Answer: It depends.
Generally, sushi is not vegan. However, there are various sushi recipes that are suitable for a vegan diet, so it’s really about finding those that do not have any animal products.
Sushi can be considered as one of the most popular foods right now, whether in fine dining restaurants or in local stores. It’s easy to eat and has a lot of flavors incorporated into it. However, most of the common sushi recipes that are available include non-vegan ingredients, such as fish, cheese, mayonnaise, and any other animal products.
But if you love sushi and you’re into veganism, there’s no room to worry. There are several restaurants and manufacturers that invest in vegan sushi recipes. Sushi is also one of the most flexible dishes, so it’s basically very easy to create a vegan one.
Read on to learn more about why sushi can or can’t be vegan. Plus, we will also name some of the vegan sushi recipes that you can try to look for when you visit your favorite restaurant.
Table of Contents
What Is Sushi?
Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish that is mainly composed of rice, paired with raw seafood or vegetables. Most typical sushi recipes include rice with seafood wrapped in seaweed. It is also normally seasoned with soy sauce and wasabi.
Most people thought of sushi as a seafood dish. But actually, it isn’t. Sushi is a rice dish, while sashimi is a seafood dish. And in fact, fish or seafood is not a prerequisite ingredient of sushi. As its traditional definition suggests, it is a rice dish that can also be made with vegetables only instead of seafood.
Thus, sushi can either be vegan-friendly or off-limits, depending on how it is prepared. You shouldn’t instantly assume that sushi is all about seafood because there is more to sushi than what it is popularly known for.
What Makes Sushi Non-Vegan?
Sushi is non-vegan when it includes animal products. Veganism is the practice of avoiding consumption of anything produced using animals, whether their meat, milk, cheese, or any other animal products. Vegans believe that there is exploitation and cruelty in producing these animal products, so they avoid consuming them.
Unfortunately, lots of sushi recipes include non-vegan items such as fish, other seafood, cheese, mayonnaise, and any other imaginable animal products. Sushi recipes are very open to development, so we must expect that there will be new recipes that will come out. This is the same with vegan sushi.
Now, let’s discuss which ingredients make sushi non-vegan.
For some, sushi is almost synonymous with fish or seafood. Though we already have discussed that sushi can also be made without fish, most recipes come along with fish. Vegans do not consume any type of meat, including fish and seafood.
We have vegetarian folks that still consume fish as part of their diet. In this case, they are referred to as pescatarian rather than vegan. Pescatarians practice consuming fish and seafood as their main protein in their diet. Most pescatarians also consume dairy products, such as eggs and milk. But some of them also do not.
Most sushi recipes do not only contain fish, but also other kinds of seafood. The most popular seafood used in sushi recipes is eel, squid, crab meat, and shrimp.
However, there are some arguments with regards to other kinds of seafood, such as shrimps, that they cannot feel any pain. So, some vegans believe that it is safe to consume them. However, experts believe that these marine animals have pain receptors, thus they can sense pain.
Other Animal Products
Sushi recipes do not only frequently include fish or seafood, but also some animal products in the form of cheese, mayo, and other non-vegan items. Aside from animal meat, vegans also practice the non-consumption of any food products that come from animals.
Vegans politically advocate against any form of animal cruelty and exploitation. They believe that animals are being treated unjustly in the production processes. Thus, they do not consume anything that concerns production using animals.
Vegetarians that consume animal products such as cheese, eggs, milk, and other dairy products are considered lacto-ovo vegetarians, and not vegans.
Health Concerns Associated With Eating Sushi
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also referred to as CDC, has advised people of the health concerns brought by food that contain raw ingredients, such as sushi. These foods are prone to toxins, bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Consumption of raw seafood can lead to foodborne diseases and may lead to further complications. Moreover, raw fish may contain worms and proper heating or freezing of it should be done to ensure that these parasites are destroyed. Most often, these safety measures are not properly done, so infections are really evident in most places.
Pregnant women, children, and the elderly are most at risk for these illnesses.
Which Sushi Is Vegan?
Lucky news to vegan folks, there are a lot of famous sushi recipes that are made with plant-based and vegan ingredients. Looking back at the basic definition of sushi, they can be made using pure vegetables as well, and may not contain any fish or seafood as ingredients.
Here are some of the most famous vegan variations of sushi that you can easily find in restaurants in your area.
Thankfully, no real caterpillar is used in this recipe. The overall look of this sushi resembles the looks of a caterpillar, thus the name. It is made by using rice, nori, cucumber, and avocado. However, some recipes include eel. So be sure to check first before consuming this recipe, but most restaurant dishes do not include seafood.
Avocado rolls are a staple at most sushi restaurants. Both vegan and non-vegan restaurant-goers love a nice avocado roll. Typically, avocado rolls are made with rolling avocados in sweet sticky rice. Avocados are a great source of potassium and are a very vital component of vegan diet plans.
Also, avocado rolls are normally served with a ginger side dish. Ginger is a very healthy ingredient too as it contains lots of antioxidants and body cleansers. As they always say, you can never go wrong with Avocado rolls.
If you want lighter flavors than avocado rolls, then cucumber rolls are the ones for you. Cucumber adds crunchiness and a unique texture to sushi, giving it a new look and flavor. Cucumbers are also rich in nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and magnesium.
The name of this sushi may not ring a bell but you may have seen this at sushi restaurants. And luckily, this is 100% vegan. It certainly resembles pocket-like sushi, with fried tofu inside the pouch. The pocket may also contain other vegetables, like avocado, but it can definitely be eaten alone.
Other Vegan Sushi Recipes
There are plenty of vegan-friendly sushi recipes. The long list includes eggplant sushi, spicy sushi with eggplant strips, garlic, and signature chili paste. There’s also what they call shitake sushi, which uses shiitake mushrooms, ume shiso maki roll made with pickled fruit, and takuan maki, which uses daikon and rice.
Day by day, vegan recipes are being developed to cater to the growing number of vegans. More and more restaurants are being open to crafting vegan dishes as time goes by. So, we can expect that more vegan sushi recipes will come to life.
Sushi Can Be Vegan
The vegan friendliness of sushi depends on the ingredients used in making one. Most sushi recipes include non-vegan products, such as fish, seafood, cheese, mayo, and other ingredients coming from animals. However, there are also lots of vegan sushi recipes that can be found in sushi restaurants across the US.
You can also create your own vegan sushi recipe in the comfort of your home with some of your favorite vegan ingredients. Choose what kind of rice you want, most commonly white, but you can also brown. Find some seaweed or nori sheets, and your favorite fruit or vegetable and you are already good to go.
Eating out can be a bit difficult for vegans since not anything can be consumed by them. So, we try our best to really look for restaurants that can provide us vegan options, like vegan sushi. Check out healthy and vegan options at Rock N’ Roll Sushi.