These kid-friendly Japanese-style sushi rolls are healthy, versatile, and make a wonderfully light dinner, lunch, or snack. They’re packed with nutritious vegetables like sweet potato, bell pepper, and cucumber. There’s no raw fish, just smoked salmon–but you can use any cooked protein your kids enjoy! This easy sushi recipe will leave you AND your toddlers happy and full-bellied. making sushi rolls with kids

For most of my upbringing, sushi was one of those elusive, magical dishes that someone else made at a restaurant. Each bite was a small, neatly wrapped package containing exotic ingredients, that somehow melded perfectly in flavor. The umami soy dipping sauce was addictive, masochistically so once I trained my taste buds to stir in globs of wasabi. And miraculously, I never felt devastatingly full after a good sushi binge, unlike the bloat and thirst that would come on after devouring pizza. I couldn’t get enough sushi. 

So you can imagine my delight when I came home from soccer practice one afternoon to find that my mom had cleared the kitchen island and laid out a sushi-making station. Right then and there she taught me and my three siblings how to make sushi rolls. I was shocked at how easy it was! Ok, my rolls weren’t as tidy as a true sushi chef, but all the elements were there: sticky rice touched with vinegar and sugar, seaweed, an array of colorful, succulent fillings, and of course, soy sauce and wasabi. 

After having my own kids, it took me four years to remember how easy and delightful it is to make and eat sushi! On a whim, I whipped out the ingredients and my camera, and taught the girls how to make sushi rolls. We ended up having our dinner around the kitchen island, as tends to happen while making sushi. It was messy and perfect. I hope you’ll give this a try with your family and enjoy the results!

With love and gratitude // E

red head toddler eating japanese sushi roll

Reasons Your Kids will Love This Sushi Recipe

  • Adaptable based on what your kids like
  • Packed with delicious, healthy, and colorful ingredients 
  • No added sugar or vinegar (just plain ‘ol rice!) 
  • Fun and easy to make

Kid-Friendly Sushi Video Tutorial

Kid-Friendly Sushi Video Tutorial

How to Roll Sushi

You don’t need to be a master with fancy equipment to make sushi at home. Here are my quick and easy tips for rolling sushi like a pro:

  • Place the nori on a mat. Place a sheet of nori (the shiny side facing DOWN) on a bamboo sushi mat, clean kitchen towel, or parchment paper. 
  • Spread rice on top. Place a 1-cup ball of rice in the middle of the nori. Use your fingers or a rice paddle to spread it out evenly. To prevent the rice from sticking, dip your hands in a bowl of water mixed with vinegar. Leave about 1-inch of nori exposed at the far end of the sheet. 
  • Arrange your filling ingredients. Place your first ingredient on the rice, starting in the middle and working your way across. Each ingredient should have its own line, just like a rainbow! Make sure you leave some rice exposed on the edge closest to you so it’s easier to roll. 
  • Roll it up. Start with the end that has your first line of ingredients. Lift the nori sheet and fold it over the first ingredient. Continue to tuck and roll the front nori over each filling ingredient. 
  • Tighten the roll. Gently squeeze the roll with your bamboo mat, towel or parchment paper to ensure all the ingredients stick together and don’t fall out when you cut it. Roll it back and forth a few times to seal the edges. If the nori sticks out, seal it closed with the water-vinegar solution.
  • Rest then slice. I recommend letting the sushi roll rest so the nori can moisten and become less likely to tear. Use this time to start your next roll! After a minute or two, cut the roll into sixths or eights, using a sharp, wet knife. My rule of thumb: the more filling in your roll, the thinner the slices (it’s much easier to eat). 
  • Make it a sushirrito (optional): You can always skip the slicing and eat it like a burrito!

kid-friendly japanese sushi prep station

making sushi rolls with kids

making sushi rolls with kids

kid-friendly japanese sushi rollsSushi Roll Variation

Experiment with different veggies and proteins until you find your favorite! Here are some ingredient combinations my kids and I love: 

  • Tuna Salad: Canned tuna, pickled cucumber, and avocado
  • Good ‘Ole Avocado: My daughter likes her plain and simple with avocado in the middle
  • Smoked Trout: Smoked trout, radish, and avocado
  • Veggie Rainbow: Red and yellow bell peppers, shredded carrots, cucumber, avocado, and shredded red cabbage

More Healthy Kid-Approved Recipes

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Kid-Friendly Sushi Rolls

kid-friendly japanese sushi rolls

Remember, practice makes perfect! If this is your first time making sushi, I suggest you start small. Cut the nori sheet in half, and use just one filling. As you feel more comfortable with the process, use the whole nori sheet, and more fillings. To get started, you need just a few ingredients like cucumber, smoked salmon, and sushi rice. You can make a sushi roll with any ingredient combination that you can think of.

  • Author: Emma Frisch
  • Prep Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 1 hr
  • Yield: 10 - 15 sushi rolls 1x
  • Cuisine: Japanese
Scale

Ingredients

For the Sushi Rice: 

  • 2 rice cooker cups Japanese short-grain rice (or “sushi” rice)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 

For the Filling:

  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • 1 small cooked and peeled sweet potato, sliced into strips 
  • 1 cucumber, sliced into thin strips 
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips 
  • 4 ounce packet smoked salmon 

Hand-dipping Water:

  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar 

Everything Else:

  • 5 sheets nori (seaweed)
  • Soy sauce or tamari, for serving

Instructions

  1. Follow the instructions on the rice package for cooking your rice, whether in a rice cooker or pot.
  2. Make the hand-dipping water by combining water and vinegar in a small bowl. Coat your hands with this water to prevent the rice from sticking. 
  3. Place the nori sheet on a piece of parchment paper, with the longest side of the nori closest to you. The shiny side of the nori should be facing DOWN. 
  4. Wet your hands and the inside of a 1-cup measuring cup with the vinegar water. Scoop a scant 1/2 cup of sushi rice into your hands. Place the rice on the nori and spread around, leaving 1 inch of space along the top edge of the nori. Wet your hands in the vinegar water if the rice starts to stick. Spread on more rice, if needed. 
  5. Sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly over the rice. Then place the filling (sweet potato, cucumber, red pepper, and smoked salmon) in the middle of the rice. Each ingredient should have its own line. 
  6. In one swift motion, roll the nori over each ingredient until your land right at the edge of the rice. With the parchment paper still around the roll, gently shape and tighten the roll into a square or round. Finally, remove the parchment paper and seal the edge of the nori with the water-vinegar solution. Squeeze and tighten the roll just one more time! 
  7. To cut the sushi roll, wet your knife under running water or with a damp towel. Cut the roll in half in a sawing motion (push and pull). Wet the knife again and cut each half into 3 or 4 pieces. 
  8. Serve with soy sauce or tamari, and your kids favorite steamed vegetables – Ayla and Cora love broccoli dunked in soy sauce! 

Notes

Store leftover, unused nori in a sealed, air-tight bag, or else it will stale.

Keywords: kid-friendly, sushi rolls, smoked salmon

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