As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of food that serves as a vehicle for other food/sauce. Sushi checks all the boxes as it’s literally food rolled up in other food. And rice is involved, so I’m definitely in.
To be honest, when I decided to move my diet over to plant-based, I figured sushi would be really hard to give up. I had visions of eating avocado rolls for the rest of my life, and that felt boring to me (which is saying something because I love avocado). Single-vegetable rolls are yummy, but they don’t seem to measure up to the creativity that sushi represents. I need lots of color, lots of texture, and lots of flavor. And I just assumed that vegan sushi couldn’t stack up. I was quickly humbled.
Much like any other food out there these days, plant-based sushi can hold it’s own in a sea of ‘mainstream’ rolls (how many water puns is too many…?). Due to higher demand, chefs are climbing out of their comfortable boxes and into a new world of plant-inspired innovation (which is how I had this many options to choose from on vacation a couple of months ago – more on this place soon).
Restaurant sushi is awesome, but sometimes you have that craving at home and just can’t justify putting on real clothes and driving to sit somewhere when you can create sushi magic in the comfort of your own yoga pants and kitchen. That’s what this post is for.
In my opinion, you need a few essentials to make sushi rolls ( nori , rice , some kind of dipping sauce ), but you can play around with the add-ins. I usually just grab what’s in my refrigerator at the moment and make sense of it. The base of sushi is pretty plain, so it’s a great foundation for basically anything (except maybe chocolate…If someone makes delicious chocolate sushi out there, let me know).
For our recipe, I used sweet potato, avocado, green onion, beets, Trader Joe’s sriracha tofu and marinated kale. The cool thing about having a smorgasboard of ingredients is that you can create different combos and variety. Here’s a quick rundown of how I prepped each ingredient:
-Sweet potato: baked in oven at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Remove skin and slice into long, thin sections
-Avocado – cut open and slice into long, thin sections.
-Green onion – cut just above white base (leaving only green stem). Cut again in half or thirds (depending on how long it is).
-Beets – I bought pre-cooked beets and cut them into thin sections, but you can also roast your own.
– Trader Joe’s sriracha tofu – sauteed in a pan over medium-high until golden brown.
-Kale – marinated in about 1/4 C rice wine vinegar + 2 T tamari sauce. Massage vinegar and tamari into the kale really well.
Cook your sushi rice according to the package instructions about 2 hours before making sushi (it needs to have time to cool so you don’t get third degree burns from making your rolls). I add about 3 T each of rice wine vinegar and tamari to give it a little extra flavor, but this is totally optional.
Clear a space that gives you room for all of your ingredients, plus space to roll. Put everything around your nori sheet within arms reach so you feel organized (especially if you have multiple ingredients – you’re working with a lot, so don’t make it harder on yourself by having everything scattered).
When you’re prepared, scoop cooked/cooled rice into a large bowl and add it near the ‘rolling station.’ Also grab a small bowl and fill it halfway with filtered water and a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar (this is to dip your fingers in while making your rolls, so they don’t stick).
You’re ready to make your first roll (finally). Layer rice (enough to cover, but not too thick. Smash it down to create more coverage), leaving out about 1/2-3/4 inch at the top. Add your ingredients of choice (I’d recommend no more than 2-4 to keep your rolls manageable) in a thin, neat row in the center of your sheet.
Dip your fingers in the water and run a light strip of water along the clean top of the sheet. Start at the bottom of your sheet, rolling it tightly toward the center. The key is to keep pressure as you’re rolling and to maintain as much tightness as possible so you don’t end up with something that’s falling apart (for some reason I can’t seem to get Snoop Dogg out of my head right now…).
Once you get to the end of the roll, seal the edges with the damp clean end (and add a little extra water along the seam if needed). You did it! With a clean knife (carefully run a little water along the blade to help with a smooth cut), slice roll at a diagonal in half (for ‘burrito’ style), or in 1/2 inch medallions for traditional sushi.
Don’t get discouraged if your first couple of rolls are a bit messy – sushi-making is definitely a ‘practice makes sort of okay’ type thing. I’ve made my own sushi approximately 37 times, and I still end up with the occasional overpacked roll or loose edge. It will still taste good, and you’ll get better. Promise.
Dip in chosen sauce and eat way more than you should. Enjoy!
Veggie sushi ingredients
Yield: approximately 6-7 rolls (depending on how many ingredients you add to each)
-1 sweet potato, baked
-2 avocados, cut
-4-5 sprigs of green onion, cut
-2-3 small beets, cooked and cut
-1/2 block of Trader Joe’s sriracha tofu, sliced thin and cooked
-2 C organic dino lacinato kale
-1 C rice wine vinegar (dispersed among various areas of the recipe, noted in instructions above)
-5 T of organic tamari (plus more for dipping, if you choose)
-Sushi rice (I followed the instructions on the bag for 8-10 C of cooked rice)
-Filtered water (to dip fingers)
-Organic Pacific Nori (6-7 sheets – or 1 for every roll you make)