How to Make Rainbow Roll Sushi

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If you’re tired of the usual sushi rolls (I’m lookin at you, California roll) and want to add some color and excitement to your sushi experience, then this rainbow roll sushi recipe is just what you need. It’s a delightful combination of flavors, from crisp cucumber and creamy, avocado slices to luscious tuna and salmon, all wrapped up in a blanket of perfectly seasoned sushi rice. This roll is perfect for sushi enthusiasts and for those who are looking for a fun and creative dish to serve at their next party or gathering.

rainbow sushi roll recipe

Why Love This Recipe

  • Vibrant and Eye-Catching: Of course it’s delicious, but one of the main reasons to love a Rainbow Sushi Roll is its striking visual appeal. The colorful assortment of fresh ingredients creates a feast for the eyes. It’s like having a miniature rainbow on your plate, instantly uplifting your mood and making your meal more enjoyable.
  • Fresh and Healthy Ingredients: This roll is packed with fresh and healthy ingredients. The combination of cucumber, avocado, and various fresh fish provides a nutritious and well-rounded meal. It really is a guilt-free indulgence.
  • Textural Delight: With each bite, a Rainbow Sushi Roll offers a delightful mix of textures. The crispness of the cucumber, the creaminess of the avocado, and the tender fish create a harmonious balance.
  • Flavor Explosion: The combination of different ingredients in a Rainbow Sushi Roll creates an explosion of flavors. The sweetness of the imitation crab and eel sauce, the buttery richness of the avocado, the fresh notes of the tuna and salmon, and the hint of spiciness from the mayo all come together in perfect harmony.
  • It’s Customizable: One of the great things about a Rainbow Sushi Roll is its versatility. While the traditional recipe includes cucumber, crab, and specific fish, you can get creative and customize it to suit your preferences. You can experiment with different fillings, such as shrimp, or even vegetarian options like tofu or roasted vegetables. The sky’s the limit when it comes to creating your own unique and personalized rainbow roll. Just make sure it’s colorful!

homemade rainbow roll sushi

What is a Rainbow Roll?

A Rainbow Roll is a type of sushi roll that features an assortment of colorful seafood and/or veggies on top of a traditional sushi roll. It is known for its eye-catching appearance, resembling a rainbow with its vibrant colors. The roll typically consists of a sushi rice and nori (seaweed) base, filled with ingredients such as cucumber, avocado and imitation crab meat (Kani).

The toppings of a Rainbow Roll typically include thin slices of different types of fish or seafood, such as tuna, salmon, and sometimes yellowtail or shrimp. Each type of fish or seafood is arranged in rows on top of the roll, creating a beautiful display of colors. The fish used for the toppings are often raw or lightly seared, allowing their natural flavors to shine.

This roll is often drizzled with a spicy mayo sauce. This sauce adds a hint of heat and tanginess, complementing the freshness of the fish and adding an extra layer of flavor to the roll.

How to Buy Seafood for Sushi

When buying raw fish for sushi, it’s essential to prioritize freshness, quality and safety.

  • Choose a Reputable Fishmonger or Retailer: Look for a trusted fishmonger or retailer that specializes in providing high-quality seafood. They should have a good reputation for sourcing and handling fresh fish. Local fish markets or Japanese grocery stores are often good options.
  • Opt for Sushi-Grade Fish: Sushi-grade fish is an unregulated term that refers to fish that has been carefully handled, stored and labeled for raw consumption. According to the seller, it is typically fresher and meets higher standards for safety.
  • Freshness is Key: Freshness is crucial when it comes to raw fish for sushi. The flesh should be firm, resilient and free from any discoloration or strong odors. If the fish has been filleted, the edges should appear moist and not dried out.
  • Know the Varieties: There are several popular types of fish commonly used in sushi. Some popular choices include tuna (such as maguro and toro), salmon (sake), yellowtail (hamachi), snapper (tai), and shrimp (ebi). Research the specific characteristics of each type to make an informed decision.

Salmon and tuna fillet for sale

Basic Tools Needed to Make Sushi

While you can go all out and buy all of the fancy sushi tools available, the below are basic items you’ll need to get rolling.

  1. Rice Cooker: While not strictly necessary, a sushi rice cooker can simplify the process of cooking the rice to achieve the right texture and consistency.
  2. Bamboo Sushi Mat (Makisu): A bamboo sushi mat, or makisu, is an indispensable tool for rolling sushi. It consists of thin bamboo slats woven together and provides the necessary support and structure to roll the sushi tightly.
  3. Plastic Wrap: If you’re new to rolling sushi, using plastic wrap can be helpful. It prevents the rice from sticking to the bamboo mat and assists in achieving a well-formed sushi roll.
  4. Sharp Knife: A sharp knife is essential for slicing sushi rolls cleanly and precisely. Use a long, thin-bladed knife to make clean cuts through the roll without crushing or tearing the ingredients.
Closeup of Chef hands rolling up sushi on bamboo mat in kitchen of restaurant

Ingredients Needed to Make a Rainbow Roll

The secret to a delicious sushi roll lies in the quality of its ingredients. So, when you head out to get these goodies, make sure you pick the freshest and highest-quality items you can find.

For the Spicy Mayo:

  • Mayonnaise: We used Hellman’s but we suggest sourcing Kewpie mayo. Kewpie mayo is a popular brand of mayonnaise originating from Japan. It is known for its distinctive creamy and rich texture, tangy flavor, and slightly sweet taste.
  • Sriracha: Provides heat and spice.
  • Sesame oil: Adds a nutty and aromatic flavor. Don’t forget a little goes a long way!

For the Eel (Unagi) Sauce:

  • Soy sauce: Provides a salty and savory base for the sauce.
  • Granulated Sugar: Adds sweetness to balance the salty flavor of the soy sauce.
  • Mirin: A sweet rice wine that adds a mild sweetness and depth of flavor.

For the Sushi Rice:

  • Short-grain sushi rice: The specific type of rice used for making sushi.
  • Water: For rinsing and boiling rice.
  • Rice vinegar: Adds a tangy and slightly sweet flavor.
  • Granulated sugar: Provides sweetness to balance the vinegar’s tanginess.
  • Salt: Enhances the overall flavor of the sushi rice.

For the Rainbow Roll:

  • Nori (seaweed): Provides the outer wrapping for the sushi roll. Cut in sheet in half lengthwise.
  • Sticky Sushi Rice: The base of the roll, providing a sticky texture.
  • Cucumber: Adds a refreshing crunch.
  • Imitation crab (Kani): Provides a seafood flavor and texture to mimic crab meat.
  • Black and white sesame seeds: Used as a topping for added visual appeal and a hint of nutty flavor.
  • Sushi grade salmon and yellowfin tuna and salmon: High-quality raw tuna and salmon add flavor and visual appeal. You can also use smoked salmon and cooked shrimp.
  • Sliced Avocado: Adds a creamy texture and additional color to the roll. Other options to use would be mango slices for additional flavor and color.
  • Spicy mayo and eel sauce: Drizzled on top of the roll for added flavor.
  • Green onions: Optional garnish

How to Make a Rainbow Roll

Make the Spicy Mayo

In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sriracha sauce and sesame oil until they are well combined.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more sriracha for a spicier mayo.

Homemade Spicy Mayo Aioli

Make the Eel Sauce

In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about half.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the eel sauce cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, transfer it to a clean glass jar or squeeze bottle.

Make the Sushi Rice

Place the sushi rice in a fine-mesh sieve or colander and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. This step helps to remove excess starch from the rice.

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the rinsed rice, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Let the rice simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.

Prepare the vinegar mixture: While the rice is cooking, combine the rice vinegar and granulated sugar in a small bowl. Mix until sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

Once the rice is cooked, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Gradually pour the vinegar mixture over the cooked rice while gently folding and mixing it with a wooden spatula or rice paddle. Be careful not to smash the grains of rice. Continue to mix until the rice is well-coated and cooled to room temperature.

Cover and let it rest: Once the rice is seasoned, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. 

Prepare the Rainbow Roll

Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Lay mat on a clean flat surface and place a sheet of nori on top.

Wet your hands with water to prevent the rice from sticking, then grab a handful of sushi rice and gently press it onto the nori.

Sprinkle a thin layer of black and white sesame seeds over the rice, then carefully flip the nori and rice over so that the nori is facing up.

Arrange cucumber slices along the bottom third of the nori sheet, followed by the imitation crab sticks.

Starting from the bottom, roll the sushi tightly using the bamboo mat. Apply gentle pressure to the bamboo rolling mat, to ensure the roll holds its shape.

Once the roll is sealed, use the bamboo mat to gently tighten the roll, making it more compact and secure.

After initial tightening, place alternating slices of salmon, tuna and avocado on top of the roll, covering the entire outer surface. 

Use the bamboo mat to roll the sushi once again to make it more compact.

Repeat for the remaining nori sheets and ingredients until you’ve used up all the fillings.

Use a sharp knife to slice each roll into bite-sized pieces. Wipe the knife with a damp cloth between each slice to ensure clean cuts.

Drizzle a generous amount of spicy mayo and eel sauce. Garnish with green onions.

Serve the sushi pieces with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi on the side.

rainbow sushi roll recipe

Rainbow Roll Expert Tips

  • Quality Ingredients: Start with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Use the freshest fish or seafood available, along with crisp and vibrant vegetables. The quality of the ingredients will greatly impact the taste and appearance of your Rainbow Roll.
  • Uniform Slicing of Salmon, Tuna and Avocado: When slicing, aim for uniform thin slices cut on an angle. This will ensure that each piece fits nicely on top of the roll.
  • Even Rice Distribution: Spread the sushi rice evenly over the nori (seaweed) sheet when assembling the roll. Use a rice paddle or the back of a spoon to gently press the rice down and distribute.
  • Tight Rolling Technique: Use a bamboo sushi mat (makisu) to roll the Rainbow Roll tightly. Hold the ingredients firmly in place while rolling, applying gentle pressure to ensure a compact and secure roll. The tightness of the roll will prevent it from falling apart when sliced. I learned this the hard way! It was a mess.
  • Plastic Wrap for Clean Cuts: For neat and clean slices, consider wrapping the rolled sushi in plastic wrap and chilling it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. This will firm up the roll, making it easier to cut without squishing the ingredients.
  • Wet Knife for Slicing: Wetting the knife blade before each slice will prevent the rice from sticking to the knife and tearing the roll. Wipe the blade clean with a damp cloth between each cut for precise and clean slices.
  • Artful Arrangement: When it’s time to arrange the toppings on the Rainbow Roll, take your time to create an appealing pattern. Alternate the slices of fish, veggies or seafood, arranging them in a way that resembles a colorful rainbow.

What to Serve with Sushi?

Besides the traditional soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, you can enjoy your sushi with other dishes and side items. Here are a few of my faves:

  • Miso Soup: Miso soup is a classic Japanese soup made from fermented soybean paste (miso) and dashi broth. It is a comforting and warm accompaniment to sushi.
  • Edamame: Edamame, young soybean pods, are often boiled or steamed and lightly salted. They make a great appetizer or side dish to enjoy with sushi.
  • Tempura: Tempura is a popular Japanese dish consisting of lightly battered and deep-fried vegetables or seafood.
  • Japanese Salad: A simple Japanese salad, such as a cucumber or seaweed salad, can provide a refreshing and crunchy accompaniment.
  • Beef Ramen: This may be an unlikely pair but my beef miso ramen is so good!
  • Gyoza: Gyoza is a fantastic addition to a sushi meal. These delicious Japanese dumplings are typically filled with a savory mixture of ground meat (such as pork or chicken), vegetables, and seasonings.

Storing Leftover Sushi

Place the sushi in an airtight container or tightly wrap it in plastic wrap to protect it from air exposure. Make sure the temperature of your fridge is set to or below 40°F (4°C) to maintain freshness and prevent bacterial growth. Label the container with the date and time the sushi was made. Consume leftover sushi within a few days.

See my full guide for handling leftover sushi.

rainbow sushi roll recipe

With its fresh ingredients, vibrant colors and delicious flavors, these rainbow rolls are a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. Remember, sushi-making is an art, and you’re the artist. In the words of Willy Wonka “We are the dreamer of dreams, we are the music makers.” (Yeah, I know that’s actually Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s quote) Anywho, feel free to experiment, let your creativity flow and create unique sushi creations that reflect your taste and personality. Happy rolling!

rainbow sushi roll recipe

Rainbow Roll Sushi with Spicy Mayo and Eel Sauce

Posted by Dee
This rainbow roll sushi recipe is a delightful combination of flavors, from crisp cucumber and creamy, avocado slices to luscious tuna and salmon.
5 from 31 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine Japanese
Servings 8 rolls
Difficulty Medium

Ingredients
  

For the Spicy Mayo

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp sriracha
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

For the Eel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mirin

For the Sushi Rice

  • 2 cups short-grain sushi rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

For the Rainbow Roll

  • 4 sheets of nori, each sheet cut lengthwise in two pieces
  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 6 oz imitation crab, Kani, shredded or sliced)
  • black and white sesame seeds, for topping
  • 4 ounces sashimi-grade tuna, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces sashimi-grade salmon, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • spicy mayo and eel sauce, for drizzling
  • diced green onions, optional garnish

Instructions
 

Make the Spicy Mayo

  • In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, sriracha sauce and sesame oil until they are well combined.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add more sriracha for a spicier mayo.

Make the Eel Sauce

  • In a small saucepan, combine the soy sauce, mirin and sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and reduced by about half.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the eel sauce cool to room temperature.
  • Once cooled, transfer it to a clean glass jar or squeeze bottle.

Make the Sushi Rice

  • Rinse the rice: Place the sushi rice in a fine-mesh sieve or colander and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. This step helps to remove excess starch from the rice.
  • Cook the rice: In a medium-sized saucepan, add the rinsed rice, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Let the rice simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.
  • Prepare the vinegar mixture: While the rice is cooking, combine the rice vinegar and granulated sugar in a small bowl. Mix until sugar has dissolved. Set aside.
  • Season the rice: Once the rice is cooked, transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Gradually pour the vinegar mixture over the rice while gently folding and mixing it with a wooden spatula or rice paddle. Be careful not to smash the grains of rice. Continue to mix until the rice is well-coated and cooled to room temperature.
  • Cover and let it rest: Once the rice is seasoned, cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out.

Make the Rainbow Roll

  • Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Lay mat on a clean flat surface and place a sheet of nori on top.
  • Wet your hands with water to prevent the rice from sticking, then grab a handful of sushi rice and gently press it onto the nori.
  • Sprinkle a thin layer of black and white sesame seeds over the rice, then carefully flip the nori and rice over so that the nori is facing up.
  • Arrange a few slices of cucumber along the bottom third of the nori sheet, followed by the crab sticks.
  • Starting from the bottom, roll the sushi tightly using the bamboo mat. Apply gentle pressure to ensure the roll holds its shape.
  • Once the roll is sealed, use the bamboo mat to gently tighten the roll, making it more compact and secure.
  • After initial tightening, place alternating slices of salmon, tuna and avocado on top of the roll, covering the entire outer surface.
  • Use the bamboo mat to roll the sushi once again to make it more compact.
  • Repeat for the remaining nori sheets and ingredients until you’ve used up all the fillings.
  • Use a sharp knife to slice each roll into bite-sized pieces. Wipe the knife with a damp cloth between each slice to ensure clean cuts.
  • Drizzle a generous amount of spicy mayo and eel sauce.
  • Serve the with soy sauce, pickled ginger, and wasabi on the side.
Keyword rainbow sushi roll
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Meet Dee

Meet Dee

I love to share recipes with real ingredients that are both sweet and savory (especially sweet:) My mission with Gimme From Scratch is to inspire you with recipes that will bring your families together in the kitchen. I'm introverted at heart but know how important socializing can be for maintaining good relationships, when writing not only am looking forward to sharing information - It's also building connections between readers who love good food as much as I do!

10 Responses

  1. 5 stars
    I love a good sushi roll, and this rainbow roll sushi is the most perfect dinner! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, it is a new favourite 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    This was fresh and delicious. Thanks so much for all your easy steps. I will never quite be a sushi chef but this was easy to make and we all loved it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe! I can’t wait to gather the ingredients and embark on my own rainbow roll sushi-making journey.

  4. 5 stars
    Never would have expected this recipe to be so good! With the mayo it turns out so flavorful. My family loves sushi and this roll was a hit 🙂 Thanks for the recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    This is my absolute favorite roll to order when we go out for sushi! 🙂 I will have to try to make it for myself at home some time soon.

  6. 5 stars
    I have always wanted to learn how to make a sushi roll. This rainbow roll looks absolutely stunning. I am thinking that I need to dust off my bamboo mat, and try making some rolls. Thank you for the inspiration!

  7. 5 stars
    I love sushi so much and your recipe is perfect for tonight’s dinner. I am so excited to make this!

  8. 5 stars
    Made this last night. I don’t dislike mayonnaise but decided to try with tartar sauce because it sounded interesting. Wow. Probably the best rainbow roll sushi I’ve ever had.

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