How to Make Crab for Sushi

You can’t have California rolls without crab. They were created in the Sunny State to accommodate the local tastes and available resources and have quickly become a favorite of many Californians. Learn here how to make crab for sushi so you can eat some homemade California rolls, too.

Preparing crab for sushi rolls is fairly simple. You can buy imitation crab sticks (also known as surimi,) unfreeze them, and chop them into either small circles horizontally or tear them into shreds with your fingers vertically. Imitation crab is pre-cooked, but you can fry or bake it in an oven before serving it in a sushi roll.

California rolls on a white ceramic plate
Making crab rolls at home is easy with a couple of steps

Maybe you’re planning to make some California rolls at home to impress some friends or a partner. In that case, you’ll find the necessary steps right here.

Crab Is One of the Most Popular Sushi Ingredients

The original sushi rolls were created with tuna and salmon meat. When this dish first arrived in California, people were hesitant to try a meal with raw fish, so crab became one of the most commonly used ingredients.

However, not many people know that imitation crab isn’t the real deal. The word ‘imitation’ may be an obvious tell, but with the added crab meat aroma, it could be hard to tell with these sticks, also known as surimi.

Surimi sticks are made of pulverized white fish (often Alaska pollocks) and added starch, artificial flavors, sodium, and often MSG to enhance the flavor. The coloring and MSG can have gluten in them, so it’s best to look up the composition of crab sticks before buying, in case you have some allergies.

Many Restaurants use Imitation Crab Meat

Whether the crab meat is real or imitation in Japanese restaurants mainly depends on their location, connections in importing fresh ingredients, and the price of meals. More expensive restaurants use real crab meat and try to emphasize it, too.

Of course, real crab meat would be much better and healthier to use in sushi. You can find canned crab meat and re-sellers of fresh crab meat on Amazon and in specialty shops.

Someone holding a crab nigiri with chopsticks
Imitation crab is a popular ingredient in restaurants, too

Curious to know more about other Japanese delicacies? Read also :

What Is Tobiko?
Hamachi vs Sashimi
Is Tempura Shrimp?
Are Cherry Blossoms Edible?
Are Sushi Rolls Cooked?

Should You Use Imitation or Real Crab for Your Rolls?

Using real or imitation crab in your sushi recipe depends mainly on you. You may enjoy the taste of surimi sticks, which have a nice, seafood-y flavor and texture. This option would cost you much less and be easier to prepare.

However,using real crab will elevate the taste of your sushi rolls and make them instantly delicious. However, most real crab is available by the pound, which could be challenging to store and keep in your fridge. Opt for surimi sticks if you don’t want too much crab at home.

Imitation crab is useful for many recipes. It’s easy to prepare and turn into an ingredient that would become a part of something bigger, such as sushi. Additionally, you can combine the crab sticks with any ingredients you like and make a crunchy, tasty roll.

How to Make Crab for Sushi Rolls in Two Easy Steps

You won’t need the entire package for a classic California roll when you buy imitation crab sticks. Three or four will be enough to make sushi with; just make sure you defrost them before chopping them up.

You can defrost surimi sticks in a microwave if you’re impatient or leave them out to defrost naturally. The microwave might also slightly cook them and make them softer, so it’s always recommended to let things thaw at room temperature.

Once they’re defrosted, cut them into smaller pieces, not too thin or too thick. You can also shred them by pulling along the small lines with your fingers. You’ll get thin strips that can be easily placed on the rice.

Imitation Crab Is Pre-cooked and Ready to Eat

While surimi sticks are pre-cooked and ready to eat, you can also fry them in a pan with some oil or place them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for around 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Making the Rolls Is Easier With Surimi Sticks

Once you’re done preparing the crab for your sushi rolls, prepare the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup short-grain rice,
  • 1 cup water,
  • 1/4 tablespoon rice vinegar,
  • 1 tablespoon sugar,
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt,
  • 1 cucumber sliced into strips,
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced,
  • 3 nori seaweed sheets,
  • Sesame seeds (optional).

Cook the rice according to the package instructions, and mix in the rice vinegar, sugar and salt into it when it cools. Take a bamboo mat and some plastic wrap, place the nori seaweed, and spread rice all over the sheet.

When you’re done pressing the rice onto the nori, flip it over, so the rice is now on the plastic wrap with nori inside. Layer the crab, cucumber, and avocado and start rolling. Pull the roll towards you so it can be wrapped more tightly. Cut into small pieces and serve.

Optionally, you can sprinkle sesame seeds on the outside of the rolls. You can do without it if you don’t like it, but sesame gives the dish a little more flavor and dimension.

A person off-screen making sushi rolls
Rolling the sushi will be the most challenging part of making it at home, but you can learn it quickly

You Can Enjoy Delicious California Rolls at Home

It’s easy to make a delicious meal at home, especially when it comes to sushi. While it seems like a lot of work, it won’t be as long as you’re willing to put effort into the preparation.

Invest in real crab if you want a full-bodied meat flavor in your California rolls. If you find the real deal too expensive, you can always get the imitation crab sticks and make equally delicious and savory sushi at home.