How to CookAsian

How to Make Vegetarian Sushi at Home

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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.

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

Tags: Japanese, Sushi, Vegetarian, Vegan, DIY Food, How-To & Diy, Small Batch