How to Make Sushi: Philly Maki Recipe

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This recipe for Japanese-style Philly maki is creamy, smoky and crunchy—and it's perfect for a casual dinner or entertaining.

Philly maki, sometimes called a Philadelphia sushi roll, is a mash-up of East Meets West ingredients: smoked salmon, cream cheese (Philadelphia-brand cream cheese, of course) and cucumber, all wrapped in nori sheets and seasoned sushi rice. The result is a full-flavored sushi with a hint of sea and soy.

As one can imagine, Philly maki was not invented in Japan nor is it a traditional maki roll. When sushi became popular in the United States in the 1980s and ’90s, Philly maki was introduced and quickly became popular along with its counterparts, California rolls (crab, avocado and cucumber) and Boston rolls (shrimp, avocado and cucumber).

Why You Should Make Sushi at Home

It’s fresh! Plus, rolls like Philly maki are simple and cost-effective sushi to make instead of order. The recipe calls for easy-to-find ingredients, too. It’s perfect to prep for lunch.

Is It Hard to Make Sushi at Home?

It can be challenging at first. But the key is to remember to follow each step carefully. It also helps to start with a recipe like this Philly maki—the inside-out roll makes it especially easy to prepare.

What Sushi Is Best for Beginners?

People often ask me how to make sushi that everyone will enjoy, meaning no raw fish or unfamiliar ingredients. This Philly maki is just that: a tried-and-true flavor combo that’s easy to assemble.

What Do You Need to Make Sushi?

Traditionally, hangiri, or a wooden vessel, is used to cool the sushi rice. However, you may substitute this with a mixing bowl or a deep baking dish.

Makisu, a bamboo mat, is crucial for this recipe but affordable and can be found at some Asian grocery stores or online.

The Best Nori to Use

Almost all nori sheets used for sushi making come in 20 x 18 cm (8 x 7-inch) size, and a typical package contains anywhere from 10-50 sheets of nori. When shopping for nori sheets, look for dark color and crispiness.

Nori sheets are sensitive to moisture and can get stale quickly once the package is opened, so buy only what you will use or use up in a month or two. Keep nori sheets in an airtight plastic container and store them away from humidity and direct sunlight.

How to Make Sushi: Philly Maki Recipe

This recipe makes 8 sushi rolls or 48 sushi pieces.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked sushi rice (short-grain white rice)
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup sushi vinegar, recipe below
  • 6 ounces smoked salmon, cut into strips
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cut to the length of nori sheets then cut into thin strips, approximately ½ by ½ by 7-½ inches
  • ½ seedless cucumber, cut to the length of nori sheets, then cut into thin strips
  • 4 full-size nori sheets, cut in half crosswise
  • Sesame seeds

Editor’s Note: You can learn how to cut cucumber for sushi over at The Japanese Kitchen, where I share recipes and Japanese cooking techniques.

How to Make Sushi Vinegar

In a small saucepan, heat ½ cup rice vinegar, ¼ cup granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon salt over low heat until sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside to cool. This will keep in the refrigerator for several months.

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the sushi rice

how to make sushi riceKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

Rinse rice in a bowl with a stream of fresh water until water is moderately clear. You want to remove some of the excess starch on the outside of the rice. Drain water completely, then put the rice and two cups of water in a rice cooker. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Then, cook rice according to the rice cooker. (Here are the best rice cookers.)

Place the cooked rice into hangiri, or a large bowl, then drizzle ¼ -½ cup of sushi vinegar, depending on the stickiness of the rice, while using a fan to cool the rice. Divide the sushi rice into eight portions and keep them at room temperature, covering with a damp cloth.

(For more tips, check out our guide to how to make sushi rice.)

Step 2: Prepare the roll

Philly Maki_Ingredients how to make sushiKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

Place a half sheet of nori on a cutting board horizontally with the rough side facing up.

With moist hands, spread sushi rice evenly across the nori sheet.

Lift the nori sheet. Slightly wet the cutting board with water, then place the nori rice side down on the cutting board.

Place a strip of cucumber, cream cheese and smoked salmon on the nori sheet. The ingredients should be placed on the nori sheet and not the rice!

Step 3: Roll the maki

First, wrap the bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Then wet your hands. Lift the nori closer to your body, then gently roll the nori sheet and make a roll.

Place the bamboo mat over the roll and gently shape the loose roll into a firm roll. Sprinkle the roll with toasted sesame seeds, if using.

Philly Maki how to make sushiKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

Damp the kitchen knife and cut the roll into six pieces. It helps to cut the roll in half first, then place the halves side-by-side to cut them into equal pieces.

What to Serve with Sushi

Serve the sushi at room temperature with soy sauce and pickled ginger. You can serve with steamed edamame, as well as other sushi rolls, like California rolls or vegetable rolls.

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Koshiki Smith
Hi, my name is Koshiki Smith. My husband and I ran a chef-owned Japanese restaurant in MN. After successfully running the restaurant for 17 years, I decided to pursue my dream of taking clients on culinary journeys to Japan. I am a certified Japan specialist, travel advisor, cooking instructor, and food blogger. In private, I live in Minnesota with my husband, two boys, a dog, and three chickens.