If you follow me on Instagram you know that sushi is one of my favorite things to eat and to make. I love the ritual involved in rinsing the rice. I love dreaming up endless combinations of flavors, textures, and colors. Arranging the sushi rolls delicately on the plates is always fun too. The beauty of this food is that it can be simple and straightforward or fantastically creative! Making sushi is fun and expressive, in a way that goes beyond just a means to fill your belly.
I’m going to walk you through the process of making sushi, step-by-step and give you the recipe for one of my favorite sushi accompaniments, Spicy Mayo! If this is your first time rolling sushi, be patient and forgiving with yourself, because it can take a little practice. But don’t worry, I’ve got all the info you need right here, you’ll be a pro in no time!
The most important thing about good sushi is the rice. There is a common misconception that sushi has to include raw fish as an ingredient. This is simply not true. The literal translation of the word “sushi” in English means “sour rice” or “vinegared rice”. So let’s put lots of love and care into making our rice, and let’s fill it with fresh colorful veggies, and leave out the fishes! Different brands of rice tend to vary in quality, but my favorite (and always go-to) sushi rice is from Lundberg Family Farms. It cooks perfectly every time, it’s organic, and available at grocery stores all around the country for a good price.
What you will need:
- 2 cups uncooked white sushi rice, rinsed well and drained until water runs very clear
- 3 cups water
- 2 Tablespoons plain rice vinegar, heated
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 6-8 nori sheets (available in Asian section of any grocery store, toasted nori is better, but raw nori is fine)
- anything you’d like to put inside the roll: thinly sliced veggies (raw, roasted, or tempura fried), fresh avocado, mango, leafy greens like lettuce or collards, vegan cream cheese, sesame seeds, or fresh herbs like cilantro or Thai basil. Get creative, the possibilities are endless!)
- sushi rolling mat
- a bowl of water to keep hands wet
- a thin, very sharp knife
- plastic wrap or gallon size ziplock bag (if you want to make a rice-on-the-outside roll)
- soy sauce to dip in, ginger and wasabi (optional)
Instructions for Perfect Sushi Rice:
- Rinse the sushi rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This step is important because it ensures the rice will be the right texture when cooked, not too starchy. I like to use a fine mesh strainer to do this, but if you don’t have one just keep rinsing it in cold water in the pot and draining it until the water runs clear.
- Bring the rinsed and drained sushi rice to a boil with 3 cups water, then cover with a tight fitting lid and lower heat to a simmer. Leave the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. This is a good time to mix the sugar and salt into the warm vinegar until it has dissolved. It’s also a good time to go ahead and prep the veggies.
- After 20 minutes, when all the liquid has absorbed into the rice, dump it into a wide shallow glass bowl or baking dish. Toss (do not stir) the vinegar mixture gently into the rice with a plastic or wooden spoon. Cover the dish with a damp dish towel or paper towel and let the rice cool until it won’t burn you when you handle it.
Instructions for a Basic Veggie Sushi Roll:
- Place a nori sheet on the sushi mat, and with wet hands spread a thin layer of sushi rice on nori paper leaving a few inches on the one side farthest away from you. Spread the rice all the way to the edges on the other three sides. Keep re-wetting your hands when the rice starts to stick to your fingers.
- Place veggies or whatever ingredients you’ve chosen in a thin horizontal strip on top of sushi rice.
- Using the sushi mat roll the sushi away from you, run wet fingers along the bare edge so it will seal together.
- Using a sharp wet blade, slice the sushi roll into 8 even pieces. It is helpful to wipe the blade with a wet towel and rinse between cuts.
Instructions for an Inside-Out Roll (rice on the outside):
- Cover the sushi mat with plastic wrap so the rice won’t stick in the cracks, make sure to rip off a piece big enough to wrap around the top and bottom of the sushi mat.
- Place a nori sheet on the sushi mat, and with wet hands, spread a thin layer of sushi rice on nori paper leaving a few inches on the one side farthest away from you. Spread the rice all the way to the edges on the other three sides. Keep re-wetting your hands when the rice starts to stick to your fingers.
- Sprinkle with black sesame seeds (this is optional, they just look nice).
- Flip over the nori sheet so the rice is face down on the side away from you.
- Place veggies or whatever ingredients you’ve chosen for inside the roll in a thin horizontal strip across the nori sheet, about 1-2 inches from the bottom edge.
- Using the sushi mat, roll the sushi away from you, making sure to keep the plastic wrap from getting rolled up inside the roll.
- Leave the plastic wrap on for now, and use a sharp wet blade to slice the sushi roll into 8 even pieces. It is helpful to wipe the blade with a wet towel and rinse between cuts.
- Keep a bowl of water handy to dip your fingers in while spreading rice on nori paper. Sticky fingers are no fun while rolling sushi.
- A medium firm pressure is best when rolling sushi. Don’t squeeze too hard or the fillings will want to squeeze out the sides.
- Sauces go best on top of the sushi, not inside the roll, this prevents the filling from sliding out when you roll it. When cooking vegetables for sushi try dry-roasting or baking, this is better than sauteing for the same reason.
- Usually, the best tasting sushi rolls are the simple ones, so try to stick to just a few flavors that compliment each other nicely for each roll.
One of my favorite condiments to go on top of sushi. Not only is it addictively delicious, it’s a beautiful orange color that looks fabulous on top of your veggie rolls, and it’s crazy easy to make.
- 1/4 cup vegan mayo (I like Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo)
- 1 Tablespoon gochujang (a Korean fermented chili paste you should be able to find in the Asain food section of your local grocery. My favorite brand is Mother In Law’s Gochujang)
- Just mix together with a fork in a small bowl.
- If you want to get fancy with your plating put that spicy mayo into a ziplock bag, cut a small hole in one corner and decorate however you feel!