Japanese Vegetarian Cooking – Healthy AND Delicious!

Japanese cuisine is widely regarded as being one of the healthiest there is, and several studies have found that Japanese people, in general, have a high life-expectancy which is attributed to a number of reasons – including the national diet.

Of course, when most people think about Japanese food they think of sushi which, when made with fish, isn’t suitable for vegetarians. However, there are lots of ways to create delicious vegetarian and vegan sushi rolls, so I thought I would share with you an easy vegetarian sushi recipe.

vegetarian food - vegetarian sushi 2

The basics

Ingredients: There is some debate as to whether nori seaweed and wasabi paste, frequently used ingredients in Japanese sushi making, are vegetarian. Strict vegetarians and vegans may, therefore, want to purchase their nori seaweed paper and wasabi paste from natural health stores, as there are vegan variations and alternatives that you can buy.

Sushi makers: If you want to make the process of sushi making that bit easier, you can buy a sushi maker that helps you to create perfectly formed sushi rolls. There are several inexpensive versions on the market; some sushi making devices are kind of rollers while others are more like a press or mold. The traditional way to make sushi is hand rolling on special bamboo sushi rolling mat, but this can be a little tricky for the novice sushi maker, therefore, beginners may find that these little gadgets help to get them off to a good start.

Sushi rice: You will also need to purchase sushi rice, which is a short grain rice that gets a little sticky when cooked, long grain rice isn’t suitable for sushi making. Some people add Japanese rice vinegar, combined with sugar and salt to the water when making sushi rice.

Easy-to-make sushi rolls

This basic, but delicious, sushi roll has a great texture thanks to the avocado. I’ve described the process of making sushi using the hand rolling method, but you can always use a sushi maker if you prefer.


Cooked sushi rice – cooled down

Nori seaweed paper

Avocado and scallions sliced thinly

Sesame seeds

Wasabi (optional)

To make:

  1. Place a sheet of nori seaweed paper, rough side up, on to greaseproof paper or a bamboo sushi mat.
  2. Spread the sushi rice (about ½ cm thick) evenly over the nori paper – leave a little space clear (about ¼ cm) on one side to make the rolling process easier.
  3. Add the thin slices of avocado and scallion and lightly sprinkle over a few sesame seeds and wasabi if you like – but not too much wasabi – remember it’s very hot! Be careful not to overfill your rolls or you’ll struggle to roll them up tightly enough.
  4. With your chosen filling in place, simply roll your sushi tightly and slice the roll into 6-8 pieces as required.
  5. Chill for a little or until ready to serve.

It’s that easy – in theory! Other combinations you could make could be carrot and thinly sliced ginger, or cucumber and pickled daikon (Japanese radish). In fact, you can be as creative as you want and combine all kinds of delicious vegetables and pickles in a sushi roll, as long as you keep your ingredients thinly sliced. You could try asparagus, capsicum peppers, chili peppers, gourd strips, mushrooms, marinated cooked tofu, sun-dried tomatoes or anything else you can think of and in any combination you like.

Taking your sushi rolls to the next level…

If you’re looking for further inspiration for creating mouthwatering sushi rolls, check out this truly amazing sushi recipe I found at the Olives for Dinner blogspot. The author has recreated the texture of tobiko (flying fish roe) in this vegan sushi roll using the ultra-healthy grain amaranth, and achieved its red color by boiling the amaranth in beets. Another blog entry features a vegan sushi roll made using raw collard greens instead of nori paper. Creative and inspirational, don’t you think?

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9 Responses to Japanese Vegetarian Cooking – Healthy AND Delicious!

  1. Jenny Sangler June 15, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    What do you think about the vegetarian sushi? Are you going to try it? Keep your comments coming!

    – Jenny Sangler

  2. Lisa June 15, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    I recently tried Nori rolls and am not a fan. I liked the filling it had avocado and brown rice but I have never been a seafood fan and the Nori was way too salty for me. They do look good and sound good though!

  3. renee June 15, 2012 at 9:55 am #

    (about ½ cm thick)

    Appreciate the recipe. Could you include the standard measurement?

    • Jenny Sangler June 15, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      It will already depend on your preference. But ½ cm thick sushi rice over the nori paper works best for me!

      • renee June 15, 2012 at 10:45 am #

        My point is most Americans don’t know what a centimeter is. 1 centimeter is less than half an inch.

        • Jenny Sangler June 16, 2012 at 12:11 am #

          Thanks for pointing this out! I’ll try to use standard measurement in my future posts.

  4. Holly June 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    I love sushi, although I don’t make it often. My partner doesn’t like the fishy taste of nori. Your readers who are interested in Japanese cuisine should read about bento lunches. Japan has a whole different style and philosophy about bringing lunch from home. Might make an interesting blog entry for you. Here’s a flickr stream on bento lunches:

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