Vegan Plant-Based Sushi Grade Subs

Sushi is one of my favorite meals to experience because each bite is unique magic. When you indulge in ordering a variety at an authentic style sushi bar, each selection is like a new meal–from house rolls, sashimi, nigiri, Japanese pickles and exotic sea delicacies, your in for an intermix. In this post, we're going to make the sushi classics vegan, plant-based.  
(just plants)

My favorite way to enjoy a sushi is up at a sushi bar, being served whatever the Itamae (Sushi Chef) prepares. Whether at a casual family style sushi bar where you'll enjoy house signatures like Crunchy Tuna Eel Rolls, served from the Itamae's hand into your chopsticks; to an elegant swanky style sushi bar, where there's an intimate story curated with a beginning, middle and end of exotic delights to work yourself up to, such as mild yellowtail, to pungent sea urchin served in jewelry boxes, I always enjoy. 

Meet the hero to the left: Vegan Sushi Grade Salmon with Vegan Sushi Grade Tuna twirled up on top
For my love of sushi, I compiled these fully vegan sushi grade substitutes, that can create a tasting comprised of the inspiration and influence I've eatin' my way through the world these delicious years. While making each of these components at once to create a sushi tasting menu in your kitchen is ambitious, you can simplify by selecting a couple of these recipe components to create your own rolls/bowls. Or, plan to dedicate a day of preparation if you would like to try all of these in one sitting like I did.  

From left to right: avocado, Vegan Sushi Grade Nigiri (red/gold beets), Vegan Sushi Grade Tuna (watermelon), cooked sweet potato, cashew ginger pate
From left to right: Vegan Sushi Grade Nigiri (red/gold beets),  Vegan Sushi Grade Salmon (carrots) Vegan Sushi Grade Tuna (watermelon), cooked sweet potato

You can find or create your favorite sushi recipes, and swap in my vegan sushi grade sub recipes listed below to replace the seafood ingredients. For salmon I used Carrots, for tuna I used watermelon, for eel I used eggplant, for nigiri I used beets. The possibilities are endless. 

Vegan Sushi Grade Salmon (carrots), avocado, Raw Vegan Cauliflower Sticky Rice

Vegan Cauliflower Sticky Rice, Vegan Sushi Grade Nigiri, Vegan Sushi Grade Tuna, Vegan Sushi Grade Salmon, avocado
Raw Vegan Cauliflower Sticky Rice, avocado, Vegan Sushi Grade Eel

How to roll? If you don't have a bamboo sushi matt, Minimalist Baker show's you how to roll sushi using a kitchen towel and plastic wrap in this article. Not all sushi needs to be rolled however, you can also slice and serve each component on a delicate layer of micro greens, seaweed, or jumble together into a sushi bowl.

What to roll with? I used roasted nori sheets and my Raw Cauliflower Sticky Rice featured in recipes below for most of my sushi featured in these pics. You can roll using thin slices of raw cucumber, jicama, sweet potato or zucchini as wraps, or pre-made raw coconut wraps. You can make your own sticky white rice, or warm up a bag of pre-made frozen white rice and add a few splashes of rice vinegar to make a more traditional style sushi rice, or use quinoa or wild rice. 

I encourage you to get creative making your own rolls, any of the recipes paired together will be yummy. Play with color, texture, and presentation where you serve. You can find something cool like an antique table leg (I'm using a glass table leg I sanitized before use) to plate your sushi board on, a large plank of wood/marble/slate/mirror/glass, regular plates or a sushi boat (if you can find one!) are fun and awesome too. The point is to have fun with your sushi making because it's really a special experience to savor. 
Sushi Bowl with left overs: 

Vegan Sushi Grade Salmon
by Sarah Farsh August 5, 2020
  • 4-5 large carrots
  • kosher sea salt, for coating
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
Wash carrots well, and place onto cookie sheet. Generously cover and coat carrots with about 1/4" of sea salt (salt should stick from washing water, and don't worry you won't be eating all of that salt). Bake in oven for 45-60min at 475 degrees. The timing will depend on the size of your carrots, test readiness by sticking a fork into roasted carrots until easily pierced, but not mushy. Meanwhile, in a dish or bowl, combine rice vinegar and liquid smoke together to make marinade. Once carrots are cooked, allow to cool enough to handle and use your hands to rub off excess salt. Using a peeler, gently peel carrot into ribbons to create "lox" style salmon, and a knife to cut into sashimi (square/rectangle meat) style pieces. I like to also save the scraps of the cooked carrot tips after peeling to use as shapes that resemble octopus tentacles that can also be added to sushi. Transfer sliced carrots into marinade and coat well. Marinate for at least 15min before serving or make the night before. The cooked/peeled/cooled carrots can be used to lay on top of sushi rolls, or stuffed inside sushi rolls. You can also enjoy on top of a bagel or any other way you'd enjoy salmon! 

Vegan Sushi Grade Tuna
Adapted from TheEdgyVeg, by Sarah Farsh August 5, 2020
  • fresh watermelon (or tomato) 
  • drizzle of olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • sprinkle of kosher sea salt
Slice watermelon (or tomato) into desired size of how you'd like your tuna to appear. I sliced mine to about 3"x1" so that I could use as sashimi, nigiri and in rolls. Note that the watermelon slices shrink after cooking in oven. Paint watermelon with light drizzle of olive oil-I used my fingers to coat all of my pieces with. Sprinkle with salt and bake in oven at 200 degrees for 2-2 1/2 hours, flipping pieces half way. These can be used on top of sushi rolls, eaten alone or inside of sushi rolls. 

Vegan Sushi Grade Eel
by Sarah Farsh August 5, 2020
Place eggplant slices down flat on a cookie sheet, sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until eggplant looks golden, the center is soft and tender with a touch of a fork. While hot (you can use a fork or tongs), stack eggplant slices into a glass bowl, and place a plate on top that is small enough to press down into the bottom of the bowl so that you push the juices of the eggplant out from under the plate and into the bowl. The eggplant should release natural oils and juices when you press down on the plate at the top. Keep something weighted at the top of the plate to panini the eggplant at the bottom of the bowl so it's marinating in it's own juices. This will turn the eggplant soft, tender and glossy. After eggplant slices have been sitting in the bowl with weight on top, mix slices around with hands or fork and discard any excess water that may have built up. It should look and feel as though you cooked your eggplant in oil, but it's just the natural juices from the eggplant. Poor teriyaki sauce on top, mix well and keep refrigerated until ready to roll into your sushi or add to sushi bowl! 

Vegan Sushi Grade Nigiri
Adapted from Nicolas Pujol by Sarah Farsh August 5, 2020
Cook beets in oven to your liking, I cooked beets in an oven safe pot with lid, filled with water at 450 degrees for about 2hrs (no foil required). Allow beets to cool before peeling, then slice beets to desired shapes for sushi. You can slice into 2" squares for sashimi style, or match sticks for inside of sushi rolls. Like Nicolas Pujol talks about in his blog, it's nice to allow the golden beets to touch the red a little through the process which strikingly makes the yellow beets resemble raw fish. 

Raw Vegan Cauliflower Sticky Rice 
Adapted from Food Marshal by Sarah Farsh August 5, 2020
  • 1 bag frozen cauliflower rice (or fresh pack from produce, or make your own about 1 head cauliflower)
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp coconut amino (or Bragg's liquid aminos)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar 
Allow frozen cauliflower rice to thaw out (no need to cook), and mix with remainder ingredients to create sticky rice. 

Here are some more vegan sushi recipes and inspirational sites to take a peek at before you start your sushi party that helped me get rolling! 

Deep appreciation to my dear friends Brigitte, Georgeanne and Sarah for celebrating sushi and eating it all up with me. 


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