24 October, 2020, 04:51

Where to get your fill of “trending” Sonoran sushi. It’s a thing.

Deemed "Tucson’s buzziest newcomer" by Eater magazine.

If you want to explore sushi but not raw fish, Sonoran sushi might be for you.

While sushi is most well-known for raw fish, the word sushi literally means prepared vinegared rice; fish is not a necessity.

Neither raw fish nor the balance between vinegar and rice are the focus in Sonoran sushi. The sushi rolls are often fried and filled with unconventional ingredients such as buffalo chicken and carne asada.

And cream cheese; the level of cream cheese can be polarizing. If you love crab puffs from Chinese takeout restaurants, Sonoran sushi should be right up your alley. If you’re a sushi purist that yells at people for mixing wasabi into their soy sauce, look away.

Additionally, Sonoran sushi takes liberty with the sauces. Lime-soy sauce and chipotle mayo are the prominent dipping sauces; lime helps cut through the deep fried richness, while chipotle mayo accentuates into guilty pleasure territory.

In April 2019, we reported on how Eater just gave Tucson a shout-out for “Sonoran sushi.”

Although the Sonoran hot dog has become Tucson’s unofficial food mascot, Sonoran sushi was the focus of Eater’s article.

In the article In Sonora, and in Tucson, Mexican Sushi Means Boneless Buffalo Wings, Eater highlighted the lesser known combination of cuisines as a trending food:

And then there’s Sonoran sushi, Tucson’s buzziest newcomer. Sonoran sushi is not a Mexican-American invention, nor is it some jalapeno-laden riff on the rock and roll sushi craze of the late 1980s and ’90s — though its embrace of excess (and cream cheese) does hint at that era. In fact, Sonoran sushi may be Tucson’s most direct-line Sonoran culinary import since that lauded, loaded hot dog.

While Sonoran’s sushi buzz-status is easily debatable, the options have indeed grown within recent years. Three of the four restaurants below are within a one mile stretch on 12th Avenue, while a handful of conventional sushi restaurants around town include a few Sonoran-style sushi rolls.

El Sushi de Papa La Carreta

4762 S. 12th Ave. • Noon – 9 p.m. daily
Mar y Tierra roll from El Sushi de Papa

Mar y Tierra roll from El Sushi de Papa (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

Out of the sushi options, we ended up preferring the Mar y Tierra roll, since the seaweed surrounds the rice instead of having dense rice on the outside of the roll.

You can also order chicken breast or shrimp stuffed with cream cheese and fried, served on fried rice.

Keep up with El Sushi de Papa La Carreta on Facebook.

Sushi Kito

5650 S. 12th Ave. • 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Monday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Sunday
Sushi Kito (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Sushi Kito (Credit: Jackie Tran)

We tried the Boneless Roll with mango habanero sauce, the Explosion Roll, and the Kito Roll. The rice was densely packed, making these rolls as filling as poi or mofongo.

You can also find Sonoran-Italian cuisine here (!?) with dishes such as Fettucine Poblano, which features a creamy sauce, strips of poblano, and kernels of corn.

Keep up with Sushi Kito on Facebook.


5420 S. 12th Ave. • 3 – 9 p.m. Sunday, 3 – 10 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday

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This sushi ain’t playin & neither are we ?

A post shared by Lu (@louluelu) on

The namesake Sushi-Lito Roll features cheese, breaded shrimp, imitation crab, Sriracha, eel sauce, and scallions.

Sushi-Lito also offers chicken wings (alitas) and boneless wings in barbecue or buffalo flavors. Additionally, they offer chiles rellenos stuffed with shrimp or imitation crab.

Keep up with Sushi-Lito on Facebook.


332 W. Ajo Way • Noon – 9 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday; noon – 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Roll from SushiSon

Sonorita Roll from SushiSon (Photo courtesy of SushiSon on Facebook)

SushiSon’s Sonorita Roll feels like a combination of a carne asada chimichanga and Eegee’s fries with bacon bits on top. You’ll need to run a triathlon to burn off this one.

If you want to share with coworkers, take advantage of the Wednesday specials by calling ahead at (520) 704-0059 and ordering three rolls for $20.

Keep up with SushiSon on Facebook.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.