While living as a vegan in Japan several years ago, I became very familiar with basic vegan sushi combinations when eating out: cucumber roll, avocado roll, cucumber and carrots, and maybe even some pickled radish if I wanted to go a little cray cray.
Although these types of sushi are great, they do not reflect the diverse choices that we have as vegans.
As different cultures become more accessible in our increasingly global village of a world, our food evolves and cultural fusions become a blaring possibility. Yes, blaring. Because some of our regular old food has been screaming for variety. You can see some new and outstanding fusion ideas in creative sushi boutiques such as Beyond Sushi in New York City, but with all the variation at our fingertips these days, you can even make it at home!
So Sivan and I (your two avid vegan sushi fans here at The Vegan Woman) decided to treat you to some of our favorite recipes, in the form of unique, unexpected, yet SUPER DELICIOUS vegan sushi combinations, which you can make at home. Ready?! Here goes …
1. Erin’s Zucchini Roll
Just because zucchini is never used as an ingredient in traditional sushi doesn’t mean we should count out this lovely vegetable.
Peel a zucchini into long, wide strips with a vegetable peeler. Spread on some rice and vegan cream cheese, lay your veggies flat, and roll away. Some ingredients that go well here include carrots, cilantro, chives, radish, avocado, and even some thin strips of green apple (especially if using cream cheese). These rolls both look delightful and appeal to even the most critical taste buds.
2. Sivan’s Inside-Out Toasted Coconut Combo
One of my favorite things about sushi is the different sensations you can achieve when using different flavors and textures. For me, a crunchy texture goes a long way, especially when accompanied by the mouthwatering flavor of coconut shreds!
To achieve that crunchy texture and to avoid the shreds becoming soggy, toast some shredded coconut and add it to the outer rice layer of your “inside-out” sushi roll once it’s prepared and before it is cut and served. The toasted coconut shreds go great with rolls that combine sweet and mild flavors, such as sweet potato, avocado, and cucumber.
3. Erin’s Avocado and Sundried Tomatoes Maki Roll
Texture, flavor, color: Who doesn’t LOVE avocado? And the best thing about it in the world of vegan sushi is that you can combine it with SO MANY other ingredients. One might even say it’s the social butterfly of the sushi world.
Try this and you won’t be disappointed: a maki roll with avocado, sundried tomatoes, vegan cream cheese, and cucumber. You’re welcome.
4. Sivan’s Shiitake and Sweet Potato Maki Roll
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! I love using yams (sweet potatoes) in my sushi, and I also love shiitake maki. The two combined with rice, nori, and soy sauce totally upgrade my sushi meal!
The only thing to keep in mind with this roll is that both the shiitake mushrooms and the yam will require some preparation time and cooking before they can be used in the roll – but the texture and flavor are so worth it!
6. Erin’s Mushroom Nigiri
Nigiri sushi in its traditional form is a small ball of rice with a touch of wasabi and a piece of fish on top. In our vegan version, we simply replace the fish with a thin, rectangular piece of vegetable, mushroom, fruit or marinated tofu, binding it to the rice with a thin band of nori, as shown in the picture.
My favorite nigiri variation is the mushroom nigiri. In particular, I suggest frying shiitake or oyster/king oyster mushrooms in a little bit of soy sauce and some mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking alcohol), then slicing them into shapes that will fit nicely on top of a rectangular rice ball.
5. Erin’s Tofu Nigiri
A simple yet delicious way to prepare your tofu is to marinate half a block for at least 20 minutes (overnight is better) in 3 tbsp of sesame oil, 3 tbsp of soy sauce (or tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos) and 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Fry for 4-5 minutes on each side, let cool for several minutes then add it to your rice ball.
Note: While brown/whole-grain rice can work well in maki rolls, I don’t recommend using it as I’ve done here, as it doesn’t stick together as well as sushi rice and can make for some flimsy nigiri. Also, wasabi is, of course, optional.
7. Sivan’s Tomato and Vegan Cream Cheese Maki Roll
This is my favorite sushi combination of all time. As much as I love a plain avocado maki roll, this combination of nori, rice, fresh tomatoes, and vegan cream cheese together with soy sauce just does it for me!
Not everyone takes to this vegan maki combination, but those who do will get addicted! I’ve been eating this for more than eight years now, and I never get tired of it. The pairing of the fresh tomato with the soy sauce is so unique, and the rice and cream cheese compliment the salty flavor with sweet undertones. The nori is the “icing on the roll”. To prepare, spread the rice (brown, white, or sticky) on the nori sheet, then top with a line of vegan cream cheese and stripes of fresh tomatoes, and you’re ready to roll. Don’t forget the soy sauce for dipping on this one — it’s essential for the complete flavor!
8. Erin’s Tempeh Maki Roll
Tempeh is another versatile sushi player that can be used in numerous maki combinations. Cut it into long, thin strips and marinate, bake, or fry it with some salt and coconut oil on the stovetop. Crunchy fried tempeh paired with smooth avocado and even cucumber makes for some top-notch maki.
Other ingredients that pair well with tempeh in maki include fried mushroom (shiitake, enoki, oyster, or king oyster), cooked asparagus, green onion, and even sliced, seeded tomatoes.
9. Sivan’s Beetroot Inside-Out Roll
Another unexpected vegetable that can be used in your vegan sushi fusion adventures is, believe it or not, beetroot! In addition to providing a BEAUTIFUL color to your sushi roll, especially when used to wrap an inside-out roll, it also provides some lovely texture and sweet flavor.
If you are ready to experiment with the beet, try the following: Slice fresh or pre-cooked beetroot using a mandoline and set aside. Spread sushi rice on about half of a nori sheet, then add one thin layer of beets, making sure the rice is sticking to the nori on one side and the beets on the other. Flip over and line on the part of the nori sheet without the rice, so you can start the rolling process from that area, going in toward the rice and beet. Fasten well before you cut the pieces, and enjoy!
10. Erin’s No-Seaweed Cucumber Roll
If you’ve only been using cucumber inside your sushi rolls, then you’re missing out on one of cucumber’s all-star talents: It is a roll in itself. Yep. Whole new world: Carve out the center of your ‘cumber –it may be cumbersome – and stuff it with veggies! The more colorful the better. For some added flavor, combine it with some hummus or a cashew dip!
One of the wonderful things about vegan sushi fusion is that there are no constraints on how you make it (just don’t tell a Japanese sushi chef I said that). The sushi paradigm continues to evolve and is open to creative combinations and ingredients. You can take any of the ideas above and roll with them – figuratively and literally — or experiment and make your own!
Cover image: Shutterstock. Modification: TVW.