What is a Dragon Roll Made of?

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Stepping into the tasty and exotic world of sushi can be a little overwhelming if you’re unsure of the ingredients that make up the various types of sushi. If you’re trying your hand at a sushi dish in a restaurant your sushi experience can become more daunting if all you’re reading is a list of names without any mention of ingredients, sauces or types of fish used.

Many people new to sushi quickly find out that the term “sushi” covers a very extensive type of food. A host of different seafood, vegetables, sauces and even fruit combinations make up different sushi bites, snacks and even full meals.

One of the more popular sushi dishes is without a doubt dragon rolls. If you’re wondering what it’s made of, then reading this article will answer that question. We’ll also look at the quickest (and most tasty) way to prepare it at home. Keep reading as we take a closer look at what ingredients are in a dragon roll.

The Classic Dragon Roll – What’s It All About?

What is a Dragon Roll Made Of
Credit: @sushoku

Many people who aren’t too familiar with many sushi variations, types or ingredients often refer to a dragon roll as a “sushi roll.” However, that term is very broad considering that there are several very different types of sushi rolls, of which a dragon roll is only one.

What is a Dragon Roll?

That being said, dragon rolls are often regarded as one of the most popular types of sushi rolls. Traditionally, a festive dragon roll is simply a delicious uramaki sushi roll made up of avocado, unagi and shrimp tempura. The roll is made to look like a dragon by placing slices of avocado on top to represent the scales of a dragon. The most traditional filling is made of eel and cucumber. Essentially, the dish looks like an inside-out sushi roll.

Why is it Called a Dragon Roll?

When you start your sushi journey, it’s worth noting that contrary to popular belief, not all sushi dishes are traditional Eastern style. With the growing interest in sushi dishes, western style variations have crept in. The dragon roll, also known as a caterpillar roll, is so-called because it’s wrapped in green layers of avocado and cucumber slices to resemble a dragon’s scales.

The dish itself is long and served in the shape of a dragon or caterpillar. This means that instead of placing the slices next to each other on a platter, you’d place them one behind the other. You also wouldn’t place other types of sushi in the same tray as this would spoil the illusion of a dragon or caterpillar lying on your plate.

How is a Dragon Roll Different From a California Roll?

Another popular sushi roll is the California Roll. Since many new sushi eaters don’t know the difference between the various sushi rolls, they might end up ordering one thinking it’s the other! Essentially, a California roll is another Western-style sushi roll and contains Nori, crab, cucumber and sesame seeds. In most cases, the cucumber in a California roll is placed on the inside as part of the filling.

What Are the Ingredients in a Dragon Roll?

A Western-style Dragon roll has a few traditional ingredients which include the following:

  • Avocado
  • Crab sticks/eel/shrimp tempura
  • Cucumber
  • Sushi rice
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • Wasabi (optional)
  • Nori seaweed (in some recipes)

Read More: 35 Fun and Tasty Sushi Filling Ideas

Can You Put Raw Fish in a Classic Dragon Roll?

Ordinarily, dragon rolls served in restaurants don’t contain raw fish. The meat content can be imitation crab sticks, crispy shrimp tempura or barbequed eel. If you’re making dragon rolls at home you could opt to place a sliver of salmon inside the filling, but it wouldn’t be a dragon roll anymore. We recommend you stick with one of the seafood options we’ve listed.

Side note: The traditional version of dragon rolls that don’t contain any raw fish are perfectly safe to eat during pregnancy.

Also Read: Can Sushi Be Cooked?

How Do You Make a Dragon Roll?

How Do You Make a Dragon Roll
Credit: @sushirollkumi

Planning to try dragon rolls at home? We’ve got you covered with our easy-to-follow recipe. Read on to see just how easy it is to make a classic dragon roll.


  • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
  • 2-3 nori sheets
  • ½ cucumber sliced into thin julienne sticks to add to the filling
  • Optional: Add other thinly sliced vegetables for flavor and color such as raw beetroot or carrots, always pick colors that stick out against the rice
  • 5 crab sticks sliced in half lengths for the filling (can be substituted with smoked eel or shrimp tempura)
  • 1 avocado sliced thinly for filling, sprinkled with lime juice to keep it fresh
  • 1 avocado thinly sliced for topping, sprinkled with lime juice to keep it fresh
  • Coarse black pepper to taste


  • Prepare the sushi rice (never use regular rice)
  • Have a small bowl of water on hand to keep your hands wet while handling the sushi rice as it gets sticky if your hands are dry
  • Spread the sushi rice onto a nori sheet
  • Place the cucumber and any other vegetables you’re using for the filling on top of the rice
  • Place your fish meat to seafood of choice on top of the rice and veggie sticks
  • Roll the nori in the inside-out style and gently cut the edges
  • Leave the rolled sushi to rest
  • Start placing the sliced avocados onto the rolled nori
  • By overlapping the avocado slices you’ll create the “dragon scale look”
  • Cut the roll and realign it in the shape of a dragon on your serving platter
  • Time to get creative – use some tobiko (orange fish roe) or black olives to create eyes, carrots for horns, prawn tail as a tail on the back end and so on
  • If you’re not using the tobiko for eyes, you can also sprinkle some of it over the scales
  • Serve your classic dragon roll with teriyaki or wasabi sauce on the side
  • If you feel that your dragon scales don’t have enough texture, you can sprinkle a few (not too much!) sesame seeds along the back of your dragon
  • Traditionally dragon rolls are eaten by hand, but you can use chopsticks if you prefer

Pro tip: Invest in a bamboo rolling mat. Making many types of sushi, dragon and California rolls, in particular, are so much easier if you roll the nori with a rolling mat. Alternatively, if you don’t have a bamboo mat on hand, you can use baking paper to roll and tighten your sushi.

Check this video for more ideas:

Read More:

Final Thought

There you have it – dragon rolls explained! If you’re going to a sushi restaurant soon, you can comfortably order a dragon roll or two without wondering if you’re going to bite into something unknown or even scary. Dragon rolls are easy enough to make at home and are a great way to start your sushi journey!

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