California roll
California roll sushi with roe
Alternative namesCalifornia maki
CourseMain course
Place of originCanada, United States
Region or stateNorth America
Main ingredientsRice, cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, and avocado
Food energy
(per serving)
1 serving (2 pieces), 540 kJ (129 kcal)[1] kcal

California roll (加州卷,カリフォルニアロール, kariforunia rōru) or California maki is an uramaki (inside-out makizushi roll) containing imitation crab (or rarely real crab), avocado, and cucumber. Sometimes crab salad is substituted for the crab stick, and often the outer layer of rice is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds or roe (such as tobiko from flying fish).

As one of the most popular styles of sushi in Canada and the United States, the California roll has been influential in sushi's global popularity, and in inspiring sushi chefs around the world to create non-traditional fusion cuisine.[2]


The main wrapped ingredients are the avocado and imitation crab (surimi sticks); these are all typically wrapped with seaweed, although soy paper can be used.[3] Premium versions may use real crab, as in the original recipe. The cucumber may have been used since the beginning,[4] or added later,[5] depending on the account. The inside-out roll may be sprinkled on the outside with sesame seeds, although tobiko (flying fish roe),[6][7] or masago (capelin roe) may be used.


The identity of the creator of the California roll is disputed. Several chefs from Los Angeles have been cited as the dish's originator, as well as one chef from Vancouver, British Columbia.

The earliest mention in print of a 'California roll' was in the Los Angeles Times and an Ocala, Florida newspaper on November 25, 1979.[8] Less than a month later an Associated Press story credited a Los Angeles chef named Ken Seusa at the Kin Jo sushi restaurant near Hollywood as its inventor. The AP article cited Mrs. Fuji Wade, manager of the restaurant, as its source for the claim. Food writer Andrew F. Smith observes that this claim stood uncontested for more than 20 years.[8]

Others[9][10][11] attribute the dish to Ichiro Mashita, another Los Angeles sushi chef from the former Little Tokyo restaurant "Tokyo Kaikan".[5][12] According to this account, Mashita began substituting the toro (fatty tuna) with avocado in the off-season, and after further experimentation, developed the prototype, back in the 1960s[13][14][15] (or early 1970s[16]).[4]

Although this account has been widely discredited[according to whom?], Russian major general, Viktorin Molchanov, also claimed to have invented the California roll during his brief stay in Japan following the defeat of the white forces in the Russian Civil War. While some academics believe Molchanov could have developed something similar to the California roll during his employment at a sushi restaurant in Hamamatsu, it is unlikely that his recipe was a source of inspiration for the eventual North American style.[17]

Accounts of these first 'California Rolls' describe a dish very different from the one today. Early California roll recipes used frozen king crab legs, since surimi imitation crab was not yet available locally and importing it was not convenient.[18] One story, drawn directly from a firsthand source (namely Teruo Imaizumi, Mashita's assistant), was that in 1964, the pair developed a prototype which used cubed avocado, king crab, cucumber and ginger, made into a hand-roll (rather than makizushi rolled using a makisu).[a][4] Other food writers state that the cucumber, mayonnaise, and sesame seed were originally missing, and these ingredients were only added later.[5] The early California roll was wrapped traditional style, with the nori seaweed on the outside, which American customers tended to peel off. Therefore, the roll "inside-out", i.e., uramaki version was eventually developed.[23] This adaptation has also been credited to Mashita by figures associated with the restaurant.[16][b]

Japanese-born chef Hidekazu Tojo, a resident of Vancouver since 1971, claimed he created the California roll at his restaurant in the late 1970s.[24] Tojo insists he is the innovator of the "inside-out" sushi, and it got the name "California roll" because its contents of crab and avocado were abbreviated to C.A., which is the abbreviation for the state of California. Because of this coincidence, Tojo was set on the name California Roll. According to Tojo, he single-handedly created the California roll at his Vancouver restaurant, including all the modern ingredients of cucumber, cooked crab, and avocado.[25] However, this conflicts with many food historians' accounts, which describe a changing, evolving dish that emerged in the Los Angeles area.[26][5] In 2016 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries named Tojo a goodwill ambassador for Japanese cuisine.[27]

Regardless of who invented it, after becoming a favorite in southern California the dish became popular all across the United States by the 1980s. The California roll was featured by Gourmet magazine in 1980,[28] and taken up by a restaurant critic for The New York Times the following year.[29] The roll contributed to sushi's growing popularity in the United States by easing diners into more exotic sushi options.[30] Sushi chefs have since devised many kinds of rolls, beyond simple variations of the California roll.

It also made its way to Japan ("reverse imported"),[31] where it may be called California maki or Kashū Maki (加州巻き).[2][32]

See also


  1. ^ In Imaizumi's account, as reported by Kamp, the roll was developed with the intent to placate the immigrant Japanese clientele during tuna's off-season and only later caught on with Caucasian clients too squeamish to eat raw fish on the first try.[4] That native Japanese were the initial target is also reinforced by Corson's writings.[19] However, Issenberg writes that the American diners (i.e. Caucasians) were already toro connoisseurs, and that it was instead their appetites that needed to be satiated during the off-season.[20][21] Issenberg also discounts the "myth" that prompting by an executive of the restaurant's proprietorship, EIWA, was instrumental in the invention,.[20] Calling it a "narrative of institutional ingenuity", Issenberg states this was an attempt for the managerial higher echelons to assert partial credit for an innovation brought about by their lower ranking employees.[22][5]
  2. ^ In Issenberg 2007 and other references, the chief eyewitness source for the California roll story is Noritoshi Kanai of Mutual Trading, an importer that was the supplier to the restaurant. In the San Diego Union piece, it is his daughter Atsuko Kanai, vice president of Mutual Trading, who credits Mashita with making the roll "inside-out".


  1. ^ "Nutrition, Carbohydrate and Calorie Counter". Calories in California Sushi Rolls. Retrieved May 31, 2016.
  2. ^ a b Renton, Alex (February 26, 2006). "How Sushi ate the World". The Guardian. Retrieved August 20, 2006.
  3. ^ Feiden, Margo (1989). Margo Feiden's The calorie factor: the dieter's companion. Simon & Schuster. p. 74. ISBN 978-0-671-43646-9.
  4. ^ a b c d Kamp, David (2009). The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution. Crown/Archetype. pp. 315–316. ISBN 978-0-307-57534-0.
  5. ^ a b c d e Dwyer, Lexi (2012-03-07). "Deconstructing the California Roll". Gourmet. Archived from the original on 2015-09-15., citing author Trevor Corson himself, rather than his book, Corson 2008.
  6. ^ Riegert, Keith; Kaplan, Samuel (2013), The MANual: Trivia. Testosterone. Tales of Badassery. Raw Meat. Fine Whiskey. Cold Truth., Simon and Schuster, p. 116, ISBN 978-1-612-43201-4
  7. ^ Gardner, Abby; McCormick, Meghan; Spee, Christine; Zivan, David (March 2007), Photography by E. Anthony Valainis, "Roll Call: a Roster of the City's Best Sushi Spots", Indianapolis, p. 146
  8. ^ a b Smith, Andrew F. (2012). American Tuna: The Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food. University of California Press. p. 91. and notes 31 and 32
  9. ^ "Sushi: The Story of the California Roll". FreshMAG. The most widely spread story is that Ichiro Mashita invented the roll when he realized that the oily texture of avocado is a perfect substitute for toro, a fatty tuna. Since Americans did not like seeing and chewing the nori on the outside, he created the roll "inside-out".
  10. ^ Tomicki, Hadley (October 24, 2012). "Will The Real Inventor of The California Roll Please Stand Up?". Grub Street. Ichiro Mashita of Downtown L.A.'s former Tokyo Kaikan, has long been largely credited with inventing and naming the dish, after the chef substituted avocado for toro in a similar uramaki construction in the late sixties.
  11. ^ "The History of the California Roll". Shogun Orlando. You can't walk into a sushi restaurant without finding the California roll on the menu. Despite their prevalence in sushi culture, the history of the roll is enigmatic. The most commonly accepted creator of this roll is Ichiro Mashita.
  12. ^ Ling, H.; Austin, A.W. (2015). Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. p. 1265. ISBN 978-1-317-47644-3. Retrieved 2024-01-23. Indeed, perhaps the most well-known and well-accepted example of Japanese American cuisine is the California roll. Invented by Ichiro Mashita, the chef at Tokyo Kaikan restaurant in Los Angeles in the early 1960s, the California roll became widely available in the early 1970s.
    Kamp, D. (2007). The United States of Arugula: The Sun Dried, Cold Pressed, Dark Roasted, Extra Virgin Story of the American Food Revolution. Crown. p. 315. ISBN 978-0-7679-1580-9. Retrieved 2024-01-23.
  13. ^ Issenberg (2007), pp. 89–91.
  14. ^ Corson (2008), p. 82.
  15. ^ McInerney, Jay (June 10, 2007). "Raw". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 14, 2008. Retrieved August 15, 2008. (book review of Corson 2007 and Issenberg 2007)
  16. ^ a b Hunt, Maria (August 24, 2005). "East-West Fusion: nontraditional ingredients give sushi local flavor". San Diego Union-Tribune. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2006.
  17. ^ Moltchanoff, Victorin Mikhailovich; Bancroft Library. Regional Oral History Office; Raymond, Boris (1972). The last White General : oral history transcript / and related material, 1972. University of California Libraries.
  18. ^ Issenberg (2007), p. 91.
  19. ^ Corson (2007) The Zen of Fish apud Ku (2013), p. 47
  20. ^ a b Ku (2013), p. 45.
  21. ^ Issenberg (2007), p. 90.
  22. ^ Issenberg2007, pp. 89–90.
  23. ^ Issenberg (2007), pp. 90–91.
  24. ^ White, Madeleine (October 23, 2012). "Meet the man behind the California roll". The Globe and Mail.
  25. ^ Great Big Story (April 24, 2017), The California Roll Was Invented in Canada, archived from the original on 2021-12-21, retrieved June 20, 2017
  26. ^ Woo, Michelle (October 25, 2012). "Who Invented The California Roll?". OC Weekly. This story, however, conflicts with other accounts of how the roll was born. These food historians believe that the first California roll was served during the late 1960s at Tokyo Kaikan, a restaurant in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.
  27. ^ "Vancouver chef Tojo honoured by Japanese government". The Canadian Press. June 10, 2016. Retrieved May 16, 2021.
  28. ^ Review of Inagiku restaurant, at the Bonaventure Hotel, 5th and Figueroa streets, Los Angeles, in: Bates, Caroline (July 1980), "Specialités de la Maison—California", Gourmet, vol. 40, no. 7, pp. 40–43
  29. ^ Smith (2013), 3, p. 885.
  30. ^ Kestler, John (June 18, 2006). "The Sushification of America". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  31. ^ Hibino, Mitsutoshi (1999), Sushi no rekishi wo tazuneru すしの歴史を訪ねる, Iwanami, p. 38
  32. ^ Iwama, Kazuhiro (2013), "Shanhai no nihonshoku bunka: menyū no genchika ni kansuru hiaringu chōsa" 上海の日本食文化─メニューの現地化に関するヒアリング調査報告─ [Japanese Food Culture in Shanghai : A Report of Listening Research on the Menu Localization], The Journal of Chiba University of Commerce, 51 (9): 38