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Vegan Sushi Recipes to Make at Home: Easy Vegan Unagi Rolls with Miso Glazed Eggplant
Sometimes I really miss going out for sushi. Unagi rolls especially. I pine for the salty sweetness of the teriyaki sauce combined with the cold creaminess of fresh avocado. I long for the tanginess of sushi rice and the spicy bite of wasabi. And, of course, I just plain miss going out (#covid19timecapsule).
Because going out for sushi holds such fond memories for me, I’m always looking for inventive vegan sushi recipes to try at home. These Unagi Rolls with Miso Glazed Eggplant are the result of my quest to replace my beloved unagi rolls with a vegan sushi option.
What Are Unagi Rolls?
In their traditional preparation Unagi rolls include Japanese eel, a freshwater fish with a mild flavor. The eel is broiled in a teriyaki sauce where the sugars in the teriyaki sauce caramelize and create a sweet, salty crust. The broiled eel is then paired with cucumber or avocado and rolled together with sushi rice and nori seaweed.
Turning Traditional Unagi Rolls into a Vegan Sushi Recipe
In truth, my love for unagi rolls was never about the eel. It was always about the caramelized crust that the broiled eel brought to the finished roll. As such, swapping out traditional unagi rolls for this vegan sushi option was pretty easy. In fact, I think having a vegan version makes getting your unagi roll fix at home much easier.
For this sushi recipe, I decided to use eggplant as my eel substitute. When roasted, eggplant takes on a soft, creamy texture. Not quite the same texture as broiled eel, but really nice in its own right. When the roasted eggplant is combined with the caramelized effect of the broiled miso glaze, the end result is glorious! It pairs so well with creamy avocado and sweet and salty sushi rice.
Why You Should Salt Eggplant Before Roasting It
Eggplant preparation requires an extra step before roasting. Raw eggplant contains quite a bit of water. As it cooks, the water turns to steam which can lead to the eggplant becoming mushy in the oven. To avoid this and to create the crispy, broiled texture on the exterior of the eggplant, I recommend salting the eggplant and allowing it to rest for 10 minutes before introducing it to the broiler. The salt will draw out the moisture, which can then be absorbed with a clean kitchen towel.
Swapping Out Teriyaki Sauce for Miso Glaze
Admittedly, I took creative liberty here. Rather than making a teriyaki sauce to broil my eggplant, I decided to go with one of my favorite eggplant preparations — miso glazed eggplant. Like teriyaki sauce, miso glaze caramelizes beautifully under the broiler. The miso paste is has a similar salty flavor to soy sauce, but I find miso paste to be so much more complex. The result is sticky, sweet, salty perfection.
What is Miso Paste?
If you’re not familiar with miso paste, you’re missing out on one of vegan cooking’s most complex and flavorful ingredients. Miso paste is made by fermenting soybeans into a thick paste. In traditional grocery stores, miso paste can commonly be found as white, yellow and red miso paste. Red miso paste is fermented the longest and is the most pungent, while white and yellow miso paste are lighter and sweeter.
Wrapping These Unagi Rolls in an Easy Sushi Rice Recipe
Not all rice is created equal and that is perhaps never more clear than when one makes a homemade sushi recipe. Sushi rice is more than plain white rice. It’s a special variety of rice seasoned with salt, sugar and rice vinegar for a perfectly tangy flavor.
What Type of Rice Works Best for Sushi Rice?
Sushi rice is a Japanese short-grain rice that becomes sticky without becoming mushy when cooked. It’s commonly identified as “sushi rice” on the packaging. If you can’t find sushi rice, Arborio rice, an Italian short-grain variety used for making risotto can be used as a substitute. I sometimes like to use Lotus Foods’ Organic Jade Pearl Rice® a sushi-style rice infused with bamboo extract (see how I used it for my Vegan Tuna Tower). Avoid long-grain rices like Basmati and Jasmine. Their low water absorption prevents the rice from becoming sticky.
Sushi rice should be rinsed and soaked for 30 minutes prior to cooking. This process reduces the starch content in the rice. While stove-top preparation works, a rice cooker (or, in my case my multi-cooker on a rice function) produces the best textured rice. Too often, I’ve found that stovetop preparation leads to overcooked rice. When cooked properly, sushi rice should strike the balance between tender and firm.
How to Make Vegan Sushi at Home
Making a vegan sushi recipe at home may sound intimidating, but don’t let it scare you away. Making vegan sushi at home is actually pretty easy. It’s also a fun way to include other family members in food preparation.
As with a lot of cooking adventures, making your own sushi at home requires the right equipment. Luckily a sushi making kit is an easy to find, inexpensive purchase. Sushi making kits typically come with bamboo sushi rolling mats, a rice paddle and a rice spreader.
Here’s how to roll sushi at home:
***Note: The images show my unagi rolls as inside-out rolls. This means that the rice is on the outside of the roll with the nori seaweed in between the rice and the fillings. This is a more difficult rolling technique. To do this, you need to put a barrier (wax paper or plastic wrap) in between the bamboo rolling mat and the rice. This will keep the rice from sticking to the bamboo mat. For the final step, slice through the wrap and the roll and then remove the wrap from the final rolls.
What’s in My Kitchen to Make This Vegan Unagi Rolls with Miso Glazed Eggplant Easier?
Want to know what tools and resources I keep on hand to make my vegan cooking even easier? Here’s a short list of what helped me create this blog post and recipe. For the complete list, visit my Shop where you can find the kitchen gadgets I like as well as a list of books that I recommend.
Making a vegan sushi recipe at home may sound intimidating, but don’t let it scare you away. It’s actually a fun way to include other family members in food preparation.
This simple sushi making kit strikes the balance between providing the right equipment and limiting your kitchen gadgets. It comes with 2 bamboo sushi rolling mats, a rice paddle and a rice spreader. All you need to make vegan sushi recipes at home!
A couple of years ago, I replaced my traditional crockpot with this multi cooker. I love this thing. It has settings for sautéing, simmering, braising, boiling, warming and… rice cooking. I like it because of it’s multi-functional settings — so much better than having separate appliances to do all the jobs that this can do!
Down a broiler pan? These aluminum baking sheets come highly recommended by the cooks who know best – Epicurious, Cooks Illustrated and Food & Wine. I bought mine because I needed a good, sturdy baking sheet to use under the broiler. One that wouldn’t warp – and this one lives up to the task.
Aluminum is a good conductor of heat, so these baking sheets cook evenly. They’re also light in color, so they discourage over-browning.
There are a few tools in my kitchen that get used all the time and this mini 4-cup food processor is one of them. It’s perfect for sauces that don’t require me to bring out the big guns. Clean up is easy and it doesn’t take up much space.
Here’s my theory: food tastes better if it’s eaten with the utensils it was designed for. This is why I use Ramen Soup Spoons for my ramen bowls (check out my Veggie Loaded Veggie Ramen) and why I use chopsticks for dishes like my Vegetable Lo Mein.
These fiberglass chopsticks are attractive, inexpensive and reusable and won’t give you splinters!
Vegan Sushi Recipe: Unagi Rolls with Miso Glazed Eggplant
This Vegan Sushi Recipe: Unagi Rolls with Miso Glazed Eggplant is a great way to get your vegan sushi fix at home!
- 1 cup sushi rice soaked for 30 minutes then prepared in accordance with the package directions
- 2 medium-sized eggplants peeled, sliced in 1/2” slices and then cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 4 tbsp light miso paste
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp safflower oil
- 2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 ripe avocados sliced
- 4 sheets nori
- sesame seeds as optional garnishment
- tamari as optional dipping sauce
- 2 tsp wasabi powder + 1 tsp water combined to create a paste, as optional garnishment
- pickled ginger as optional garnishment
Rinse the sushi rice in cold water several times and then soak it in cold water for 30 minutes. After soaking, cook the sushi rice in accordance with the package directions.
Preheat your oven to 425º.
Spread the cut eggplant out on a baking sheet or large cutting board and sprinkle with the salt. Allow the eggplant to rest for 10 minutes. The salt will draw the moisture out of the eggplant.
While the eggplant is resting, prepare the miso glaze by combining the sesame oil, mirin, light miso paste and maple syrup in a small food processor. Pulse until smooth and set aside.
When the eggplant is finished resting, blog the eggplant with a clean kitchen towel and toss it in 1 tbsp safflower oil. Lay the eggplant out on the prepared baking sheet, being careful to keep the pieces separated. Roast the eggplant on the middle rack for 10 minutes. Pause to flip the eggplant and then roast for 10 minutes more.
While the eggplant is roasting, prepare the sushi rice. Combine the unseasoned rice vinegar, white sugar and salt in a small sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and whisk until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Fold the mixture into the cooked rice and then spread the rice out on a baking sheet to cool.
Remove the roasted eggplant from the oven and turn on the broiler. Using a basting brush, brush the marinade on to the eggplant and return the baking sheet to the oven. Broil the eggplant until the miso glaze has caramelized and browned. About 1-2 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven.
Make the sushi rolls by laying 1 sheet of nori on the bamboo rolling mats. Wet your hands (this keeps the rice from sticking to your hands) and add 1/4 of the rice to the nori. Using the rice spreader or your hands, spread the rice out on sheet of nori, creating a thin layer of rice. Place a row of roasted eggplant and sliced avocado about 1/3rd of the way from the bottom of the nori sheet. Starting at the bottom of the mat, roll the mat up and over the filling. Gently press and then continue to roll. Unroll the mat and then use a sharp, wet knife to slice the roll into 6-8 pieces. See my blog post for visual instructions.
Top with sesame seeds, if desired, and serve with tamari, wasabi paste and pickled ginger.
- The images show my unagi rolls as inside-out rolls. This means that the rice is on the outside of the roll with the nori seaweed in between the rice and the fillings. This is a more difficult rolling technique. To do this, you need to put a barrier (wax paper or plastic wrap) in between the bamboo rolling mat and the rice. This will keep the rice from sticking to the bamboo mat. For the final step, slice through the wrap and the roll and then remove the wrap from the final rolls.
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.