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16 Popular Sushi Rolls, Ranked

Sushi is one of Japan’s most famous cultural and culinary exports. According to Statistic Brain’s research, sushi restaurants in America make over $2 billion in sales, and it doesn’t seem like the number will go down anytime soon.

Most sushi restaurants offer a variety of sashimi, nigiri, and rolls, including their unique sushi rolls that you won’t find at other restaurants.

However, there are several popular sushi rolls that you can find at most places.

Whether you’re a sushi enthusiast or a beginner, we’ve compiled a list of the best types of sushi rolls that are sure to please!

16. Cucumber Roll

The cucumber roll, also known as kappamaki, is exactly what it sounds like: a sushi roll filled with cucumber.

Kappamaki are named after the kappa, a mythological, lizard-like Japanese creature that dwells in rivers and loves eating cucumbers.

The ingredients in a cucumber roll are very simple: they’re made with nori seaweed, sushi rice, and thinly sliced cucumber.

Cucumber rolls are very light and refreshing, perfect for vegetarians or picky eaters who dislike the taste or texture of raw fish.

In Japan, cucumber rolls are often served to young children who haven’t acquired the taste for raw fish yet.

They’re also often used as palate cleansers between courses.

Although cucumber rolls’ mild flavor and simple ingredients make them very popular, they aren’t the most flavorful or exciting type of sushi roll.

15. Philadelphia Roll

The Philadelphia roll is a uniquely Western type of sushi roll.

It’s made from nori seaweed, sushi rice, smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber.

Some versions of the Philadelphia roll also incorporate raw salmon, imitation crab, avocado, scallion, or sesame seeds.

The Shogun Japanese Steakhouse company claims that a woman named Madame Saito invented the Philadelphia roll in the 1980s.

Madame Saito opened a popular sushi restaurant in Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market in 1983.

A few years later, Philadelphia’s then-mayor, William J. Green III, asked Madame Saito to invent a signature sushi roll inspired by the city of Philadelphia.

Madame Saito took inspiration from her Jewish clientele, her biggest non-Japanese customers.

Thus, the ingredients of Madame Saito’s Philadelphia roll were inspired by lox and cream cheese.

However, there’s no real way to know for sure if Madame Saito was the person who invented the Philadelphia roll.

Others claim that the Philadelphia roll was not named after the city of Philadelphia but rather the Philadelphia cream cheese company.

Regardless of how the Philadelphia roll came to be, if you don’t mind cream cheese in your sushi and enjoy the interesting fusion of Japanese and Jewish cuisine, you should try the Philadelphia roll!

14. Tuna and Salmon Roll

We’ve paired both of these classic rolls together because they’re nearly identical, just with different kinds of fish.

Both the tuna roll and salmon roll are very simple and basic.

However, when made well, they’re bursting with delicious, pure flavor and impeccable texture.

A tuna roll is made with nori seaweed, sushi rice, and raw tuna.

A salmon roll is made with nori seaweed, sushi rice, and raw salmon.

If you don’t like raw fish, you won’t like either of these rolls.

Even for those who like raw fish, plain tuna and salmon rolls can seem bland.

However, when made with quality ingredients, these can be some of the most delicious sushi rolls.

13. Alaska Roll

The Alaska roll is a variation on one of the most popular sushi rolls in the United States, the California roll.

The most basic version of an Alaska roll is made with sushi rice, nori seaweed, avocado, real or imitation crab, and cucumber, like a classic California roll.

Then, raw salmon is layered on top of the roll.

More extravagant versions of the Alaska roll might also come covered in panko breadcrumbs or with smoked salmon instead of raw salmon.

Like the California roll, the Alaska roll is an American invention, not Japanese.

However, unlike the California roll, we aren’t sure exactly when the first Alaska roll was served or who invented it.

Nonetheless, if you’re looking to spruce up your regular California roll, the Alaska roll is a delicious way to do so!

12. Boston Roll

The Boston roll is yet another variation on the classic California roll.

Unlike California rolls made with real or imitation crab, Boston rolls are made with poached shrimp.

The other ingredients in a Boston roll include nori seaweed, sushi rice, cucumber, and avocado.

The Boston roll is a great option for those who enjoy sushi but prefer cooked seafood instead of raw fish.

In addition, if you just like shrimp, the Boston roll is a great option, too.

11. Dragon Roll

Dragon rolls are another delicious American variation of sushi roll.

Like most kinds of sushi rolls, the ingredients in a dragon roll vary slightly from one sushi restaurant to another.

However, you can generally expect your dragon roll to contain sushi rice, nori seaweed, grilled eel, cucumber, and avocado.

Other common dragon roll ingredients include real or imitation crab sticks, shrimp tempura, raw tuna, and flying fish roe.

You may also see dragon rolls topped with spicy mayo, teriyaki sauce, unagi (eel) sauce, or sriracha.

Sometimes, sushi chefs even arrange the sliced avocado on top to look like dragon scales.

At some restaurants, you may see the dragon roll listed as a caterpillar roll.

Regardless of what it’s called, the ingredients should be similar, and the taste is savory and delicious!

10. Firecracker Roll

The firecracker roll is an excellent choice for those who love spicy food and raw fish.

The most basic version of the firecracker roll includes nori seaweed, sushi rice, tuna, avocado, and cucumber.

Then, it’s topped with spicy tuna.

Other permutations of the firecracker roll might also be topped with jalapenos, green onions, spicy mayo, sriracha, or panko breadcrumbs.

At some restaurants, the firecracker roll is stuffed with cream cheese in addition to the tuna, avocado, and cucumber.

If you like your sushi to have a spicy kick, the firecracker roll is sure to become a favorite.

For extra spice, eat it with wasabi!

9. King Crab Roll

The king crab roll is sure to be a favorite for crab lovers.

The most basic version of the king crab roll is made with nori seaweed, sushi rice, crab, and mayonnaise, giving it a pure, delicious crab flavor.

Some versions of the king crab roll also include spicy mayo, avocado, cucumber, and even shrimp tempura in the most extravagant versions.

8. Shrimp Tempura Roll

The shrimp tempura roll is a fan favorite for its crunchy texture and delicious shrimp flavor.

A classic shrimp tempura roll is made using nori seaweed, sushi rice, and tempura shrimp.

They also often contain cucumber or avocado and are sometimes topped with flying fish roe.

Tempura is a Japanese deep-frying technique.

Tempura batter is made by mixing ice water, egg, and flour to create a thin, runny consistency.

Then, shrimp, vegetables, or meat are dipped in the tempura batter and quickly deep-fried in hot sesame, vegetable, or canola oil.

Tempura shrimp rolls have a delightfully crunchy texture because of this deep-frying process.

They’re especially good when paired with the creamy texture of avocado or the refreshing crispness of cucumber.

You may also see shrimp tempura rolls listed on sushi restaurant menus under the name “tiger roll.”

The ingredients should be roughly the same regardless of the name.

Tiger rolls are just named after one of the most common species of shrimp used to make shrimp tempura, the tiger shrimp.

7. Spider Roll

Spider rolls are a delicious and decadent treat.

And if you were wondering, don’t worry, they don’t contain real spiders!

Spider rolls are named after their appearance.

They’re made with deep-fried soft-shell crab, and the pieces of crab sticking out of the ends of the sushi roll kind of look like spiders’ legs.

The ingredients that all spider rolls have in common are deep-fried soft shell crab, sushi rice, and nori seaweed.

Different versions of spider rolls might also include avocado, cucumber, radish, lettuce, green onions, or mayonnaise.

6. Unagi Roll

The unagi roll is named after the Japanese word for freshwater eel, unagi.

Unagi rolls are made with nori seaweed, sushi rice, unagi, unagi sauce, and cucumber.

Sometimes, they also contain avocado, shrimp, or crab.

Unagi is one of those controversial, love-it-or-hate-it sushi ingredients.

It has a soft, fatty texture and is always served cooked, so it might be a great choice for those who want to branch out and try a new sushi ingredient but dislike raw fish.

Unagi sauce is frequently served with unagi in sushi.

Although it has unagi in the name, it doesn’t contain eel.

Unagi sauce is generally made with soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake.

It has a slightly thick texture and an intensely savory but somewhat sweet taste.

5. Dynamite Roll

Dynamite rolls are a delicious, slightly spicy treat and another American innovation on the sushi roll.

They’re made with nori seaweed, sushi rice, tempura prawn, avocado, cucumber, and spicy mayo. They’re often also served with thin slices of raw salmon and a sprinkle of fish roe on top.

They combine a variety of delicious textures, from the crunch of the raw prawn to the smoothness of the salmon to the fresh, crisp texture of the vegetables and fish roe.

4. Spicy Salmon Roll

The spicy salmon roll is a delicious upgrade from a plain salmon roll.

As the name suggests, spicy salmon rolls are made with spicy salmon and nori seaweed and sushi rice.

They may also include sesame seeds, green onions, plain or spicy mayo, cucumber, or avocado.

The spice in spicy salmon is not super intense, and it’s balanced out by the fresh taste of the salmon and the slight tang of the sushi rice.

3. Spicy Tuna Roll

Like the spicy salmon roll, the spicy tuna roll is like a leveled-up cousin of its regular version, the plain tuna roll.

The classic version of a spicy tuna roll contains nori seaweed, sushi rice, spicy tuna, and spicy mayo.

The spicy tuna roll was invented in the 1980s by Jean Nakayama, a sushi chef at Maneki restaurant in Seattle.

She made spicy tuna by combining scraps from raw tuna filets with chili sauce.

She was inspired by her husband, who loved spicy food, but had trouble finding Japanese dishes that were spicy enough for his taste.

Nowadays, sushi chefs make spicy tuna by combining chopped-up tuna with various spicy sauces, including sambal oelek, sriracha, gochujang, and hot pepper paste.

2. California Roll

The California roll is one of the most popular and ubiquitous sushi rolls in the United States.

A classic California roll contains nori seaweed, sushi rice, real or imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado.

Sometimes, they also contain sesame seeds or fish roe.

When the California roll was invented, sushi rolls were typically made with nori seaweed on the outside and sushi rice and fillings on the inside.

California rolls were some of the first rolls to be made “inside-out,” with the sushi rice on the outside and the nori seaweed on the inside.

Several different chefs claim to have invented the California roll.

In one story, the California roll was invented at Tokyo Kaikan restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1960s.

In this story, chef Ichiro Mashita started adding avocado to his sushi rolls to replace fresh bluefin tuna, which was unavailable several months out of the year.

His crab and avocado sushi rolls became very popular, and the avocado roll was born.

Others claim that Chef Mashita started adding avocado to his sushi for a different reason.

They say that Caucasian diners did not like eating raw tuna at the time, so instead of serving them sushi with crab and tuna, Mashita would serve them sushi with crab and avocado.

Another California roll origin story takes place in Vancouver, Canada, in 1971.

Chef Hidekazu Tojo claims that he invented the California roll because his Western customers disliked raw fish, and he had trouble getting fresh-caught fish from Vancouver’s fish markets to make traditional Japanese-style rolls.

He also claims that he invented the “inside-out” style of rolling sushi because his Western customers did not like eating nori seaweed.

This way, he would hide it inside the sushi roll instead of using it to wrap it outside.

Although we likely will never know the real story behind the first California roll, there’s no denying that this is one of the most delicious and universally beloved sushi rolls.

1. Rainbow Roll

Rainbow rolls are like the deluxe version of California rolls, perfect for those who love the taste of California rolls and enjoy raw fish.

The base of a rainbow roll is the same as a California roll, containing sushi rice, nori seaweed, real or imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado.

Rainbow rolls may also contain fillings like avocado, mango, or shrimp tempura.

Rainbow rolls are named after their colorful exteriors.

Thin slices of fish, including salmon, tuna, whitefish, snapper, yellowtail, and even eel, are layered on top of the sushi, giving it a rainbow-like appearance.

Some rainbow rolls also have fish roe sprinkled on top, giving them an extra burst of color, flavor, and texture.

Conclusion

Ever since sushi became popular in the US about 40 years ago, there’s been an explosion of innovations for this classic Japanese treat.

When you visit your local sushi restaurant, you’ll likely find many of these classic sushi rolls on the menu.

Whether you’ve never tried sushi before or are an experienced sushi lover, each of these sushi rolls presents a delicious opportunity to try something new!

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Last Updated: June 13, 2022

About the Author

Eril Eti is the founder of Shopfood.com.  He has over a decade of experience in consumer goods and launched many products sold at retailers like Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Target, Kroger, Publix, and more.

Eril loves food, traveling, and trying out new restaurants. Outside of work, you can find him on a hiking trail in New England or playing soccer with his kids.

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