How to Make Vegetarian Sushi at Home

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Emma Galloway, the voice behind My Darling Lemon Thyme (and a new cookbook), is getting you on a roll making your own vegetarian or vegan sushi at home.

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We eat a lot of sushi in our house. We love it so much that when my daughter learned that sushi was from Japan, she announced that she wanted to go immediately. Never mind the allure of beautiful scenery or centuries-old culture -- all she needed to convince her was the promise of endless sushi.

More: Start your sushi dinner with a bowl of miso soup.

As a gluten-free vegetarian, I sometimes find that sushi is often the only snack available when I’m out of the house. But when it comes time to feeding the whole family at home, who can afford to buy enough store-bought sushi to satisfy everyone? Not us. 


Making sushi at home is ridiculously cheap and easy, and it only requires a saucepan and a little bamboo mat (which can be picked up for a couple of dollars at your local Asian grocer). 

The fillings for maki rolls are endless, but to me, the perfect sushi has mayonnaise (vegan or regular), toasted sesame seeds, and avocado. You can add whatever other fillings you like; I often include marinated and pan-fried tofu or eggs for a non-vegan version.

Vegetarian (or Vegan) Sushi

Makes 6 rolls (about 50 pieces)

Sushi rice

2 cups sushi or short-grain white rice
2 1/4 cups cold water
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt


6 sheets nori
1/4 cup mayonnaise (use vegan mayonnaise for an egg-free roll)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 small cucumber, sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
Pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce, to serve

Place the rice in a bowl, cover with water, and massage it with your hands. You will see the water turn white as the starch is washed off the grains. Drain the rice, then repeat this 2 to 3 more times until the water is almost clear. 

More: Find out which other grains you should be rinsing.

Transfer rice to a sieve and set it aside to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer it to a medium saucepan, then cover with the 2 1/4 cups of cold water. If time allows, set the rice aside to soak for 30 to 60 minutes. Otherwise, continue on with the recipe right away.

Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as the water boils, turn the temperature down to the lowest setting, making sure the lid is still on, and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, leaving the lid firmly on; don't be tempted to peek or you’ll run the risk of the steam escaping and the rice not cooking completely.

Let the rice stand for 15 minutes. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 1 to 2 minutes until syrupy, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Stir the seasoned vinegar into the rice, then turn it out onto a flat tray to cool to room temperature. Now you're ready to start rolling the sushi!


Place a sheet of nori, shiny-side down, on a bamboo sushi mat. Have a small bowl of water nearby and wet your hands to stop the rice from sticking.

Divide the cooled rice into 6 portions. Using your wet hands, gently spread one portion of rice over the nori, 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 center of the rice, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Arrange a few strips of cucumber and avocado on top. Wet your finger and rub it along the edge of nori furthest away from you (this will help seal your sushi roll).

Using the bamboo mat for assistance, lift the end of the sushi closest to you up and over the filling, gently squeezing the mat as you go. Continue rolling the mat forward to complete the roll.

Repeat this process with the remaining nori, rice, and filling until you have 6 rolls. To slice, run a sharp knife under cold water and cut each roll into 8 to 10 slices. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emma Galloway

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Chef Devaux
    Chef Devaux
  • Debbie
  • laura
  • Rubberduckienz
  • gina graff
    gina graff
Former chef | Author of My Darling Lemon Thyme-Recipes from my real food kitchen | Photographer


Chef D. November 24, 2015
This simple vegetarian sushi roll recipe is quite nicely made, I like the way you did the photography, looks great!
I also made a vegetarian sushi roll a while back, well actually I called it a vegan sushi roll :)
Debbie June 1, 2014
I just do cucumber, carrot and avocado (no mayo)- but really awesome sushi!! Comes out perfect every time. How you cook the rice is really important, but can be tricky. These instructions were so easy and had perfect results. It doesn't last long in this house!!
Emma G. June 7, 2014
Oh that's great to hear you liked this recipe! xx
laura May 14, 2014
This post inspired me to get creative and try out some variations. I even made carrot juice bubbles that mimic roe to top the sushi - so fun! I also liked beet + cream cheese + sprouts and a spring asparagus + carrot + chive mayo combo. Thanks for the inspiration!
Emma G. May 17, 2014
Carrot juice bubble! Wahoo!
Rubberduckienz May 14, 2014
I love sushi but have recently become aware that the nori we use may very well be contaminated with radiation , which concerned me greatly . I've done research but still am not 100% sure of my findings so am being safe and using only my old stock . Love your post and blog Emma thank you !
Emma G. May 17, 2014
Ah yes I too have done loads of research to try and find answers. I make sure I buy organic and cross my fingers mostly. xx
gina G. May 11, 2014
Thanks for the meticulous instructions for preparing the rice. I just made a batch and it looks perfect, just the right stickiness and pearly texture without being mushy!
My favorite fillings include mashed avocado with walnuts, baked sweet potato strips with chopped cashews and maybe a smear of hoisin, or strips of grilled portobellos with scallions.
I also make soba noodle sushi. I don't rinse the noodles so they are a bit sticky. Particularly yum with the portobello strips/scallion filling.
Emma G. May 12, 2014
Oh that's really great to hear it worked for you :-)Soba noodle sushi has me intrigued!
gina G. May 12, 2014
I usually make sushi rolls early In the day and wrap the rolls individually in plastic for an hour or two before trying to slice them. There is some moisture transfer that makes the rolls neater to cut and less likely to fall apart because the nori becomes pliable. This works particularly well for the noodle rolls, kasha rolls and barley rolls. Master Jiro would probably not approve.
Laura B. May 11, 2014
Hi! I love making homemade sushi. I struggle with the rolling part. Can you make this with quinoa, instead, and if so, would anything change? I know it isn't as sticky - so there's that!
Emma G. May 12, 2014
There's loads of recipes online for quinoa sushi, so I'd suggest a quick search. It behaves very differntly to rice, so best to follow a recipe that's been written for it :-)
Joy B. May 10, 2014
I love doing equal parts mayo + sriracha for a "spicy roll" affect…and I cut corners and buy good sushi vinegar, which has sugar and salt added.
Laura B. May 11, 2014
Great suggestion for the spiciness! I will definitely try this next time!
weshook May 9, 2014
My eight-year-old grandson loves sushi, and I only make vegetarian sushi since I worry about not getting or keeping the fish fresh enough to make fish sushi. I can guarantee that he will eat pretty much anything if I wrap it in sushi rice and nori. I say pretty much because I haven't tried everything, but I haven't found anything that he hasn't eaten in sushi.
Lindsey S. May 9, 2014
Awesome, Emma! The only time I've tried to make sushi at home was with black rice. It wasn't sticky enough though and it fell apart :( Next time I will def. using your instructions!
Emma G. May 9, 2014
Thanks Lindsey! It really is very easy once you've mastered the basics :-) xx
londonbakes May 9, 2014
This is so helpful - I've never dared try making sushi at home but you make it look so easy Emma!
Emma G. May 9, 2014
I hope you give it a go Kathryn, it's easy once you know how xx
Merrill S. May 9, 2014
These photos are stunning! Love the idea of avocado and mayonnaise in a sushi roll -- will have to try this!
Emma G. May 9, 2014
Thanks love! xx
Cynthia C. May 9, 2014
Yay! I've always wanted to try sushi (or kimbap) but the logistics of rolling and such intimidate me. Thanks so much for the detailed explanation and lovely photos, Emma!
Emma G. May 9, 2014
You're welcome Cynthia! Hope you give it a go, it seems scary at first, but once you've mastered it you'll be making sushi at home all the time like us :-)
Liz B. May 9, 2014
Great intro to sushi 101, and the variations are endless I'm sure! Would love to hear some of the crazy veggie sushi others on Food52 have come up with! - a clean eating bento blog. Japanese or Asian-inspired!
Emma G. May 9, 2014
:-) I just went for a basic recipe here to show people how easy it is to make at home, but yes I'm sure others out there have much more unique filling ideas!