Kappa maki – Japan’s iconic cucumber sushi roll – is fresh, healthy and super tasty! This crunchy delicious cucumber roll requires only three ingredients – cucumber, sushi rice and nori (dried thin seaweed). Quick and easy, this kappa maki recipe is just a great vegetarian sushi!
I love kappa maki. Crisp and light, this cucumber roll has been my favourite sushi since I was a child. Tamago maki (egg roll), oshinko roll (pickled horse radish roll) and kampyo maki (dried gourd shaving roll) are some of Japan’s most popular vegetarian maki rolls.
Simple and refreshing, this cucumber maki is treated as a palate cleanser. It’s also perfect for eating towards the end of a feast for refreshment. Easy and versatile is why kappa maki is so popular!
Find out how to make this kappa maki sushi wrap just like a sushi restaurant!
This kappa maki recipe is also one of the cheapest meals you’ll find. It will satisfy your craving for sushi, and won’t disappoint! Bring joy into your life and share it with loved ones! Read on!
What is Kappa Maki?
Kappa maki is a cucumber sushi roll, made with a fresh strip of cucumber nestled in sushi rice and wrapped in nori (dried seaweed). Unlike thick California rolls, this cucumber roll is a thin sushi roll, hosomaki. Kappa maki is one of the most popular maki roll variations.
Kyuri means cucumber in Japanese, but you may ask why it’s called kappa maki? There’s Japanese folklore behind the name!
Kappa is an imagined yokai (goblin) who lives in rivers. (source) This kappa fancies kyuri, thus cucumber sushi was named kappa maki.
Kappa Maki Roll Ingredients
This cucumber sushi requires only three healthy ingredients – cucumber, sushi rice and nori. These simple ingredients are a magical combination! If you’re new to sushi making, find out how to make sushi rice.
What kind of cucumbers do you use?
Japanese cucumbers are traditionally used for this cucumber sushi. They are light, slightly sweet and crisp – perfect for kappa maki sushi. You can find them easily at local Japanese supermarkets.
If they’re not available at your local shops, try Lebanese cucumbers, which have similar size, texture and flavor to Japanese cucumbers.
Nori is seaweed. It’s roasted and dried. It’s a thin sheet, like paper. You can easily find nori at local Japanese shops or on Amazon.
For this hosomaki (thin) sushi rolls recipe we are going to make eight sushi rolls. Each nori sheet should be around 4 x 8 inch sized nori sheet. If your nori is larger than that, cut it down to that size for this hosomaki cucumber roll. It should be dried. To keep its freshness, save nori sheets in a ziploc bag and leave it in the freezer once you open the package.
Sushi rice is made with Japanese short grain rice, rice vinegar and sugar. It’s can be made easy more than you think. Once you master how to make sushi rice, you can extend your own sushi recipes.
How to Make Kappa Maki
We really enjoy making sushi rolls at home – it’s fun! Get family and friends together and start rolling sushi! Kids love it! There are only two steps you need for this cucumber sushi roll recipe – preparing cucumbers, and rolling the sushi rolls.
A key to success for these sushi rolls is how to prepare cucumbers before you them roll up. They need to be crisp, fresh and vibrant. These simple Japanese cooking techniques help your maki rolls elevate to a pro level.
Rub the cucumber with sea salt for a while. Soon the surface is moisturized. Clean the surface with running water. This is called shiomomi. This cooking technique is used for various vegetable dishes to remove the bitterness out of the skins.
How do you cut cucumbers into sticks for roll ups?
First, cut off the head and the bottom of the cucumbers.
Then cut the whole cucumber vertically into four. Remove the seeds by cutting them out length ways with the knife. This helps keep the cucumbers crunchy and fresh!
I use a bamboo sushi mat. It’s super handy. You can find it easily at local Japanese shops or Amazon. I also saw it at Daiso.
Place nori on a sushi mat horizontally. No need to use cling wrap. Keep the nori dry.
Place a half cup of sushi rice on it. Leave a one-inch gap on the top of the nori.
Then let the sushi rice stick over the nori by gently pressing it down with rice vinegar wet fingers.
Pro tip: Don’t push hard. This is very important! Otherwise each sushi rice would be broken, and will become sticky. This should be avoided.
Place the stick cucumber at the center of the rice horizontally. Then start rolling up by using the bamboo mat!
Place the stick cucumber at the center of the rice horizontally. Lift up the bamboo mat with two first fingers while other fingers are holding the cucumber. Bring the edge of the nori at the front edge. Then place it at the end of the rice towards the back edge of the nori sheet. Then push down gently once. Then roll up.
Once rolled up, use a sharp knife and cut the roll into six rolls.
Pro tip: Leave the wrapped sushi rolls for a few minutes. Then start cutting them. Soak a kitchen paper in rice vinegar, and remove the sticky rice from the knife with it after you cut each slice.
How to Serve Kappa Maki like Japanese restaurants
Serve kappa maki rolls on a plate with soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese spicy green paste). If you have pickled sushi ginger, place some slices next to the rolls. This vinegary pickled ginger is always served at sushi restaurants.
Scoop up a tiny bit of wasabi with your chopsticks and place it on top of the cucumber maki roll. Pick up the roll with chopsticks and dip it lightly in the soy sauce. Then enjoy it!
Fresh, crunchy cucumber and a bit of wasabi spiciness create a perfect harmony with sushi and nori!
That’s it! Serve immediately. Enjoy!
How long does kappa maki last?
These kappa maki rolls should be enjoyed within a day. If you’d like to enjoy the freshness of the nori wrap, I’d say it’s within three hours at room temperature. Better still, make them and eat them fresh.
You can keep them in an air-tight container or ziploc bag for next day, but the flavour many not be the same.
Can you use a regular cucumber for kappa maki?
Hot house cucumbers are large and have developed seeds and thick skins. So they are not suitable for these kappa rolls, but English cucumbers may work.
Lebanese and English cucumbers have thin skins and don’t have too many seeds – just like Japanese cucumbers.
Do you have to peel cucumbers for kappa maki?
Japanese cucumbers, Lebanese cucumbers and English cucumbers have thin skins. So you don’t need to peel them for this kappa roll sushi.
How to make kappa maki variations
Kappa maki is a classic Japanese sushi roll. When I enjoyed it at home, my mother rolled up some other ingredients with the cucumber. I think your kids would love it with:
Sushi Recipe Collection
Kappa Maki Recipe
- 2 Japanese cucumbers (or use Lebanese cucumbers)
- 4 cups sushi rice
- 8 nori (about 4×8 inch dried seaweed sheet)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)
- sushi ginger (optional)
- wasabi (optional)
- Rub the cucumber skin with sea salt until the surface is lightly moisturized. Clean the surface with running water, and dry it with a kitchen towel.
- Lay it down on the chopping board, and cut off the top and the bottom(about a half inch each side).
- Cut the cucumber vertically into the four sticks. Remove the layer of seeds with a knife. Remove water on the surfaces of stick cucumbers. Set aside.
- Set a piece of nori on a bamboo sushi mat, and place ½ cup of sushi rice on it. Spread out the sushi rice evenly with wet fingers. Leave a half inch without sushi rice on the side furthest away from you. (note 1)
- Place one stick cucumber horizontally near the center of the sushi rice (but slightly towards you).
- Lift up the bamboo mat with two first fingers while holding cucumbers other fingers. Start rolling from the front. You need to bring the front edge of nori to the end of the sushi rice towards the back edge of the nori. Gently press down, and roll up.
- Cut the cucumber sushi roll into six pieces. (note 2)
- Repeat this whole process with the remaining nori sheets.
- That's it! Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Don’t squash the sushi rice, but gently spread it out on the nori, lightly pressing it down. If you press too hard the sushi rice will be broken and get sticky. Don’t touch the nori with wet fingers.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the sushi rolls. Remove the stickiness from the knife with a wet kitchen towel. This helps to cut the sushi rolls cleanly, and maintains the shape of each piece well.
- For a variation, add Kewpie Mayo along the stick cucumber. (optional) Visit Homemade Kewpie Mayo recipe.