What Is Vegan Sushi?

Lainie Petersen

Vegan sushi is sushi that is made without the use of animal ingredients such as fish, eggs, or cream cheese. While the term sushi is often associated with raw fish, in fact there are many different types of sushi that utilize cooked fish or no fish at all. In many cases, vegan sushi is made either in maki-style, characterized by bite-sized slices of a sushi roll, as well as in a larger hand-roll style. This is because many vegan ingredients do not drape over a seasoned rice base as well as fish does in a standard nigiri preparation. Eating vegan sushi is not limited to vegans, as many people appreciate the flavor of sushi and admire its artistry and appearance but either have an aversion to raw fish or are concerned about its safety when it is prepared ahead of time for parties and special events.

Hosomaki rolls underneath an uramaki roll, including some vegan sushi.
Hosomaki rolls underneath an uramaki roll, including some vegan sushi.

The ingredients for vegan sushi vary significantly depending on the preference of both chef and diners. Typically, sushi rolls are prepared with seaweed-encased seasoned rice that has been wrapped around various types of fillings. A very simple type of vegan sushi would be a straightforward maki in which sushi rice and seaweed are wrapped around cooked or pickled vegetables such as asparagus, mushrooms, or carrots. More elaborate makis could be created with the use of tempura-fried vegetables or vegan mayonnaise and other sauces. Wrap alternatives include the use of soy paper wraps, thinly sliced cucumber wraps, and the substitution of brown rice for white rice.

It is difficult to prepare nigiri sushi with vegan ingredients.
It is difficult to prepare nigiri sushi with vegan ingredients.

For raw food vegans, sushi presents a challenge because it often involves the use of rice, which must be cooked in order to be edible. These vegans often get around this problem by substituting other soaked grains for the rice in their sushi recipes. By using the alternative grains, they can easily produce maki that contains a variety of vegan fillings. As raw food enthusiasts do not typically use soy sauce, they may substitute a liquid amino acid blend as a sushi condiment.

Certain recipes for vegan sushi may utilize commercially available fish substitutes, or the cook or chef may use an alternative protein source, which is then seasoned with various condiments to take on the flavor of fish. Some cooks have discovered ways of duplicating the flavor of many different popular types of maki, including the ubiquitous spicy tuna roll, through the use of fish substitutes and vegan-friendly flavorings to increase the availability and popularity of vegan sushi.

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