This nutritious vegan sushi bowl is quick, tasty, easy to make and loved by children! A wonderfully adaptable quick gluten-free and vegan lunch that is ever popular in our household. Perfect for lunch boxes or picnics and a pleasant change from the usual sandwich or wrap.
This sushi bowl idea started off because my daughter kept asking for sushi in her school lunchbox and saying that her school friends had sushi that their mums had made in the morning. What?!? Our kids start school at 7.30am in Qatar and we leave the house at 7am. How is anyone getting up early enough to make fresh sushi before breakfast and still saying sane?!
Well, I love my kids a lot and I’m a bit of a sucker for a challenge, so after many requests, I finally agreed to make sushi for the lunchboxes (and by sushi, what they really meant was maki rolls).
I wasn’t going to get up at the crack of dawn to do it though, so I decided to make it the night before instead. Ughhh – disaster… I ended up staying up waaaaay too late getting in a horrible muddle with sushi rice stuck all over the place and my nerves in shreds vowing never to make maki rolls again! Stupidly, I did try again a few more times, each time with the same result so, eventually, I accepted defeat – I am never going to be a sushi maker!
But the requests for lunchbox sushi kept coming in – what to do? Well, the answer, my friends, is the sushi bowl! One inspired night, trying to come up with new lunchbox ideas for the next day, I decided to make a deconstructed version of the maki rolls that I’d made before. My kids were ecstatic when they looked in their lunchboxes the next morning. They didn’t care that it didn’t look like maki rolls – it just had all the necessary ingredients for a delicious lunch! And I was delighted because it was SOOOOOO much easier to make! And so, the sushi bowl has become a firm favourite in our family.
During lockdown we had this deconstructed sushi bowl as a family lunch so many times and it was the one lunch that we all enjoyed together without any fuss from anyone. I put all the toppings in little bowls on the table and everyone helped themselves to the bits they liked. Everyone was happy and I didn’t have a huge amount of work to make it.
- Sushi rice - you can either use the classic Japanese white sushi rice or short grain brown rice. I like to use the brown option as it is a wholegrain so contains more nutrients. It does take longer to cook though so you might prefer the white rice if you're in a hurry!
- Sushi vinegar - this is made from rice vinegar, sugar and salt and is very easy to make. If you have a bottle of ready-made sushi vinegar in your pantry, then by all means use that instead!
- Silken tofu - the tofu provides a good range of plant-based proteins to complement those in the brown rice and make it a complete meal. I use silken tofu because it is easy to slice it up quickly and use it straight from the packet without having to press it or cook it. However, if you're not a fan of the wet slippery texture, you could use cooked tofu cubes instead (see this crispy chia tofu recipe which would be delicious here!).
- Vegetables - you can choose whatever vegetables you like best but the ones we often use in our sushi bowls are cucumber, avocado and sliced spring onions.
- Edamame beans - I buy these frozen and use them straight from the freezer. All you need to do is heat them in a jug of boiling water in the microwave for one minute and they're ready to use!
- Sushi ginger slices - I love the taste of sushi ginger and think of it as an integral part of this dish. Sushi ginger is very thin slices of ginger that have been lightly pickled. You can usually buy jars of them in the Asian section of the supermarket. It provides a sour taste that complements the vinegar in the sushi rice and the other softer flavours of this dish. Using fresh ginger slices doesn't work in the same way as it is too strongly flavoured and needs the pickling to take the heat down.
- Gomasio seasoning - this is a Japanese condiment that is basically just crushed sesame seeds. It is delicious sprinkled on top of the sushi bowl and adds calcium too. I buy the Biona brand which comes in glass jars in the organic section of the supermarket. If you don't have any, you could substitute with sesame seeds instead.
- Seaweed - seaweed is another recognisably integral ingredient to Japanese sushi so I think it is important to add it into these sushi bowls. It provides iodine (often lacking in plant-based diets) and a background flavour of the sea. You can buy packs of seaweed sprinkles which are small flakes of dried seaweed (either one type or a blend of different seaweeds) or just cut up some Nori seaweed sheets and use those to sprinkle on top of your sushi bowl.
- Tamari - this is a Japanese naturally gluten-free alternative to soy sauce that tastes very similar. If you don't have any you could use liquid aminos or some soy sauce brands do a gluten-free version too.
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for quantities of ingredients.
The only thing you need to be a little organised about is making the rice ahead of time.
- I like to use short grain brown rice for our sushi bowls – to get a little more fibre and nutrients in the rice. It takes about 40 minutes to steam the brown rice, but it is only 20 minutes if you use plain white sushi rice instead. Each brand seems to be different though so I would go by the instructions on the packet.
- If we are having this for a family lunch at home, I get this on the go in the morning at around 11am and leave it steaming while I carry on with my work. If I’m making it for lunchboxes, I usually cook the rice while I’m cooking the supper the night before.
- Making the sushi vinegar is super easy if you use the microwave. The traditional way to make it by gently heating the ingredients in a pan but, since I think of this as a quick and easy meal when I don't have a lot of time, I use the microwave to quickly heat the vinegar mixture and then it dissolves in 30 seconds. Maybe not completely authentic but it’s much easier and still tastes great!
- Once you've got those things made, all you need to do is mix the sushi vinegar into the rice, then choose and chop the toppings!
Please see the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post for full instructions.
If you have any leftover short grain brown rice, it is a really lovely rice to use for garlic fried rice. Just fry up a few cloves of garlic (minced) in flavourless oil, add some chopped spring onions and the rice and stir fry until the rice is piping hot. Season with tamari and sesame oil. It would be perfect with these crispy air fried tofu cubes!
Alternatively, you can of course just keep the leftovers for lunch the next day - rice keeps for a couple of days in the fridge but after that you'd need to throw it out just to be safe (see rice safety section below).
You do need to be careful with rice so, once cooked, you need to cool it as quickly as possible and make sure it’s not left out warm for long periods of time. Follow these important guidelines to ensure food safety:
- If you’re making it in advance, get it in the fridge as soon as possible after cooking (don’t put it in the fridge while hot or it’ll just warm up the fridge temperature).
- Cool the rice quickly by putting it in a shallow dish and fanning it (see video below).
- Try to get it in the fridge within an hour or, even better, half an hour of cooking.
- If you are re-heating rice, you need to make sure it is piping hot before serving to make sure any lingering bacteria is well and truly nuked.
Check this rice safety guide at the Food Standards Agency (UK) for more information on this.
You can view these videos if you prefer to watch how to make this easy dish!
📖 Recipe 📖
Vegan Sushi Bowls
- 300 g sushi rice either short grain brown rice or white sushi rice
Sushi Vinegar Mixture:
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
Vegan Toppings (choose how much you’d like of each - amounts given are a guide if everyone wants them!):
- 200 g Silken tofu cut into small cubes
- 2 Cucumber cut into small cubes
- 2 Avocado cut into small cubes
- 2 Spring onions sliced thinly
- 80 g Edamame beans straight from the freezer and heated in a jug of boiling water in the microwave for one minute
- 12 Sushi ginger slices
- 2 tablespoon Gomasio seasoning crushed sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoon Seaweed sprinkles or crushed Nori Seaweed sheets
- 4 teaspoon Tamari
- Cook the rice according to the packet instructions. As a general guide, I steam short grain brown rice for 40 minutes or plain white sushi rice for 20 minutes.
- While cooking, make up the sushi vinegar mixture by mixing in a little jug then microwaving for 30 seconds and stirring until all the sugar and salt has dissolved.
- Once cooked, immediately spread the cooked rice out in a large shallow dish and, while it is still piping hot, sprinkle the sushi vinegar mixture over the top and stir it in well.
- Spread the rice out again to try to cool it quickly by fanning it.
- Prep the topping ingredients and put into little bowls.
- Serve a portion of rice in a bowl for each person and then allow everyone to add the toppings they like.
- Gomasio seasoning is a lovely mixture of crushed sesame seeds. It's really versatile and a great little product to keep in your cupboard as sesame seeds are so full of calcium. If you can't find it, use toasted sesame seeds instead.
- For Thermomix users: fill the thermomix jug with 1L of water, measure the rice into the rice basket and rinse thoroughly. Set in the jug and put the lid on. Set the TM to 40 mins / Varoma / Sp. 4 (for brown sushi rice) or 20 mins / Varoma / Sp. 4 (for white sushi rice).
- Leftover rice keeps well in the fridge for up to 3 days and sushi rice can be brilliantly re-worked into fried rice by frying a few cloves of garlic (minced) and then adding the sushi rice and some chopped spring onion. Season with tamari and sesame oil and some sesame seeds on top.
- Please be very careful with re-heating rice – it must be piping hot! See this page at the Food Standards Agency (UK) for more information on rice safety.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a ⭐ star rating ⭐ on the recipe card!
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