vegetarian sushi recipe and tips…

So usually I only post recipes if I think I can add a new modern spin on a classic, or have come up with a combination I think it really amazing. But occasionally it's quite nice to just highlight a dish that is perfect, just how it is. Sure, I went through a phase of making brown rice sushi when I was younger and I've been intrigued by quinoa sushi for some time, but mostly I just love to eat my sushi straight up, made with sticky white seasoned rice, a selection of vegetables and omelette or tofu. A little wasabi, pickled ginger and soy sauce on the side, of course.

I've spoken before about how much we love sushi in this house. And recently when I posted ideas for school lunch boxes, which included sushi, I had a bunch of people asking how I make sushi. So today I'd like to share my recipe along with a few tips I learnt over the years...

Firstly I'd just like to make it clear that I am by no means an expert on the matter, traditional sushi chefs train for over 8 years to become masters! I have however been making sushi since I was a teenager and hope that I've picked up a few tricks and tips that will encourage you to try making your own sushi, if you haven't already done so.

The recipe below may seem long-winded, but I assure you it's really simple and once you have made it once you will wonder why it took you so long to do it! I always make my sushi rice in a rice cooker these days, and LOVE how perfect it comes out, every time. But so as not to exclude those of you who don't own one, I've also included my stove-top recipe too.

The fillings that can be used in sushi rolls are endless, but to me the perfect vegetarian sushi needs to have mayonnaise, toasted sesame seeds and avocado. Add whatever other fillings you like, or those that I've suggested below. I often use marinated, pan-fried tofu in place of the omelette, and you could always use an egg-less mayonnaise to keep things strictly vegan.

My tips for making perfect sushi:

  • Wash, wash, wash that rice! Keep washing, massaging and rinsing the rice until the water is clear. This removes excess starch, keeping your rice lovely and fluffy, not gluggy. 
  • Drain the rice properly before adding the cooking water, and if time permits, let it soak for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Don't be tempted to mix the rice lots once cooked, gently stir through the seasoned vinegar without 'mashing' the rice.
  • Have a bowl of water right next to you while rolling your sushi. Keep your hands wet to prevent the rice from sticking to them, but to avoid dripping water onto your nori clap your hand together after dipping in water to shake off any excess. This water can also be used to moisten the edge of nori before rolling, this seals the roll.
  • When spreading the rice over your sheet of nori, be gentle. Don't make the mistake of packing the rice down by pressing too firmly. Remember, gentle hands=light fluffy rice.
  • Don't be tempted to overfill your sushi, you won't be able to roll it easily and you'll just get mad.
  • If you want to neaten the ends of the rolls once made, use a little ball of rice to 'plug' up each end.
  • Once rolls are made, lay them seam-side down on the bench while you make the rest to encourage that seam to stick together.
  • Run your (sharp) knife under cold water to dampen slightly before cutting to prevent the rice from sticking to your knife, resulting in a nice clean cut.
  • If you are keen to also make your own pickled ginger to go with the sushi, click here for recipe.

Lastly, while chef-me would never recommend doing this if you are aiming to impress family or friends with your amazing sushi-making skills... mum-me does store any left over rolls in an air-tight container in the fridge, which the kids eat the following day for lunch. Who has time to make sushi from scratch on school mornings? Not me. The rice does firm up a little in the fridge, but kids and tired mums don't usually mind! 

vegetarian sushi
Of course, sushi should be made using short grain Japanese sushi rice. However, if you are like us and live off sushi this can become rather expensive! I use a medium grain white rice to make our sushi these days. It's not quite as sticky as proper sushi rice, but it's fine for us.
makes 5-6 rolls (40-50 pieces)

sushi rice~ rice cooker method
2 cups short or medium grain white rice or 'sushi' rice
2 1/4 cups (560ml) water

Place rice into a bowl and cover with water, use your hands to kind of massage the rice, the water will turn white as the starch is washed off the grains, drain and repeat this 2-3 more times until the water is almost clear. Transfer rice to a sieve and set aside to drain for 20-30 minutes. Place rice into the bowl of your rice cooker and cover with the 2 1/4 cups (560ml) water. If you have time, set aside for 30-60 minutes to soak before cooking. If not set onto cook straight away. When the rice is cooked and the switch has flicked onto warm, leave it to sit for a further 5-10 minutes before removing the bowl from the rice cooker. Stir through the seasoned vinegar (recipe below) and turn out onto a flat tray to cool to room temperature.

sushi rice~ stove top method
2 cups short or medium grain white rice or 'sushi' rice
2 cups (500ml) water

Wash and drain rice as above, then place into a medium saucepan, cover with the 2 cups (500ml) water and set aside to soak for 30-60 minutes if possible. Cover saucepan with a lid and bring to the boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, turn temperature down to the lowest setting, making sure the lid is still on, and cook for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, leaving the lid firmly on (don't be tempted to have a peak, if you do you run the risk of steam escaping and your rice not cooking enough). Stand for 15 minutes, then stir through the seasoned vinegar (recipe below). Turn out onto a flat tray to cool to room temperature.

seasoned vinegar
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons raw unrefined sugar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over a low-medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 1-2 minutes until syrupy, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.

vegetarian sushi
5-6 sheets of nori
real egg mayonnaise
toasted sesame seeds*
finely sliced carrots
finely sliced cucumber
finely sliced capsicum
sliced omelette*
sliced avocado
soy sauce (gluten-free if need be), to serve
wasabi, to serve
pickled ginger, to serve

Place a sheet of nori, shiny-side down on a bamboo mat. Have a small bowl of water nearby, wet your hands to stop the rice from sticking to them. Divide the cooled rice into 5-6 portions then using your wet hands gently spread 1 portion of rice over the nori (see photo above), leaving a good amount of space on the top and bottom. Don't press the rice down firmly, just pat it into place.

Spread a little mayonnaise down the centre of the rice, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Arrange a few strips of whichever fillings you like on top of the sesame seeds; carrot, cucumber, capsicum, omelette, avocado... Wet your finger and rub it over the edge of nori furthest away from you, this will help seal your sushi roll. Then using the bamboo mat to assist you, lift the end of the sushi closest to you up and over the filling, gently squeezing the mat as you do. Continue rolling the mat forward to complete the roll. Hold the sushi roll, still enclosed in the bamboo mat and pinch off a small ball of rice from the remaining rice, gently press this into the end of the sushi to fill the hole in the end. Repeat with the other end.

Repeat this process with remaining nori, rice and fillings. You will end up with 5-6 rolls. To slice, run a sharp knife under cold water and slice each roll into 8-10 slices. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce (gluten-free if need be).

* To toast sesame seeds, place raw seeds into a frying pan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until lightly golden and fragrant.

* To make the omelette, whisk 3 eggs with a dash of (gluten-free) soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of rice-bran oil (or other neutral vegetable oil) in a frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, pour the egg mixture into the pan, tilting the pan so the mixture runs and spreads over the base. As the omelette sets, use a spoon to gently lift and stir, tilting the pan so any uncooked egg runs underneath. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until golden and set underneath. Using a metal spatula flip the omelette over and cook for a further 30-60 seconds until cooked through. Transfer omelette onto a chopping board and slice into long strips.

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  • Reply
    February 27, 2012 at 2:35 am

    i have ALWAYS wanted to try and make my own sushi! this post is a great kick to get me to do it. thank you for so many amazing tips!

  • Reply
    February 27, 2012 at 8:07 am

    What an informative & fab post!! I've made sushi with a mixture of millet/quinoa lately, it's super delicious! Just a little fiddly & they don't hold together as well as white rice. x

    • Reply
      Nicky B
      February 27, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      That's neat to know Hannah – do you use a rice vinegar mixture with the millet/quinoa too?

      Thanks Emma for a great post – I do make sushi fairly regularly but it's usually a bit random, eg throwing together vinegar & sugar, so good to have a methodical recipe to follow! The addition of mayo & sesame is a lovely idea.

  • Reply
    February 27, 2012 at 9:28 am

    Thanks for sharing your sushi recipe! It looks delicious. I'm determined to give it a try now 😉

    • Reply
      February 27, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      Do it 😉 xx

    • Reply
      March 19, 2012 at 9:34 am

      Hi Emma,
      just to say that we've made sushi last night for the first time ever. We followed your recipe and were very happy with the result 🙂 Thanks for the great tips! x

    • Reply
      March 19, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Yay! So glad to hear, I'm so proud of you 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    February 27, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I enjoy sushi too, love the Japanese seaweed in sesame with sushi. Yours look very pretty and neat. Alli@peasepudding

  • Reply
    Treble Tart
    February 27, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Vegetarian sushi is the only kind I've ever liked; I tried making it once, about 4 years ago, but it was so messy I gave up. 🙁 This recipe looks fantastic and easy, though! I'll definitely be trying it!

    • Reply
      February 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      I do hope you try again. Lots of people seem to get put off when the rice sticks to everything! Remember a water-bowl 🙂

  • Reply
    February 27, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Yay! This is such a helpful post. Now I just need to get all the stuff for it. I'm so keen to give this a go. I'd love to make raw salmon sushi too. And tuna/mayo. And teriyaki chicken. All my faves.

  • Reply
    February 27, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    I adore sushi! This post is so informative! Thank you.

  • Reply
    The InTolerant Chef
    February 27, 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Such a yummy lunch indeed! Thanks for all the great tiips, the water is SO important to stop sticking isn't it!?

    • Reply
      February 27, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      Totally 😉

  • Reply
    Cass @foodmyfriend
    February 28, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Love your newspaper back drop! Such a great tutorial. I haven't made sushi in atleast 2 years but it is a fun 'do it yourself' dinner for the family.

  • Reply
    February 28, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    What a cool mum you are 🙂
    I actually just love sushi rice on its own sometimes with a little vinegar/salt/sugar – so sticky and salty and delicious!

  • Reply
    Domestic Executive
    February 28, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I love sushi and have no excuse for not trying this out as you make it sound so simple.

  • Reply
    February 29, 2012 at 8:56 pm

    What a great tutorial. Sushi is one of our favorite homemade treats. At first the idea can be intimidating but you made it so easy with the step by step. Can I come over for dinner?

    • Reply
      February 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm

      Haha, sure 🙂

  • Reply
    Mairi @ Toast
    March 3, 2012 at 3:07 am

    Great post Emma, I love sushi but have never made it at home….may have to change that so thanks for all the tips.

  • Reply
    March 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Exquisite! This post is awesome and I never thought you could actually make pepper maki! In France, we use foie gras, and it is simply… amazing!
    Thank you for all the tips, you are definitely going on my Pinterest timeline. Take care!

  • Reply
    Charlotte | Anknel and Burblets
    March 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Great! I have had sushi rice in the pantry since last August. Now's the time to make it!!!
    And I love your japanese newspaper background 🙂

  • Reply
    St in the USA
    June 16, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    I made this today and my family *loved* it. You're a natural at teaching; thank you so much for the most helpful sushi instructions ever!

    • Reply
      June 17, 2012 at 2:56 am

      So happy to hear! xx

  • Reply
    August 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    This seems like a simple idea for a quick dinenr or lunch. Thanks for the great sushi tips.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    This is beautiful, and looks so delicious

  • Reply
    January 23, 2013 at 2:50 am

    I love Vegetarian sushi and last week I made quinoa sushi as I am a huge fan of Quinoa but…. both my husband and I much preferred the rice version and also found the quinoa wasn't sticky enough. I also cheat and use the sushezi roller. I think that perhaps if I had a bamboo mat might have been better for the quinoa. Your recipes always looks so yummy !

  • Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    i tried to make sushi for the very first time today, following this recipe; and they came AMAZING! thank you! i wish you were my mummy 😀

  • Reply
    April 24, 2015 at 3:17 am


    your blog is amazing!! I especially love all of the sushi recipes you have! I was wondering, by any chance do you know where one might be able to buy sashimi grade salmon? Thank you in advance 🙂

    • Reply
      April 25, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      Sorry, but I don't eat salmon so have no idea xx

  • Reply
    Jodi Kay
    November 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Emma! Thank you so much for this post! My husband has been asking for years for me to make sushi at home, and I finally did it! I would make it again for the rice alone, I followed along here and it turned out so perfect. Thank you for putting the time in this post, years later and it's still filling sushi loving bellies. Sending love from Canada x

    • Reply
      November 13, 2015 at 5:08 am

      That's so awesome to hear Jody! Much love
      Emm xx

  • Reply
    December 10, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Thank you for your lovely tips and photographs. I am teaching my nieces to make sushi and your help was so useful.

  • Reply
    Tracey Paterson
    July 9, 2016 at 3:34 am

    What a great post, am so keen to give this a go! Would be interested to know what brand of rice cooker you use, as the range out there is so great, but sounds like you have excellent results each time with it.since changing to a gluten free diet we are eating so much more rice!! Best wishes Tracey

  • Reply
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