How to Make Canned Tuna Sushi

Our canned tuna sushi recipe is simple to make at home. It's healthy, kid-friendly and affordable, too!

This canned tuna sushi recipe, often called tuna salad maki or lettuce maki in Japan, has an unusual history. In 1966, the Ippei Sushi restaurant in Miyazaki, Japan, wanted to develop a unique take on sushi. Up until this time, only fresh, raw fish with vinegared rice qualified as sushi. It was never made from cooked seafood.

But after many hit-or-miss combinations, the restaurant’s owner, Shoji Muraoka, and his friend Masaaki Hirao finally created a sushi roll consisting of lettuce, cooked prawn and mayonnaise. It was Shoji’s effort to create “healthy sushi” for picky eaters who disliked vegetables, including his friend, Masaaki.

Today, Ippei Sushi still serves this lettuce maki to honor the friendship. You’ll find many variations of salad maki across Japan, in grocery stores, sushi restaurants and even convenience stores, all at an affordable price. This sushi is often made with crab sticks (imitation crab), cooked shrimp, tamagoyaki and, of course, canned tuna.

How to Make Tuna Salad Maki, Step by Step

Canned tuna sushi is a great choice for people who may not otherwise be able to enjoy sushi (like pregnant women, young children and those with a compromised immune system). Because the fish is not raw, it also makes a perfect takeaway for lunch.

Our canned tuna sushi recipe makes four maki rolls or 32 sliced pieces.


  • 1 can (5 ounces) albacore white tuna in water, drained
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 sheets of nori (a traditional Japanese ingredient)
  • 5 cups cooked sushi rice
  • 4 leaves butter lettuce, washed
  • 4 sticks cut English cucumber
  • Soy sauce for serving
  • Pickled ginger for serving

You can learn how to cut cucumber for sushi over at The Japanese Kitchen.


Step 1: Gather your ingredients

Tuna Salad Maki Ingredients Canned tuna sushi recipeKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

This is called mise en place, and it’s taught in culinary schools. You don’t have to be a professional chef to get organized in the kitchen, and it makes assembling a dish with many ingredients much easier!

Step 2: Make the tuna salad

Tuna Salad Canned tuna sushi recipeKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

Mix the canned tuna, mayonnaise, sesame oil, a pinch of salt and, if you like, chili oil. You can adjust the spiciness to your taste and then set it aside.

Step 3: Prepare the nori

Prepare the nori Canned tuna sushi recipeKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

Place a bamboo mat on a cutting board, and put a full sheet of nori on the mat with the rough side facing up.

Using wet hands, spread sushi rice across the nori sheet evenly, except for an inch at the top. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the sushi rice.

Step 4: Assemble the sushi

Assemble the sushi Canned tuna sushi recipeKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

Arrange a spoonful of the tuna mixture, a stick of cucumber and a leaf of lettuce across the rice.

Step 5: Roll

Roll Canned tuna sushi recipeKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

To roll, pull up the side of the bamboo mat nearest to you and fold it over the fillings.

Pull back the edge of the mat and continue to roll tightly until the whole roll is complete.

Step 6: Cut

Canned tuna sushi recipeKoshiki Smith for Taste of Home

Let your canned tuna sushi rest for a few minutes before cutting it into eight pieces with a sharp, wet knife. (This will prevent the rice from sticking and give you clean, even cuts.)

Plate the sushi and serve with soy sauce and pickled ginger. You can make it a meal with a bowl of miso soup or put it on a platter with different types of sushi, such as Philly maki and California rolls.

Canned Tuna Sushi Tips

Practice makes perfect

Rolling sushi for the first time is always challenging, so practice! Since tuna salad maki does not use raw fish and is easy to handle, practice rolling with children. It’s a good way to start cooking with kids.

Invest in a bamboo mat

You’ll need a bamboo mat for the best rolling results. (This sushi kit has a bamboo mat, plus other essentials.) However, you may use a kitchen towel in a pinch. The technique used in rolling the sushi is similar to making jelly rolls or strudel cake.

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.