Chef Creations: Vegan Sushi

ic: Traditional sushi on the left - Vegan sushi on the right. Both delicious :)    Photo: The Wild Forever

A “food explosion” surrounds us in Phoenix as restaurants continue to reinvent concepts. There’s one opportunity we’re missing out on however - vegan sushi.  Most of you must be thinking, “What’s the point?” Well, as a chef, food is my constant obsession and creativity is the core of my job.

Last week, I taught sushi to a group of talented artists and foodies. Two preferred vegan options. I achieved a menu where everyone could build their sushi rolls together while providing vegan substitutions. They were overcome with joy. The truth is vegans crave sushi all of the time.

Since then, other clients have come forward sharing their desire to explore vegan / vegetarian sushi. The problem is, the vegan community is under-served. Often times they’re offered an avocado or cucumber maki, but that’s it. Most sushi bars do not list any other options.

While sushi grade fish might be a challenge to source, produce is not. We are fortunate to have local farmers and markets where we can purchase beautiful vegetables.  The challenge is to transform vegetables to imitate the color, flavor, and textures of protein. I’ve discovered some fascinating comparisons. A few examples include:

  • Salmon - Carrot Lox
  • Tuna - Tomato
  • Crab - Hearts of Palm
  • Toro - Avocado
  • Tamago - Banana
  • Scallop - Mushroom

Furthermore, a lot of Japanese sauces contain fish products. For example, most ponzu contains bonito flakes, yet it can be made without. Eel sauce is not vegan either, but you can replicate the flavor by making a vegan teriyaki sauce. A spicy vegan mayonnaise can be made with chickpea juice instead of eggs.

The Japanese markets showcase miscellaneous fruit that can also advance vegan sushi. These would include jackfruit, ume, yuzu, and nashi pear. Ikura (salmon eggs) are commonly served at the sushi bar in a gunkan (nori wrapped around a small ball of rice). What if I told you that you could achieve vegan Ikura with jackfruit caviar?

Sushi should be experienced by everyone. Certain respects should be paid to the traditions of the cuisine. On the other hand, sushi is an art. There is opportunity to create a modern approach by crafting natural and complex dishes.  Each piece of sushi should be equally pleasing to the eyes and the palate. Support a plant-based sushi movement and book a vegan/vegetarian sushi class.


Chef Mallory Soule

Sushi Chef

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