This 6-ingredient easy kappa maki recipe means restaurant-worthy (but healthy) sushi in no time. Get ready to impress with this simple & fresh creation!
In this post you’ll learn:
- Why you will love this recipe
- What is Kappa Maki
- What is Kappa
- What Kappa Maki Tastes Like
- Difference between Maki and Kappa Maki
- If Kappa Maki is Healthy
- The Cucumber Type to Use
- Serving suggestions
- Meal prep and storage instructions
- More recipes like this!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Healthy and Nutritious: Kappa maki made with a combination of brown rice and fresh cucumber provides a wholesome and nutrient-rich meal.
- Easy and Beginner-Friendly: No worries if you’re not a master chef (yet)! 😉 This recipe breaks it down into simple steps, so even if you’re just starting out in the kitchen, you’ll nail these vegan sushi rolls.
- Refreshing and Light: Crunchy cucumber and zingy rice vinegar seasoning come together in these rolls, creating a light and refreshing bite!
- Vegan-Friendly: Calling all plant-based pals!🌱 This recipe is 100% plant-based, so you (or your guests) can enjoy the awesomeness of sushi without any animal products. It’s a win-win for your taste buds and the planet.🌎
- Customize Your Roll: Make it your own, friend! Feel free to get creative and try different fillings like avocado or tofu to customize your kappa maki. It’s all about finding your flavor groove🎵
What is Kappa Maki?
Kappa Maki is a type of hosomaki (sushi roll that contains only 1 ingredient as a filling). Kappa maki sushi uses cucumber as its only filling. It is wrapped in seaweed (nori) and seasoned sushi rice. They are considered to be thin sushi rolls, only about 1 inch (2.5cm) in diameter since it only has 1 filling. They are a popular and classic sushi option in Japanese cuisine.
What is Kappa in Sushi?
In sushi, “kappa” refers to the Japanese mythological creature (yōkai) which is a water-dwelling creature often depicted as having the appearance of a green, mischievous turtle. Kappa is also known to love cucumbers a lot, and thus the name “kappa maki” for cucumber sushi rolls. So nope, “kappa” does not mean cucumber in Japanese. And in case you’re curious, the Japanese word for cucumber is kyuri. 🥒
Making this recipe is definitely a throwback for me since in case I was a huge fan of the Japanese Harvest Moon game and in that game, I had to throw a couple of cucumbers in some kind of lake so I could (virtually) meet Kappa!
What Does Kappa Maki Taste Like?
It’s a combination of tangy and slightly sweet sushi rice, with refreshing and crisp cucumber, wrapped together with an umami nori wrapper which adds a satisfying crunch to each bite of this cucumber roll! Yums! 😋
Since this sushi does not contain fish like most types of sushi, you will not taste something ‘fishy’. However, I promise that it still tastes good!
What is the Difference between Maki and Kappa Maki?
Maki is a general term for sushi rolls, while kappa maki is a specific type of maki roll.
Namely, kappa maki is a type of hosomaki which is sushi consisting of only 1 filling. Kappa maki roll therefore contains only cucumber as the filling. On the other hand, other maki rolls can contain more than 1 filling so you can add avocado, fish, or other vegetables.
Is Kappa Maki Healthy?
Kappa maki can definitely be a healthy choice, although these cucumber sushi rolls alone will not provide you with the widest varieties of nutrients. As always, variety is good so your body can get all the different nutrients contained in different food!
Having said that, kappa maki is made with fresh cucumber, which is low in calories and high in hydration. Additionally, this recipe uses a combination of brown rice instead of just plain white rice adds more fiber and nutrients to the roll. So comparatively, this recipe would be healthier than other kappa maki!
Six main ingredients: brown rice, sushi rice, rice vinegar, nori sheets, cucumber, and soy sauce. The rest are the seasoning that you probably already have at home so let me explain further!
- Brown rice: A nutritious whole grain rice which packs fiber and protein into this recipe.
- Sushi rice: White, short-grained rice that becomes sticky when cooked, providing the traditional texture and taste associated with sushi.
- Water: Used to cook the rice to the desired consistency following package instructions.
Now the holy trinity of sushi rice seasonings!
- Rice vinegar: A tangy and mildly sweet vinegar used to season the cooked rice, giving it the characteristic sushi flavor.
- Sugar: Adds a touch of sweetness to the rice vinegar seasoning, enhancing the overall taste of the sushi rice.
- Salt: Balances the flavors of the rice vinegar mixture by adding a hint of savory taste, plus it enhances flavor in general.
And the vegetables plus dipping sauce!
- Nori sheets: Dried seaweed sheets that serve as the wrapper for the sushi roll, imparting an umami-rich taste. And speaking of nori sheets, it is one of those naturally black vegetables. Definitely check out my list of 33 Black Vegetables (with Pictures!) if you’re interested to learn more!
- Cucumber: The Japanese kappa character is a creature in Japanese folklore who loves cucumbers, which explains why this dish is called kappa maki!
- Soy sauce or vegan mayo: Condiments often served alongside sushi rolls for dipping, adding additional flavor and richness to these cucumber rolls!
What Kind of Cucumber Can I Use?
The most commonly used cucumber for kappa maki is the Japanese cucumber, also known as kyuri in Japanese. Japanese cucumbers are slender, seedless, and have a crisp texture, making them perfect for these kappa sushi rolls.
If you can’t find Japanese cucumbers, you can also use English cucumbers (the common cucumber you would see in supermarkets). English cucumbers, also known as hothouse cucumbers, are longer and have thin skin with minimal seeds. Another good option is Persian cucumbers. They are smaller than English cucumbers but have similar flavor and texture profiles.
In general, it’s best to choose cucumbers that are firm, fresh, and have a mild flavor. Avoid cucumbers that are overripe, wrinkled, or have a bitter taste. Regardless of the specific type you choose, removing the seedy and watery part of the cucumber before slicing it for the kappa maki will help maintain the roll’s texture and prevent it from becoming too watery!
Cook the sushi rice: Cook the brown rice and sushi rice according to the package instructions or using a rice cooker.
Here in the Netherlands, brown rice is cooked completely in just 10 minutes so I just mix both the brown rice and sushi rice in the same pot. If they have different cooking times, make sure you cook them separately.
Prepare the rice seasoning: Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Whisk or stir until they are somewhat dissolved. If needed, heat the mixture in the microwave (in 10-15 seconds increments) or on low heat until mostly dissolved.
Slice the cucumber: Cut the cucumber into long, thin strips, removing the seedy and watery part. You don’t want to use the seeds because the moisture can make your kappa maki soggy.
Season and cool the rice: Spread the cooked rice on a sheet pan or large plate. Drizzle the rice vinegar mixture over the rice and use a rice spoon or spatula to fold and mix well, ensuring each grain is coated. Allow the seasoned rice to cool for 10-15 minutes.
Assemble: Place a bamboo sushi mat on a clean surface, with the knots of the strings on the upper side. Then place a nori sheet on top, shiny side down. Spread the rice evenly over the nori, leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space at the top. Be sure to add spread the rice on both the left and right sides too. Lay a cucumber strip horizontally about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the bottom.
Roll: Lift the lower end of the bamboo mat with your thumbs and gently press the cucumber to keep it in place. Then tightly roll the sushi up, bit by bit. Massage the sushi roll with your fingers to ensure the rice sticks together.
Seal: Continue rolling until the entire sheet is rolled up, and press gently to seal the roll. If needed, moisten the top border of the nori sheet with a wet finger to help it stick together.
Slice: Using a sharp knife, slice the roll into 8 to 10 pieces per roll. You might want to wet the knife with water between each cut to prevent sticking.
Serve and enjoy: Arrange the cucumber maki pieces on a plate, serve with soy sauce, this 3-minute healthy vegan mayonnaise, wasabi, or other desired condiments, and enjoy your delicious homemade kappa maki!
Serve soy sauce or tamari (for a gluten-free option) alongside the cucumber roll sushi for dipping. You can also provide pickled ginger and wasabi paste for those who enjoy a bit of extra flavor and heat.
For bolder, less traditional dipping sauce, experiment serving with vegan mayo. Maybe make some kimchi mayo/aioli, sriracha mayo, wasabi mayo, or lemony mayo to accompany this dish! You can even try using truffle mayo since this dish does not have an overpowering flavor!
I also love making sushi for gatherings and parties! Gather your friends and family so everyone can get their hands on rolling sushi!
Storage and Meal Prep Instructions
Storage: This cucumber sushi roll is best enjoyed fresh. But if you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. Keep in mind that the texture and quality of the sushi may slightly change upon refrigeration. So definitely aim to consume it within 12 hours for optimal taste and texture!
Meal prep: Since this cucumber sushi is pretty simple, it is a great option for meal prep. Just make sure that you only roll your sushi just before you want to eat them.
So batch-cook your sushi rice and prepare your cucumbers and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. But only roll your sushi in the morning of the day you want to eat them!
Yes, you can. I just added brown rice into the mix to add more fiber and protein to the recipe.
Brown rice is not naturally sticky so doing this will make rolling the sushi harder. If you are not used to rolling sushi, I do NOT recommend this.
However, if you have successfully rolled sushi a couple of times, feel free to do this to experiment!
No, please do not substitute the sushi rice. Sushi rice is a special type of short-grained rice which is stickier than other medium-grain and long-grain varieties. This is important so your sushi will hold its shape.
You can get sushi rice in most Asian supermarkets.
I haven’t tried this substitution but in a pinch, I think it will work. However, be aware that there might be a tinge of another flavor (such as a tinge of apple when you substitute it with apple cider vinegar).
White vinegar tends to have a sharper taste, so consider diluting it with water (2 parts white vinegar to 1 part water) to mellow the flavor.
Yes, kappa maki is vegan by default as we only use rice, nori sheet (seaweed), and cucumbers.
Nope, that’s not necessary since the skin is thin enough and it adds a nice pop of color!
Rubbing cucumber skin with salt is said to remove bitterness and smoothen their skin. To be honest, I don’t think it’s worth the effort to do it since I don’t find cucumber bitter so I don’t do that in this recipe.
But of course, feel free to do so if you’d like to see for yourself if the trick works!
Yes, you can make the kappa rolls ahead of time and store them in the refrigerator for a few hours (2-3 hours) before serving. However, it’s best to consume them as fresh as possible to retain the freshness and texture of the ingredients.
Want More Sushi Recipes?
Lucky you because I happen to have a few sushi recipes here on my blog! Try some of these:
- Kimchi Sushi (with Brown Rice)
- Natto Rolls (Japanese fermented soybeans sushi)
- Shiitake Roll
- Umeshiso Roll (Japanese pickled plums and shiso leaves sushi)
A fan of sushi but don’t have a sushi mat / don’t want to spend your time rolling sushi? I gotcha 😉 Try this Rainbow Poke Bowl recipe instead, which I often say is a deconstructed sushi bowl! And if you just want a quick tofu recipe, check out my 5-Minute Marinated Tofu recipe which has been a favorite of mine due to its simplicity and rich flavor!
And if you’re looking for drinks to pair this with, check out this super pretty 5-Minute Strawberry Oat Milk recipe!
- ½ cup brown rice uncooked (105 grams)
- ½ cup sushi rice (110 grams) white, short-grained rice uncooked
- 1.5 cups water or according to package instructions
- ¼ cup rice vinegar (60ml), see notes for substitutes
- 2 Tablespoons sugar (30 grams), see notes for substitutes
- 1 teaspoon salt (5 grams)
- 1 large cucumber
- 3.5 nori sheets cut into half each (so into 7 pieces)
- soy sauce or vegan mayo
- (optional) pickled ginger and wasabi
- Cook the rice: Cook the rice according to the package instructions or using a rice cooker. Once cooked, let the rice cool slightly.
- Prepare the rice seasoning: Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Use a whisk or fork to mix them evenly until they are somewhat dissolved.If they are not dissolving, microwave in 10-15 seconds increment. Or heat them in a small saucepan on low heat, just until they’re mostly dissolved for about 2-3 minutes.
- Prepare the cucumber: Cut the cucumber into half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove the seedy and watery part. Then slice lengthwise into long strips of about 1 cm in width each.
- Season the rice: Your rice is probably ready by now. Spread on a sheet pan or a large plate, then drizzle the rice vinegar mixture over. Using a rice spoon or a spatula, fold and mix well, ensuring that each grain is coated with the seasoning. Be careful not to mash the rice.
- Let the rice cool down: Allow the seasoned rice to cool down for about 10-15 minutes. Do NOT skip this step since this will make the rice sticky so it will be easier for you to roll your sushi later!
- Spread the rice: After your rice cools down, lay a bamboo sushi mat on a clean surface and place a sheet of nori on top of it, shiny side down. Use a (rice) spoon to spread the rice evenly over the nori sheet. Make sure that the rice covers both the left and right side while leaving about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of space at the top.
- Add the cucumber: Place one cucumber strip horizontally on the rice, about 1 inch (2.5cm) from the bottom.
- Roll: With your thumbs lifting the lower mat, and your other gently pressing the cucumber tightly roll the bamboo mat up bit by bit. So first make sure that the bottom part of the rice covers the cucumber, then gently press the sushi mat with your fingers (as if you’re massaging the sushi) to ensure that sushi rice won’t fall off later on when cutting the sushi.
- Repeat and seal: Repeat the rolling and ‘massaging’. Then moisten the top border of the nori sheet with a wet finger to help it stick together.
- Slice the rolls: Using a sharp knife, slice each roll in the middle into two. Then repeat until you get 8 pieces of maki sushi. You might want to wet the knife with water between each cut to prevent sticking.
- Serve: Arrange the maki roll on a serving platter. Serve with soy sauce (or vegan mayo), and the optional pickled ginger plus wasabi paste.
- Brown rice: Feel free to use only white short-grained sushi rice if you prefer the traditional method. However, keep in mind that this will result in a lower fiber and protein content compared to using a combination of brown and white rice.
- Rice vinegar: Substitute by diluting white vinegar with water (using a ratio of 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water). Just be aware that using other clear vinegars may introduce a subtle flavor, such as the apple-like aroma that comes with apple cider vinegar.
- Sugar: If you’re out of sugar, you can use any flavorless sweetener as a substitute. However, be mindful that sweeteners with distinct flavors like honey or maple syrup will slightly alter the taste of the rice. For example, maple syrup will bring a hint of mapley flavor.
- Storage: This cucumber sushi roll is best enjoyed fresh. But if you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours.
- Meal prep: You can batch-cook your sushi rice and prepare your cucumbers, then store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. But remember to only roll your sushi in the morning of the day you want to eat them!
- Sushi mat: If you don’t have a sushi mat, you can also use a clean and thick kitchen towel.
- The calorie information is per roll. Seven rolls of kappa maki would be enough for 2-3 people, depending on the portion.