Five-Star California Roll Stacks

These deceptively simple stacks of cucumber, avocado, crab, and seasoned brown rice, topped with a dynamite Sriracha mayo sauce, will turn you into a sushi master. One incredible trick makes it easy for you to turn out fresh and healthy California rolls — with a five-star presentation.

We can’t get enough of California rolls; we’d happily sit at the end of one of those sushi conveyor belts with our mouths wide open, if only our pocketbooks would allow it. But going out for sushi often comes with some sticker shock, and making your own at home can be even more intimidating. Anyone who’s seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi knows that mastering the art of sushi takes decades of diligence — luckily, this recipe condenses that process down to about 30 minutes (even less if you save time by using frozen, pre-cooked rice). These California roll stacks are inexpensive and approachable DIY sushi with no rolling, no bamboo mat, no seaweed sheets — all you need is a measuring cup!

We also nixed any ingredients that you can’t find at your everyday supermarket. The one exotic element is the furikake (pronounced foo-ree-kah-kay), a flaky seasoning made from dried fish, seaweed, sesame seeds, and salt. You’ll find it on every Japanese table, but it’s also catching on in the U.S. for the way it adds a touch of umami to rice, veggies. (Think of it as the Japanese version of Parmesan cheese — a sprinkle just makes your dish sing!) And for a little more kick, you could also use togarashi, a Japanese blend of seven spices.

But we completely get it if a trip to the Asian supermarket isn’t on your to-do list this week. Instead, just top your California roll stack with toasted black or white sesame seeds — or a blend of the two. (But if you do decide that it’s time to round out your spice cabinet, might we suggest that you also pick up some Japanese “Kewpie” mayonnaise — which is a little tangier and sweeter than the typical American mayo because it contains rice vinegar — to give this dish even more authentic flavor.)

These stacks are perfect for date night or dinner party, and any of your favorite sushi roll stuffings would be fantastic: shrimp instead of crab; smoked salmon and cream cheese for a Philadelphia roll flavor; even spicy tuna. No matter what you build these with, the big reveal is going to take your breath away:

California Roll Stacks

Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 1⅓ cups cooked short-grain brown rice (about ½ cup uncooked rice)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar, or to taste
  • 8 ounces crab (real or imitation), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 small cucumber)
  • 2 teaspoons sliced green onions or chives (optional)
  • ½ cup mashed avocado (about 1 medium avocado)
  • 4 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste (reduced-sodium soy sauce is OK)
  • 4 teaspoons toasted black and white sesame seeds, furikake, or togarashi


  1. Cook the rice according to the package directions. (If the directions instruct you to include any salt or oil, leave those out, since oil will keep the rice from sticking together and make your stack fall apart, and salt will be added elsewhere.)
  2. Add the rice vinegar to the cooked rice and stir to combine. Spread the rice on a lined baking sheet or a large plate to speed up the cooling, but don’t let it get cold. The stack will hold together best if the rice is warm, but freshly-cooked rice is too hot to handle.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cucumber and green onions or chives, if using.
  4. In another small bowl, mash the avocado with a fork.
  5. Using a dry one-cup measuring cup, add ¼ cup of the diced cucumber, followed by 2 tablespoons of the mashed avocado, ¼ (2 ounces) of the crab, and ⅓ cup cooled, cooked rice. Very lightly press down on the brown rice to compress the stack a
  6. Carefully turn the cup upside down and lightly tap the bottom of the measuring cup to turn the stack out onto a plate. Use the plate you want to serve it on, because it’s difficult to move the finished stack. (If the stack does not easily come out, you may want to try using a small, thin, offset spatula or a butter knife to run around the inside edge and help release the stack from the sides of the measuring cup).
  7. In another small bowl, mix the mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce until they’re well combined.
  8. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients to create four stacks.
  9. Drizzle each stack with 1 teaspoon of the soy sauce. Carefully spread 1 teaspoon of the Sriracha mayonnaise on top of the cucumber layer. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, furikake, or togarashi.

Recipe adapted from SkinnyTaste.