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How to Make Sushi, Vegan Style!
Do you think making sushi vegan is impossible? Are you skeptical that vegan spicy tuna can’t be done?
In this blog post, I’ll have you so jazzed about sushi… vegan sushi… that you’ll be imagining your next dinner party with a giant vegan sushi platter as your centerpiece!
How to Make Vegan Sushi
Making sushi vegan requires a little bit of imagination, especially if you want to move beyond simple raw vegan sushi recipes. Not that those aren’t delish. In fact, I have some really lovely vegan sushi recipes using raw ingredients like strawberry, avocado, cucumber, carrot and fresh herbs.
There are so many more vegan sushi options though! Vegan spicy tuna made with Roma tomatoes, panko-crusted sweet potatoes, unagi style eggplant and miso-glazed tofu are all wonderful ideas for filling your vegan sushi rolls with flavorful ingredients.
Authentic Sushi Rice – The Key to Making Sushi, Vegan Style
One of the keys to making vegan sushi taste amazing (and authentic) is taking the time to make authentic sushi rice. That’s right – the rice used in sushi roll recipes isn’t just plain white rice. It’s a special variety of short-grain rice that becomes both fluffy & sticky when cooked that is then blended with rice vinegar, sugar and salt.
What Makes Sushi Rice Sticky?
The desired sticky result of sushi rice is due to the high starch content found in short-grain rice varietals. This is why, if you’ve ever tried to make sushi with a long-grain white rice, like Jasmine or Basmati rice, the end result has… well… probably fallen apart in your wasabi-soy sauce.
While you want your sushi rice sticky, you’ll also want it to be fluffy. And too much starch will interfere with that balance. This is why you want to first soak and rinse the dry sushi rice before cooking it. I recommend soaking it for at least 30 minutes in cold water before cooking.
How to Cook Sushi Rice
Sushi rice, like other rice varieties, can be cooked over the stove. I really prefer (and recommend) making it in a rice cooker. They’re timed and primed (temperature-wise) for delivering pretty perfect rice results. I personally don’t have a rice cooker, but my KitchenAid Multi-Cooker has a rice setting on it that gets it right every time.
And what is the perfect result? Rice that is fully cooked and fluffy, but still firm. The rice should be sticky, but each grain should retain its shape. If the rice is mushy, then you likely added too much water and overcooked the rice. This is a common error made when making sushi rice on the stovetop.
Giving Sushi Rice a Sweet & Sour Flavor
Once the rice is cooked, you’ll want to allow it to cool slightly before adding the vinegar mixture. The best way to do this is to spread the rice out on a baking sheet. This will prevent trapped heat that will continue to cook the rice even after you remove it from a heat source.
While the rice is cooling, you’ll make the vinegar solution. The recipe is below. Once the rice is cooled, gently toss the dressing into the rice folding it in with a wooden spoon so as not to mash the rice. Then refrigerate the seasoned sushi rice until you’re ready to put your vegan sushi rolls together.
Finding the Ingredients for Sushi Rice
If you’re new to making sushi at home, don’t worry. Finding the ingredients for authentic sushi rice is pretty easy. The short-grain Japanese rice used to make sushi is typically labeled as sushi rice right on the bag. What makes this rice different is its sticky texture when cooked, the result of the
Did you know that the word sushi means “sour tasting.” This is a nod to the way fish was preserved in Japan centuries ago – by wrapping it in fermented rice.
Rice vinegar is available in most grocery stores. It differs from other popular types of vinegar that you might be familiar with, like apple cider vinegar or white vinegar, in that it’s more mild. When you’re shopping for it, be sure to buy unseasoned rice vinegar as seasoned rice vinegar has already been supplemented with sugar and salt.
Seasoned Sushi Rice
- 1 1/2 cups dry sushi rice prepared in accordance with the package directions
- 2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- Rinse the rice in cold water, then soak it for 30 minutes.
- Cook the rice in accordance with the package directions. Note the tips and tricks for making the perfect sushi rice in the blog above.
- When the rice is finished cooking, it should be fluffy, but firm. Each rice grain should still have its shape.
- Cool the rice by spreading it out on a baking sheet.
- While the rice is cooling, bring the vinegar to a low simmer in a small saucepan. When simmering, add the sugar and salt and whisk the solution until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove the solution from heat and allow it to cool slightly.
- When the rice and the vinegar solution have cooled, gently fold the vinegar solution into the rice using a wooden spoon.
- Refrigerate the rice until its ready for use.
How to Roll Sushi
Making sushi at home is actually a lot easier than you might think, but it is really helpful to have a sushi rolling kit. Sushi making kits typically include two bamboo rolling mats, a rice spoon/spatula. This is all you really need, so be aware of kits that include a lot more.
Sushi making kits are pretty easy to use, but it does help to have a tutorial. Here’s a quick visual guide to rolling your own sushi.
Step 1: How to Make Vegan Sushi at Home
Start with a single sheet of nori and place it in the middle of your sushi rolling mat.
Step 2: How to Make Vegan Sushi at Home
Add 1/4 of the sushi rice to the nori and gently spread it out. I find it works best to wet your fingers to keep the rice from sticking to your hands.
Step 3: How to Make Vegan Sushi at Home
Add the ingredients to the bottom third of the nori. Stagger the ends of the ingredients — this will help your sushi rolls stay together.
Step 4: How to Make Vegan Sushi at Home
Starting at the bottom, bring the end of the sushi rolling mat up over the sushi roll filling.
Step 5: How to Make Vegan Sushi at Home
Gently press down on the mat as you roll the sushi. This will compress the ingredients together.
Step 6: How to Make Vegan Sushi at Home
Use a very sharp knife to slice the sushi roll into individual pieces, cleaning it off in fresh water in between each slice. This will help to prevent the knife some sticking and tearing the nori.
How to Create Sushi Bowls & Sushi Tower
If sushi rolls have you feeling overwhelmed, vegan sushi bowls are an easy alternative. Instead of rolling your delicious vegan sushi fillings, just add them to a bowl of sushi rice. My only advice is to watch the balance of rice to fillings when you do this – it’s easy to over-rice your vegan sushi bowls.
Vegan sushi towers are a little harder than sushi bowls, but still easier than vegan sushi rolls. To make a vegan sushi tower, you’ll need what’s called a food ring. They’re inexpensive and can be used for a number of different recipes (fried polenta cakes, anyone?).
For a live demonstration, check out my Vegan Tuna Tower video below.
Check Out My Vegan Sushi Recipes
Vegan Tuna Towers
Did you think you’d have to give up sushi to go vegan? You were right! At least about the way you used to think about sushi.
I promise you won’t miss it though. Not with this vegan sushi tuna tower recipe. This dish is every bit as satisfying as the original, using tomatoes in place of the tuna. Sushi rice, avocado, sesame seeds and crushed pistachios make this homemade vegan sushi tuna tower better than any rolls you’d find at your local sushi joint.
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).
Vegan Sweet Potato & Asparagus Rolls
This sweet potato sushi roll recipe is hands down one of my favorite ways to make sushi at home. These vegan sushi rolls are full of flavor, including crunchy tempura-style sweet potato, fresh asparagus and mint. They’re drizzled with homemade teriyaki sauce and then topped with home-grown microgreens and sesame seeds.
Avocado & Strawberry Vegan Sushi Rolls
You can have your sushi and eat it too – even on a plant-based diet. This Avocado & Strawberry recipe is really simple and contains just a couple of ingredients that are readily found at the supermarket: strawberries, avocado, sushi nori and sushi rice. In addition, I made a very simple sweet soy glaze to drizzle over the top.
What’s in My Kitchen to Make Homemade Vegan Sushi Rolls, Sushi Bowls and Vegan Sushi Towers Easier?
A Really, Really Good Chef’s Knife
No, that’s not the brand. It’s just the idea! But, I own this set of Global™ knives and They’re some of my most prized possessions in the kitchen. This set is universally well-rated for the at-home chef and will get you a good, solid set of knives without totally breaking the bank.
Sushi Making Kit
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!
Admittedly, I didn’t own a tofu press for a long time. I pressed my tofu by wrapping my tofu in a clean tower and topping it with a heavy cast iron skillet. I did this for a number of years without issue until my cast iron tipped off of the tofu on day and landed on my new hardwood floor, denting it. My husband gave me this tofu press for Christmas after that.
Now that I have a tofu press, I’m all about them. And this tofu press is pretty slick. It applies even pressure to a block of tofu. And pressure matters. Too little and you won’t drain enough of the liquid. Too much and you’ll crush your tofu, making it impossible to cube it for even cooking.
Sushi Serving Plates
If you’re going to go to the trouble of making sushi at home, you’ll want to display it properly! These jewel-toned sushi plates include dipping bowls and chopsticks for the full sushi-eating experience!
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a plant-based food blog started by me, a vegan home chef, cookbook author, aspiring food photographer and how-to-be-a-better-food-blogger junkie. You’ll mostly find creative and tasty vegan recipes and detailed deep dives into vegan ingredients (check out my Vegucation section) on my blog. I love knowing as much as I can about the food that I make. I’m also really into running a food blog as a business, so I’ve also got a section of my blog titled: Confessions of a Food Blogger where I get into the nitty gritty on how to build, manage, market and monetize a food blog.