Why Do They Put Cream Cheese in Sushi? (Revealed!)

As much as I adore sushi, I have always thought it a bit odd that cream cheese is a typical ingredient.

However, although it seems strange at first, it does add a certain uniqueness to the taste and texture!

But let’s face it, cream cheese is not exactly a product we associate with Japan.

Does it have any cultural or historical significance?  

Or was cream cheese simply introduced to suit Western tastes? 

Does it really go with rice?

Is cream cheese used for anything else in Japan?

Which sushi rolls is it used in?

Let’s explore the mysteries of cream cheese and sushi!

Cream cheese is a common ingredient in sushi as it adds a unique, tangy flavor and a contrasting texture against the rice. It helps to balance any strong or spicy ingredients in the sushi roll. Cream cheese has historical significance in Japan. It has been used in its cuisine since the 17th century, the Edo period when it was introduced by European traders. Cream cheese is used in other Western-influenced recipes, as well as sushi. It goes particularly well with smoked salmon. Popular sushi dishes that have the addition of cream cheese include Philadelphia rolls, rainbow rolls, and dragon rolls.      

How Does Cream Cheese Add to the Taste and Texture of Sushi?

Maybe you have never actually wondered why there is cream cheese in your sushi roll.

You just take it for granted that there is a creamy, tangy flavor that you can’t quite identify. 

But when you think about it, it’s pretty weird to have cream cheese in Japanese cuisine!

Let’s have a look at what cream cheese adds to the texture and taste of your sushi roll. 

It has to be said that sometimes cream cheese can be a little bland, and this perfectly complements any strong or spicy flavors in your sushi.

And if you have overdone it with the wasabi sauce, it can calm down the intense taste.

Cream cheese does have a slightly sour, salty taste, and it gives a “fatty” mouth feel, which makes the sushi more filling.

As you know, cream cheese has a very soft, spreadable texture, and this goes well with the grainy element of the rice and the seaweed. 

Some people who don’t like the combination of cheese and sushi may argue that it is done to disguise low-quality fish.

This is rarely true, and if you prefer the clean, fresh taste of the fish alone, then sashimi is your best bet. 

What is the Cultural and Historical Context of Cream Cheese in Sushi?

You might be surprised to learn that cream cheese has been used in Japan since the Edo period, which spanned 1603 to 1868.

But it was introduced by European traders and initially was used in sweet dishes, such as Kuri An, which is a chestnut paste.

One of the first uses of cream cheese in a Japanese savory dish was in chawanmushi, which is a bit like egg custard and traditionally served in a teacup.

And of course, it eventually became a staple on sushi rolls, giving them a Western-style influence.


What Are Some Examples of Popular Sushi Rolls with Cream Cheese?

The list of delicious sushi rolls with their endless flavor combinations is an absolute delight and one of my favorite things to explore when in a Japanese restaurant.

Let’s look at some of the most popular options that include cream cheese.

First of all, the Philadelphia roll, a combination of salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber wrapped in rice, of course. 

Another option is the rainbow roll which can be made with different fish mixed with cream cheese, vegetables, and avocado.

Now, not to everybody’s taste is the dragon roll, which has eel added to the avocado, cucumber, and cream cheese.

How to Make Sushi Rolls with Cream Cheese

My Thoughts

  • Cream cheese adds taste and texture to a sushi roll
  • It has been in use in Japan since the 17th century
  • Popular sushi dishes using cream cheese include Philadelphia rolls, dragon rolls, and rainbow rolls

Let me know your favorite sushi roll and whether it includes cream cheese. 

And don’t forget to read my other posts on cream cheese especially if you are interested in what you can use cheese spread for, not just as a snack!

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