Learn to Make Look-Alike "Tuna" Sushi That's Completely Vegan

If you're a sushi lover and a vegan—or just somebody who loves an edible optical illusion—you need to try our vegan sushi with tomato "tuna" recipe. We've swapped out tuna for strips of tomato that get a savory seafood flavor from kombu seaweed, tamari and other umami-rich ingredients. This style of sushi is called nigiri, a Japanese word that refers to the way the rice is molded by hand into an oval shape. In addition to showing you how to make the tomato "tuna," we have tips on prepping sushi rice, shaping the nigiri and adding garnishes that make this sustainable sushi look just like something you'd be served at your favorite Japanese restaurant.

Watch our IGTV series, Veganize It, to see how to make this recipe and more vegan versions of your favorite dishes.

Tips for Making Vegan Sushi

Vegan Sushi

Pictured recipe: Vegan Sushi with Tomato "Tuna"

1. Make the Tomato "Tuna"

The key component of our vegan sushi is "tuna" made from tomato. To make it, we first core, score, blanch and peel Roma tomatoes. Then the tomatoes are sliced into quarters and seeded. The tomato slices are then simmered in a savory broth that's flavored with ginger, scallions, tamari and kombu. Kombu is the same seaweed that gives Japanese dashi broth its flavor. We call for tamari or soy sauce to season the broth—choose tamari to keep the dish gluten-free. After the tomatoes have been simmered, dry them completely before using them in the dish.

Related: Healthy Vegan Recipes

hands with wooden spoons stirring brown rice2. Cook and Season the Rice

Instead of white rice, our recipe calls for short-grain brown rice, which supplies extra fiber and has a slightly nutty flavor that tastes great with the "tuna." The rice is seasoned with rice vinegar, sugar and salt—the traditional seasonings for sushi rice. Be sure to season the rice while it's still hot so the sugar and salt dissolve.

hands shaping rice into nigiri
3. Shape the Nigiri

To shape the nigiri, first wet your hands so the rice doesn't stick to them. Then simply use your hands to form an oval about the length and width of the "tuna" slices. Top each mound of rice with a piece of tomato, then wrap the nigiri with a piece of nori seaweed.

hands piping a Sriracha mayo sauce on top of sushi
4. Garnish and Serve

To finish the vegan sushi, top it with a bit of vegan mayo mixed with Sriracha—just dollop it on or use a small snack bag with the corner snipped off to pipe the vegan Sriracha mayo onto the nigiri for a prettier presentation. Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds and sliced scallions, and serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and tamari (or soy sauce) on the side, and you have a knock-out dish that'll impress any sushi lover.

Check Your Wallet: Tuna Sushi vs. Tomato Sushi

For a look at the price difference between traditional tuna sushi and tomato sushi, we turned to Dustin Harder, aka the Vegan Roadie (@theveganroadie). Harder points out that just by making your own sushi at home rather than eating out, you're likely to save money. Because our vegan sushi recipe calls for a number of ingredients to make the tomato mimic tuna, it ends up costing about the same to prep as homemade tuna sushi would.

Environmental Impact: Tuna Sushi vs. Tomato Sushi

In terms of the environmental impact, tomato sushi has a better profile than tuna sushi. That's because stocks of bluefin and bigeye tuna, the types most commonly used in sushi, are severely depleted. There also tends to be a lot of bycatch with these fish, including sea turtles and sharks.

Related: Why Switching to a Vegan Diet Is Good for the Planet (and You!)

Nutritional Comparison: Tuna Sushi vs. Tomato Sushi

Our vegan sushi saves you 22 calories per piece compared to traditional tuna sushi; however, you do lose out on 6 grams of protein. So serve your tomato sushi with a protein-rich starter or side, such as edamame.

Related: How Vegans Can Get the Nutrients They Need

vegan sushiVeganize It in Your Kitchen Today!

Vegan sushi is delicious with a side of edamame or as a starter for a vegan meal. Or serve it alongside our vegan "scallops" for a full seafood fake-out dinner. Check back in with Veganize It soon—we'll be rolling out a new vegan version of a favorite dish every week on IGTV.

Culinary nutritionist and EatingWell Test Kitchen manager Breana Killeen is a Le Cordon Bleu–trained cook, dietitian and sommelier who loves dogs, classic cars and a cool glass of rosé.

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Make delicious vegan sushi that looks just like tuna nigiri.
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Megan Steintrager
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Vegan Sushi with Tomato "Tuna"