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A California roll or California maki is a makizushi sushi roll that is usually rolled inside-out, and containing cucumber, crab or imitation crab, and avocado. Sometimes crab salad is substituted for the crab stick, and often the outer layer of rice in an inside-out roll (uramaki) is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds, tobiko (flying fish roe) or masago (capelin roe).

California roll
California Sushi (26571101885).jpg
California roll sushi with caviar
Alternative namesカリフォルニアロール (kariforunia rōru)
CourseMain course
Place of originVancouver, Canada or Los Angeles, United States (disputed)
Main ingredientsRice, cucumber, crab meat or imitation crab, and avocado
Food energy
(per serving)
1 serving (2 pieces), 129[1] kcal

As one of the most popular styles of sushi in the United States and Canada, 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 identity of the creator of the California roll is disputed, with chefs from both Vancouver and Los Angeles claiming credit.

The earliest mention in print of a 'California roll' was in the Los Angeles Times and an Ocala, Florida newspaper on November 25, 1979.[3] 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.[3][4]

However, more recent scholarship has lead to the invention most commonly[5][6][7] being attributed to Ichiro Mashita, another Los Angeles sushi chef from the former Little Tokyo restaurant "Tokyo Kaikan".[8] According to this account, Mashita began substituting avocado for toro (fatty tuna) in the off-season, and after further experimentation, developed the prototype, back in the 1960s[9][10][11] (or early 1970s[12]).

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.[13] Cucumber, mayonnaise, and sesame seed were missing; these ingredients were all added later.[8] The original 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.[14] This adaptation has also been credited to Mashita by figures associated with the restaurant.[a][12]

More recently Japanese-born chef Hidekazu Tojo, a resident of Vancouver since 1971, claimed he created the California roll at his restaurant in the late 1970s.[15] Tojo insists he is the innovator of the "inside-out" sushi, and it got the name "California roll" because it was popular with patrons from Los Angeles.[15] In 2016 Tojo received recognition from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for his creation of the California Roll, being named a goodwill ambassador for Japanese cuisine.[16] However his claims conflict with most food historian's accounts [17], which describe the dish as originating in the Los Angeles area. Tojo recounts his original invention included all the modern ingredients of cucumber, cooked crab, and avocado,[18] which conflicts with period descriptions from Southern California of a changing, evolving dish [19]

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, and taken up by a restaurant critic for The New York Times the following year.[20] The roll contributed to sushi's growing popularity in the United States by easing diners into more exotic sushi options.[21] Sushi chefs have since devised many kinds of rolls, beyond simple variations of the California roll.


  1. ^ 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. ^ Renton, Alex (February 26, 2006). "How Sushi ate the World". The Guardian. Retrieved August 20, 2006.
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ "Raw Fish is the Rage around Los Angeles". The News Journal. Associated Press. December 19, 1979. p. 68.
  5. ^ "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”.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "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.
  8. ^ a b Dwyer, Lexi. "Deconstructing the California Roll". Gourmet. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help), citing author Trevor Corson himself, rather than his book, Corson 2008.
  9. ^ Issenberg (2007), pp. 89–91.
  10. ^ Corson (2008), p. 82.
  11. ^ McInerney, Jay (June 10, 2007). "Raw". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2008. (book review of Corson 2007 and Issenberg 2007)
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Issenberg (2007), p. 91.
  14. ^ Issenberg (2007), pp. 90–91.
  15. ^ a b White, Madeleine (October 23, 2012). "Meet the man behind the California roll". The Globe and Mail.
  16. ^ "Japan to honor Vancouver chef credited with inventing California roll". CTV News. Relaxnews. June 15, 2016. Retrieved October 17, 2013.
  17. ^ 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. Food historians believe that the first California roll was served during the late 1960s at Tokyo Kaikan, a restaurant in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.
  18. ^ Great Big Story (April 24, 2017), The California Roll Was Invented in Canada, retrieved June 20, 2017
  19. ^ "Deconstructing the California Roll". Gourmet. Instead, this game-changing maki was the product of a gradual—and slightly murky—evolution, as you’ll see.
  20. ^ Smith (2013), 3, p. 885.
  21. ^ Kestler, John (June 18, 2006). "The Sushification of America". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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