This trendy Sushi Bake gives you all the flavour of California Roll sushi with a fraction of the work. Sushi Bake never lasts long whether you’re making it for a busy weeknight dinner or a party.
Sushi Bake is hugely popular in the Philippines and has gained in popularity here in the States during lockdowns and during quarantines when folks haven’t been able to get out and about to get their sushi fixes. While they became popular because of the circumstances, I predict they’ll stay popular because of their deliciousness.
At least in our house, this has become a dish we all look forward to weekly. There are so many variations on the theme, but I want to share a classic California Roll flavour combination with you today.
If you’re already a fan of California rolls, you know the traditional ingredients are seasoned sushi rice, nori, cream cheese, imitation crab meat, cucumber, and avocado. We take all of that goodness and make it in a fraction of the time it would take to roll that much sushi.
How to Make Sushi Rice
It is very easy to make sushi rice for our sushi bake, provided you remember three basic things:
- Use short or medium grain rice.
- Rinse the rice a few times before cooking it.
- Cook the rice according to the package instructions.
On the subject of what type of rice to use for sushi rice, I generally use Nishiki brand medium grain rice. I love the way it cooks up and it is always consistent.
You can use a short grain rice, if it is what you have or prefer. In a pinch, you can make this with long grain rice, but it will not be quite as authentic a sushi texture in the end.
You can also certainly use brown rice for the sushi bake, if that’s your preference. The only rice I strenuously advise against is quick or minute rice. It just doesn’t work in this recipe.
Why Do I Have to Wash My Rice
In short, you wash your rice because it is dusty. It may not look like it, but it is.
Rice is polished in a machine to remove the bran. During this process, the bran is rubbed off into dusty little particles.
While they do take care to clean as much of this off of the polished rice as possible, some still clings to it. That bran -if left on the rice- can make the cooked rice too sticky.
Some bran can also contribute unpleasant aromas to the finished rice. It doesn’t take much time to wash it, and the trade-off is perfect rice!
To wash your rice, simply put it in the pot you’ll be using to cook it and cover by a couple of inches of fresh, cool water. Use your hands to swirl the rice and rub it gently together.
Carefully drain off the water (using a fine mesh sieve to help you catch any runaway rice, if desired), and repeat this 3 or 4 times, or until the water is mostly clear.
I always cook my sushi rice (and all other rice for that matter) in my Instant Pot. It comes out perfectly every time.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, you can use a rice cooker or a regular, heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
How to Cook Sushi Rice on the Stove Top
Combine the rinsed and drained rice and water in a medium sized saucepan over high heat, uncovered. Bring to a boil, stirring only once or twice before it boils.
When the water reaches boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover tightly, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and let stand covered for 10 more minutes.
Drizzle with your rice vinegar dressing and toss to coat.
What is Furikake
Furikake is an ubiquitous Japanese dry condiment consisting of shredded nori (seaweed), toasted sesame seeds, bonito flakes, sugar, salt, and other flavourings (often MSG). It is often sprinkled over cooked rice, vegetables, or fish.
Furikake is sprinkled liberally over both the rice layer and the cream cheese layer of our sushi bake. You can purchase it at any Asian grocery store or online. You can also use our fantastic recipe for homemade furikake.
Making furikake at home allows you to tinker with the recipe and leave out anything you don’t like. We often put homemade furikake on our lazy scattered sushi bowls.
If you truly cannot lay your hands on furikake, you can shred up a little nori in a food processor and sprinkle that and some toasted sesame seeds over the rice layer in our sushi bake. This will be a pretty close approximation of the furikake effect.
What is Imitation Crab Meat?
Imitation crab meat gets a bum rap. People glom onto the word imitation and freak out a bit.
Imitation crab may not be crab, but -contrary to popular belief- it is actual, real fish. The fish is de-boned, cleaned of fat and skin, minced, and mixed with starch, egg-white, sugar, salt, and other flavourings to mimic the taste and texture of crab meat at a much lower price.
It’s a delicious and much lower-cost stand in for crab that is almost always used in California rolls, and we use it in our sushi bake with very happy results. If you prefer to be a big spender, you can certainly substitute in an equivalent amount of cooked crab meat.
What Ingredients Do I Need for Sushi Bake
In addition to the medium grain rice, imitation crab meat, cream cheese, furikake, and nori, you’ll also want mayonnaise, sriracha, sesame oil, and green onions. You may also opt for unagi (eel sauce) or oyster sauce or teriyaki glaze.
While any mayonnaise will do, you’ll get the best results (and the most decorative results for your drizzle!) with Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise. It’s ever so slightly different in texture and flavour and comes in a squeeze bottle with a very narrow tip.
If you cannot find Kewpie mayo, though, don’t despair! You can simply use “regular” old mayonnaise. To get the decorative drizzle on top, just load a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise into a sandwich bag and snip a tiny corner off, then squeeze!
You can use the same sandwich bag trick for your unagi or oyster sauce or teriyaki glaze if your bottle does not come with a narrow tip.
Sesame oil is my fave for brushing the pan for our sushi bake because of the subtle touch it adds to the final dish. If you don’t have sesame oil, though, you can certainly substitute in a light brushing of vegetable or peanut oil.
Sushi Bake Recipe
In our sushi bake recipe, I like a good glug of sriracha in the filling to perk it up. The cream cheese keeps the spiciness from being overwhelming, but if you’re extremely sensitive to hot pepper sauce, you may wish to use the lower end of the amount specified in the recipe.
While I generally use regular cream cheese, you can substitute in Neufchatel cheese if you’re looking to reduce the fat in your recipe. This is commonly marketed as “1/3 less fat” cream cheese.
You can make life very easy for yourself by purchasing pre-cut, toasted Korean nori snacks. These are sold at Wegman’s, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and many other markets.
If you cannot find the pre-cut, toasted nori snacks for your sushi bake, you can make your own! Purchase regular nori sheets and follow these instructions:
How to Make Nori Snacks
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly brush four or five sheets of nori with toasted sesame oil on one side and sprinkle with salt.
Place nori sheets in a single layer on a sheet pan and toast until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool, and cut into strips.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly brush a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with toasted sesame oil and set it aside.
Cook rice according to package instructions. While it rests after cooking, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan or a microwave safe bowl and heat just until the salt and sugar easily dissolve when stirred.
Drizzle the vinegar over the hot rice and toss to evenly distribute the vinegar. Scrape the rice into the prepared pan.
Wet your hands thoroughly and use them to lightly press the rice into the pan in an even layer. Do not compress the rice too much.
Sprinkle generously with furikake and set aside.
In a mixing bowl mash together the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sriracha with a splash of pickled ginger brine, if available. When it is mostly smooth, stir in the flaked imitation crab meat.
Dollop the cream cheese mixture over the rice layer. Use a flexible spatula to spread it evenly over the rice.
Sprinkle the cream cheese layer generously with furikake again.
Drizzle the unagi (eel) sauce, if using in a decorative pattern over the top. Do this with the mayonnaise and sriracha (if using), as well.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until hot all the way through and the rice is sizzling. This is easiest to discern if you used a glass baking dish.
Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 to 10 minutes, and cut into rectangles while still in the pan. Use a narrow, flexible metal spatula to lift the sushi bake from the pan.
Serve with nori rectangles, diced cucumber, and avocado to be assembled by the diners at the table.
Trendy Sushi Bake gives you all the flavour of California Roll sushi with a fraction of the work. This makes the best party food and never lasts long!
If this recipe makes you hungry, check out these other Japanese inspired recipes here on Foodie with Family.
Sushi BakeRate Recipe
Sushi Rice Layer:
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 2 cups uncooked sushi rice rinsed several times
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons furikake
Creamy Crab Layer:
- 8 oz cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ¼ cup mayonnaise divided (preferably Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise)
- 1 tablespoon to ¼ cup sriracha divided (we prefer the higher end)
- 1 tablespoon pickled ginger brine optional
- 2 ½ cups imitation crab meat
- 2 tablespoons furikake
- 2 tablespoons Unagi sauce oyster, or teriyaki glaze
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise preferably Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise
- 3 Green onions thinly sliced
- Korean toasted seaweed snacks or nori
- Diced seedless cucumber
- Sliced avocado
To Make the Sushi Rice Layer
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. Lightly brush a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish with toasted sesame oil and set it aside.
- Cook rice according to package instructions. While it rests after cooking, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan or a microwave safe bowl and heat just until the salt and sugar easily dissolve when stirred.
- Drizzle the vinegar over the hot rice and toss to evenly distribute the vinegar. Scrape the rice into the prepared pan.
- Wet your hands thoroughly and use them to lightly press the rice into the pan in an even layer. Do not compress the rice too much.
- Sprinkle generously with furikake and set aside.
To Make the Creamy Crab Layer
- In a mixing bowl mash together the softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sriracha with a splash of pickled ginger brine, if available. When it is mostly smooth, stir in the flaked imitation crab meat.
- Dollop the cream cheese mixture over the rice layer. Use a flexible spatula to spread it evenly over the rice.
To Garnish and Bake the Sushi Bake
- Sprinkle the cream cheese layer generously with furikake again.
- Drizzle the unagi (eel) sauce, if using in a decorative pattern over the top. Do this with the mayonnaise and sriracha (if using), as well.
- Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until hot all the way through and the rice is sizzling. This is easiest to discern if you used a glass baking dish.
To Serve the Sushi Bake
- Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.Scatter the top with the sliced green onions and cut into rectangles while still in the pan. Use a narrow, flexible metal spatula to lift the sushi bake from the pan.
- Serve with nori rectangles, diced cucumber, and avocado to be assembled by the diners at the table.
Nutritional information is an estimate and provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe using your preferred nutrition calculator.