Sushi Bowls

$8.824 recipe / $2.21 each
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.99 from 54 votes
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Confession: I’ve been spending way too much on sushi lately. But I don’t have the skill to make beautifully rolled sushi at home. So when that sushi craving hits, I just whip up an easy sushi bowl instead. It’s got all of the components of California roll piled into a bowl instead. They’re not fancy, for sure, but they’ll crush that sushi craving without leaving you $30 in the hole.

Close up overhead view of a sushi bowl with sriracha mayo.

What is in a Sushi Bowl?

I kept this sushi bowl as simple as possible to keep the price low and to make it easy to prepare, but they’re very customizable! My sushi bowls had seasoned sushi rice, a few crunchy vegetables (carrot and cucumber), nori (seaweed), and crab stick. You can jazz these sushi bowls up and make them fancier as your budget allows.

Here are some other fun ingredients to add to sushi bowls:

For Best Results, use short grain rice

Using short grain rice is really important for getting that classic sushi flavor and texture. Those little grains have a high starch content and a very different texture than long grain white rice. Packaged “sushi rice” carries a hefty price tag at regular grocery stores and can be quite expensive, so I suggest checking bulk bins, or better yet making a special trip to an Asian grocer.

Another option is to use Calrose rice, which is fairly common in U.S. grocery stores. Calrose is a medium grain starchy rice grown in California that still works really well for sushi bowls.

What is Imitation Crab?

Imitation crab is what you’ll find in California rolls and a lot of other Americanized sushi. It’s real white fish that has been shaped and flavored to resemble crab meat, but at a much lower price. You can usually find it in stick form, chunks, or flaked. It’s pretty tasty, IMHO, and very affordable!

Close up side view of a sushi bowl.

Seaweed options

Adding a bit of nori (dried seaweed) really goes a long way toward making this bowl taste like real sushi. Luckily, “nori snacks” have become really popular the last few years. They are just smaller single-serving-sized packages of nori rather than the larger packs you’d typically use to roll a lot of sushi. I sliced up a few small squares of nori snack for each bowl and, boom! Done.

How to Store Sushi Bowls

These sushi bowls work really well for meal prep and stay good in the refrigerator for about four days. You definitely want to cool the rice as quickly as possible after cooking and before packing your sushi bowls so that the warm rice doesn’t wilt the vegetables. So after seasoning the rice, spread it out on a baking sheet or in a casserole dish then refrigerate until cooled before packing the sushi bowls into meal prep containers.

Overhead view of a sushi bowl being eaten with chopsticks.
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Sushi Bowls

4.99 from 54 votes
Sushi Bowls are a fast, easy, and inexpensive alternative to your favorite sushi bar. Get your sushi fix without spending a fortune. 
Completed sushi bowl from above on a dark background.
Servings 4
Prep 15 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 45 minutes



  • 2 cups short grain white rice ($1.36)
  • 2 cups water ($0.00)
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar ($0.27)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar ($0.02)
  • 1 tsp salt ($0.05)


  • 8 oz imitation crab ($2.99)
  • 1 carrot ($0.19)
  • 1 cucumber ($0.59)
  • 1 avocado ($1.50)
  • 1 pack nori snack ($1.15)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds ($0.18)

SRIRACHA MAYO (optional)

  • 4 Tbsp mayonnaise ($0.30)
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha ($0.22)


  • Place the uncooked short grain rice in a medium sauce pot. Rinse the rice well and drain off as much water as possible.
  • Add 2 cups of fresh water, place a lid on the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let the rice rest, undisturbed and with the lid in place, for 10 additional minutes.
  • To prepare the sushi rice dressing, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. If needed, microwave for 15-30 seconds to help the sugar dissolve.
  • While the rice is cooking, prepare the toppings. Shred or chop the imitation crab, shred or julienne the carrot, slice the avocado, slice the cucumber, and break the nori snacks into smaller pieces. Stir together the mayonnaise and sriracha in a small bowl.
  • When the rice is finished cooking, sprinkle about 1/4 of the vinegar dressing over the rice, then gently fold or stir the rice to combine. Repeat the process until all of the vinegar dressing has been incorporated into the rice.
  • To build your sushi bowls, place about 1 cup of the seasoned sushi rice in a bowl, then top with crab stick, carrot, cucumber, avocado, a few pieces of nori, a pinch of sesame seeds, and a drizzle of the sriracha mayo.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 1BowlCalories: 642kcalCarbohydrates: 103gProtein: 12gFat: 20gSodium: 1185mgFiber: 8g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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How to Make Sushi Bowls – Step by Step Photos

Rice being poured into a sauce pot.

Place 2 cups of the uncooked rice in a medium sauce pot. Rinse the rice well and drain off as much of the excess water as possible. Add 2 cups fresh water, place a lid on the pot, then bring the water up to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let the rice simmer for 15 minutes (make sure it’s simmering the whole time). After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let the rice rest, lid in place, for an additional five minutes. 

Rice vinegar, sugar, and salt being stirred in a small bowl, the bottle of vinegar on the side.

While the rice is cooking, mix up the rice seasoning. This seasoning gives the rice its characteristic sushi flavor and glossy appearance. Combine 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp white sugar, and 1 tsp salt. Stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. If needed, microwave the mixture for 15-30 seconds to help dissolve the sugar.

Seasoning being drizzled over the rice in the pot.

Sprinkle about 1/4 of the vinegar seasoning over the rice. Gently fold or stir the rice to distribute the dressing. Repeat this process until all of the dressing has been incorporated and the rice appears slightly glossy. Make sure not gently fold, rather than stir, the rice to prevent it from becoming mushy.

Prepped sushi bowl toppings.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the rest of the sushi bowl toppings. Shred one carrot (use a large-holed cheese grater), chop one cucumber, slice one avocado and chop or break up 8oz. of imitation crab into small pieces.

Imitation crab and nori snacks.

Imitation crab is basically just white fish that has been shaped and flavored to resemble crab. You can usually find this in the seafood department or frozen seafood department of the grocery store. Nori snacks can usually be found in the International aisle of larger grocery stores. They’re usually around $2 per pack and contain several squares each!

Sriracha mayo being stirred in a small bowl.

Prepare a little sriracha mayo to go on the sushi bowls… Simply stir together 4 Tbsp mayo and 2 Tbsp sriracha. NOM.

Sriracha mayo being drizzled over the sushi bowl.

Finally build your sushi bowls by adding about 1 cup of the seasoned sushi rice, then topping with some of imitation crab, sliced avocado, shredded carrot, sliced cucumbers, a few pieces of nori, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and a delicious drizzle of sriracha mayo.

Completed sushi bowl from above on a dark background.

Seriously, SO GOOD.

Close up of a bite of sushi bowl being held by chopsticks.

Bonus: sushi bowls are a little harder to pick up with chopsticks than rolled sushi, so you can’t inhale them quite as quickly. Take time and savor that flavor. ;)

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  1. Hi Beth! I’m looking for a good substitute for the imitation crab. I’m allergic to crab stick and know I like Tuna and Salmon in my sushi, but want to make sure I’m preparing it safely. If I buy some of these what do I need to do to prepare them? Thanks!

    1. I would just sear it in a skillet until cooked to your liking (some people like it medium, some like it well done, etc.) and then add the cooked fish to the bowl. :)

    1. Hi Chloe, canned crab will have a metallic aftertaste and will be very stringy. It’s up to you.

  2. This is such a quick and delicious meal! It really satisfied my sushi craving while I was pregnant, and I still love making it even after having my baby!

  3. I made this for a friend and we loved it! I didn’t realize I was out of rice vinegar so my rice was plain but it was still good! I did tofu instead of crab and I added crispy fried onions for some crunch. I will definitely be making this again!

  4. What are you recommending to use instead of Sriracha in a recipe like this, since there’s unfortunately been a shortage for a long time now?

    1. There are a lot of other brands of sriracha that source their peppers from other growers, so they’re not having a shortage. The Huy Fong brand is definitely experiencing a shortage, but any brand will work. :)

  5. Tried this for the first time the other night and it was absolutely delicious! I never realized how cheap surimi is, so it makes a very affordable meal and I will be making many more times.

  6. Is there a difference between regular rice vinegar and seasoned rice vinegar? I was only able to find seasoned so I’m wondering if I should still add the sugar? Making this tomorrow!

    1. Yes, there’s a slight difference between the two products — and you’re on the right track, the difference is that seasoned rice vinegar (also called rice wine vinegar or Mirin) is the addition of sugar and salt! But there isn’t too much of a difference that it wouldn’t be a good substitute. As you suggested, reducing the added sugar as well as some of the added salt (or omitting, tasting, and then adding an amended amount) would be my course of action. ~ marion :)

  7. This is the perfect way to satisfy that sushi craving. I had most of the ingredients on hand, but substituted the crab for some frozen shrimp I had. Another wonderful recipe from budgetbytes.

  8. Love this!! I double the vinegar/sugar because I like my rice extra vinegary, but otherwise this recipe is perfect!!