Everyday Maki Sushi with Canned Tuna and Cucumber

makituna5pMaki sushi, even though quite frequent on my table, tend to disappear before I even think about taking a photograph. They are quick, versatile, easy to experiment with and, most of all, they are simply irresistible. I don’t make perfectly shaped ones with sashimi grade raw fish, but everyday, casual, irregularly shaped tidbits. I fill them with whatever might suit vinegared rice wrapped in nori sheets. On the other hand, unlike most European restaurants – not to mention takeaway shops -, I always use good quality rice and now also excellent nori sheets I brought from Japan. This is much more important than neat shape or equal portions and since for me even messy-looking rolls are cute, I have never really made much effort to improve their aesthetic side.

Canned tuna paste (with mayonnaise and usually chives) is one of my most frequent fillings not only because I like it, but also because I have all the ingredients practically constantly in stock. Whether it’s canned in oil or water, my favourite tuna is the more expensive white one (albacore), but of course the darker one suits these maki too. I always add some crunchy raw cucumber, which pairs well with the creamy tuna paste. Sometimes I replace a part of tuna paste with avocado.

If you look for some other maki sushi ideas, you might like these too:

Asparagus Maki Sushi
Asparagus Maki Sushi
Ground Spicy Beef Maki
Ground Spicy Beef Maki
Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber
Maki with Shrimp, Avocado and Cucumber

TIPS: As you see on the photo above, contrary to the usually sold maki, mine have more tuna and cucumber than rice. If you prefer a standard, not lightened maki version, increase the rice amount (500 g or about 17,5 oz instead of 300 g or 10,5 oz).

If you want to buy sustainably caught fish, check for special labels (such as MSC) or mention, such as “line caught” (the brands I buy are usually labelled with both). In Europe there is a big choice of such labels in organic food shops, but some are also sold in “standard” supermarkets.

When you buy nori sheets, pay attention to their transparency and colour. I was told in Japan that darker and less transparent nori means better quality (of course there are more sophisticated criteria to judge the quality once the nori is dark and opaque enough to be considered good quality, but I found the above tip a good way to discard low-quality products).

I add cheap sake to the rice mixture (I think it adds a pleasant aroma), but this is not obligatory (most recipes don’t call for it), so skip it if you want.

Special equipment:

rice cooker (unless you know how to cook the rice in a “normal” pan)

maki rolling mat 

a brush

Preparation: 20 minutes (+ 1 hour for rice rinsing, cooking, seasoning and cooling)

Ingredients (serves 3):

5 nori seaweed sheets

300g (about 10,5 oz) uncooked sushi rice (or 500g/about 17,5 oz if you prefer “standard”  rolls)

Rice mixture:

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

(1 tablespoon sake)

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon white sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 x 150-160 g (about 5-5.5 oz) can of tuna (preferably white and not shredded)

1 big cucumber


1 bunch of chives, chopped

ground pepper

grilled white sesame seeds

soy sauce+wasabi, marinated ginger

a tiny bowl of rice vinegar (for brushing and finger dipping)

Cook the rice in the rice cooker (or in a pan if you know how to do it). Put the hot rice into a bowl and add the rice mixture ingredients. Stir well and leave to cool down.

In the meantime cut the cucumber into long pieces (I never peel the cucumber, but do it if you prefer).

Drain the tuna and shred it in a bowl combining with mayonnaise, chives and pepper.

When the rice has cooled down to the room temperature (it can’t be completely cold, otherwise it won’t be sticky enough), put a nori sheet vertically on the rolling mat, shiny side down.

With fingers dipped in a bowl of rice vinegar spread 1/5th of the rice evenly, leaving a 1 cm gap on the top, far edge.

Arrange the filling ingredients on the rice, in a horizontal line, close to the bottom edge.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if you use them.

Roll the maki starting from the bottom edge, gently pressing after each turn.

Brush with rice vinegar the upper edge before doing the last turn (it will help to seal the roll).

Press gently the roll and put it aside.

In order to obtain more or less similarly sized pieces, cut the roll first in two parts, then put them in a row and cut them in two parts, etc..

(It is easier to cut the rolls with a moist knife blade.)

Arrange the cut maki pieces on a plate and serve with wasabi, soy sauce and marinated ginger.



24 Replies to “Everyday Maki Sushi with Canned Tuna and Cucumber”

  1. Heeheeh, I know what you mean about disappearing sushi. I bought a large tray of maki last Friday as a treat for cocktail hour and, let’s just say, there were not as many left by the time my husband arrived home from work 😉 oops! I think it’s the combination of soy, pickled ginger and wasabi that I find utterly irresistible. These are gorgeous Sissi — you inspire me to make my own! (have never been inclined; too finicky me thinks for my clumsy, impatient hands). I’ve never come across tuna paste before — what a revelation! and thank you for that tip on the nori sheets too. These look perfect for our Friday nibble hour :).

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. This addictive side is the reason why I have cut down on rice amount (normally it’s advised to put at least 500 g of rice when using 5 nori sheets…). I actually make this paste quite often also for wraps and open sandwiches.

    2. Oh, and I have forgotten to say you MUST prepare your own maki! They are really easy and I’m sure when I see yours I will be ashamed with my clumsy ones (you are definitely a more precise cook and the way you present your dishes proves you will make excellent rolls).

  2. Delicious looking maki rolls, Nami. When you have a sushi craving and can’t get your hands on raw sushi grade tuna, canned tuna is a nice weekday filling. I don’t usually have cucumber in the house since I don’t like it, but I always have celery around so that’s what I’d use. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, A_Boleyn. Using cheap everyday ingredients makes maki sushi really cheap meals (even when good quality rice is used). Celery would be a good idea of course. I have never thought about it…

  3. Well, I could care less if they are not perfectly round. It is what’s inside those rolls that I love like the tuna and the crunchy cucumbers. Oh my kids are notorious in making these sushi disappear from the table. Have a good weekend, Sissi. 🙂

  4. This sounds really fresh and delicious. Esp with RAW crispy cucumber. I’ve heard of some crazy people cooking cucumber. Have you heard of this strange thing?
    BTW, it seems 300 grams of rice is a lot for 2/3 persons. Of course not a lot if its 2/3 sumo wrestlers:)
    I’ve heard – they don’t serve wasabi/soya is good sushi places in Japan. Wasabi is incorporated in the sushi.

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies. I should try these with fried cucumber one day 😉
      You are partly right: I should indicate only three people for this amount of rolls (but, I swear, two hungry people are able to eat the whole lot without any problems… especially when nibbling on the rolls with drinks in the evening…). You would be surprised to see how much rice you eat in maki rolls! 300 g rice (1 cup) for 5 nori sheets is the lightened amount compared to what is served in restaurants (at least here). When I realised how much rice one can eat (calories…) in one standard maki roll meal, I quickly decided that mine will be much poorer in rice.
      I have never been in an expensive sushi place in Japan. The cheap or relatively cheap ones are already so good for us Europeans that it would be a waste of money and I wouldn’t see the difference as much as I should… I must “train” more in the future to be able to appreciate an expensive one. The cheap ones did serve both wasabi and soy sauce but certain sushi had wasabi under the fish too.
      Wasabi is served often with teriyaki (if they grate real wasabi it’s a sign it’s a good teriyaki place… because often the price is the same but food quality differs a lot).

    1. Thank you, Hiroyuki. As much as I like cucumber, I never buy kappa maki… Cucumber is so cheap and kappa maki are too expensive, moreover it lacks protein for me 🙂 Hence the addition of canned tuna (better than no tuna at all!).

  5. My BIL bought us a sushi making kit a while back but I’ve never used it because it’s so hard to find sushi grade fish around here. So thanks for these sushi rolls! I’ve never thought of using canned tuna. What a great idea! Beautiful job with the rolls Sissi! Have a great week!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. I hope I have convinced you it’s super easy and cheap. Actually, apart from the maki rolling mat you don’t need anything else. You know, in Japan, when you buy takeaway maki sushi, they are not all with raw fish inside! Some are with vegetables (cucumber, avocado, pickled daikon…) and I have seen with false crab, fried shrimp too… so it’s not even so totally wrong to play with the fillings.

  6. You always make awesome maki sushi! Love how you inspire others with easy-to-access ingredients like this. And I just remembered about my mom’s tuna salad recipe. Great use of tuna and cucumber in the sushi. I can pop these in my mouth and forget how many I have eaten and lose track… 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Nami. (“Awesome” is maybe too much for my clumsy things 😉 ). As I have just told MJ, I saw even in Japan some cheap, easy to get (even in Europe) ingredients, so I thought why not play with some other products? (Moreover, my favourite maki takeaway here makes better maki with cooked seafood than with raw fish… probably due to the low quality of fish).

  7. What a clever idea Sissi, I love it! I’m definitely going to use this for cocktails this summer, I know JT will love it because he loves tuna. I would add avocado as well as the tuna because I adore avocado. Your photos are lovely too and rolls look perfect to me.

    1. Thank you so much, Eva. I also love it with tuna and avocado, but this time I also made my shrimp and avocado and cucumber rolls (there is a link above if you are interested), so I skipped avocado here.

  8. While in Amsterdam I went to a Japanese restaurant and had sushi. I love sushi but I wasn’t thrilled with those ones. On the other hand these little rolls you made look so appetizing and i would gladly grab a few of them to eat!

    1. Thank you so much, Katerina. Many restaurants serve bad quality sushi (bad rice, cheap nori, not so fresh fish and its cheaper cuts…) so I can imagine it was not great. This is why I prefer not as fancy filling, but good quality basic ingredients and to make it at home.

  9. Hi Sissi, I think maki with (canned) tuna is actually really good, and I agree – it’s really fun to make sushi with “whatever”. I once made some maki with hotdog sausages, ketchup and omelette rolled inside. It might sound bizarre but was very nice. If you want some suggestions I can really recommend mint and shrimp, with a bit of chilli sauce and mayonnaise!

    1. Thank you, Charles. I also agree: even minced beef is great in maki! (though I have tested some ingredients which are not good at all… unfortunately I don’t remember which). Mint sounds like a very original choice for the maki. I must test it! Thank you for the idea.

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