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Nori (Recipe: vegetable sushi) {vegan, gluten-free}

Adapted in part from an archived post, and updated with new photos and links. Bento Week, Day Two.

Vegetable sushi 

If I'd titled this post "Red algae from the Porphyra genus", would you still be reading?

Didn't think so.

In fact, if you told me there was algae in The Perfect Pantry, I'd probably reach for a disinfectant.

Nori -- yes, it's red algae -- is the Japanese name for various edible seaweeds, as well as the food products created from these sea vegetables. Consumption of seaweed in Japan dates back many centuries, but the nori sheets we use today were invented in Tokyo more recently, in the 19th century.

Nori is a farmed product, grown at a depth of approximately 25 feet, maturing in 45 days from seeding. The harvested seaweed is shredded and dried on racks, in much the same way as paper is made. Nori is high in sodium, but also high in antioxidants, Vitamin C, calcium, zinc, iodine and fiber.


In the market, you'll find nori sheets that are raw or toasted/roasted. At the Asian market, a package of 10 sheets costs less than $2.00; it's a bit more at the regular supermarket.

Bring out the flavor (which is not the strong taste of ocean brine; in fact, there's not much taste at all) by toasting briefly over a gas burner on your stove top; hold the nori sheet with long tongs, and wave it back and forth over the flame for a minute or two until it is just warmed but still flexible. Toasting helps the nori remain crisp after it comes into contact with something moist (rice or vegetables).

Cut into thin strips, nori makes a lovely and nutritious garnish for soup or cold noodle salads, too.

Like aluminum foil, nori sheets have a shiny side and a matte side, and on both sides there are lines from the drying racks. Use these visual cues when you make sushi rolls (explained in the recipe below), whether you fill them with egg, beef, spicy kampachi, twinkies, the city of Seattle or the entire state of California.


Vegetable sushi

Here's a wonderful online video demonstration of how to make your own nori rolls, and as much as I will try to describe the process to you, I really suggest you watch one of these videos. You will need a bamboo sushi mat (very inexpensive, and available at the grocery store), or some heavy-weight plastic wrap. This recipe is more about method than quantity; make as many or as few rolls as you wish. Each roll makes six pieces of sushi.


1 package nori sheets (10 sheets per package), or more as needed
1 batch prepared sushi rice
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar, in a small bowl
Wasabi sauce, wasabi paste, or other condiment of your choice (hoisin, horseradish, hot mustard, etc.)
Assorted cold vegetables, cut into long, thin strips: red pepper, yellow pepper, carrots, cucumber, steamed asparagus, avocado, etc.


Place the sushi mat on your work surface. Hold one nori sheet with a pair of long tongs, and toast it briefly over the gas burner on your stove (you can skip this step if you're starting with roasted nori). Place the nori sheet shiny side down on the sushi mat, with the lines in the nori aligned with the bamboo slats of the mat.

Dip your fingertips in the bowl of rice vinegar, and take a blob (3-4 tablespoons) of sushi rice. Place the rice in the lower end of the nori (closest to you), and with your fingers, spread it evenly over the lower half of the nori, leaving a half-inch margin on the long side closest to you, and on each end.

Spread a small strip of wasabi sauce (or other condiment), if you wish, down the middle of the rice. Then lay several strips of vegetables on top of the wasabi sauce.

Now, it's time to roll. Starting with the end closest to you, lift the edge of the bamboo mat. Using your fingers to keep the rice and vegetables in place, roll the mat over until the nori meets itself. Lift the top edge of the mat, and press the roll to keep its shape. Using the mat to help you, slowly begin to roll the nori away from you, tucking the roll into shape and pulling the mat out and back towards you at the same time. The moisture in the rice will help the roll stick together. Roll and tuck until you get to the end; if necessary, dab the end with a bit of water to make sure it stays closed.

With the seam side down, take a very sharp, clean knife and slice the nori roll in half. (Wipe the knife clean between each cut.) Then, slice each half into 3 pieces, making six pieces in all. Serve with pickled ginger and your choice of dipping sauce.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Sweet-salty-spicy sushi sauce
Sushi rice
Fresh Vietnamese salad rolls


Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


my kids love hand rolls... easier to make than regular rolls... maybe not as pretty... but very much like a sushi ice cream cone.

Now I'm craving sushi... thanks for the recipe, I'm going to have to try this now.

I'm also new to your blog, I just found it last week.

That's one food I've never tried making at home---sushi. I ought to gather a few of my girlfriends, pop open some sake and have some fun with this recipe (thanks for including the link to the demo)!

I better check that label for nori again because I thought it was not high in sodium. I've been eating whole sheets of it as a snack and it's becoming an addiction.

I recently made the hand rolls, finally. But my roles are not as neat as yours!

Danielle, kids love to make sushi rolls, don't they? We always have fun with that around here, even with some unconventional fillings like bacon and eggs.

FoodieCrystal, welcome!

Sandie, sushi-making parties are fun, and it doesn't cost much to get bamboo mats for everyone.

Veron, salt is always a trigger for me (think potato chips), so maybe that's what's drawing you to nori snacks.

Anh, I've been practicing!

I am not a sushi eater, but I have made it before. When my son was in Kindergarten, they had "international" day and he volunteered me for the sushi. Interesting and a lesson in patience. A super cute classmate said it was just like what her Mom made. That was good enough for me.

Sushi- yes, please! [Guess what I had for lunch today?] Someday I'll get brave enough to try rolling my own.

lots of kids actually don't like veggies because their taste buds taste bitter that is why it is really hard to make the kids like veggies. Thanks to this recipe kids today will like veggies and it will not just make them strong and healthy but also prevent them from sickness.

It's a lot of fun to make vegie rolls with kids. A great way to have a quality time with them.

Thank you for the recipe for vegetarian sushi. I like sushi, but I'm not the most adventurous, so this is great for me. I know this will be a pleasant surprise for my boyfriend!

Melynda, a compliment like that would be enough for me, too!

Karina, I once had a five-year-old in a sushi class who not only made great nori rolls, but mastered the art of inside-out rolls, too. You can do it.

Bertha, Sushitail: these really are great fun to make with kids.

Natalie, You can put some sweet hoisin sauce inside the roll instead of spicy wasabi, or no sauce at all. Start with something simple. I'm sure your boyfriend will be impressed!

I love Japanese food. I like it raw. I've tried making some sushi once, and my son liked it. I think it's a good idea to try this vegetarian recipe. Time to kick-start a new healthy lifestyle!

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