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Plant-Based Substitutes for Fish in Sushi Rolls

Explore delicious, innovative plant-based sushi alternatives. Perfect for vegans, vegetarians, and eco-conscious food lovers.


When you think of sushi, raw fish often pops up as the main ingredient. But what happens if fish isn’t your thing, whether due to dietary choices like being vegan or vegetarian, allergies, or just personal taste? Don’t worry, there’s a whole world of tasty sushi alternatives waiting for you to try!

As we embark on a culinary journey that challenges the norms of traditional sushi, we find ourselves at the intersection of innovation and sustainability. The art of sushi, once inextricably linked to seafood, is undergoing a remarkable transformation to embrace the bounty of the plant world.

In this exploration, we look at how the appeal of sushi is being redefined for those seeking alternatives to fish. Whether it’s allergies that make seafood a health hazard, or a conscious decision driven by ethical and environmental concerns, the quest for fish-free sushi is not just a passing trend-it’s a response to a growing global consciousness.

Join me as we uncover the secrets behind these plant-based wonders, each roll a harmonious blend of texture, flavor, and visual appeal that promises to satisfy the sushi cravings of vegans, allergy sufferers, and eco-conscious foodies alike.

Alternative to Fish in Sushi Rolls 🍣


Eggplant, Mushrooms, Sweet Potato, and Marinated Carrots

Eggplant (aka aubergine), known as nasu in Japanese culture, holds a special place in its culinary landscape, particularly for its versatility in sushi making. As a nigiri topping, lightly grilled eggplant transforms into a lusciously soft delight, offering a melt-in-the-mouth experience akin to that of fish. For those who prefer a bit more zing and texture, pickled eggplant steps in with its tangy flavor and a chewier bite.

Mushrooms, especially varieties like king oyster, are another exceptional choice for sushi enthusiasts. They excel in nigiri and sashimi forms, where the robust flavor and succulent texture of shiitake mushrooms shine through. The gentle cooking of these mushrooms, seasoned with a dash of soy sauce, releases a savory aroma that significantly elevates the sushi experience, adding a rich and umami-packed dimension.

Sweet potato and marinated carrots also emerge as excellent plant-based sushi contenders. Sweet potato, with its soft and creamy texture, mirrors the tenderness of raw fish, while its naturally sweet flavor adds a unique twist to sushi rolls. Marinated carrots, on the other hand, offer a delightful crunch and vibrant color reminiscent of certain sushi fish. When seasoned and prepared thoughtfully, both sweet potato and marinated carrots can transform a simple sushi roll into a visually appealing and gastronomically satisfying masterpiece, blending traditional sushi craftsmanship with innovative plant-based ingredients.


Fried Tofu No-Fish Fillets

Tofu, with its pristine white color, is a fantastic stand-in for fish in many culinary creations, often playfully referred to as “tofish” in various food outlets. 

To prepare it, start by taking the tofu out of its package and pressing it to squeeze out any excess moisture. Then, cut the tofu into your desired shapes. For a fish-like appearance, slice the block three-quarters of the way lengthwise. Use the tip of your knife to gently carve out a fillet shape from each section, reserving the remaining quarter for extra pieces. If you’re not keen on mimicking the fish shape, simply cut the tofu into four even rectangles.

For the marinade, mix kombu dashi broth, miso paste (or salt), rice vinegar, and sugar in a shallow dish. Submerge the tofu fillets in this mixture, then gently tear a sheet of nori over the top. Let it marinate for at least two hours, or ideally, overnight.

When it’s time to cook, heat a pan with oil over medium-high heat. Place the tofu, rice paper side down, in the pan. Gently press with a spatula a few times and cook for about a minute until it turns golden brown and crispy. Dust the upward-facing side with potato starch, flip, and cook for another 1-2 minutes until crispy. Don’t forget to fry the other two sides, adding more potato starch if desired.

What’s fantastic about this vegan fish recipe is its versatility and customization. Once you’ve shaped the fillets, you can season and sauce them however you like. For a salmon-esque twist, add a bit of beetroot or carrot juice for color. These tofu fillets can also be grilled and torched for an extra smoky taste. The possibilities are endless!


Vegan Tofu Salmon

Creating your own vegan version of salmon using tofu is a culinary adventure that brings a delightful twist to traditional seafood dishes. Tofu, known for its incredible versatility, can be transformed into a vegan salmon alternative that’s both delicious and unique. The process involves marinating and cooking the tofu in a way that mimics the texture and flavor of salmon, resulting in a dish that’s surprisingly similar to its fish-based counterpart. With the right ingredients and techniques, you can enjoy a homemade vegan salmon that’s flavorful, nutritious, and satisfying.

This tofu salmon is bursting with flavors, presenting a perfect contrast of a crispy exterior against a soft, flaky core that mimics traditional salmon remarkably well.

One of the best features of this recipe is its simplicity, as you’ll only need three essential ingredients: beetroots, nori sheets, and extra firm tofu, which is a great source of plant-based protein.

For the beetroot element, you have some flexibility. You can use pickled beets or simply slice a fresh beet and use about three slices. The beetroot’s primary purpose in the vegan salmon is to provide a vibrant pinky color.

Nori, the seaweed typically used for sushi rolls, is another key component. The easiest method to prepare it is by using scissors to chop the nori into small, finely chopped pieces. You’ll also want to cut some nori strips to approximately fit the bottom of each piece of tofu.

When it comes to the tofu, you’ll need two large blocks of extra firm tofu. Cut each block in half to yield four “salmon” fillets. Extra firm tofu works best for this recipe, and it’s advisable to press it further to achieve an ultra-firm consistency. Keep in mind that the firmer the tofu, the higher its protein content. Therefore, by using extra firm tofu for this vegan salmon recipe, you’ll be able to satisfy a significant portion of your daily protein requirements. Additionally, nori, a key ingredient in this dish, is an excellent source of iodine, further enhancing the nutritional value of the meal.

Canned Banana Blossom & Canned Jackfruit


Banana trees hold a unique culinary gem—the banana blossom, also known as banana flower or banana heart. Hanging elegantly at the end of fruit clusters, these purple blossoms are a treasure trove for vegan cuisine. Their fleshy, soft petals make them an ideal substitute for fish. 

The blossom’s neutral taste is a blank canvas, perfect for infusing with seaweed or other oceanic flavors. Its chunky, flaky texture is remarkably similar to that of battered cod or fish fillets, making it a go-to ingredient for vegan fish dishes. These versatile banana blossoms are readily available in cans at grocery stores and are also a staple in many vegan restaurants.


Jackfruit, another plant-based marvel, shares the shelf with banana blossoms in canned form. Preparing it is as simple as pulling it apart with a fork, readying it for marinating and cooking. Season the jackfruit with nori or soy sauce for a seafood-like flavor. Add vegan mayonnaise, and you’ve got yourself a perfect tuna mayonnaise alternative for sandwiches. Both banana blossom and jackfruit can be transformed into delectable fillets. Just like preparing tofu fish, you can fry these in a batter made from flour, salt, turmeric, pickle juice, caper brine (or extra pickle juice), water, and lemon juice. The result? A delicious, plant-based twist on traditional fish fillets.


Papaya & Coconut Maki Rolls

In this inventive approach to sushi, ripe papayas take center stage, transforming into a unique, vegan alternative to traditional sushi ingredients. This recipe pays homage to South Africa’s time-honored tradition of making fruit leather, a method used to preserve the abundance of fruit. The result is a delightful papaya leather, repurposed here as a novel replacement for nori seaweed.

The Papaya-Coconut Maki is a fusion dish that reimagines the classic Japanese maki sushi (巻き寿司). While maki typically consists of a rice cylinder wrapped in nori, this recipe introduces a twist by substituting nori with homemade papaya leather and sushi rice with coconut ice. Fresh papaya strips are used in place of fish, adding a tropical flair to the dish. This culinary creation is an exquisite blend of flavors and textures, offering a unique interpretation of sushi.

For about 16 rolls, the ingredients include two ripe papayas for the leather, half a firm ripe papaya for the filling, and a combination of toasted and regular desiccated coconut mixed with canned coconut milk. The preparation involves crafting the papaya leather by dehydrating blended papaya pulp, followed by assembling the rolls with layers of coconut ice and fresh papaya strips. The resulting rolls are not just a feast for the palate but also a visual delight, ideal for a post-dinner indulgence or a nutritious snack. The inclusion of toasted coconut infuses the rolls with a deeper, more intense flavor, making this dish a must-try for both sushi lovers and culinary adventurers.


Mango Sushi Rolls

Mango and sushi, an unconventional pairing, were rarely seen together in traditional recipes. Given Japan’s modest production of mangoes, it’s not surprising that the fruit wasn’t a staple in its culinary repertoire. However, as sushi’s popularity soared globally, various adaptations featuring mango in sushi rolls emerged.

In these innovative sushi creations, mangoes are utilized in various ways: as a sauce (try the combination of mango puree with wasabi), a filling, or even as a wrap. The fusion of mango with sushi is particularly well-received in Mexican-inspired sushi variations, where the fruit adds a unique blend of sweetness and tanginess to the classic Japanese fare.

Moreover, mangoes have become a favored choice in vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free sushi options. They are frequently combined with a medley of vegetables like avocados, carrots, and cucumbers, offering a refreshing twist to the classic sushi experience.

Plant-Based Fish-Free Tuna & Salmon (Fishless Fish)

Welcome to the exciting world of plant-based seafood, where the impossible becomes possible! We’re talking about plant-based fish sticks, fillets, burgers, crab cakes, and even fish cakes that are so close to the real deal, you’ll be amazed. Imagine a mix of peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans, and navy beans coming together to mimic the rich, flaky texture of seafood, but without the ecological downsides like bycatch. Plus, they’re much kinder to our oceans and their inhabitants.

Introducing the star of the show: plant-based tuna. This protein-packed, nutrient-rich entrée is not only delicious but also loaded with beneficial omegas. The secret to its light, flaky texture reminiscent of fine seafood? A unique six-legume blend, teeming with protein and flavor. But wait, there’s more—the inclusion of sea algae oil. Packed with DHA, a vital Omega-3 fatty acid, it adds a deep, umami-rich flavor that elevates the dish to new heights.


Is it Good to Eat Fish?

In our pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, the decision to include fish in our diet is often seen as a beneficial choice. However, recent scientific findings present a more nuanced view of this dietary option. Let’s delve into the science behind eating fish and its implications for our health.

1. Omega-3 and IGF-1: A Double-Edged Sword

Fish is lauded for its high Omega-3 fatty acid content, crucial for cardiovascular health. However, this benefit is offset by the presence of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), elevated by proteins in fish. IGF-1 is known for stimulating cell division and growth, but its link to increased cancer risk presents a significant health concern, highlighting the complex nature of dietary choices.

2. Cholesterol Content and Cardiovascular Health

Fish, while beneficial for its Omega-3 fatty acids, also contains saturated fats and LDL cholesterol. These are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. This contradictory aspect of fish’s nutritional profile underscores the complexity of understanding its overall impact on heart health.

3. Environmental Contaminants and Heavy Metals in Fish

The increasing pollution of aquatic environments has led to fish being contaminated with harmful substances like mercury, dioxins, and polychlorinated biphenyls. These contaminants can have serious health implications, including nerve damage and increased cancer risk, reflecting the broader environmental issues impacting our food sources.

Mercury is a heavy metal that severely affects the nervous system and is very difficult to eliminate from the body after ingestion. It can cause various severe forms of nerve disorders and can affect heart function if it accumulates in the heart muscle. Mercury can also cross the placenta and be passed from mother to baby.

In the bodies of Greenland’s residents (who mainly eat fish), such high concentrations of mercury and heavy metals are found that the breast milk of Greenlandic women could be classified as “hazardous industrial waste”. The levels of carcinogenic and brain-damaging polychlorinated biphenyls in the breast milk of Inuit in northern Canada are five to ten times higher than those of people in southern Canada.

4. What Fish Lacks in Nutrients

Contrary to common belief, fish lacks several key nutrients. It is devoid of fiber and many vitamins and minerals, which are vital for overall health and are abundantly found in plant-based foods. This highlights the need for a diverse diet to ensure a full spectrum of nutrients.

5. Ethical and Environmental Considerations in Fishing

Commercial fishing and artificial fisheries cause irreparable damage to the environment, creating entire oceanic dead zones. Ocean fishing ships are the size of a football field, and nets in the water are tens of kilometers long. Each cast can pull out over 360 tons of fish, much of which is the so-called “unwanted catch” (dolphins, whales, and protected marine species). Every year, about 30 million tons of this unwanted catch are thrown back into the ocean, but these animals are already stressed, injured, dying, or dead. Fish farms, on the other hand, deplete natural resources in the form of huge amounts of water and catch for food. Producing one kilogram of meat from farm-raised fish requires 3-4 kilograms of wild catch.

6. Fish Also Feels Pain

Once fish are taken out of the water, they immediately begin to suffocate. Their gills fail, and their swim bladders burst due to the sudden change in pressure. Numerous studies worldwide confirm that fish can feel pain. Researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow have studied pain receptors in fish and find that they are strikingly similar to those in mammals. The conclusion is that fish have the full capacity to feel pain and suffering through their receptors, which are located throughout their bodies.

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Alyssa is an aspiring author and entrepreneur from Greece. Passionate about plant-based cooking and hiking, she finds joy in nature and culinary exploration. Alyssa also delves into the mystical world of tarot, adding a profound depth to her vibrant life.


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