Sushi is one of those surprising foods that is known for it’s raw fish, yet has a lot of plant-based sushi options. Even in the most famous Japanese restaurants in Ginza, the menu will offer completely vegan rolls. The typical ones are cucumber and avocado. Of course, there are also restaurants that offer explusive vegan sushi and those get a little fancier. Around the world, it seems like every country has their own spin on fishless sushi options. Because you don’t need to follow a plant-based diet to be averse to raw fish.
Inari – Tofu Skin
One of my personal favorites is unfortunately hard to find in Rhode Island, where I currently live. Inari, also known as tofu-skin sushi, is absolutely delicious and one of the easiest to make. You can read about it here. Back when I lived in Hawaii, this was my go-to lunch even though I wasn’t trying to minimize my meat or fish intake at the time.
Cucumber & Avocado Rolls
Cucumber sushi rolls are my least favorite because they are the most bland. It’s hard to get excited about something that’s 95% water… however, it is one of the most historic ingredients in sushi!
“Sushi is a famous Japanese cuisine made from fish, rice, vinegar, salt and sometimes cucumber. The making of sushi dates back even prior to the year 1336 but the contemporary sushi we know today was invented by Hanaya Yohei during the period of 1799 up to 1858.”Street Directory
Next time you turn up your nose at cucumber, consider its history. Also, a fun fact about cucumber rolls: in Yoshii, Japan, 600 people made a cucumber roll that reached approximately 1 km or 3,281 feet. This is the longest susi roll in history and the record hasn’t been broken since October 12th, 1997. Check out how to make your own here. Also, enjoy some fun facts about cucumbers here – they cure celulite!
Avocado rolls are not very historic because avocados are not native to Japan. Since it is relatively new, many consider avocado sushi to be an abomination. But it’s not just a hipster invention, the idea behind using avocado in sushi makes perfect sense.
“While accounts vary, a popular story claims that in the 1960s it was invented by a Japanese chef in California who couldn’t get hold of fatty tuna and used avocado instead for its similar texture. This led to the birth of the “California roll” and the avocado’s subsequent popularity in sushi in the U.S.”Japan Times
Canned Peach Rolls – Plant-Based Sushi
To be honest, I have only seen these in person one time. I spent two years living in China, one of them was spent in Shanghai. Even though I lived in a less exciting part of the amazing city, we had a lot of sushi options. Our favorite place was a hole in the wall meant for locals and it was ridiculously cheap with a unique menu. My favorite plant-based sushi option was a simple roll that contained just canned peaches inside!
Peaches… in sushi? Weird. Except it really isn’t! Have you ever taken a canned peach slice and put it on your tongue? It is cold, wet and slimy. Just like a raw piece of fish. We brought a lot of fish-fiends to this restaurant and eventually made everyone try the peach rolls. It became a staple in everyone’s order because it was so unique, refreshing and tasted like fatty salmon without the calories.
I could not find anything about this roll on the internet… but I did find fancier canned peach rolls so I did not dream up this strange sushi ingredient! This recipe creates the beautiful rolls below. While I never tried a canned peach and avocado roll, it sounds absolutely delicious. Plus it’s colorful!
Sweet Potato Rolls
Living in Rhode Island made me a obsessed with a whole new type of plant-based sushi roll: sweet potato. As a Ukrainian, it is ingrained in me to love potatoes. But I never thought to put them in sushi. Although the Japanese are probably horrified by the concept, roasted sweet potato rolls are absolutely mouthwatering. They have become my new favorite and while they are delicious, cheap and nutritious, they are super unhealthy. I have not looked up the calorie content on these but I wouldn’t be surprised if they surpassed the notoriously fatty eel and avocado rolls. Check out a recipe for these here.
Mock-Fish Sushi – Buddha Bodai
It’s 2020 and mock-meat is flooding restaurants and fast-food chains. Fish seems to be a little less popular to veganize. However, Buddha Bodai in NYC has been doing it for years. This 100% vegan restaurant creates all popular Asian foods including pulled pork, salmon nigiri, etc. with imitation meat, fish and who knowns what else. Our first time there we literally asked several times, “are you sure this isn’t meat/fish?” Clearly, the staff is used to this question and they reasured us. One time we invited some vegetarian friends and they were just as baffled.
This is definitely a lot less healthy than using fresh fruits and veggies in sushi, but it’s great if you want the real thing without harming the planet. Read my review of Buddha Bodai here.
Even though Buddha Bodai was amazing, our go-to when we lived in NYC was Beyond Sushi. Instead of going the mock-fish route, Beyond Sushi created amazing flavors using fresh ingredients. They use legumes, mushrooms, nuts and literally all the veggies to create the most beautiful rolls imaginable. They are a little pricey but they often offer taster sets where you can try a bunch of different styles of rolls. Read my full review here.
Summary: Plant-Based Sushi
Plant-based sushi is becoming more popular all over the world. There are restaurants that exclusively cater to vegan Japanese food lovers. However, every traditional sushi restaurant will also offer some sort of vegan roll. Depending on where you are in the world, this might be mushroom, cucumber, avocado, canned peach, tofu and who knows what else! The great thing is that there are options to enjoy sushi even if you are not a fan of fish or animal products.