Are you intimidated by sushi? Maybe you pick up veggie sushi at the deli, but it seems way too hard to make at home. The plant based sushi options are limited to a few cucumber rolls at most places, and always made with white rice. Well, I promise you, you can make these pretty, veggie-packed, whole grain-enriched handrolls, and you don’t need any special equipment. Just a pot, a cutting board, and your hands.
Maybe that’s why they call them handrolls!
Plant Based Sushi is Legit
I’ve been teaching sushi classes for many years. It’s a fun, hands-on experience, and everyone learns to cook sushi rice, and to use a makisu, or bamboo rolling mat, to make rolled sushi. But I’ve found that once people get comfortable with making their cylindrical rolls, they love learning about other shapes, and these cone-shaped temaki handrolls are a favorite.
Handrolls are a more casual sushi presentation, and can actually be made at the table. Just prepare all the fillings and rice, cut some nori sheets in half and have a bowl of water and a towel for your fingers. Let everyone try her hand at forming rolls, and put in her favorite fillings. Kids love it.
You don’t need a mat, or a special rice tub, or any specialized tools.
When you make sushi at home, you can break all the rules-nobody can stop you! But really, we love sushi for a reason, so I try to stick to the classics while adding a whole grain option and making plant based sushi.
Sushi Rice with Quinoa VS Black Rice in Sushi
Your first choice is which grains to use in your sushi. I make a classic sushi rice with quinoa added as one option. This is a favorite among my students, because the sushi rice is enhanced by the nutty quinoa without being drowned out. Black rice is your other option, and I think you’ll love it. Chinese black rice, sometimes called Forbidden Rice (a trademarked name) is a medium grain rice that has many of the same qualities as sushi rice, but all contained in a dramatic, purplish bran layer. When cooked, it has enough stickiness to stay in a roll, and a gorgeous sweet, nutty flavor. Either way, you’ll season your cooked rice with a rice vinegar and sugar mixture that makes it sushi!
Fill your Plant Based Sushi with Plants
Once you have your rice, you can choose your fillings. Cucumber, avocado, tofu, lettuce and radish sprouts and a big pinch of pickled ginger went into mine. Those are classic sushi fillings, although the tofu is my plant based sushi improv, taking the tofu you’d eat in miso soup and slipping it into the roll instead.
You might want to add some Sriracha mayo, or Wasabi mayo, both of which are really popular in American rolls. Or, you can get improvisational and make a fusion roll, with whatever flavors you like in your plant based sushi. Barbecued Seitan? Pesto? Kimchi? Not authentic, but they sure would be delicious, to our American melting pot palates.
(try my Sushi-ritto and mix Mexican and Japanese flavors for a tasty fusion)
Get comfortable with sushi. Over the 40 years that I’ve been cooking professionally, I’ve watched it go from exotic to mainstream. Americans love it, and it’s now as American as pizza, tacos, and yes, apple pie. With this easy recipe, you can make it at home, and make it your own.
Easy Whole Grain Sushi Handrolls
- 3/4 cup sushi rice
- 1/4 cup white quinoa
- 1 cup black rice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon organic sugar
- 6 sheets nori
- pickled ginger
- 1/2 large English Cucumber
- 1/2 block extra firm tofu
- 12 leaves baby lettuce
- 1/2 large avocado
- 12 pinches radish sprouts
- 2 tablespoons wasabi optional
- Rice with quinoa: Wash rice repeatedly until water runs clear. Use a rice steamer if you have one, following instructions for your cooker. To cook on the stove, bring 1 1/2 cups water and the washed rice and quinoa to a boil, cover tightly and lower heat to lowest setting. Simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Let stand, covered, for at least 5 minutes.For black rice: Put rice and 1 1/2 cup water in a pot, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 25 minutes, depending on variety of rice. When all the water is absorbed, let stand for 5 minutes, covered, then transfer to a large plate. Meanwhile, stir vinegar and sugar to dissolve. Pour over rice and fold in with a rice paddle. Fan rice to cool.
- Assembly: Use sharp scissors to cut nori sheets in half, reserve. Prepare a bowl of cool water with a shot of rice vinegar added, and have a clean towel for your fingers.
- On each nori sheet, place a ping pong ball sized scoop of rice on one half. With wet fingers, pat the rice to cover a square area at one end of the nori, leaving the remaining portion exposed. The corner of the square of rice that is closest to the center is the point of the cone. From that corner, place a few slices of ginger, a slice of cuke, a leaf of lettuce, a slice of tofu, an avocado slice, and a few sprouts. Roll the rice around the fillings, keeping the point of the cone closed. Dab some vinegar water on the exposed nori and dry your fingers. Roll the nori around the cone and press to seal. Serve with pickled ginger and shoyu for dipping.