Hey sushi fans, ever bitten into a roll and gotten a tangy cream cheese surprise? While not traditional, cream cheese can add a luscious richness to modern sushi rolls. Popular options include:
- Crab and cream cheese rolls – With imitation crab and cucumber
- Devil’s advocate roll – Smoked salmon and onions with cream cheese
- Philadelphia roll – Filled with salmon, cream cheese and avocado
However, cream cheese is not used in traditional Japanese sushi. And too much can overwhelm the fresh fish flavors. When making sushi at home, slice cream cheese thinly and use sparingly.
Want to learn more about this creamy addition? In this article, we’ll dive into the history of cream cheese in sushi, popular types of rolls using it, and pro tips for enjoying it without overdoing it. Let’s unravel the mystery of this rich ingredient!
A Non-Traditional Sushi Ingredient
Authentic Japanese sushi does not contain cream cheese. Traditional sushi is focused on fresh, high-quality seafood and rice. Extras like avocado and cream cheese are considered more modern, Western-influenced ingredients.
The origins of cream cheese in sushi are believed to trace back to North America in the 1970s. As sushi grew in popularity, chefs began experimenting by incorporating new ingredients. The result was early fusion-style rolls like the California roll with avocado and cream cheese.
Over the years, cream cheese has become a popular ingredient at American sushi restaurants. It provides a rich, creamy texture and flavor contrast. But traditional sushi bars in Japan still do not use this non-native ingredient.
Popular Types of Cream Cheese Sushi
While not authentically Japanese, rolls featuring cream cheese have become menu staples at many sushi restaurants. Some favorite options include:
Philadelphia Roll – The classic! With salmon, cream cheese, and avocado inside an uramaki roll.
BC Roll – Contains smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber.
Rainbow Roll – Often includes crab and avocado inside, topped with assorted fish and cream cheese.
Dynamite Roll – Spicy crab salad and cucumber topped with a creamy mix of crab, mayo and cream cheese.
Dragon Roll – With crab, cucumber or avocado inside, topped with eel and cream cheese.
Crispy Spicy Tuna Roll – Spicy tuna and cucumber in tempura, with cream cheese topping.
Pro Tips for Enjoying Cream Cheese Sushi
While cream cheese sushi provides indulgence, it does have some pitfalls. Here are some tips for enjoying it properly:
- Use sparingly – A little cream cheese goes a long way. Too much overwhelms the fish.
- Slice thinly – Cut cream cheese horizontally into thin strips to keep the amount modest.
- Complement, don’t compete – Pick cream cheese rolls where it complements, not masks, the fish.
- Balance flavors – Pair creamy cheese with crisp veggies like cucumber to cut the richness.
- Fresh and chilled – Use recently opened, chilled cream cheese so the texture is optimally smooth.
Make Your Own Cream Cheese Sushi
Want to try making cream cheese sushi at home? Here are some beginner roll recipes to start with:
- Crab sticks, avocado, cucumber
- Cream cheese strip down center
- Wrapped with toasted nori and sushi rice
Smoked Salmon Roll
- Smoked salmon, sliced thin
- Cream cheese strip
- Rice outer layer
Spicy Tuna Cream Cheese Roll
- Spicy tuna mix (tuna, sriracha, mayo)
- Sliced cream cheese topper
- Toasted sesame seeds
Start with simple ingredients like crab, salmon, tuna and cucumber to let the cream cheese flavor shine through.
Traditional Sushi Alternatives
To experience authentic Japanese sushi, opt for rolls and nigiri without cream cheese. Popular options include:
- Tuna rolls – Maguro, spicy tuna, tekka maki
- Salmon rolls – Sake, ashimi oshi, salmon skin rolls
- Yellowtail rolls – Hamachi, jalapeno yellowtail
- Shrimp nigiri – Sweet Ebi nigiri or aged botan ebi
- Sea urchin nigiri – Rich uni nigiri
- Squid nigiri – Chewy ika nigiri
Skip the cream cheese and try traditional nigiri sushi and maki rolls focused on the fresh fish itself.
A Little Goes a Long Way
When it comes to cream cheese in sushi, moderation is key. Used sparingly, it can lend a decadent flavor. But too much cream cheese overwhelms the roll. Stick to a thin strip in your sushi and savor the contrast of creamy and fresh fish flavors in balance.
While not traditional, cream cheese has certainly left its mark on modern sushi. For an indulgent experience, don’t be afraid to try a cream cheese-topped specialty roll, like a dragon or rainbow roll. But also take the opportunity to taste authentic Japanese sushi focused purely on quality seafood itself. You may just find a new favorite!