How To Roll Sushi Without A Mat: 7 Sushi Mat Substitutes

Making sushi requires a lot of skill. You can call it an art. Little wonder it takes about 5-10 years to train as a sushi chef.

I believe one of the areas where great skill is involved is rolling the sushi. That’s some work! How you roll sushi is as important as every other step.

Sushi or silicone mats are specifically designed for this purpose. But it is not something everyone cares to keep in the house. This does not mean you cannot indulge in making homemade sushi for yourself and your family or friends.

Yes, you can roll sushi without a mat and it will come out restaurant-style. If you have all your ingredients together, let’s get started.

Can you roll sushi without a mat?

Yes. The bamboo mat is important when making sushi, but you can roll sushi without it. A flat and neat surface is necessary for achieving a smooth roll and to make cleaning up faster and easier.

However, if you do not have a bamboo mat, you can make do with any of the options in the list below.

Sushi mat substitutes

1. Parchment paper or baking paper

Parchment or baking paper can replace bamboo mats when making sushi. They are readily available and easy to use, even for sushi beginners. Lay out the paper on a clean dry surface and place a clean plastic wrap on it.

Neatly arrange the rice and all other fillings on the nori sheet and lift the paper at the ends as you roll. Roll away from you until you have a smooth cylindrical roll. If you are making multiple rolls, use fresh paper for every roll.

2. A kitchen towel

If you have a lint-free kitchen towel, you can make do with that. This towel can give you the smooth surface and sturdiness of a bamboo mat. You can be sure that your sushi rolls will come out perfectly with this.

Moreover, you can use the towel to clean up when you are done. But you must use a clean towel.

If you like to make inside-out rolls, put clean plastic wrap on the towel before putting the nori and all other ingredients.

If you don’t to a thick towel, you can use any clean, thick cloth you have in the house.

3. Chart paper

If you have any chart papers in the house, here is how to put them to good use.

Spread the paper on your work area and put the plastic wrap (if you want to make inside-out rolls). Afterward, put the nori sheet on the wrap and arrange the ingredients.

Roll from one side and be careful not to apply too much pressure as you roll. Otherwise, you could ruin the roll.

4. Newspaper or tissue paper

If you don’t have any of the above, you can make use of those old newspapers. You may also be wondering how you can roll sushi with tissue paper instead of a mat. Tissues are soft enough to help the rolling process.

Fold the newspaper into a neat square so it can take the nori sheet. If you are thinking of using tissue paper, take about 5 to 6 tissue papers and stack them on each other.

The number of tissue paper you use will depend on the thickness of the paper.

Like with the towel, you can clean up afterward using the tissue paper. Additionally, ensure you are using lint-free tissue paper to avoid getting lint on your rolls.

5. Cling film

This sushi mat substitute is better for experts. If you use it as a beginner, you may not have a smooth roll. But you may give it a try. Who knows?

Spread the cling film on a clean, dry work area. Put the nori sheet on the film and layer on the fillings.

Carefully pick the ends of the film and roll gently, applying little pressure to ensure the seal is firm. Afterward, remove the wrap and cut your sushi roll into bite-size pieces.

6. Silicone food-grade mats

Those rubber dining mats will work too. They are flexible and lay well without wrinkles, which makes them easy to work with. So, don’t think you cannot roll sushi without the regular bamboo mat.

Take one of those mats, wash it, and set it on a flat surface. You can put a plastic wrap over it if you want to make some inside-out sushi rolls. Place the nori sheet on the wrap, add the fillings, and roll it up.

7. Roll sushi without a mat

You can skip the mat or papers entirely. Clean your counter area and place the nori sheet on it.

Arrange all fillings on the sheet and roll. Apply gentle pressure as you roll and dampen the ends of the nori sheet to seal it.

How to roll sushi without a mat

What you need

  • A thick towel or any other sushi mat substitute
  • Nori sheet
  • Bowl of warm water
  • A small knife
  • Cutting board
  • Sushi rice – medium or short grain white rice or brown rice
  • Water
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Sushi fillings – veggies, seafood, meats, etc.


  • Wash the rice with a mesh strainer
  • Boil the rice with water, rice vinegar, salt and sugar
  • Cook until the whole water is absorbed and the rice is sticky
  • While you wait for the rice to cook, chop your fillings into thin slices
  • When the rice is ready, leave it to cool
  • Then, spread your sushi mat substitute on the countertop and lay the plastic wrap on it
  • Layer a nori sheet over the plastic wrap and begin to fill
  • Use your hands to spread a thin layer of rice on the nori
  • Dip your fingers into the bowl of warm water to keep the rice from sticking and creating a mess
  • Add other fillings to the rice
  • Now it’s time to roll
  • Lift the edge of the nori sheet with the filling and roll away from you
  • Apply gentle pressure as you roll to create a firm roll
  • Roll until the whole fillings are covered. As you roll, you can use your hands to keep the fillings from falling out
  • The nori isn’t sealing, wet the ends a little and seal
  • Do this for as many sheets as you have
  • When you are done making the rolls, cut them into bite-size pieces and serve. While you cut, wipe the knife on a wet cloth in between cuts to prevent rice from sticking


Can you roll sushi by hand?

Yes, you can roll sushi by hand. The hand-roll sushi is simpler to make. It also allows you to make bigger sizes, unlike the bite-size pieces.

What is the difference between sushi roll and hand roll sushi?

A sushi roll (maki) is a cylindrical roll that is cut into 6 to 8 bite-size pieces. Hand roll sushi (temaki) has a cone shape and is bigger than the sushi roll.

Unlike the sushi roll, you have to bite into it. Both types of sushi are offered in some restaurants, and you can make them yourself.

Can you use cucumber to roll sushi instead of nori?

Yes, you can. After peeling off the green skin on your cucumbers, the thick white flesh without the seeds can also serve as a substitute for nori.

It will also help to boost the nutritional value of your sushi. Thinly cut the cucumber flesh and use it as a wrapper for your fillings.


If you plan to always have a good kitchen time, you get familiar with food substitutes and improvisation options. Who would have thought that these basic kitchen items could hold so much worth?

Keep these items away from kitchen pests. But you can invest in a bamboo mat if you like. There are also simple kitchen appliances you can buy to help you roll sushi professionally.

Ever heard of or tried masago? Learn about this not-so-common ingredient that makes a good choice for filling sushi.

Thanks for reading.