that even a name?) – we eat it all. And while sushi is more of a treat that we save for nights out, it’s also fun to make it at home. But as you know, having one more thing around the house – i.e. a bamboo mat – isn’t really my thing. But you don’t need a mat to make sushi. You just need a few simple ingredients and a towel.

Cutting board with fresh vegetables for making homemade sushi

Yep, a towel.

Saucepan filled with freshly cooked homemade sushi rice for our tutorial on How to Make Sushi at Home

Start by making the perfect sticky sushi rice (or try this brown rice version) and chopping up your veggies of choice.

We don’t have access to much sushi-grade seafood in the Midwest, so I most often stick with veggies. But if you live near the coast, get crazy and do the dang thang. (Also, invite me over because I love seafood sushi.)

Nori sheet topped with rice and vegetables for making homemade sushi

The towel trick:

A thick towel acts just like a bamboo mat and also wipes up your mess when you’re done: win-win. Because it’s so flexible it allows you to shape and roll the rice effortlessly into a beautiful roll. Oh how I love cutting corners.

Showing how to make sushi without a mat
Homemade sushi rolled in a towel
Slicing a homemade vegan sushi roll
Sliced Vegan Sushi Rolls on a cutting board with chopsticks

This method not only allows you to make a traditional sushi roll, you can also go inside out (rice on the outside, nori on the inside). WHAAAATT?

Inside Out Sushi Roll on a dish towel topped with plastic wrap

Simply flatten on the rice, gently flip it over, top with veggies and roll away as usual.

You can even top your rolls with avocado by layering on thin slices of ripe avocado, topping it with plastic wrap and forming it once again with your towel. Slice, remove plastic and “voila.” So easy and a serious “wow” effect. Your friends will be impressed.

Showing How to Make Sushi with rice on the outside
Showing how to roll an Inside Out Sushi Roll without a mat

So what’s stopping you from making sushi at home? Nada. Now go forth and make rolls my child!

Inside Out Avocado Sushi Roll on a on a cutting board with chopsticks

What to Serve with Sushi

Wood board with sushi rolls, pickled sushi ginger, and soy sauce for our tutorial on How to Make Sushi

How to Make Sushi Without a Mat

An easy, no-fuss way to make sushi at home without a mat.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Sushi board with freshly rolled sushi made without a mat
4.69 from 51 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 (rolls)
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 2-3 Days

Ingredients

RICE

  • 1 cup uncooked white rice (sushi rice if you can get it // or use short-grain)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

EVERYTHING ELSE

  • 1 cup chopped veggies (carrot, cucumber, red pepper, avocado)
  • 4 sheets nori (dried seaweed)
  • Soy sauce/tamari, pickled ginger, wasabi (optional // for serving)

Instructions

  • Start by preparing your rice. Rinse rice in a fine mesh strainer until your water runs clear. Then add to a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Once it boils reduce heat to low, cover and cook until water is completely absorbed – about 15 minutes.
  • In the meantime, add vinegar, sugar and salt to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat stirring occasionally until sugar and salt are dissolved. Place in a jar or dish and cool in the fridge until rice is ready.
  • Once the rice is done, turn off the heat and add the cooled vinegar mixture and stir with a rubber spatula or fork as to not overmix. It will appear wet but will dry up as you lightly stir to release heat. It should be sticky and completely dry once it’s ready.
  • In the meantime, prep your veggies by chopping them into thin pieces. If they’re too bulky they won’t allow the sushi to roll well.
  • Now it’s time to roll: grab a thick towel and fold it over into a rectangle and place it on a flat surface. Top with plastic wrap, then with a sheet of nori. Using your hands dipped in water (to avoid sticking), pat a very thin layer of rice all over the nori, making sure it’s not too thick or your roll will be all rice and no filling.
  • Then, arrange a serving of your veggies or preferred filling in a line at the bottom 3/4 of the rice closest to you (see photo).
  • Start to roll the nori and rice over with your fingers, and once the veggies are covered, roll over the plastic wrap and towel, using it to mold and compress the roll (see photo). Continue until it’s all the way rolled up.
  • Slice with a sharp knife and set aside.
  • To make the inside out roll, follow this awesome tutorial. See photos for how to apply a layer of avocado on the outside.
  • Serve immediately with pickled ginger, soy sauce and wasabi.

Video

Notes

*Rice heavily adapted from All Recipes.
*See inside out video instructions here.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without optional ingredients.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 rolls Calories: 245 Carbohydrates: 50.1 g Protein: 5 g Fat: 2.6 g Saturated Fat: 0.4 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.36 g Monounsaturated Fat: 1.49 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 319 mg Potassium: 171 mg Fiber: 3.9 g Sugar: 7.3 g Vitamin A: 0 IU Calcium: 0 mg Iron: 0 mg

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  1. Nicole says

    This was so good! It took me a bit longer than stated in the recipe because I was laying out the veggies intricately and washed the knife fairly vigorously between each cut in the roll. Double the time, at least for the first attempt, if you’re a newbie like me.

    I feel like you need to make a bit more rice than this recipe suggests (maybe 1 and 1/4 cups dry with 2 and 1/2 cups water) to get the proportions right for 4 rolls.

    I used all the suggested veggies (avocado, carrot, cucumber, red bell pepper) and it really hit the spot. Even my carnivorous fiance liked these and thought they tasted restaurant quality! Definitely recommend ginger, sesame seed topping, soy sauce, and wasabi.

    I’m not sure I’ve nailed the rolling technique yet since the bottom of the rolls tended to flatten. I’ll keep working on that and MAYBE I’ll invest in a bamboo mat if I continue to make these.

    Pairs well with sake bombs. ;)

  2. Jessica P. says

    Delicious! The rice took longer to cook than anticipated, but that was the only hiccup. Used avocado, cucumber, and shrimp as the filling. Will be making this again!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      It should still work without it, but we would definitely recommend for a more authentic flavor and better stickiness!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Sorcha! Next time would you mind adding a rating to your review? It’s super helpful to us and other readers! xo

    • Charon says

      My children have been craving sushi since lockdown, this is such an easy to follow recipe! I didn’t have sushi rice so I used basmati, Added a little extra water, allowed it to sit once cooled and mashed it with the back of my fork- worked perfectly! I have 2 very satisfied little boys🤩

  3. Hannah says

    I feel like maybe the ratios of rice to water were a bit off. My rice was still a bit chewy.
    Other than that, great recipe and technique!
    I’ve made sushi twice now.
    Cucumber roll, and California. Both delicious!

  4. Sanne Bloom says

    I was trying to find a sushi rice recipe as I’ve never made it before, and then I came across your recipe and I knew this was the one I had to try, all your recipes are winners. And this one is no different! My 5 yr old claimed these were better than the shops. I feel this will be on high rotation at home. Thank you for yet another fabulous recipe xxx

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the sweet note and lovely review, Sanne. We are so glad you and your kiddo enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! xo

  5. adrian mcgilp says

    Great tip. I was actually just looking for a recipe on the measurements of rice to cook. But you fulfilled 3 extra queries I had ?
    Great vegan alternative & inexpensive idea on rolling sushi.??

  6. Kendall says

    Made this today and it went great. Thanks for saving me from buying a sushi mat and for building my sushi confidence! I ended up using a napkin zipped into a gallon ziplock bag to roll. It was surprisingly easy to get a nice, tight roll. It was also easy to re-adjust if I messed up. Would make this again in a heartbeat.

    I made a much thinner layer of rice on the nori than the pictures (maybe about half that, with plenty of nori peeking through), to get my preferred veggie-to-rice ratio. To slice, I found it worked best to use my sharpest knife and to rinse the knife in water after each slice.

    I also wasn’t brave enough to attempt the rice on the outside version, but I will next time!

  7. Erika says

    This recipe is on-point! The sticky rice turned out perfect, and the instructions for rolling were a cinch! I’ve had sushi for dinner for three consecutive nights now–I discovered today that yesterday’s leftover rice worked just fine for today’s rolls. I had leftover matchstick veggies, too, so the whole process took about three minutes today. Thanks for yet another easy, delicious recipe!

  8. Dwight Mathey says

    I’m still learning from you, as I’m making my way to the top as well. I absolutely love reading everything that is posted on your blog.Keep the information coming. I enjoyed it!

  9. Margot says

    This was great! The instructions were perfect, except I kept wondering “How do you seal the roll?” Because I’ve made a lot of things with tortillas. However, the nori seals itself. How clever of it!

  10. Gary Luechtefeld says

    Sushi Disaster in Chicago!!!
    You made it look so easy that I tried it today with no luck. First I used instant white rice – something about having to clean sushi rice scared me. More importantly – The only nori that jewel had – had a warning (fro California) that the product causes cancer. Thank god for California food laws. Why isnt the rest of America required to do the same?!?!? Frankly i am afraid of eating any food from or near Japan because of Fukishima.
    So i tried to make it without nori and ended up with a soggy, bland bowl of rice and veggie mess. :(
    Made a second batch and put it into the fridge to see if there is a difference cutting it warm versus cold.
    One tip – i used nonstick parchment paper and it worked well!!!

    Any substitute for nori that you can think of?

  11. Lesley says

    Is the sugar necessary or can that be left out? I don’t know if would ruin consistency of the rice? Or completely change flavor?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      It should still work without it, but we would definitely recommend for a more authentic flavor and better stickiness!

  12. Talia says

    Awesome! Definitely going to try this! Thank you! Added bonus that the rice recipe is here too. :)

  13. Michelle says

    This recipe turned out SO tasty and it was so incredibly easy! I rolled mine up using a silicone baking mat, which was perfect for flexibility and sturdiness, all while reducing waste by not using plastic wrap! I also didn’t quite chop up the veggies. I instead cut them up into little slivers – which I think helped the veggies stay in place. I definitely can’t wait to make this again!

  14. Susan says

    Is there a trick to preparing the nori? Last time I attempted this the nori was dry, hard to bite through, chewy and kind of gross. I bought a different nori this time; the same that the local market uses, but wondering if you need to drop it in water or something before using it.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Susan, is it possible that the one you had the first time wasn’t sealed properly after being opened? That would be our best guess. Shouldn’t have to do anything to it!

  15. Marsha says

    I only used 1.5 cups of when cooking my rice (based on the instructions on the back of the bag), and it turned out perfectly. I can’t believe how easy and fun these are to make :) And thank you for giving me the confidence to try without a proper mat, it’s really not necessary!

  16. Cara says

    Idea A+
    Recipe not good at all. Rice to water ratio was way off. Way too much vinegar. It made vinegar muck. Not tasty…..

  17. Reen says

    So this was my and my 13yo daughter’s first attempt at making sushi/sashimi/etc at home…We are *very not* chefs but love it and wanted to try. Absolutely perfect instructions and we had so much fun! Thank you!!!!!

  18. Isabelle says

    This is a good recipe for beginners, but to make your sushi more restaurant quality I’d recommend using a half sheet of nori, and using much less rice in the rolls. The rice should be in a layer thin enough to just cover the nori.

  19. J. Davi says

    Great tip with the dish towel, and thank you for taking / showing an authentic picture of what you made. It’s obvious that is the roll you made, and not some magazine-prepped thing that you don’t know where it came from (like most people’s 5-star absolutely perfect pictures).

  20. Noemi says

    I made this, and am extremely disappointed in the results. I should have followed my instincts instead of the recipe and removed the rice from the cooking pot immediately and moved it to a large flat dish to cool it quickly. Now I have a hot gummy mess of rice.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Sticky rice is good! That’s what makes the sushi stick together. Perhaps you added too much liquid?

  21. Lynn says

    Awesome recipe! Raw carrots are a bit too crunchy for me though. Next time, I’ll probably stirfry those carrots just a bit to soften them.

  22. Mackenzie says

    Except your just wasting plastic wrap instead of investing in something that can be used repeatedly and long term – I’ll go with the mat thanks.

  23. Kara Nielsen says

    Great recipe! My husband, my two daughters and myself all made our own sushi rolls! This recipe sparked lots of great conversation, laughs and photos. Thank you!

  24. Kristin says

    Just finished making this and it turned out to be stellar! That paired with coconut aminos/Braggs Liquid Aminos = delicious combo. Thanks again Dana!

  25. izzy says

    sushi!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sushi is the best!

  26. kristy says

    Whoever commented on short grain rice was right on the money.When you order sticky rice it always short grain or also called calrose rice in the grocery store. Long grain is when you want fluffy seperated grains. Also rinsing the rice before cooking takes away from the stickiness as well- I would not rinse rice I was trying to make sticky.

  27. meg says

    Bummer that plastic wrap is so bad for the enviroment! We are trying to eliminate plastic in our home. We don’t use plastic wrap or bags. Guess we will buy a bamboo sushi mat:)

  28. Beth says

    Thank you so much for this blog post! Too many recipes put a lot of emphasis on the necessity of a bamboo mat for making sushi rolls. You’ve really made homemade sushi a reality for me with this easy how-to guide for the everyday cook. Can’t wait to try making some avocado rolls!

  29. Mrs. Waller says

    My husband and I made this last night for the first time, along with your recipe for miso soup and they both turned out AMAZING! As much sushi as we eat, it’s hard to believe that it was so easy! Thank you! Your site has been a wonderful resource for my family. We’re transitioning to a vegan diet and your recipes have helped to keep meals fun and yet unpredictable! ☺

  30. Barbara says

    My boyfriend and I have everything ready to start making sushi tonight but we don’t have the rice vinegar or white wine vinegar. All we have is balsamic vinegar and white vinegar. Should we give it a try and maybe add a few steps to change the flavor of those or just wait until we have the right ingredients at another time? Thanks

  31. Heather @Boston Girl Bakes says

    Thank you! I just had the brilliant idea “let’s try sushi at home!” and went online to see about kits. $30? For a once in a while thing? No thank you. Towel. Yup. Sign me up. Thanks for sharing :) I doubt mine will come out as pretty as yours, but here’s hoping! Any idea, would a silicone baking mat work fine too?

  32. Melissa says

    I did this with my kids after reading about it on your site and we had a blast. It was fun, easy and we just used wax paper because it was in the cabinet no towel or plastic wrap. Worked fine. Costs about $1 per roll per person. That’s my kind of sushi. You’ve brought sushi into the hinge of the everyday person. Congrats, minimalist baker, you’re my hero.

  33. Lacy says

    Dana, thank you so much for this recipe! I made it for dinner tonight – the first time I made sushi ever – and it got a big thumbs up from my husband and I. We LOVE sushi but it’s obviously expensive so we were pretty excited to find out we could make our own! We’re thinking next time we’ll try adding tempura fried fish! Thank you!

  34. Laura says

    OMGoodness!!!! This is delicious and I’m sorry I waited to so long in making this! Sooooooo easy!! I put shrimp, crab and cream cheese in mine. I also mixedsome siracha sauce with yum-yum sauce and put it in and on. In heaven!!! Thanks!!

  35. Fay says

    This was our first time making sushi.
    Avocado, red peppers, carrots, cucumbers.
    Simple.
    Not a fortune.
    So exciting to see the finished product!
    Thank you for this.

  36. Courtney says

    This worked so well and was much easier than I thought it would be. Thank you for sharing the towel tip; I had put off making sushi until now simply since I was without bamboo mat.

    • Cathy says

      This is very well explained, I looked at many others and this one by far was the best explanation….. turned out amazing thank you ♥️♥️

  37. bryan says

    Nice post. But, honestly, those bamboo mats cost almost nothing and they strike me as being very minimalist. They have a stiffness to them and they’re designed for the task at hand. And, in my opinion, wiping stains off a small bamboo mat is easier than getting them off a towel.
    If you completely encase your mat in clear plastic, which is what you do with inside-out rolls, then you don’t even have to wash the mat after you’re done.
    As for rice, I would suggest opting for medium-grain rice (short grain is ideal) from a Japanese market. The surface of your rolls will be smoother and not on the prickly side, which is what you get by using long-grain rice. And I definitely would spoon the rice into a separate bowl after it’s cooked, because it will continue to cook in your hot pot. Some Japanese even cool the rice with a fan as they’re mixing in the vinegar mixture with the rice.
    I’ve found that wrapping a separate sheet of clear plastic over the finished roll like a sausage helps tremendously in the final cutting step. You’ll get nice clean cuts that, again, give your presentation a professional touch. BTW, the video tutorial shows a person using a full nori sheet to make an inside-out roll. I’ve often seen chefs cut the sheet in half (length-wise) to make the resulting rolls more bite-sized.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks for the feedback! I find that there are many recipes that require just “one more thing”, i.e. a bamboo mat, donut pan, etc., and I seek to provide recipes for people who don’t want all the extras.

  38. Hannah says

    I’m vegan and don’t like raw veggies (gasp). However, I loved this recipe. I was very skeptical I would like it because the vinegar/sugar/salt combination smelled so much like vinegar, and because of my dislike of raw peppers and avocados. The only changes I made were the cucumber was omitted, and I used coconut sugar instead of table sugar. It was so delicious. I haven’t been able to have sushi in over five years and have made this recipes many times since. Thank you for making it so simple!

  39. Karol says

    Just made my dinner using this no mat method and it ended up very well !!! I made salmon, avocado a cucumber rolls…. Yummy!!!! Great blog!

  40. Gale Spencer says

    First attempt tonight making sushi. Used your recipe, turned out great. Hubby loved it, and he’s picky.

  41. walt tani says

    I see from your cut roll pic that the rice is catching on your blade.
    Traditional sushi knives are thin (top to bottom) so the opposite of a normal french chef’s blade which is pretty much the only blade I use in the kitchen these days. But if I were a stickler, I’d use something that looks more like a fillet knife as it presents less drag to the individual rice kernels. Also, my mom always had a wet rag nearby to wipe both sides of the blade after a couple strokes. The operative word is “wet” as this will lubricate the blade and again, leave a much cleaner cut without the rice being dragged out from the cut. Not that important when eating at home, but if preparing for others it adds to the presentation of a skilled chef. Neat idea with the towel.

    • bryan says

      I’ve found that what’s more important than getting an ideal knife is to take the extra step of wrapping the roll in plastic, sort of like a sausage. Cutting is such a breeze that way. If you do that, then you can just use a good, sharp chef’s knife.

  42. Mary says

    Can you make using the same approach with brown rice? I’ve been trying to stick with that over white rice! Thank you for your easy recipes!

  43. Samantha Zinn Saenz says

    I am in love with each and every recipe you make and I will start learning new recipes from you. This is my number 1 food site!

    Samantha x

  44. Alex says

    Have I ever attempted to make sushi or even sticky rice in my life? No.
    Did I just wow my family with delicious, restaurant-worthy veggie rolls? Yes.
    Your blog is amazing!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yeah, I think you could. Just leave it out and press the rice onto plastic wrap or parchment paper, then add fillings, roll tightly (making sure your plastic wrap/parchment works as a guide and doesn’t actually get inside the roll). Then slice and serve! Hope that helps/makes sense.

      • carreen says

        I have also seen restaurants use edible rice paper in place of seaweed, if the sans-structure method doesn’t work. =]

  45. Aimee says

    Found this tutorial as I didn’t have a mat. Very helpful! One thing I will mention though, if you are using traditional sushi rice, you may want to use less water. Following this recipe with my sushi rice I ended up with very mushy rice. I looked on the bag and noticed that it called for only 1 1/2 cups of water instead of the 2 cups recommended by this recipe.

  46. Mikaila McG says

    Oh my goodness! You have saved my little pregnant self. I have been CRAVING sushi for the longest time, but it is so expensive! So, my husband and I decided to make it together on Valentine’s Day using your tutorial and recipe and we fell in love with it! It was so much easier than I thought it would be and your tutorial was so helpful. Thanks for the recipe and for helping my husband and I make some wonderful Valentine’s Day memories. :)

  47. Anna says

    Oh, lawd. My boyfriend and I used this recipe to make sushi for our anniversary dinner, and everything turned out incredible. Homemade sushi is an aphrodisiac, apparently. WHO KNEW?

    We took our newly discovered sushi skills on the road last weekend and had a sushi & Star Trek party at a friend’s house. As young folk drowning in college debt, we’ve found roll-your-own to be a revelation. We have seen the light. All hail homemade sushi.

  48. Michelle says

    This is sooo great! I’ve always been afraid of sushi at home, but not anymore! Totally going to try your technique!!! Thanks!

  49. Donna says

    Simply stunning visuals…and a concise tutorial…Merci!!!

    Please do tell that you are planning a sequel with a Sashimi offering!…Paleoite present in-home (moi)…but I suppose I COULD sub “riced” celery root or choufleur/cauliflower for the sweet rice?….

    The beauty of your blog consistently awes!!!

    • Aeva says

      If by Paleoite, you mean the Paleo diet plan (I had to look it up, lols), I’m not sure if it will work. Sushi is pretty dependent of the stickiness of the rice to hold it together.

      If you try it, let us know how it turns out! It might be an interesting spin on one of my favorites.

    • Katy says

      I would love to know if the riced coliflower would work and still taste good, let me know if you try it please

      • Bella says

        I’ve used cauliflower ”rice” for raw sushi and if you mix it with some psyllium powder and tiny amount of liquids like vinegar and let it sit for a while after combining it will become a bit sticky like sushi rice and works perfectly!

  50. Colleen Pastoor says

    This is great! I’ve always avoided making sushi at home because I didn’t have the ‘tools’… now I can give it a try!

  51. Ellen says

    Sushi wins the beautiful food prize. If such a prize didn’t exist already it does now and I declare your sushi the winner.

  52. Katy says

    I love making sushi. I think it gets a bad rap – seems complicated at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s one of the more easier dinners to make. I have mats but don’t use them, I’d love to try this towel method!

  53. Emma says

    Your sushi is so pretty! I only tried making it for the first time recently but it turned out pretty well. Thanks for all your tips, I’d love to try the inside out rolls :)
    Oh, and I LOVE pickled ginger

        • Jack says

          You might have purchased Nori sheets that are flavored with something. It is pretty common, especially if the packaging is in another language or you purchased it somewhere that carries many different types. One store near me has an entire isle with sushi paper and you would be surprised how many different brands and flavors there are.

  54. Janae @ bring joy says

    My fave is sushi with the rice on the outside–I find it easier to eat. And I love your minimalist approach to everything–including NOT using a traditional mat. My kinda style, I tell ya. Lovely.

  55. Michelle @ Fed Up and Drunk says

    What an inspired idea. Can’t believe I never thought of this! I’ve been considering making sushi for a while but keep forgetting to buy a mat – now I don’t need one!

  56. Marygrace Taylor says

    This is pretty brilliant. I was just making sushi the other night, and was reminded how annoying it is when little bits of rice get stuck in my mat that I then have to clean out. Next time I’m trying mat-free.