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I Tried TikTok’s Viral Sushi Bake and It’s Delicious (and Cheaper Than Takeout)

January 15, 2024
Courtesy of Pamela Vachon

The words “sushi” and “bake” would seem to contradict each other, since most sushi we see in restaurants is uncooked (except for the rice, of course). That didn’t stop “sushi bake” from going viral on TikTok, however. This dish, a simple casserole made from salmon, imitation crab, and rice, serves up familiar sushi flavors, no rolling required.

In terms of takeout favorites, sushi is generally on the healthier side, as unadulterated seafood — a great source of protein — is the star of the show. While the sushi bake recipes I found on TikTok often include some indulgent ingredients like cream cheese and Japanese mayonnaise, ultimately, since you’re making it, you control what’s in the dish. Plus, you do find those ingredients often on restaurant menus, too.

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How to make the TikTok sushi bake

There are many sushi bake recipes available on TikTok, but I went with @gaming_foodie Alissa Nguyen’s 30-minute sushi bake recipe, which has a whopping 37.6 million views.

To make the recipe (about 4 servings) you will need:

  • 8 oz salmon, seasoned to preference (I used miso paste and garlic powder)
  • 8 oz imitation crab, shredded into small pieces
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • ¼ cup Japanese mayonnaise (kewpie mayo), plus extra for garnish
  • 1 tbsp sriracha, plus extra for garnish
  • 2 to 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (use unseasoned for less sugar)
  • 2 to 3 sheets nori, plus extra for serving
  • Garnishes (optional): furikake, cucumber, scallions, avocado, jalapeño, etc.
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Season the salmon to your liking and cook until just cooked through. Nguyen suggests 9 minutes in the air fryer on 400ºF. Since I was heating the oven anyway to complete the recipe, I cooked it for about 12 minutes at 375ºF, spread with a little miso paste, garlic powder, and olive oil. Let it cool slightly.
  2. Shred the cooked salmon, transfer to a bowl and add the imitation crab, cream cheese, Japanese mayonnaise, and sriracha; fold until well combined.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the cooked rice and vinegar; fold until incorporated. (Pro tip: I like to buy already cooked rice from my local Chinese restaurant. Note that sushi rice from a Japanese restaurant will already be seasoned with vinegar and likely a little sugar.)
  4. Assemble: In an oven-safe dish, spread the rice in an even layer. Rip the nori into pieces and place on top of the rice. Spread the salmon mixture evenly over the nori. Bake until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Optional: For a crisp top, you can broil it for 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to prevent burning).
  5. Garnish to your liking with furikake, additional Japanese mayonnaise and sriracha, cucumber, avocado, scallions, and/or jalapeño. You can eat the sushi bake casserole-style, or Nguyen also suggests making mini hand rolls with squares of nori.

My honest review

The TikTok sushi bake was incredibly easy to execute, and offers pretty high flavor rewards with minimal effort. Since no precise ratios are involved, the dish is easily scalable: With the right size baking dish, you could make it for one person, four or even a dozen. Between the salmon, nori, and seasoned rice, the dish definitely evokes sushi. I missed both soy sauce and ginger, but you could easily garnish the bake with either or both.

A few words on imitation crab, which Nguyen specifically calls for. Often labeled as “crab stick,” imitation crab is very likely what’s being served in your local restaurant’s California roll, and is a valid element in sushi. While it isn’t real crab, it is made with real seafood, often a neutral-tasting fish like polluck. The fish is ground into a paste with starch, and seasoned to taste like crab. It offers a specific sweetness that I think I would miss if it was left out, but this recipe is infinitely customizable should you be put off by imitation anything, or have the budget for real crab. (In the video, Nguyen jokes, “In this economy? I’m not trying to serve real crab on a Tuesday night.”)

How (and why) to make a sushi bake your own

Why try a sushi bake? If you love sushi and are curious about making your own, you might be intimidated by the knife or rolling skills required, or dubious about whether your locally available seafood is “sushi grade.” Or, you might want to enjoy the flavors of sushi but also save some cash.

Once you endeavor to try it, you can follow the recipe to the letter, or change it up to suit your personal taste, nutrition goals, or ingredients you have on hand. Here are some suggestions:

  • Lighten it up. Some recipes I saw called for quite a bit of cream cheese and/or mayo. But the recipes don’t require precision, so feel free to swap in a lighter cream cheese like neufchâtel, substitute Greek yogurt for some or all of the mayo, or just use less cream cheese and/or mayo. Make sure to use just enough of either or both to bind the salmon mixture. 
  • Sub the rice. Use riced cauliflower or shredded and drained zucchini in place of some of the rice. Or use brown rice instead of white for more antioxidants and fiber.
  • Go fish. Try different seafood options instead of salmon and crab. Use white fish like halibut, or diced shrimp, or even canned tuna. Or make a vegetarian sushi bake with tofu, mushrooms, or cooked sweet potatoes instead of the fish.
  • Get saucy. Swap other spicy players for the sriracha; chili crunch or sambal would work nicely.

One final tip: The sushi bake is also good cold, so feel free to make extra for meal-prepping purposes, and just add fresh garnish whenever you’re ready to eat.

Read next: I Tried TikTok’s Viral Chicken Caesar Salad Wrap and I’m Never Going Back

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