What Sushi Rolls Are Vegetarian?

Sushi is a popular dish that originated in Japan but has gathered a large following all over the world. Although most people think that sushi must have fish, there are several meatless options that are quickly becoming just as popular. So, what sushi rolls are vegetarian?

Sushi rolls that are vegetarian include nigiri sushi, makizushi, nato temaki, and inarizushi. For the nigiri vegan sushi and makizushi, there are several variations depending on the type of vegetable used. So, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, there are several meat-free sushi you can try out. 

Whether you’re traveling to Japan or simply want to diversify your palate, being vegetarian shouldn’t stop you from trying sushi. So, let’s have a look at some of these popular options. This article also includes a simple vegetarian sushi recipe that you can try at home. 

Nigiri Vegan Sushi

Although nigiri is one of the most popular types of sushi, vegan options for this sushi-style aren’t common. However, you can still get some great-tasting nigiri vegetarian sushi. 

Nigiri sushi is prepared by shaping vinegared rice into a ball and pressing it into a small log. Nigiri means pressed, and vegetarian nigiri will have different vegetables pressed into sticky rice shaped into rectangular mounds. Sushi chefs then use a thin band of dried seaweed to keep everything together. 

One of the most important things about sushi is maintaining its freshness while preparing it. Sushi chefs achieve this by ensuring they touch the sushi with their fingers less often. Master chefs can quickly prepare nigiri vegan sushi to the same size and weight without using any weighing scales. They can also do this in a few precise moves, which helps ensure they don’t interfere with the taste of your sushi. 

If you’d like to try out some nigiri vegetarian sushi, here are some of the options you should go for: 

Avocado Nigiri

Avocado is a popular fruit globally, and sushi chefs, including those in Japan, are now adding it to the popular dish. Usually, a slice of avocado will be placed on the sticky rice. Just to add a little bit of flavor to the fruit, it is seasoned with salt and wrapped in the rice with a thin sheet of seaweed, like nori. Avocado nigiri has a creamy flavor, which makes it a favorite for many vegetarians. 

Shiitake Mushroom Nigiri

If you love mushrooms, then you must try this mushroom nigiri. Shiitake is a type of mushroom that is strong and savory. 

Often, shiitake is dried and used in flavoring soup. In sushi, you can either use salt or soy sauce to season the shiitake mushroom. Lightly flaming the sushi afterward helps to enhance the fragrance. Shiitake mushroom nigiri has a rich and juicy taste that makes this sushi an excellent snack. 

Tamagoyaki Nigiri

Can you imagine having eggs in your sushi? Before you brush aside the thought, you might want to try out this unique vegetarian sushi. 

Tamagoyaki nigiri consists of sticky rice that has a slice of omelet as a topping. Tamagoyaki is a Japanese omelet that is slightly sweet and fluffy. The tamagoyaki nigiri is then wrapped with seaweed to complete the sushi roll. If you’re eating out at a restaurant, you can request them not to include dashi in the tamagoyaki nigiri. 

Nasu Nigiri

Nasu is Japanese for eggplant, and its sweet taste makes it a popular ingredient in restaurant menus. You can have this nasu nigiri sushi as either grilled or pickled. Grilled eggplant sushi will melt in your mouth wonderfully, while the latter option will be chewier. A popular kind of this sushi is tempura, which is usually served with grated ginger. 

Makizushi Vegetarian Sushi

Makizushi translates to rolled sushi. This type of sushi is made by laying a large square sheet of seaweed on a bamboo mat. Sushi rice is then spread over it, and vegetarian toppings are added. The bamboo mat is then rolled to form a sushi roll, which is usually cut sideways into small pieces. 

Well, if you’d like to try out some makizushi vegetarian sushi, here are some suggestions you should check out: 

Kappa Maki

Kappa maki is one of the easiest vegetarian sushi types that you could find. It consists of a cucumber slice wrapped in sushi rice. The sushi roll is then completed by wrapping everything in a thin sheet of seaweed. 

You can easily find it in restaurant menus and supermarket food courts. To get the best out of kappa maki, you should try using it as a starter or a palate cleanser. 

Kampyo Maki

Kampyo means pickled gourd. This kind of vegan sushi has the gourd as pickled brown wrapped in sushi rice and rolled using seaweed. The gourd has a savory taste, and you can almost pick out a sweetish soy sauce. 

Most people believe that kampyo maki helps with digestion, which is why it is commonly ordered after the meal. 

Ume and Cucumber Shiso Makizushi

If you’re looking for an ideal palate cleanser, sushi rolls made from this Japanese staple combination are just what you need. Ume is Japanese pickled plum and is usually mixed with perilla herb (shiso) and sweet cucumber to make this vegan sushi. You can have this sushi roll in the middle of the meal or at the end of it. 

Shinko Maki

If you’d like to try out a different taste and texture in your sushi, you can’t go wrong with pickles. Shinko generally refers to pickles, and you can use any kind in the sushi. Takuan is one of the most popular pickle options available and usually has a brown or yellow color. Takuan sushi has a tangy taste and crunchy texture, which presents a unique taste to your sushi recipes.   

Nato Temaki

Temaki translates to ‘hand roll,’ which is exactly how this sushi is made. Nato temaki is an excellent choice for sushi if you’re looking for something different from the common nigiri and makizushi. 

The hand roll is made from natto, which is fermented soybeans. Unlike other types of sushi, nato temaki is not tightly pressed on the seaweed wrap. Besides, the sushi rice remains fluffy. Eating nato may be messy because it’s very sticky, but it comes with some health benefits and has an awesome test. 


Inarizushi should be your go-to sushi type if you’re looking for a different taste. This sushi is often offered to the gods in Shinto shrines because the Japanese believe it’s a favorite snack for the fox, considered to be the gods’ messenger. 

To make this type of sushi, chefs usually fry sweet tofu skin pouches and have them filled with vinegared rice. Sesame seeds are usually sprinkled on the top or added to the rice filling to give it a different taste. 

Simple Try-at-Home Spicy Vegetarian Sushi Recipe

You don’t have to wait until the next time you’re eating out to try some vegetarian sushi. Why not make some at home? Whether or not you already know how to make regular sushi, trying out a different recipe can prove to be an excellent way to spice up things in your kitchen. If you’re wondering how to go about it, here’s a simple vegetarian sushi recipe that you can try at home:

Tools and Ingredients

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 4 nori seaweed sheets
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 cup of carrot shreds
  • Sesame seeds (optional)
  • Rice vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup of ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • Coconut milk
  • Bamboo rolling mat


Once you have gathered all the items you need, here are the step-by-step instructions you should follow to make some really tasty and spicy vegetarian sushi:

Wash and Cook the Rice

Start by washing the rice. Wash the sushi rice in a strainer for a few seconds under running water. Make sure you do this until the water comes out clear. That will mean the excess starch is all removed. 

Next, cook the rice. Once the rice is clean, drain all the excess water. Put the rice in a rice cooker and add the two cups of water to cook it. You can also use a saucepan if you don’t have a rice cooker. 

If you use a saucepan for cooking the rice, ensure you use medium heat as you bring the rice to a boil. At this point, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with fitting lead. Let the rice cook until all the water is absorbed, after which you can turn off the heat and let the rice continue cooking in the steam for another ten minutes. 

Make the Vinegar Sauce

As the rice is cooking, you can prepare your sushi sauce. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and oil in a saucepan and simmer over medium heat. Keep stirring the mixture until all the sugar dissolves. If this is taking some time, you can try whisking the mixture. 

If you use seasoned vinegar, you can skip this step since it’s ready for use. All you need to do is mix it with your rice once it’s well-cooked.

Prepare the Spicy Sauce

Put the mayo, ketchup, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder in a bowl and stir to mix. Use coconut milk to achieve the desired consistency in the sauce. If you prefer some non-spicy sushi, you can use rice vinegar, sugar, and salt to make your sushi sauce. 

Mix the Rice and Sushi Sauce

Once the rice is well-cooked, you can now combine it with the sauce. Pour the sauce over the sushi rice while it is still warm, and use a flat wooden spoon to mix everything. Cover the mixture and let it sit for a while so that the sushi rice absorbs the seasoning. 

Slice Your Veggie Toppings

Next is you need to slice your veggie toppings. As the rice takes in the seasoning, you can start slicing the avocado and cucumber. Be sure to slice the avocado thinly and peel and remove the cucumber seeds before slicing.

Make the Sushi Rolls

Use plastic wrap or a ziplock bag to cover the bamboo rolling mat. If you don’t have one, you can instead use a kitchen towel-lined with wrap. Spread a sheet of nori on the mat with the shiny side facing down. Spread some rice onto the nori. Your fingers should be wet as you complete this step to help it become less sticky. You can dip them in either water or rice vinegar. 

If you choose to use sesame seeds, sprinkle them on the top and then gently flip over the nori sheet. Add some of the sliced toppings to the center before rolling the sushi. Ensure you press tightly on the mat as you roll so that you have some firm rolls. 

Slice and Serve the Sushi

Once you have your sushi roll, use a sharp sushi knife to slice it. Dipping the knife in water or rice vinegar will come in handy whenever the knife gets sticky. Repeat the procedure using the remaining seaweed sheets, avocado, and cucumbers.

The last step is to serve the sushi. Slice the rolls into pieces as you prefer and serve them using either soy sauce or wasabi sauce. You can also use the spicy sauce you had made, in case you have any left. 

Is Rice Vinegar Necessary for Sushi?

Rice vinegar is usually made from fermented rice and has a mild and savory taste. Most people don’t know that rice vinegar is a staple ingredient for many Asian dishes besides sushi, including salad dressings and pickled vegetables. 

Sushi actually translates to vinegar rice, which means that rice vinegar is a core ingredient of this dish. The rice vinegar gives sushi its unique taste and ensures it doesn’t taste like regular rice. Sure, you can always use a substitute for rice vinegar, but your sushi will taste completely different. 

Well, if you absolutely cannot get a hold of some rice vinegar, here are three excellent substitutes that will ensure you still get to enjoy your homemade sushi:  

Apple Cider Vinegar

This type of vinegar is made when apple cider undergoes fermentation. It has a mild taste with a hint of apple flavor, making this vinegar ideal for just about any dish that requires rice vinegar. However, the apple flavor will depend on the recipe you use. Some cooking methods, such as pickling, will give your food a distinct apple flavor, even though it is quite mild in the vinegar. 

When substituting with apple cider vinegar, you can use the same amount as what you should have used with rice vinegar. You can then add some sugar to account for the extra sweetness of rice vinegar. 

White Wine Vinegar

This vinegar comes about when white wine ferments into vinegar. The slightly acidic taste makes this vinegar an excellent choice for salads and dressings. It has a similar flavor to rice vinegar, which makes it easy for you to substitute it into just about any other dish. 

However, if you would like to attain a completely similar taste to that of rice vinegar, you should add some sugar since white wine vinegar isn’t as sweet. 

Champagne Vinegar

Just as its name suggests, champagne vinegar is made when champagne ferments into vinegar. It has a mild taste, and when used in making sushi, it produces a subtle flavor that is almost similar to that of rice vinegar. Besides sushi, you can use champagne vinegar in other seafood dishes, dipping sauces, and marinades. 

Can You Use Regular Vinegar as a Substitute for Making Sushi?

A common question is whether you can use regular vinegar to make sushi, and the short answer is no. 

One of the things that set sushi apart is the unique blend of flavors. Well-made sushi combines all the flavors of its ingredients to ensure the balance makes for a great fit. Unlike rice vinegar that has a soft taste, regular vinegar is sharp and pungent and will leave an acidic taste in your rice. 

Additionally, rice vinegar harmonizes the flavors in the rice and ensures it mixes just perfectly with soy sauce. Regular vinegar has a higher pH value and will overpower your rice, giving it a harsh taste. Therefore, you cannot substitute rice vinegar with regular vinegar or vice versa. 


Just because you’re vegetarian doesn’t mean that you don’t get to enjoy this delicious Japanese cuisine. Whether you’re eating out at a restaurant or making some at home, vegetarian sushi offers an ideal blend of good food coupled with fantastic health benefits. Your options include Nigiri vegan sushi, Makizushi vegetarian sushi, Nato temaki , and Inarizushi.

The next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant, why don’t you try any of the vegan sushi options? Better yet, gather your ingredients and make your own vegetarian sushi at home with the recipe provided in the article. You don’t even need rice vinegar, and any of the substitutes we mentioned will come in handy. 


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